Healthcare Branding and Sales Basics

Successful Branding

Successful BrandingMost healthcare marketing executives struggle with the idea of branding.  In a recent survey of marketers by Forrester Research, the desire to differentiate one’s brand, establish a clear difference between competitors and build awareness in new markets were cited as the top reasons for investing in branding or rebranding development. Successful branding starts with the brand promise and the organization’s ability to ignite the cognitive sparks of target patients and influencers.

As healthcare marketers, we understand that patients are interested in solving pressing health and wellness concerns. Most patients are open to receiving information that helps them make an informed decision, as long as it doesn’t cross the line into hard line sales tactics. The key is education.  Seriously obese, potential bariatric patients don’t instantly gravitate toward bariatric surgery.  They start with a desire to lose weight.  With proper education, bariatric surgery becomes an option.  A woman seeking cosmetic surgery doesn’t look in the mirror and automatically decide to get a facelift.  She looks in the mirror and decides that she would like to look younger.  A facelift is one of many options available to her to achieve that goal.

As healthcare marketing consultants we routinely ask ourselves if we are helping our clients engage effectively as they work to build relationships with patients.  The goal is to provide patients with the information they seek and to establish and communicate a brand promise that truly differentiates our clients from their competitors.  But it’s not enough to be different.  Patients don’t choose a doctor or hospital because they appear to be different.  They choose a doctor or hospital because they are a better fit for their needs. Consequently, the branding value proposition needs to focus on differentiation with a goal of demonstrating why your organization is not only different… but better.

Patients today have a better understanding of their options, and are not likely to spend money without a great deal of thought and research behind the purchase.  Healthcare providers that have a clear, strong brand supported by a powerful web presence filled with informative content that helps define their value proposition will have a definitive advantage.  Most patients prefer to research potential provider options online.  When they select their top choices, they want to be able to communicate quickly and efficiently, and to make a decision based on the promise of a measurable outcome. If your brand isn’t strong enough to communicate your value proposition, you will never get the chance to demonstrate why and how you are a better fit for their needs.

At one time or another in our lives, we are all patients.  As a patient, I will not choose a provider that doesn’t take the time to understand my issues and help me solve them. While I may conduct the initial research online, or even take the advice of a friend or colleague, in the end I want a relationship with a healthcare provider that truly understands and fulfills my needs and can give me the results I seek. This is when change management becomes a critical step for success.

To get a better understanding of a patient’s problems and how to solve them, we need to change the way we market and sell our healthcare products and services. We may also need to retrain our sales and patient service teams.

Selling healthcare services is unique but not totally removed from the process of selling a traditional product.  Today, healthcare sales and marketing is all about defining a patient problem, and then combining products, services and expertise to deliver a solution, including post care and ongoing access to consultation and advice.

Remember: before a patient can purchase your healthcare services, they first need to become believers in your brand. As a marketing consultant, we help our clients understand that their patients don’t just buy healthcare services. They buy the fact that our clients listen to their needs, meet their expectations and deliver on their brand promise.

Promises matter.  They matter to us in our personal lives.  They matter to us in business.  And they really matter in healthcare.  Your brand promise dictates how you should execute every stage of the patient experience.

Make sure you deliver.

Medical Tourism Marketing: How to Develop a Medical Tourism Marketing Budget

Medical Tourism Marketing

Medical Tourism MarketingThis past month, while consulting with a group of hospital CEOs and CMOs from around the world, we focused on developing medical tourism marketing budgets for 2013. While a few of these executives were seasoned healthcare marketing professionals, most were fearful of the marketing budget process because they didn’t understand the dynamics of planning, implementing and tracking an international healthcare marketing campaign.  In this article, we’ll demystify the marketing budget development process making it easier to plan and execute successful healthcare marketing campaigns.

In many industries, administrators are accustomed to setting the marketing budget as a percentage of revenue benchmarks.  According to Go-to-Market Strategies, “30% of companies spend between 3-5% of revenue on marketing, with 45% spending over 6% (most of those between 6-10%).”

