No matter how big your hospital is or how many specialists you may have, if you fail to create and communicate your unique value proposition, you will fail in medical tourism. In an age when 88 percent of professionals use the Internet for personal and professional research and 75 percent of Internet users seek health-related content daily, your medical tourism business must be focused on Internet marketing to win.
Successful medical tourism marketing is dependent on effectively reaching your target markets. You must educate and convince potential customers that your hospitals, doctors and dentists are not only safe, but are also among the most modern, advanced and highly trained medical professionals in the world, all available for much less than the same services in their home country.
The key to successful marketing is education. People will not choose what they do not understand. To make a choice, a buyer needs options. You must educate potential customers about the freedom, affordability and quality of your healthcare services. If we fail as an industry to better educate our customers, medical tourism will remain an uncomfortable and foreign topic to most potential customers.
Targeting your Ideal Customer
Targeting your ideal customer can be summarized in three words: Geography, Demographics and Psychographics.
Consider marketing to potential customers in a defined geographic zone. Perhaps the majority of your current customers come from a specific state or region. Consider targeting regions that are served by a direct flight to your destination.
For 99 percent of medical tourism providers, well-traveled, well-educated, affluent, Internet-savvy 30 to 65-year-olds will serve as a strong demographic foundation. However, creating an “ideal customer” profile will help define the key demographics of your core market.
For example: A hearing aid provider may focus on the 55+ age bracket, while a cosmetic surgeon specializing in breast implants may target females ages 25 to 45. Consider your most profitable and popular services to start your demographic profiling. Whether your ideal customer is a professional gay male in his 40s or a middle-aged mother with diabetes, accurate profiling will lead to more successful marketing efforts.
How do your customers think? What motivates them to action? What brings them happiness or causes fear? Are they decisive, or do they languish over a decision? Do they like adventure or prefer to stay home? The answers to these questions and others help us create a psychographic profile to better understand and reach our ideal customer.
For example: An anti-aging clinic offering HGH treatments should understand that their clients may fear growing old – or worse yet, looking old. While they want to look younger, they may have a fear of surgery and desire less-invasive treatments. An understanding of your customers will assist in converting leads into sales.
Messaging to Educate, Establish Credibility and Differentiate
Successful medical tourism companies educate customers about services and the customer experience to help them make an informed decision. Sales materials should educate customers about services, benefits, staff and treatment style to establish a customer connection and predispose them to saying “yes.” You should be focused on earning the sale… on hearing the customer say “yes.” Properly educating your customers is the best way of ensuring a positive outcome.
Most prospective medical tourism customers won’t meet you before they decide to do business with you. Building credibility is essential to earning the sale. Whether they see your website, your Facebook page or read an article about you or written by you, each will have an impact on your perceived credibility.
Most customers assume that the more recognizable you are, the better your service is. If they can’t find any information about you, you don’t exist to them. They can’t do business with someone who doesn’t exist!
Become a source of reliable information, and customers will follow. Write articles. Publish press releases. Quality website content is critical. Speak at industry seminars. Write a blog for a trade publication, magazine or newspaper. Become an expert in your field. Increased publicity will establish a positive “top of- mind” presence and dramatically increase your chances for sales success.
Differentiation: What makes you different and better?
To differentiate your business, you should understand your competition and perceived competition. I mention “perceived competition” because most businesses fail to recognize lesser competitors until they become a serious threat. Make a list of competitors, outlining strengths, perceived strengths and how they market their business.
Focus on what “they” think is important. Do they focus on quality, pricing, convenience, location or service? By understanding your competition you will discover how to differentiate your business. It’s not enough to be different. You need to appear to be better!
Identify factors that differentiate you from the competition. Do you have a world-renowned specialist? Is your location new, desirable, affordable or convenient? What makes you a better choice than your competition? If you have trouble answering this, your customers will have the same trouble. Discover what makes you different and better, and reinforce this message in your marketing. Success will follow.
Following are the top 10 rules of website marketing:
1. No Website = You Don’t Exist
If your business doesn’t have a website, you cannot compete in today’s global market.
2. Proper English Translation is CRITICAL.
Many companies mistakenly create a website in their native language or with poor English translations. No matter how good you may be, a bad website makes you look like an amateur.
3. Well-Designed Site: Strong Branding and Purpose
Know who you are before you communicate with potential customers. Develop a strong logo and branding that defines who you are and why you are better. If you have a website, ask this question: “If I were a customer and I viewed 20 competitor websites today, would I remember my own website?” If you can’t answer this question with a “yes,” consider a new site!
4. Keep It Simple/Easy to Use and Understand
Americans are generally patient people but very impatient online. Your site should have good photos, minimal copy, be easy to navigate, have no dead links and good English grammar.
