How can private healthcare providers capitalise on increasing customer demand? Stephen Cook has a few ideas
There are very few things more important than health and wellbeing, but the pressure on the economy and the ageing population, amongst other factors, is making it hard to sustain universal healthcare systems.
As a result, the market demographic for private health providers is changing, not just here in the UK (as the number of people who have lost confidence in the NHS rises) but globally.
Healthcare has jumped from being a medical delivery concern to a core element of national and international policy, where wellbeing is the growing priority, and increasingly understood to be so across all aspects of a person's life.
Sustaining care is pushing the onus onto private providers who are now being looked to for a more "holistic" delivery by customers who have greater demands and an expectation for exemplary prevention as well as healthcare services.
Private healthcare providers therefore have a great opportunity to capitalise on a growing number of customers, but to do so they need to review what they offer them and what their expectations are.
To do this, brands need to clearly communicate a strong proposition, which effectively meets the changing needs of their customers, i.e. their buyers, and understands why they are interested in private healthcare and the issues they have had with the NHS previously.
Ultimately they need to re-appraise their own attitudes, offers, service, structure, sales and marketing and accessibility of their brand, so they have a clear single message that resonates with this growing customer set.
Price also plays a key part in influencing this process. There are a growing number of customers who have access to a greater disposable income who have historically not chosen to spend their available income on private health, but are now willing to do so.
Private health providers therefore need to attract these people at the point when they are most willing to buy. If the service they provide is affordable, better and more holistic (prevention and care) than that customers can get through the NHS they are likely to "buy" from them, but they need to look at this from the consumer's perspective.
For them, the decision to buy is no different to any other purchase decision.
So how can healthcare organisations reach out to, communicate with and compel an increasingly sensitive customer community to purchase? Do buyers have a positive perception of them?
The answer to the second question in many respects is no.
A number of the big name organisations in the UK are not just UK centric businesses but global organisations. As a result many have a number of different subsidiaries, which could each be classified as a brand in their own right.
That makes it much harder for the customer to receive a unified clear message. These offerings are often rather complicated too, making it hard for buyers to easily identify what services are available.
Simplicity is vitally important to attracting consumers. If the message is too complex you will likely alienate them and fail to build a meaningful connection, driven by emotion and reason, a type that is particularly relevant to healthcare matters.
If they think about an approach at a strategic level alongside the creative approach - which is most likely being driven by their sales and marketing team - they will be able to create an integrated brand offering which will resonate with buyers.
Above all consumers need to be inspired to buy. We call this Buyer Enablement. But that's only really stage one.
In the context of private healthcare providers - as a business they must also re-evaluate the ways they engage with the people that buy from them. Those that focus on this approach will be able to predict and get ahead of market changes impacting the healthcare industry and its buyers.
Delivering high-quality wellbeing and healthcare programmes is more vital than ever. Defining these however is incredibly complex. If private healthcare providers are to capitalise on the growing number of potential buyers willing to engage with them, they need to be able to navigate these complexities and add new services without losing quality.
They need to reintegrate their offer around a more selective buyer. There are numerous reasons to buy private healthcare services. Providers that are able to understand each of them, designing their services and messages accordingly, will benefit most from this expanding marketplace.
Stephen Cook works in brand strategy and planning at Marketing Team Direct