Developing a marketing budget for a new medical tourism venture can be particularly difficult, because the first step is to develop a projected revenue goal then base your marketing budget on this goal.  A new medical tourism company also requires significantly more customer education than an established company does.  New ventures can expect to spend approximately 20% of targeted revenues to fund marketing programs during the first two years of marketing development. Underfunded marketing is a leading cause of business failure during the critical initial three years of operation.

In general terms, if a company decides to follow a ‘percentage of revenue’ approach, then 8-10% of revenue should be spent on marketing, with roughly 5% allocated to labor (marketing department or marketing agency) with the remaining balance of 3%-5% being allocated to media expenditures.  The following factors will help you determine a more accurate percentage to dedicate to marketing.

  • How mature is your market? (Are you in an established or new market?) (New markets require more investment for educating potential customers.)
  • Is your company recognized in your industry (Is your organization new or an established business?  Do you have a recognizable brand?) (For example, successful first year international medical tourism marketing programs must invest in branding to establish confidence and credibility.)
  • How fast do you plan to grow? (Plan for a larger budget to support aggressive patient acquisition goals.)

Experience Makes a Difference:

With experience comes confidence.  As the director of a healthcare marketing agency with nearly 20 years of regional, national and international healthcare marketing development, we have the experience and data  about where and when to spend our client’s marketing money to achieve optimal results.  We know what works and what doesn’t.  We work with our clients to set revenue targets and we know precisely what we have to do to reach those targets.

As Socrates said, “Wisdom begins with a definition of terms”.   So let’s discuss some important terms prior to discussing the medical tourism marketing development process:

Marketing Qualified Lead: (MQL) is a prospective patient that has indicated interest in your organization. At this stage of patient development, you can’t be certain if they are qualified to purchase. An MQL must be further qualified before moving them forward along the sales development chain.

Sales Accepted Lead: (SAL) is a lead that has been formally accepted by your sales team.  Generally your team should be given a set period of time to develop this lead into a sale.

Sales Qualified Lead: (SQL) is a lead that has evolved into a strong possibility for closing.  These leads have the greatest opportunity of becoming patients.

WIN: This is when a lead becomes a patient.

Case Study:

Let’s review an example which will make the marketing budget process easier to understand and implement.

Medical Tourism Hospital X:

2013 Revenue Targets by Quarter: Hospital X wants to earn $1 million per quarter ($4 Million Total Annual Revenues)

Average per Patient Revenues:  $40,000 (It will take 100 patients at $40,000/each to reach the annual revenue goal of $4 Million)

Marketing Stage Conversion Rates: (These conversion rates are for demonstration purposes only and are not to be used for marketing planningConversion rates vary greatly by organization and by case.)

Inquiry to MQL:  50%: (50% of Inquiries will become Marketing Qualified Leads)

MQL to SAL:  50%: (50% of Marketing Qualified Leads will become Sales Accepted Leads)

SAL to SQL:   50%: (50% of Sales Accepted Leads will become Sales Qualified Leads)

SQL to Win:  50%:  (50% of all Sales Qualified Leads will become Patients.)

Time between stages (Days)

Inquiry to SQL:     120 days

SQL to Win:   90 days

(In this scenario, it would take 210 days from the initial patient inquiry to earning the patient’s business.)

If we set the hospital revenue target for medical tourism at $4 Million in 2013, this would give us a quarterly revenue target of $1 Million.  If the average patient spends $40,000, Hospital X will need to close 25 deals per quarter (25 X $40,000) to reach the target revenue goal.  Let’s work backward to get our sales lead totals:

  • To close 25 new patients, Hospital X will need to generate 50 SQLs (SQL to WIN rate is 50%).
  • To get 50 SQLs, Hospital X will need to generate 100 Sales Accepted Leads (SAL to SQL rate is 50%)
  • To get 100 SALs, Hospital X will need 200 Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL to SAL rate is 50%)
  • To get 200 MQLs, Hospital X will need 400 Inquiries

In summary, Hospital X will need to generate 400 inquiries for every 25 new patients won. The key to success is in knowing your numbers.  The better you know your closing numbers, the more successful your medical tourism marketing program will be.

