Marketing elective healthcare services: you’re doing it wrong

May 2, 2014 by Sarah Legg

money doc

Would you trust your face to the cheapest guy in town?

What better way to diminish value than by discounting, Groupon-ing and flash-selling your services?

I had the pleasure of attending the American Marketing Association Healthcare Special Interest Group event in Kansas City last night. Angie Beerup, chief marketing officer of Durrie Vision, spoke about marketing out-of-pocket services, which can include laser vision, plastic surgery, cosmetic dentistry, infertility, bariatric, med spas, vein centers, laser hair removal – you get the idea.

The overriding theme of the presentation was the way clinics have devalued their services by discounting, which creates a price war for out-of-pocket services, which ultimately turns those services into commodities.

“Patients are no longer patients – they’re consumers with a choice,” said Beerup. As potential patients shop around for services, the first question they’re asking is ‘how much?’ According to a study by Care Credit, from 2012-2013 61 percent of clinics saw an increase in inquiries. Of those inquiries, 68 percent of clinics saw an increase in potential patients price shopping.

One of Beerup’s greatest challenges is to make price irrelevant, which she does through promoting Durrie Vision’s assets. Here are some of her tips to ‘retrain the consumer’:

  • Use a clear, consistent message
  • Build customer relationships
  • Create a consistent, positive experience at every touch point
  • Provide exceptional outcomes, and communicate them

If a clinic can deliver on all of these points, then the consumer won’t care what the competition charges. These factors will also result in the most valuable lead-generating piece – positive word of mouth by happy patients who will insist their friends and family go to the clinic. Word of mouth is the number-one lead driver for Durrie Vision.

She also discussed the evolution of Like=Buy. In the past, if we liked someone, we would buy from him or her, but now we do business with those who we trust and with whom we have a relationship.

Like=Buy turned into Know+Like+Trust=Buy to Know+Like+Trust+Value=Buy

Know+Like: The clear, consistent message that defines a practice and why it’s unique (second touch point.)

Trust+Value: The patient inquires about a service (second touch point.) The clinic representative guides the conversation to build a relationship and educate the consumer. The consumer then visits the clinic for a consultation (third touch point) and every single staff member creates a positive experience from start to finish.

When it comes to elective, out-of-pocket services, marketers should know they are emotion and value-drive purchases, and should market them as such. Using the Know+Like+Trust+Value=Buy equation helps drive leads in a more-effective way with a higher rate of conversion.

Like any successful marketing plan, Beerup combines traditional and digital platforms to reach her intended audience. Traditional may include radio DJ experiences, outdoor advertising (which works particularly well in Kansas City), and limited print advertising for branding. Digital could include educational pieces like webinars and blogs, live chat (which has shown to increase website lead conversions by 15 percent), targeted ads, and online review/reputation management.

As healthcare marketers looking at the elective piece of the puzzle, it’s important to remember not to devalue the service, but to build relationships, provide excellent experiences and outcomes, and communicate assets. Besides, would you trust your eyes/face/legs/teeth to the cheapest guy in town? Probably not, which means you shouldn’t market your services in that way either.

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