5. The BIG 3: Your Website Must Include:
- What you do
- Why you are better (differentiation)
- Why and how they can contact you QUICKLY!
6. Ask for the Sale
Most people appreciate a direct but not pushy approach to business. If you want their business, tell them. When customers respond to your site, reply quickly. Failure to promptly return an e-mail or phone call will lead to a lost sale.
7. Focus on SEO and Key Words
American customers use certain words to search for products and services. Utilizing these words will increase your chances of them finding your website. Don’t use big words or technical phrases; use typical language. Instead of “prosthodontics,” use “dental implants.” “Rhytidectomy?” Use “facelift” instead. Your SEO results will improve as a result.
8. Website Content Marketing: Establishing Credibility
Provide credible, well-written online content to build familiarity and trust-based relationships. Online buyers are searching for credible, well-written online content.
9. Keep it Fresh!
Keep your website fresh with Facebook feeds, news feeds, blogs and interesting testimonials. Update these areas weekly and generate more interest in your site.
10. NO TRICKS!
Don’t try to fool the search engines with tricks for faster, higher rankings. They will find out – and you will lose your ranking! If someone promises to rank your website at the top of the first page, and it seems too good to be true…it probably is. Don’t take the risk.
Your website is an important marketing tool. Hire marketing professionals to create a well- positioned, properly designed site with proper grammar and built to generate sales.
Public Relations Marketing: The Power of Media Publicity
Referrals remain one of the top sources for medical tourism business development. Nothing drives referrals with greater power than positive public relations.
If you only remember one thing about public relations, remember this: “There is always a story to tell.” Become a storyteller for your business, and you will create connections with people who want the same special feeling they felt when reading your story.
Tell the heart-warming story about the patient in need of a special medical procedure that was unavailable in their home country, or an uninsured patient who was able to get the surgery he desperately needed at a fraction of U.S. prices. Every patient has a story. Discover these stories and tell them to the world. Your business will boom as a result.
Become a reliable news source by contributing articles and news stories, and you will generate increased attention and dramatically boost your perceived credibility. Publish articles on your website, and drive more leads to your business.
Consistent, well-written, persuasive public relations will deliver more results for less than paid advertising. Hiring a professional public relations firm is a smart marketing investment for your company.
Social Media Management: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn Basics
Social Media Marketing: Statistics
- 85 percent of 30- to 50-year-olds and 51 percent of 65- 75-year-olds are active social media users.
- 51 percent of Facebook fans and 67 percent of Twitter followers are likely to buy from companies they support via social media.
Rule: The more social media fans you have, the more customers you will earn.
Social media marketing is “traditional networking on steroids,” allowing you to interact with hundreds or thousands of potential and current customers. Start by creating a significant network of followers with whom to communicate. Demonstrate clear value for why they should follow your business. To retain these fans, continually offer valuable information and clear benefits.
Remember: Social media is NOT about SELLING! Social media is about becoming part of a community. The goals of social media are to:
- get noticed
- be perceived as credible
- drive people to your website to learn more
Online Video Marketing:
Cisco predicts that 80 percent of all Internet traffic will be video by 2015. Invest in high quality healthcare video marketing development to lead the trend. More than any other media, video allows you to demonstrate who you are and what you offer. Video gives customers a glimpse into your business, creating familiarity and confidence through a personal connection. People want solutions. Give them a solution, and they will give you their business.
To generate interest and convey credibility, your video should:
- be three to five minutes in length
- use testimonials
- show satisfied, happy patients
- be real – not contrived
Your video should include information about TOURISM… the forgotten half of medical tourism. Include information about the destination: things to do, restaurants, hotels and tips to enjoy their experience.
U.S. Local Line or Toll Free Line:
If you want to do business with Americans, make it easy for them to call you. Americans fear dialing international numbers. Eliminate this fear with a local U.S. or toll free line. Promote these numbers on your website and sales materials.
Of equal importance is having an English speaking representative to answer the phone and handle questions. This is a deal-breaker for most people. If they cannot understand you, they will not consider doing business with you.
Your marketing goal is to demonstrate that medical tourism is more than just a visit to the doctor. Help them envision a “medical vacation.” Help them dream about a vacation…and you will close the sale. Marketing to win.
About the Author
Patrick Goodness is Founder & CEO of the Goodness Company. Patrick was a speaker at the 2011 World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress. The Goodness Company is a full-service medical tourism marketing, advertising, graphic design, event & exhibitions management and public relations agency with offices in the US and Costa Rica. Since 1994, The Goodness Company has become recognized across the US and around the globe for exceptional marketing, communications and management solutions. With offices in the US and Costa Rica, and satellite offices in Europe, The Goodness Company is able to provide clients with worldwide services from a truly global perspective.