Healthcare Marketing (The Basics): Market Segmentation — Slices Matter in CT Scans and Your Market

In a discussion with one of my clients the other day, there was some confusion about some basic marketing principles. It seems those of in the field of business development often bandy about phrases as if everyone knows exactly what we are talking about. Just yesterday, I mentioned the “impact on SEO” and was startled when the question came back, “what is SEO?”  So, I thought I would spend some time on the basics, in a short review fashion.

What Is a Market Segment? Okay, a market segment, just like that CT scan slice is a part of the whole. But the part has some similarities or shared features that allow it to be a part of the whole – a segment – that you can direct specific actions toward. And the particular segment is usually unique from other segments in the market.

What’s the Value of a Segment? Segmenting your market into more manageable groupings allows you to reach out to them in a fashion they are more likely to respond. By limiting who you are approaching and focusing on some core commonalities, you can get closer to satisfying your customers’ needs. You have tailored your approach to their specific concerns. You have zeroed in on the target and don’t have to speak in gross general terms: Do you need a urologist? vs. Are you getting up several times a time to urinate without much success?

Depending on the segment, it will respond to various channels differently. For example, one of your market segments might be female baby boomers. What might be the best way to reach them? You can try print ads in your local paper – somewhat expensive or, if you have been collecting emails for your existing patients, you might reach them via email marketing. If you segment is Gen Y females, you know they spend less time on email and respond more favorably to social media outlets so you might rely more on FaceBook or even text messaging. In either case, a market segment is measurable. You want to make sure you know the result of your action upon this segment so that you can correct or augment your approach.

How Do You Segment? Okay, so you understand that dividing your segment into common features will allow you to focus specifically. But how do you make the cut? Some traditional ways to segment a market include:

  • Geographically
  • Demographically (i.e. age, income, gender)
  • Psycho-graphically (i.e. values, lifestyle)
  • Or through behavior (i.e. utilization rates)

Remember that the value in segmenting your market means that you can tailor the message to have more success. This approach demands a greater awareness of service processes but also lends itself to providing insight into which segments are more successfully served based on your resources. Not only are you able to address the market segment more precisely but you will utilize your marketing dollar more wisely.

Basic questions to ask when determining a market segment include:

  1. Is this segment the right size? Large enough?
  2. Does this segment have an identifiable need?
  3. How viable is the segment? Will it grow? How might it change? Is it fixed? Who is already serving this segment and how does that impact my service?
  4. How difficult will this segment be to reach? Impact? Approach?
  5. Can my organization serve this segment well? Do we have the correct resources?
  6. By targeting this segment, is my organization remaining true to its mission? What is the best way to segment?

Taking the first step is often the hardest. You may be re-tooling your outreach or starting fresh. Either way the process is the same. Take your current patient base and think about them in aggregate. Then look for some trends or common features. Do you see some patients more often? Are there more profitable services that certain types of patients need? Or, if you are working with physicians, do you want to focus on primary care providers? You want to find the commonality that suits treating the segment as a group – that will help you direct outreach to them in a more precise fashion. Segmenting by specialty allows you to develop a strategy that is more targeted and meaningful to that physician. Or in the case with your patients,  for example, if you are an OB-Gyn and want to grow your gynecology care, you might segment by age. Your outreach efforts will be more successful the more precisely you target your audience because you are creating messages that focus specifically on that targeted segment. If this process is new, you may want to start by just targeting one segment and seeing how it goes. And, like any outreach effort, make sure you track your results and tailor your efforts according to those results.

Okay, that’s it for healthcare marketing basics: segmentation. Next week we will look at your outreach budget.  And by the way, in case you didn’t know, SEO means search engine optimization.  😉

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