Now comes the tricky part.  Deals take time to close. If you generate 400 inquires this month, they won’t close for approximately seven months.  It’s critical to look at the days between stages (known as  “velocity”) to understand when you will need inquiries and SQLs to make your quarterly revenue goals.   Inquiries generated today will result in SQLs in four months, and won patient business in seven months.  Because a dental provider or cosmetic surgery center may have a faster closing ratio than an orthopedic hospital or heart surgery center,  it is important to understand the dynamics of your lead development process to best plan for your revenue goals.

Finally, we arrive at the budgeting development piece of the puzzle.  This is where we discover how much marketing investment is required to generate the necessary number of inquiries that in turn leads to won patients. This is where you will need the help of an experienced media marketing agency that knows and understands the optimal marketing strategy and media tools to generate the most inquiries for the least amount of investment.

With established healthcare businesses, one can look to the previous year’s numbers to plan for the upcoming year.  If last year it cost you $250 per inquiry, this year you will need to invest $100,000 to generate 400 new patient inquiries…which (if your metrics are correct) should drive $1 Million in new patient business.  If it only cost you $100 per inquiry last year, you should plan to invest $40,000 to generate 400 new patient inquiries.  By lowering your cost per inquiry and/or increasing your marketing investment, you will be able to generate more leads and increase sales.

With new businesses, this process can be very complicated, because one must factor in the expense of patient education as well as branding and marketing tools, which can often double the needed first and second year marketing investment.

This planning and measurement process is part of a much larger marketing strategy called Revenue Performance Management (RPM), which utilizes critical data to maximize marketing performance.

If your numbers are correct, they won’t lie. 

If your numbers are incorrect, they will never tell the truth.

Medical tourism marketing development numbers will vary by organization. No two hospitals or healthcare organizations are exactly alike. Do you know your “lead to closing” numbers?  If not, you will need to experiment to refine and hone your marketing process lead development program.

There are many healthcare consulting firms that understand the healthcare market, but yet they know very little about the dynamics of international healthcare marketing.  While knowing the theory is a good start, practical “hand’s on” medical tourism marketing experience makes the difference between a marketing program that looks good on paper, and a marketing program that drives needed results.

Successful marketing starts with planning!  Don’t make the mistake of limiting your marketing budget to obvious costs such as advertising, website development, public relations, trade shows, brochures, promotions, etc.  A comprehensive marketing program includes planning, tool development, creative strategy, media marketing, external communications and ongoing monitoring and tracking of your marketing efforts.

Marketing is not a science.  While this article outlines some effective healthcare and medical tourism marketing guidelines, a successful marketing campaign is predicated on real world experience.  When choosing a medical tourism marketing partner, select a dedicated marketing agency with critical international healthcare marketing experience.

The world of global healthcare and medical tourism is filled with opportunity.

Plan wisely.  Execute precisely.  Track closely.

Patrick Goodness Lectures on Medical Tourism Marketing at COTELCO Colombia National Hotel & Tourism Association Congress

Patrick Goodness Lectures on Medical Tourism Marketing

Patrick GoodnessBogota, Colombia: Patrick Goodness, CEO of The Goodness Company: Global Healthcare and Medical Tourism Marketing, delivered a lecture on medical tourism today, to an audience of more than 200 delegates at the COTELCO Congress in Bogota, Colombia.  This event, sponsored by COTELCO and the Progressive Transformation Program was developed to educate the hospitality industry about the burgeoning potential of the medical tourism industry.  Joining Goodness, was an illustrious group of world renowned authorities on medical tourism and global healthcare, including Professor David Shore, PhD, Director of Project Management in Health Care Programs with the Harvard School of Public Health, Alejandro Jadad, MD, Founder of the Center for Global eHealth innovation with the University Health Network and Joan Passolas, Secretary General with AMFORT and Vice Chairman of the United Nations World Tourism Organization Affiliate Members Board.

