Applying the 4 C’s of Marketing to Healthcare

Jeannette Warren wrote an excellent article last January about a shift from the four P’s of marketing (product, price, place, and promotion) to the four C’s, which are more customer focused: Customer wants and needs, Cost, Convenience, and Communication. Different industries and firms refer to their customers with different terms. For example, Disney Parks call their customers “guests,” and consultants may refer to their customers as “clients.” Healthcare marketing revolves around the patient, and in some cases the target customer is a representative of the patient, such as a parent, adult, child, or guardian. Healthcare insurance marketers refer to policyholders or insureds as their target audience. To borrow and slightly alter Shakespeare’s words, “a customer by any other name would be as precious.” In this article, I connect the four C’s of marketing to the specific issues of the healthcare industry.

1. Customer Wants and Needs

Today, healthcare marketing revolves around the patient and the patient’s wants and needs. Healthcare firms such as healthcare providers, insurers, and miscellaneous healthcare support firms need to understand not only what patients want and need but also what patients’ options are in the marketplace. I have written previously about the amount of change in the healthcare industry and the new year promises a continuation of that change. The heightened buzz about healthcare and healthcare insurance certainly raises awareness of patient choice. Therefore, it is very important to listen via social media, primary and secondary research, and engage with patients to ensure that when patients or other healthcare customers have a choice, they choose you!

2. Cost

There is significant awareness today of the rising costs of healthcare and debate about what drives those costs. Patients and their advocates focus on value of care while also paying attention to costs. A patient considering cataract surgery may not look for the lowest-cost provider to cut on her or his eyes. A well-informed patient is likely to focus on providers who give good care before, during, and after any procedure, illness, or accident, at a reasonable cost that is covered by the patient’s insurance policy. As the healthcare industry continues the journey from fee-for-service to value-based care, providers increasingly focus on patients’ long-term health and vitality, such as health maintenance and illness and accident prevention. Since value-based care rewards keeping patients healthy, there is considerable value to healthcare firms in better educating patients and showing patients how they can improve their quality of life through lifestyle changes and consistent well care visits. By forming a partnership with patients regarding health and vitality, patients see that you care and are more likely to choose you as their health partner.

3. Convenience

Patient convenience has driven many changes in healthcare. Patients can now get their flu vaccine when they go buy groceries or stop by the drug store for cough lozenges. Some healthcare providers have responded to these retail offerings with expanded hours and added conveniences such as no-appointment-needed flu vaccines. Providers now offer evening and weekend hours to accommodate busy patients. Rather than having to call the office and wait on hold, many providers and insurers have websites so patients can schedule their own appointments, track claims, or find answers to frequently asked questions. There is an abundance of information for patients to consult and decide about what further care, if any, to seek for non-emergency issues. It is important that healthcare marketers ask patients about the importance of convenience and what convenience means to them, so that marketers understand the relative value of developing mobile applications, or having after-hour triage services, etc. By being proactive in understanding and providing solutions to patients’ needs, healthcare firms can prevent losing patients to competitors who respond faster and accommodate patients with valuable convenience factors.

4. Communication

Communication is the glue that connects and integrates all other marketing strategies and tactics. Healthcare firms communicate with patients to understand their wants and needs, including their thoughts and concerns about healthcare costs and convenience, and completing the feedback loop by saying, “We listened to your thoughts, and this is what we are doing about it.” Communication is most valuable when it includes interaction. Social media provides the opportunity for interaction and gaining insights into patients’ thoughts and behaviors. Social media, website content, and other digital marketing tactics can help your healthcare firm engage with patients and patient advocates. Integrated digital marketing allows a feedback loop between patients, marketers, and providers, and nurtures engagement of all stakeholders to bring about holistic care. Of course, healthcare marketers have the added responsibility to ensure any social media engagement or research complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and other privacy laws. How does your healthcare firm keep a pulse on patient needs and wants, and nurture a long-term relationship?


CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

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