The phrase “healthcare marketing” is thrown about a lot. Heck, we even use it here. Have you wondered what the term actually means? What is healthcare marketing—at least compared to marketing for any other industry?
There are differences—some significant and some subtle—and they all add up to make healthcare marketing a “thing” in its own right.
Laws of supply and demand
The biggest difference between healthcare marketing and traditional marketing is the nature of the supply and demand dynamic, the lifeblood of any economic function. Traditional advertising has the goal of not only raising awareness of their product, but stimulating the prospect to want the product. In a beer commercial, everyone is having a good time. In a car commercial, the driver is always living a desirable life.
Can you imagine the backlash that would happen if a healthcare marketer tried those same tactics? No one is going to stir up a demand for open-heart surgery, or chemotherapy, or any of the other healthcare services that are necessary, yet decidedly undesirable.
The rules of supply are also significantly different in healthcare than most other industries. The hurdles to starting a healthcare business are high, with licensing and training requirements. By their very nature, the regulations restrict the number of suppliers.
Thus, the healthcare marketer has the advantage of dealing with a landscape where consumers don’t have unlimited choice, but the disadvantage of having to advertise services that no one truly wants to have and doesn’t know when they’ll need.
Defining the customer
The customer for most products is pretty straightforward: the individual consumer who receives the service. But that’s not the case in the healthcare industry. The person receiving chemotherapy might not be the one who decided which healthcare provider to use. The decision-maker was probably the primary care physician.
Another good example is services used primarily by the elderly. There’s a very good chance the decision-maker in these circumstances is a family member.
Complexity of the service
Many products sold by traditional ads can be summed up quickly. They make for good soundbites on radio or television, and they make for easy snippets in a digital ad. Healthcare is assuredly not one of those fields.
The services are complex, especially those that rely on more advanced technologies. They involve topics that are intensely personal. The burden of being precisely accurate in their description is much higher. All of which makes crafting a healthcare marketing campaign more difficult.
The goal of the marketing
With most any other product, the ultimate goal is simple—sales. That’s not necessarily the case in healthcare. Yes, you’d like more patients coming to your office or facility, but there are other objectives.
A research facility might be after more participants in clinical trials. A teaching hospital might have increased grant funding as their goal. While multiple goals are not strictly unique to healthcare marketing, it is more prevalent.