MARKETING STRATEGY FOR A MEDICAL CLINIC
FEATURES OF THE INDUSTRY
The medical field is one of the most challenging business sectors when it comes to organizing an effective marketing process, given the numerous peculiarities of the industry. Whether it's a large clinic or a private medical practice, consumers are equally demanding and require excellence in all aspects of service, which are incredibly diverse. Indeed, marketing medical services involves nearly the entire spectrum of modern marketing tools and practices, requiring constant attention and monitoring of all areas of effort application. The industry itself is extremely complex and characterized by the following features, which are directly related to the formation of a marketing strategy and an effective marketing plan. Here are the main ones:
- Demand vulnerability. Health is considered a top priority for many people, ensuring a stable demand for medical services, and a clinic will likely have a necessary number of patients. However, demand for the services of a specific clinic is highly vulnerable to various factors, including the attitude of doctors towards patients, the behavior of clinic staff, organization of workflow, quality, speed, and availability of services, equipment and interior, media presence, effectiveness of the marketing mix, and much more. Overall, building demand for the services of a specific clinic is important, but maintaining it is even more challenging.
- Reputation imbalance. The medical business is characterized by a high degree of reputational imbalance among doctors, influenced by several factors. Patients tend to be more critical of private healthcare compared to public healthcare, where even minor flaws can drive patients away. Moreover, the condescending attitude of some doctors, inadequate explanation of diagnoses and treatment methods, especially by older doctors with considerable "experience" in public healthcare, lead to a persistent desire on the part of the patient to change their doctor. Additionally, there is a widespread distrust of young doctors as less experienced and qualified. These factors can extend to the overall reputation of a clinic if not managed through thoughtful personnel policies and marketing.
- Personal recommendations and advices. Unfortunately, public opinion in the country can be somewhat absurd. On one hand, there is a prevalent impression that many doctors are unqualified and poorly educated, and on the other hand, a significant portion of patients relies on internet advice and unproven remedies. In such an environment, personal recommendations and advice among friends and acquaintances regarding a specific doctor become of paramount importance and weight.
- Health insurance. Medical insurance is closely related to private healthcare, where insurance companies direct patients to specific clinics, thus providing them with clients and work. Initially, insurance companies determined which clinic and doctor to send the patient to. However, the increasing number of informed patients who independently choose the clinic and doctor they wish to visit has diminished the importance of insurance companies as a source of patient influx. In other words, the significance of insurance companies in bringing in patients has decreased, while the importance of flawless marketing complexes has increased.
- Technologies and innovations. Medicine is a highly technological industry in several dimensions. Progress is observed in pharmaceuticals with the introduction of new drugs, in medical practices with the development of new treatment methods and protocols, and in the technical aspect with the constant evolution of medical equipment. Services and service approaches are also changing with the popularization of telemedicine, mobile applications, and more.
- Intense competition. Competing in the medical field is indeed challenging. The market includes large, well-established clinics with unwavering reputations and smaller, newer establishments with aggressive marketing trying to break through in any way possible. Clinics compete in both traditional and digital communication channels, using both advertising and organic promotion of medical services. Competition is not limited to patients; there is also a struggle for experienced and professional doctors with high reputations, and patients migrating from clinic to clinic.
- Differentiated marketing. Advanced clinics use complex marketing strategies, employing defferentiated marketing structures to promote the clinic as a whole, individual medical practices, leading doctors, treatment methods and protocols, advantages of modern equipment, service and comfort in both outpatient and inpatient settings, and more. The industry is so sensitive to patient demands that almost every aspect of a successful clinic's activity falls under the responsibility of marketers and requires their professional assessment and planning.
The list of characteristics of the medical field can be extended, considering government regulation, the importance and quality of medical education, delving into market segments and their specificities. However, for a general assessment of marketing for a medical clinic and medical services, the characteristics mentioned above are defining. So, how to compete in such complex conditions?