Miguel Pulido, Health Tourism Sector Manager with the Progressive Transformation Program was pleased with the results of the congress, and edified by the positive response to the medical tourism lecture program provided by Patrick Goodness. “Patrick is a popular speaker at our conferences, because of his broad understanding of the medical tourism market, and his ability to communicate the potential that medical tourism can hold for Colombia and other nations around the world,” said Pulido.

Goodness lectures frequently in Colombia, providing medical tourism marketing seminars to private and public sector groups in Bogota, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Cali, Medellin, Cucuta and other cities throughout Colombia.  Goodness believes that Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, The Bahamas and other Latin American and Caribbean markets will become leaders in providing medical services to a growing market of North Americans seeking high quality, affordable medical care.

Yolanda Perdomo, Director of Affiliate Members for the World Tourism Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, was enthusiastic about the congress and the lecture offered by Goodness. “Patrick Goodness understands both sides of the medical travel equation,” said Perdomo.  “It’s clear that Patrick Goodness understands the importance of destination branding and how to develop effective healthcare marketing.  But he also understands the dynamics of pairing an attractive, safe, tourism product with high quality, affordable healthcare to provide an exceptional patient experience.  In the end, it is this positive patient experience that results in repeat patient visits and generates positive word of mouth for the doctor, hospital, city and nation.”

“The Goodness Company was pleased to participate in the COTELCO Congress, and we look forward to continuing our medical tourism marketing development in Colombia,” says Goodness.  “When I speak with friends and colleagues about healthcare in Colombia, many are surprised to learn about Colombia’s advanced private healthcare system. With time and continued improvements in safety and tourism infrastructure, I am hopeful that more people will see Colombia as a safe, affordable healthcare destination,” says Goodness.

Get in the Game – The Medical Tourism Marketplace

Medical Travel

Medical TravelThe medical tourism marketplace is heating up.  In the US and Canada, more and more people are becoming familiar with the concept of medical travel and are warming to the idea of going abroad to save money on high quality medical procedures.  Major publications like Delta Sky Magazine, Time, Newsweek and others are including special medical tourism editorial that is being read by millions of potential medical tourism customers. Significant national television programs are discussing the benefits of traveling abroad for affordable medical services, enlightening millions of Americans about the value of foreign medical care.

The global healthcare movement is gaining incredible momentum.

The question is…why are so many medical tourism professionals “waiting” to jump in and lead the revolution?  As a medical tourism marketing specialist, I meet regularly with the CEO’s of leading hospitals, dental clinics and even medical tourism clusters to review their efforts at growing their footprint in the burgeoning medical tourism marketplace.  While many are taking the lead with progressive marketing strategies and critical marketing investments, there are just as many who are standing by the sidelines, as though they are waiting for the game to get started.

For those of you waiting to join the big game…please take note.  The game has already started.  The question is…”When are you planning to get off the bench and join the excitement?”

In the medical tourism industry, there will be winners and losers in every niche market and every geographic corner of the world.  I regularly tell my clients that there can only be one “Coca Cola”…only one true leader in the marketplace.  The rest are followers.  Whether or not you want to lead or follow is an important question. But you’ll never be able to lead, or even follow until you decide to get in the game.

I have visited some of the most stunning medical facilities in the world…medical centers that rival the finest hospitals in the US or anywhere. The managers of these facilities understand that medical tourism development is a necessary market for their short and long term success.

They have established medical tourism sales goals representing millions of dollars.  The problem is that they have absolutely no idea of how to reach the North American market to accomplish their goals. Their websites are clumsy and filled with language errors.  They lack a marketing plan and have not invested enough to generate interest in their facilities outside of their own country. In short, the promise of medical tourism is little more than a far-off idea.

