Profit is often the major objective of healthcare marketing, as is the case with any other business. However, other factors affect healthcare marketers, because the healthcare industry is heavily regulated by the U.S. government. In addition to traditional marketing objectives of increasing sales, healthcare marketers must also comply with regulations set forth by federal agencies.
Preference for Brands and Services
Gaining preference for a brand or service is a major objective of healthcare marketing. Pharmaceutical companies develop marketing and advertising programs to generate preference for over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications. Physicians compete to gain preference for dental, obstetrician, and other healthcare provider services. Hospitals compete to market and gain preference for their expertise in treating patients in areas such as pediatrics, optometry, podiatry and cancer. Generating preference for brands and services is most often achieved through advertising campaigns.
Customer retention is also an important marketing objective. A pharmaceutical company might develop a marketing program that provides users of medications with free samples or coupons to make sure that they maintain loyalty to their brands. A drug store might offer a customer loyalty program, drive-thru prescription service or other measures so that consumers continue to purchase medications and healthcare products at their stores. Customer retention marketing efforts are often executed through direct mail programs, coupons, and loyalty programs.
Patient education is growing as a marketing objective. Companies are increasing efforts to better educate consumers about medications, including how to take them and what to avoid when using them. Physicians are incorporating patient education as a part of their prescribed treatments, such as providing exercise recommendations to maximize weight loss efforts. Equipment manufacturers for diabetes monitoring devices and oxygen are including patient education as a part of their marketing efforts for the patient, rehabilitation service providers, and at-home caregivers. Patient education is also important to comply with government requirements and prevent insurance and legal liabilities.
Many companies in the healthcare industry must comply with guidelines and standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS). These federal agencies set standards for what a company can market and advertise. FDA and HSS requirements are most prominent in the pharmaceutical industry. For example, many television commercials include disclaimer information that it is either spoken by an announcer or appears as written copy. Disclaimers often notify viewers of potential side effects of a medication. Instructions inside boxes of medications also include lengthy descriptions of potential reactions and risk factors. This information is required by the FDA. Companies must have FDA approval before they can advertise or sell OTC or prescribed medications.