In the long term, only hospitals who have invested in ensuring patient loyalty, brand building and strategic marketing will survive, says Vivek Shukla
Irony, incongruity, paradox, contrariness, quirk of fate are a few synonyms which can be used to state the present scenario in the hospital industry.
I have no qualms in stating that this industry is full of ironies. The sarcasm is so deep-rooted, it is hard for people to see it. It is only when somebody points out to them, that they see the folly that was/is being committed. Here are a few eye-openers:
It takes a lot of money to manufacture a product called healthcare provider or a hospital. The cost of the building, equipment, education to be a doctor, hiring other people etc may run into crores of rupees. The more expensive the product, the more it needs to be marketed carefully and systematically. Yet, one look at the marketing budgets and the marketing professionals (or the lack of them) of a hospital will reveal the irony.
In the name of a marketing department, most hospitals employ poorly-trained and poorly-paid PROs. As far as the marketing strategy goes, hospitals will copy other hospitals and use the PRO brigade to allure GPs by giving them kick-backs. Doing a few ‘free camps’ and ‘CMEs’ is the farthest their creativity and imagination goes.
Marketing of hospitals is a difficult job. Hospital is a service that no one wants to buy. No one is looking forward to his next surgery with excitement (unlike the next holiday trip or the next car). Therefore, role of a marketing strategy and a marketing department is all the more critical. Furthermore, the brand recall for services that have an ‘unpleasant’ connotation is low. Hospitals fall under this category. More effort should be put into enhancing brand equity to meet the challenge of brand recall. Marketing is a must for any hospital which has a profit motive.
When Peter Drucker – who is to management what Harrison is to internal medicine – said, “The purpose of business being to create customers; marketing and innovation are the only things that produce results. Rest everything is an expense,” he was not joking. Creating and delivering services costs millions of rupees even for a small hospital. Then how come when it comes to recovering that cost by result-oriented marketing, the hospital is reluctant to allocate a budget? Why strategic brand building is missing? Why hard core marketing professionals are not hired to set up a marketing department and practices? What is the point of investing in infrastructure without looking at recovering the cost?
Probably, the investor is ignorant about the power marketing has. Probably, no one has ever educated him. Most of them think marketing is equal to advertising, which is completely inaccurate.
If you still think marketing and brand building are not important, consider this: Would Pepsi prefer losing all its bottling plants overnight or losing the brand name Pepsi? I hope that drives home the point.