In a Contest of Opinions, You’ll Lose — Research in Healthcare Marketing

How do you know? It’s a question difficult to answer and defend without supporting data. That’s why research is so important to healthcare marketers.

Marketing as Market Research: Creating Personalized and Engaging Content

Examples include quality awards, extended hours, apps, history in the community, online scheduling, locations, volume of procedures, state-of-the-art technology and listening skills. You can build lists of 30 or more attributes and have them ranked through a process called MaxDiff. This technique breaks that long list of attributes into smaller randomized subsets and asks respondents to indicate which ones are most and least important.

By repeating this exercise multiple times with various combinations of attributes, a hierarchy of importance will emerge. The top tier — coupled with your brand perception and what you can deliver on operationally — helps you identify what to include in your messaging when communicating to a large, broad audience.

Psychographic Segmentation

The ‘Drivers of Choice’ study lets you see relative importance of attributes in the overall market. Psychographic segmentation helps identify subsets of people most likely to respond to your brand or offering based on their mindset. This differs from traditional segmentation studies that rely on pre-determined buckets of people based on age, income or gender. Instinctively you already know that people in the same demographic category may look at identical criteria and reach different conclusions about what’s best for them.

A psychographic approach asks a series of questions and then creates audience segments organically based on how they responded. It then seeks to look for commonalities underneath those segments. This is great for creating personas as well as understanding the types of respondents most open to your value proposition even if they are not the largest segment in terms of numbers. It may be more cost efficient for you to refine messaging and media targeting to stimulate engagement with those persuadable subsets rather than try to reach and convert ‘everybody.’

Pricing Sensitivity

Some healthcare organizations are ‘taking risk’ to be a preferred provider in health plan agreements while also being more active in managing total cost of care. Others are co-developing health insurance products with an identify strongly associated with their delivery system. Both approaches are intended to earn market share. However, launching a new product doesn’t necessarily ensure employers or individuals will want to participate.

Product differentiation can be achieved through benefit design, value-added conveniences, the networks of providers included and monthly premium pricing. Benefit design is somewhat constrained by regulatory guidelines. Conveniences such as online apps may lack sufficient pull on their own to attract enrollment. Familiarity and loyalty to providers can be a sticking point for prospective enrollees as well as employers concerned about dissatisfaction from changes in health coverage options. Thus, pricing becomes crucial in terms of success attracting enrollees and managing profit margins.

A marketer can help the contracting team by conducting a pricing sensitivity study. This type of study helps when introducing a new product or assessing potential disenrollment caused by premium increases on existing products. Typically, you would test at various thresholds, starting with the lowest (say $10 per family member per month) and increase in small increments to assess when the savings to the family budget outweighs the perceived risk of change to a new coverage option or provider network. This insight not only helps identify a premium acceptable to the market, but also can be used to overcome employer and broker concerns about whether the coverage option will be adopted by the workforce.

Regardless of the type of study, it’s helpful to work with an experienced research firm that can probe for the insights you need in a manner that withstands scrutiny. By doing so, you can answer that dreaded question, “How do you know?”

Author: Michael Crawford

Michael Crawford became interested in healthcare listening to the conversations around the patio table as his parents and their colleagues talked about work. For the past 30 years he's used his marketing expertise to help medical groups, hospitals and health systems connect with consumers, physicians, employers, brokers and health plans. He advocates for a strategic approach to marketing, audience-based communications, coordination between marketing and customer service functions, and early inclusion of the marketing discipline when planning services. His work has earned more than a dozen awards over the past few years. He’s no stranger to healthcare reorganizations or healthcare reform, from the failed effort during the 90s to the implementation of the ACA to today’s efforts at repeal. His blog, Healthcare Marketing Survival Guide, offers advice for B2C and B2B healthcare marketers trying to chart their course during uncertain times. Connect with him via LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @health_crawford.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *