Health & Wellness Tourism Referrals & Leads Generation
If you have decided to work with agents and referral partners who will represent your brand to consumers (B2C) and other buyers of health services (insurers, employers, governments, etc.) you must first prepare the marketing materials, messaging guidelines, and talking points they will use.
Align messages and talking points to integrate your brand standards to avoid liability and confusion and set realistic expectations.
Frame the contractual relationship for working with your stakeholders to establish:
Roles & Responsibilities
Standards of Practice
Policies & Procedures
Helping Public and Private Stakeholders
The Center for Health Tourism Strategy helps public and private stakeholders to build, grow and manage their health & wellness tourism destinations & communities.
We are defining the future of health & wellness travel and tourism by providing you a variety of generous resources you can use for:
Working with Independent Referral Agents
Attend any medical tourism conference, anywhere in the world and you'll likely encounter "hosted buyers" who have been invited to attend the event without cost. This tact is often used as "bait" to attract health and wellness tourism professionals and facilities to attend in hopes of finding individuals who can market services on a commission basis without up front cash. While you might get "lucky", there's a lot of fraud in the "hosted buyer" arena. Several conference organizers have been exposed for inserting "shills" who are brought in to act as an enthusiastic buyers of health tourism services. Others are invited to attend and take part in B2B meetings that have not yet established their business, have no success record, experience, or even a published website to attract customers and refer them to your destination. It is easy to differentiate them from genuine referral agents with experience and references so you don't waste your time. But you must first know what to look for.
Few health and wellness tourism sellers we've worked with depend 100% on facilitators. Many start out with the idea that this is the approach they will take and soon realize there's more to selling through agencies than they bargained for. In the end, they usually try it and then gradually extricate themselves from these relationships and manage inbound referrals by other means. One option is to set up their own marketing and international patient marketing department. The other is to work through a co-opted cluster infrastructure operated as a public private-partnership. The latter requires a framework regulation where rules are implemented to manage the business and steer the referrals to the requested provider. Technology can be used to create telephone numbers and email addresses that are coded to identify lead sources which can later be used in statistical analysis.
Read our blogs to learn more
There are many articles on the Center for Health Tourism Strategy website about developing a referral agency and lead generation strategy for a medical tourism business. If you read these, you will accelerate your knowledge and understanding of what is involved and best practices to work with medical tourism facilitators, tour operators and travel agents to build your medical tourism business.
What statistics should medical travel facilitators share during B2Bs?
There's a rumor in the industry that a medical tourism facilitator certification is meaningful and valuable. If the party to whom you are speaking is unfamiliar with the criteria that the certification represents, it has little, if any, value.
There's also an assumption by many medical travel facilitators that is unsubstantiated: that doctors, dentists, clinics and hospitals all over the world are eager to work with them. That's proving to be less and less accurate.
Among the many reasons that the popularity of the model is fading is that:
- the commission-driven business model is not producing the revenue or volumes of clients expected
- the clinics and practitioners are increasingly selling direct to consumers and disintermediating from sales representatives, and
- many medical tourism facilitator startups are being launched by inexperienced and untrained people with neither medical nor travel background and pose tremendous brand risk to the medical tourism stakeholders and client satisfaction.
Commissions Payments for Medical Tourism Referrals
Commission payments for health and wellness tourism referrals is a trend that is fading away, worldwide. The practice of paying commissions is rapidly transitioning to contracts that require medical tourism facilitators and referral agencies to instead charge clients for the value they add and the actual services they provide.
Healthcare facilities and providers have discovered that paying 20-30% of the package price and/or any add on services is too costly for the value they receive from the agency. Patients are also becoming more aware that the prices they are quoted may include the mark up to cover the commission, so they attempt to contact providers directly and circumvent the agency and its mark up.
Inexperienced facilitators risk creating unrealistic expectations or making promises that providers cannot deliver. Some referral agents send cases that should never be referred or lack proper planning and workup that can endanger the patient (and the provider's brand) out of ignorance. Rarely do these startup "website businesses" have professional liability insurance to indemnify the brand and hold it harmless for any damages they might cause.
Many medical tourism facilitators lack professional training or familiarity with the procedures they refer but expect to be paid a 20-30% commission for making an introductory appointment. They may have never visited the destination and sell it blindly after having only sent an email to the providers to secure a representative agency agreement. One marketing company in Russia is now advertising that they can make a video of the hospital for facilitators to watch and take an exam to be "certified" to sell the hospital in their catalog. Many facilitators also expect that the health and wellness supplier will arrange the arrival coordination, ground transfers, hotel accommodation and departure coordination. They instruct the patient to make their own travel reservations since most are not accredited and credentialed sellers of travel and cannot earn commissions on airline tickets and hotel reservations. They may coordinate tour packages that are inappropriate for the client because they are unaware of the physical limitations and medical restrictions - leading to even more disappointment.
The commission model leads to health and wellness tourism providers being treated as a commodity. Referrals are often steered to the highest bidder instead of the most appropriate provider to meet the needs of the patient. This turns the providers and the destination into their fungible commodity.
Learn how to identify and structure the referral relationships that will help to grow your business. We can teach you what to look for, how to decide and supply you with the model template agreements you'll need. We can also teach you how to build your international patient department if you choose to handle all referrals internally.
At your next B2B marathon, try articulating these key points...
As more focus is put on direct sales channels, it's increasingly important to be able to articulate your value proposition to them. Be open to share your data with health and wellness tourism suppliers to evoke more interest in your value proposition and offer.
Prepare a brochure or flyer to share the following verifiable data about your referral agency:
- What is your percentage of conversions from unique website visitors?
- How much money do your clients spend per night away? If you separate out the medical spend from the rest of their spend, how much was spent on the stayover for recuperation or leisure (or bleisure) tourism in food, transportation and lodging?
- What is the number of cases you book per month, per specialty?
- Which destinations do clients choose and why?
- What are you doing (specifically) in order to raise volume and grow your business? How will your suppliers benefit, specifically?
- With which consumer special interest groups do you have a unique strategy to connect and inform them about medical tourism?
- What can a supplier do to increase their chances to be chosen by your clients that could be co-branded in a unique campaign?
- What is your percentage of repeat or "influencer" referral to friends and family (customer lifetime value) stemming from one single client booking?
Your suppliers don't do business with you because you have some certification. As long as you lead beyond the track record or value proposition in these areas compared with other medical travel facilitators, your value proposition is clear. This measured and statistical differentiation between the your average numbers and the average of other facilitators is your "Advantage Gap."