Imagine building a $100 Million to $300 Million medical facility, establishing goals that are reliant on generating millions of dollars in medical tourism revenues…all with no marketing plan and no marketing investment strategy.  Paralyzed by fear and a lack of marketing experience and understanding, many wait while others forge ahead.  Sadly, this “wait and see” attitude will cost them valuable market share and the opportunity to lead.

On the opposite side of the fence, we work with small and mid-sized facilities that invest $150,000 to $300,000 each year in marketing, with results that would make a large hospital or medical complex jealous.

The difference between these two types of clients is the difference between success and failure. Quite simply, even if you have the newest, most incredible medical facilities in the world…if you fail to reach your target market, you will fail…period.

There are many destinations with clear advantages in medical tourism.  Those markets that are close to the US, with year-round warm weather, tropical climates and affordable pricing have a tremendous head-start over those located farther away from US soil and with less desirable climates.  However, this advantage will only last for a short while longer.  While many potential leaders in medical tourism “wait” for better economic conditions, others are already engaged in building market share, investing for success and taking a leadership position.

It’s no secret that countries like Mexico, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Colombia are well positioned for success in the medical tourism industry.  They are close to the US, enjoy warm climates and offer affordable pricing.  Destinations like these have an obvious advantage.  However, while many of these attractive tropical destinations “wait” for the medical tourism market to mature more before investing, other destinations like Turkey, Croatia, Jordan and others are investing heavily to claim the top prizes reserved for visionary pioneers.

Where do you fit in?  Are you investing for success and forging valuable partnerships to provide your business with a clear advantage?  Or are you waiting…while others gain a competitive advantage?

The Importance of Competition Our medical tourism clients often discuss their concern about competition from other hospitals, clinics, and dentists in their market.  Many are worried about new and upcoming destinations and the impact their growth will have on their marketing efficiency and their long term success.

While it is true that every competitor takes a portion of market share, this concern about global competition misses the bigger picture.  All of us must share a role in promoting and validating the benefits of global medical tourism.  We must help our prospective customers understand that medical tourism provides high quality healthcare delivered by experienced professionals at dramatic savings with the added benefit of enjoying a world-class vacation.

It is only when every destination, every hospital, every doctor, dentist and facilitator works toward the common goal of promoting the positive benefits of medical tourism that we will be able to achieve the kind of general market perception that will allow potential customers to feel confident in their decision to look abroad for medical care.  No prospective medical tourism customer will choose your hospital, clinic or services if they do not feel comfortable with the concept of medical tourism.

Imagine that you are the owner of a new sushi restaurant.  Your goal is to get people to come and eat at your restaurant. The key is to market to people who enjoy sushi, and those who are open to the idea of eating sushi.  Trying to sell to those who have had a bad experience with sushi or are scared to try sushi is a waste of your time and money.

The same is true for medical tourism.  Each player in the medical tourism industry is selling the promise of exceptional, high quality healthcare at affordable prices.  When prospective customers sense that medical tourism is safe, affordable and here to stay…only then will they consider doing business with you.  In essence…they will never choose your specific business if they have any doubt or fear about medical tourism in general.

Medical tourism is still a concept in its infancy.  Every player in the medical tourism industry must communicate the value and attraction of medical tourism to a global audience.  We must shout it from the rooftops, and tell our story and the story of medical tourism to anyone and everyone that will listen. We need to create press releases, develop videos, use social media and participate on a global level with the MTA to demonstrate our confidence and faith in the premise of medical tourism.
Our individual success is tied to our success in promoting medical tourism as an industry.  The longer it takes us to convince our target markets that international medical tourism is a viable option, the longer it will take each of us to grow our respective medical tourism businesses.

It’s not enough to create our website, print our brochures and hope for the best.  We must become active participants in the medical tourism industry and commit ourselves to playing a larger role in shaping the future of this industry.

What does it mean to be an active player? Participate with national and international MTA Congresses.  Exhibit your business and educate the industry about what you do and why it matters!

