An Example of How NOT to Sell Health Services or Medical Tourism

I began by telling him how I had repeatedly guided the client about how to write copy that is relevant to patients and consumers who might become patients in the future, or those who might refer a friend. I told the doctor to stop writing what is only relevant to the doctor. I have been mentoring the doctor for his blog. Almost always, the doctor heads into “no man’s land” by referring to “we have”, “our team”, “our technology”, “our accreditation” as if the world revolves around what he wants to sell, to offer, to feature, to take pride in. None of that is relevant to what the reader “wants” or “needs”.

I do lots of training and professional speaking at events and conferences. As such, I’ve learned how to connect with the audience; how to be relevant. I find little analogies like my “steel, rubber, and glass” analogy of medical tourism product development that explain a story better than loading my presentation with facts and charts and graphs that very few people really care about. So I thought of this one. It came to me as my mind flashed to a technical writing class in college.

The assignment was to write a technical description of an item. Any item. We had to describe its features, textures, qualities, brand standards, etc. Suddenly, it dawned on me! That’s how most medical tourism hospitals, clinics and medical practices describe themselves. With technical precision. So here’s the analogy I am going to draw.

Coca Cola®

Could you imagine if Coca Cola copied most medical tourism hospitals in the way they market to people? Here is what it would probably look like:

Access to Coca Cola®

Coca Cola® sells 3500 products worldwide, so that you will never be more than an arm’s length away from a place to access the refreshing sweet brown liquid. In most places where it can be purchased, it is available chilled, but also available at room temperature for purchase and storage at home or at work.

Mission and Values

Coca Cola®’s mission is to refresh the world…to inspire moments of optimism and happiness… and to create value and make a difference.

Technical attributes

The product features 140 calories per 12 fluid ounces of sweet refreshing brown liquid. It also features zero grams of total fat and protein and contains only 45 mg of salt in the entire can. What’s more, it features 39 gm of sugar and 34 mg of caffeine.

Commitment to affordability, price comparison to competitors

Instead of pure cane sugar, it features more economical ingredients including high fructose corn syrup, a substitute sweetener, enabling it to charge cheaper prices to customers than other competing sweet refreshing brown liquids that use pure cane sugar. High fructose corn syrup actually makes the sweet refreshing brown liquid sweeter than pure cane sugar and is a testament to its value proposition, and speaks to its commitment to making the sweet refreshing brown liquid more accessible to more people than its expensive, less sweet competitors! Product researchers have confirmed that the high fructose corn syrup is adequate and comparable to most other sweet refreshing brown liquids sold by other direct competitors.

Safety, Quality and Accreditation

In order to fill its bright red, attractive cans and green glass containers, the company uses the latest technical robotics which are tested and inspected every shift, and the entire shop process is certified to ISO 9001 standards. Each container of the sweet refreshing brown liquid is labeled meticulously in total conformity with regulatory compliance standards about product labeling for the country in which the product will be sold. Plants are inspected regularly by local health departments and have been inspected for decades, attesting to its commitment and implementation of safety practices.

Commitment to sustainability

Coca Cola® is committed to long term sustainability in its packaging. As such, its bottles are now made with up to 30% plant material. The plant material is actually plant waste from sugar cane that is used in competitors’ sweet brown refreshing liquid, since it does not use sugar cane in its own products. In this way, the company is actually cleaning up its competitor’s messes on the farms after the sugar is extracted from the cane, which is a renewable source and lowers the carbon footprint.

Competency and commitment of the staff

Competent technicians toil at the plant each and every day. They maintain impeccable grooming standards, with hair tucked up in bonnets, clean hands, and they take pride in how they go about their jobs to prepare the sweet refreshing brown liquid into a variety of containers.

Company innovations

In the UK, earlier this year, the company decided to create bottles with names on them. People throughout the United Kingdom could conveniently access the product from hundreds of nearby distribution sites and even buy extra to give as gifts to their friends. Each bottle had a given name printed on the front of the label for that extra personalized touch. This demonstrates our commitment to innovation and personalized service.

Anyway, you get the point. This is how most doctors and hospitals market their service and product offers. They tell about innovation, commitment of the doctors and nurses, commitment to quality and safety and sustainability. They tell about their accreditation and certifications, and their technology and equipment.

Would you buy a Coca Cola® based on this? Would anybody?

Then why try to sell healthcare this way? When someone buys a sweet refreshing brown liquid in a bright red can, does that person care about all this very true, very accurate information? No they care about ending their feeling thirsty anymore! The branded sweet refreshing brown liquid is a solution that ends thirst.

So why not buy any sweet refreshing brown liquid? Because they are brand loyal. But if the brand is not available ( as on an airplane in mid-air that serves only Pepsi Cola® products, they have to plan ahead to have their brand (by buying it in the terminal) or drink the substitute that is offered.

No matter what you are trying to sell in healthcare, speak to the consumer, his or her problems, concerns, needs. In the end, every commissioned hospital and every licensed physician that can perform a surgery anywhere in the world is like every sweet brown refreshing liquid. How can you make yours relevant to your target? How can you sell them on the idea that they want to choose your branded sweet refreshing brown liquid because of how much they will enjoy it or how it will meet their needs? That’s how to market healthcare and medical tourism.

Maria K Todd, MHA PhD

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