SOME GENERAL STRATEGIES AND APPROACHESS
It is necessary to say that the marketing of each clinic is a fairly unique combination of tools and approaches determined by the clinic's marketing strategy. Given the extremely wide range of parameters, there can be many successful combinations within the framework of the marketing complex. However, the market still dictates its conditions, and in general, the following elements of marketing complexes are most common:
- Branding and positioning. In modern conditions, the success of a clinic is impossible without creating a powerful brand and thoughtful positioning. A medical clinic must develop an attractive and unique brand with distinctive elements that are easily memorable and stand out among competitors. Market positioning should be logical, well-thought-out, clearly conveying attributes and advantages of the clinic to potential consumers. Of course, the spectrum of possible advantages is indeed vast, so the clinic should choose those that best meet the needs of target audiences. For example, the high qualifications of clinic doctors, the use of new methodologies, the latest medical equipment for diagnosis and treatment, and more.
- Comprehensive approach. When forming a portfolio of services, a medical clinic or practice should strive to maximize the coverage of client needs in the hypothetical triangle of "laboratory - consultations - treatment." In other words, try to avoid a situation where consultations are held at one address, tests need to be done at another, and treatment at a third. Large clinics have the opportunity to combine all three links and use a comprehensive approach as a powerful competitive advantage. Smaller clinics and practices, unable to provide a combination of all three links, should try to mitigate this disadvantage using marketing tools when patients find it acceptable to move between different addresses for tests, consultations, and treatment.
- Individuality of services. Perhaps the most crucial factor in the success of a clinic is creating an atmosphere and service quality that makes each patient feel a personalized approach and meets their individual needs. Every doctor and all staff must realize that the relationship with the patient and the quality of work not only determine whether a specific patient will return or complete a course of treatment but also the clinic's recommendation to friends and acquaintances—significantly, a substantial multiplier effect from impeccable service. The task of marketers is to create a sensitive and effective system for monitoring patient satisfaction, convey to the staff the importance and details of its functioning, and adjust marketing programs to support active patient loyalty.
- Personal brand of doctors. Clinics face a dilemma - on the one hand, doctors with a powerful reputation and a developed personal brand have their schedules booked weeks in advance, and on the other hand, a doctor may resign and go to a competitor at any time, undermining all investments in the doctor's personal brand. Indeed, the problem is not new and should be addressed by long-term employment conditions, as clinics cannot afford to abandon one of the key elements of marketing that effectively attracts and retains patients. The development of a doctor's personal brand consists of two elements - firstly, the doctor's qualifications and their ability to build relationships with patients, and secondly, their presence in the public sphere (social media pages, video content with recommendations on diseases and treatment, participation in relevant events, interviews in the media, and many other marketing tools).
- Marketing of new methods and equipment. An integral part of successful medical clinic marketing is the promotion of new diagnostic and treatment methods, as well as cutting-edge equipment that provides better results. Some patients are quite attentive to these matters, and the clinic that more thoroughly and completely conveys the benefits of new methods and equipment to the patient is more likely to attract and retain them.
- Multichannel promotion. Depending on the clinic's budget, all available promotion channels are used - traditional advertising (media and outdoor advertising) and the digital ecosystem. Of course, digital channels play a decisive role in today's world, as only they can convert the potential patient's attention into action, namely, draw attention to the clinic, immediately direct to the website, to the social media page, to video with the necessary material, to the messenger channel, and so on. In other words, provide the potential patient with a choice of the action that suits them best and lead them to the content they need in a few steps.
- Working with reviews and comments. It is necessary to highlight the need to work with reviews and negative comments separately. Medical services are one of those areas where people often share their negative experiences publicly. Sometimes such comments are justified, but most often - no. Nevertheless, the clinic's marketing, especially its SMM specialists, should be prepared to professionally and judiciously deal with comments that can affect the clinic's image.
It should be noted that within one article, we cannot show all the pitfalls or demonstrate all the marketing methods and tools specific to the medical clinic. In other words, these are just a few examples of quite general marketing approaches that can be applied to the medical business. From a practical point of view, everything is much more complicated - the choice of a specific marketing strategy and tools depends on the target audience, competitive environment, and unique advantages of the clinic, etc. At the same time, it is desirable to understand that marketing of a medical clinic may encounter a number of specific problems that are unique to each individual case and require an individual approach to their solution.
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