  • Develop a strategic marketing plan or hire a medical tourism marketing agency to help you develop a marketing plan to position your business for success.
  • Invest in effective marketing, advertising, public relations, video marketing and social media.
  • Participate in local medical tourism clusters in your area.  Encourage others to join. Spread the word and be active, vocal members.
  • Encourage your local medical tourism cluster to market your destination as a global medical tourism destination.  If you don’t have a medical tourism cluster… start one.  We can help.  Your business will benefit as a result.

International hospitals, medical clinics, medical tourism clusters, doctors, dentists, facilitators and everyone in between…this message is for you!  It’s time to step from the sidelines and onto the playing field. It’s time to invest in marketing your facilities and your destination to the world.
There will be Leaders and Followers.  There will be Winners and Losers.

But first, you have to get into the game.

Costa Rica: Medical Tourism Hot Spot

Patrick Goodness: CEO The Goodness Company: Medical Tourism Marketing

Millions of tourists come to Costa Rica every year to experience the country’s world-renowned natural treasures and to enjoy a taste of Costa Rica’s friendly, welcoming hospitality.  Over the last decade however, as the price of quality healthcare has skyrocketed in the US with no apparent end in sight, another breed of tourist…the medical tourist…is arriving, intent on seeking out the best and most affordable healthcare options that have made Costa Rica the envy of its Latin and North American neighbors.

Medical tourism in Latin America is a new and exciting trend created by two critical factors.

1. The disparity in healthcare pricing between first world countries like the US and Canada and their second world cousins to the south like Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico.  For example, a knee replacement may cost upwards of $40,000 in the US and only $8,000-$12,000 in leading Latin American hospitals.  A dental implant may cost $3,000 in the US compared to a price tag of only $700-$900 per tooth in a top Costa Rica dental clinic.

2. The disparity caused by a lack of availability of healthcare procedures that may be restricted or unavailable in North America, but are widely available at much lower prices in other countries.  For example, many Canadians simply do not have access to needed medical procedures when needed, due to long patient waiting lists.  Additionally, many cutting edge or alternative procedures such as stem cell therapy are simply not available in the US, due to ongoing political and scientific debate.  These procedures are available in many countries around the world and are gaining popularity in Latin America as well.

While countries like India and Thailand are global leaders in medical tourism, a report by McKinsey & Company indicates that medical tourists from the US and Canada prefer Latin American countries like Costa Rica, citing proximity, shorter flights, affordable costs and the chance for a memorable vacation as the main reasons for their preference.

While the pricing for medical services is often 50% to 70% less than comparable care in the US, many medical tourists choose Costa Rica for the excellent reputation of its private healthcare system.  In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Costa Rica is rated higher than the US and many other “first world” nations in terms of quality health care.  A visit to any of Costa Rica’s top private hospitals and dental clinics will provide evidence of Costa Rica’s preferred status.  Modern hospitals, medical clinics and dental centers with cutting edge medical technology are staffed by board-certified doctors and surgeons with impressive national, North American or European training.

Approximately 500,000 Americans travel abroad each year for health care services.  While exact numbers are hard to find, it has been reported that Costa Rica received approximately 75,000 to 100,000 medical tourists in 2010.  These numbers are expected to grow along with Costa Rica’s reputation as a global medical tourism leader.

For those involved in the health care or tourism sectors, medical tourism represents a significant revenue opportunity.  While hospitals, medical clinics and dental centers are clear beneficiaries of increased medical and dental tourism, hotels, restaurants, tour operators and all of their associated supply chain partners should consider medical tourism as an outstanding growth opportunity.

While the average tourist may stay an average of 8-9 days, medical tourists visiting Costa Rica stay an average of 11 days and often travel with friends and family, dramatically increasing tourism revenues.  With medical tourism revenues anticipated to exceed $100 Billion globally in 2012, Costa Rica stands to earn an increasingly larger piece of this very big pie. One ICT approved travel agency, Costa Rican Trails, stresses nature vacation packages and the co-owner, Wilhelm von Breymann, was recently elected as the new Minister of Tourism, and intends to promote not only sustainable tourism, but also the benefits of medical and dental tourism.