Marketing is the management and social process of identifying, anticipating and satisfying the needs of present and potential customers while making long-term profits. The choice of marketing techniques may vary in the marketing of services from the marketing of products, but the basic principles and concepts of marketing are equally important and relevant in both, and apply across the spectrum of products and services, into the home health care industry. Successful marketing regards the customer as the focal point of business. In the many businesses, selling is often misunderstood as marketing. Selling is a micro function which means offering existing products at an agreed price, while marketing is a macro function which governs many other tactical areas. Marketing includes:
Collecting, storing and analyzing important information regarding markets, competition and future trends.
Segmenting the market and identifying specific needs of different customers.
Adjusting existing products and creating new products to suit the changing customer needs.
Deciding on price levels acceptable to the customers and to the company (ensuring value for money to the customers and ensuring long-term profitability for the company).
Selecting suitable channels which can be used as 'pipelines', either to distribute the products to customers or attract customers to the products/services.
Communicating with the middlemen (agents and channel representatives), together with past, present and potential customers, by effectively using a suitable mix of advertising, direct mail, publicity, public relations and sales promotion to promote the products.
Recruiting, training and motivating staff who are directly or indirectly involved in selling and other marketing activities.
Planning short-term and long-term marketing with inputs from operations, finance, human resources and general management.
A market-oriented business philosophy is required in order to be successful in the home health care industry. As the baby boomer generation ages, the opportunity for home health care products is increasing. The health care field is the largest industry in the United States and comprises 14% of the gross national product. (Murdaugh and Vanderboom, 1997) Payers of these health care costs are now demanding that more attention be placed on prevention of disease and promotion of wellness. Directly associated with this demand is the opportunity for home health care marketing of products and services. Health care, and the measurement of health well being does not exist in "have or have not" categories. Health and well being is measured on a continuum (Cowen, 1991), so marketing to his sector of the population takes on a slightly different twist. Marketing to the home health care sector is the process of bringing to consumers products and services which will move their lives toward the higher end of a scale which measured overall well being. Common elements that cross successful individual-level interventions for promoting wellness have been identified. (Steckler, 1995) First, the benefits must be substantial and guaranteed. Second, the time interval in which the individual will benefit must be relatively short (days or weeks). Third, the costs of the proposed change must be perceived to be low, at least relative to the expected benefits.
Furthermore, the home is now the choice for certain types of health care. Home health care is not a replacement for all hospital care, but it has become an important setting for delivering preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic, rehabilitative, and long-term maintenance services. The health care that patients receive in the privacy and comfort of their own homes breaks the past pattern of confining sick, handicapped, or recovering individuals to hospitals. Expansion of Medicare benefits and the rising costs of health care are some of the factors which are moving the market toward increased amounts of home care.. Home health care has become the fastest growing segment of health care services, and the second fastest growing industry in the economy as of October 1994. (Freeman, 1995) Additionally, "The financial incentives inherent in a fixed payment system encourage hospitals to discharge patients as soon as medically possible and the services provided immediately following discharge have become an increasingly important component of patient care."(University of Minnesota, 1993)
In terms of marketing home health care products and services, one factor which must be processed into the marketing plans is that the end consumer of health care services does not determine his or her need for health care services without the assistance of a health care professional. Doctors and nurses are involved in the process of moving a patient from traditional full service health care facility to home health care. For this reason, the doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals must be included in the marketing plans for home health care products and services. Home health care is an important niche but it is not a panacea." says Dave Morocco, vice president of marketing at Brooks Pharmacy. "It requires a long-term commitment and a knowledgeable staff. Remember, home health care is not something they teach in pharmacy school." (Chain Drug Review, 1997)
The health care professional has been taught to practice his or her craft in the confines of a highly controlled environment. As a result, come professionals are hesitant to relinquish that control to the home, into the hands of untrained family members. The marketing dynamics of this sector, while a growing opportunity because of financial constraints, must be addressed on an emotional level. Both the home care provider and the health care professional have a learning curve which a complete marketing campaign will need to address.
There are six main strategic elements or groups of strategies used in the marketing mix. Traditional marketing authorities stipulate four: product, price, place and promotion. However, because all marketing activity involves the selection of a target market, there must be strategies aimed at people. In addition, as people tend to buy images and not things because the ultimate buying decision in a consumer's mind is activated by emotions, and not facts. Therefore marketing home health care products and services are aimed at positioning strategies which identify an image of the products, and it's relative benefits to the consumer, and build the confidence that home care provider can successfully administer the needed care.
The six strategic elements comprising the marketing mix are described as the 'Marketing Ps'. It is called to marketing mix because it is a mixture of strategies used by management to product a marketing plan. In the planning process, organizations must make decisions about each element of the mix and determine how people will respond to the strategies separately and in combination.
The 6 Marketing P's
People strategies can be broadly classified as being: Undifferentiated (a mass-marketing approach) Differentiated (when selective markets are chosen) Concentrated (when specialized markets are chosen) Undifferentiated marketing or mass marketing is now a strategy seldom chosen by the large companies around the world. Differentiated marketing occurs when a company produces a product with model and style differences to satisfy selected markets. In the home health care field, marketing must be approached from a differentiated perspective in order to target the specific patient needs. Concentrated marketing is targeting specific people groups with a product. A thorough knowledge of the people who comprise the segments to be targeted is probably the most essential aspect of successful marketing.
Products are the items and services that happen to and for the customers. Strategies determine the benefits the customers will gain from their purchase. Product strategies can be classified under two board headings: Product growth strategies, which are generally aimed at producing better or different products to expand the organization's market penetration by attracting a broader base. Competitive product strategies, which are generally aimed at retaining customers by offsetting activity with an improved or different product, are used less frequently in the area of home health care products and services.
Where and how to sell the products is the purpose of Place strategies. The site chosen for the establishment is a…