Whether they are willing to admit it or not, not a few hospitals in the Philippines are feeling rather edgy whenever they review their monthly top lines and bottom lines these days.
Revenue growths are stagnant, unlike the streams that they used to be and there seems to be no reprieve in sight as competition for doctors—and by extension, patients—continues to come in from new hospitals and diagnostic centers. HMOs are also tightening their grip on their money through utilization programs that, essentially, allow them to spend less on hospital services for their members.
But then again, as mentioned in our earlier post, the situation is not as dire as it looks. In fact, one can say that hospitals are not really on the edge, but rather at a juncture where a new path could bring them to bigger and better things.
Why? Because the changes that are taking place in the industry are coinciding with a parallel shift in the media landscape both here and abroad. The shift is affecting the way information is served to shake perceptions and, ultimately, decisions. We see this as a reset of sorts in the way we do marketing.
Digital is leading the transformation. With majority of Filipinos now online – and spending three to four hours a day in this platform – hospitals have an opportunity to influence people and grow their brands like never before.
To make this even possible, hospitals have to rethink marketing. For the longest time, marketing for many hospitals revolved around the patients brought in by doctors and HMOs. Hospitals can continue that, but they have to find and develop new conversion mechanisms to increase and carry future revenue.
Many hospitals have already recognized this. Some have fortified their internal marketing teams, while others have hired the services of digital marketing agencies.
We can surmise that these efforts brought about quick changes in the way hospitals present themselves online. A cursory review of the online presence of some of the major hospitals in Metro Manila shows sophistication in the content being posted, especially in their respective social media channels. Others have even gone to the extent of advertising for more followers, which many online marketers agree is more for cosmetic than actual promotions.
The borderline impractical campaign for “likes” is just one of many amateur moves some hospitals seem to be committing. One hospital we saw, for instance, has developed a penchant for posting newspaper clippings on social media. A couple of hospitals, meanwhile, have this fixation with putting in so many brand hashtags, which to be honest, no one outside their agency will use.
But the most common execution in social media that needs to be called out is the habit of publishing self-aggrandizement, or puffery posts as we like to call them. They are hard not to miss, especially among hospitals. Look at the FB pages for major hospitals today and chances are you will find numerous posts about the awards they received, the recognition their doctors have attained, and photos of their doctors being interviewed by the media.
Content like these are fairly common simply because many agencies and in-house marketing specialists are relatively new to pushing hospitals in the digital sphere. As a result, methods that they often use for other brand categories, like FMCGs (fast moving consumer goods), are applied in marketing hospitals.
These tactics are easy to spot. In pitches to ManCom, for instance, agencies or marketing staff would likely come up with a plan to make their materials viral (in the non-medical sense of the word). They would also promise to push for branded hashtags, or generate massive likes on Facebook and followers on Twitter and Instagram. SEO companies might even promise how your website would rank in the first page of the keywords “Best Hospitals in the Philippines,” as if people really search for this on Google before going for a check-up.
Nonetheless, the campaign, they swear, would generate a lot of brand love or brand equity. But when you ask how this brand equity is actually measured or, more significantly, how do all these translate to sales, chances are you would find most of them are stumped.
How then should we go about marketing for hospitals in the Philippines? It starts with understanding that hospitals are a different brand species. Each hospital has different facets as an institution and the way to market it goes beyond awareness; we actually have to promote its trustworthiness. Virality, hashtags, or page one results will not cut it.
The last instalment of this series on marketing for hospitals in the Philippines, titled Pulling off an efficient and effective marketing plan for hospitals in the Philippines, should provide more insights. There, we offer an approach on how to succeed in the establishing or re-establishing your hospital brand, especially in the new media landscape we are now in.