The medical tourism marketplace is heating up. In the United States 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. The question is…why are so many medical tourism professionals “waiting” to jump in and lead the revolution?
Major publications like Delta Sky Magazine, Time, Newsweek and others are including special medical tourism editorials that are 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. So, what are they waiting for?
As a medical tourism marketing specialist, I meet regularly with the CEOs 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 will never be able to lead or 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 U.S. and elsewhere. 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 U.S. with year-round warm weather, tropical climates and affordable pricing have a tremendous head-start over those located farther away from U.S. 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 U.S., 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 to 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 Medical Tourism Association™ 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 is 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 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.
About the Author:
Patrick Goodness is the CEO of The Goodness Company, leaders in medical tourism marketing. Goodness was recognized as one of the top three speakers at the 2011 MTA Congress and was a featured speaker at the 2012 MTA Congress. He is a medical tourism marketing consultant, providing service to healthcare organizations, hospitals, clinics and medical tourism clusters around the world.