( By Vivek Shukla )

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Ten marketing mantras for a successful medical camp

Organising a free medical camp is no mean task. However, if done correctly, it can be your potential tool in increasing brand equity and business, says Vivek Shukla

Recently, there has been a lot of debate on role of free camps and continuing medical education programmes (CMEs) as effective marketing tools for hospitals. However, in my experience a camp or a CME is a useful marketing tool only if its potential is tapped properly which is sadly not the case as for now.

Though most hospitals organise free camps, in which sizeable number of patients turn up, but the tragic part is, that these patients do not make it to the hospital in the end. In other words they fail to get translated into business.

This leaves the hospital promoters wondering whether the whole exercise was worth it or not. Similarly, there may be a good number of people who attend a CME and then forget about the hospital which organised it within a week. The flight of fancy of the organising hospital ends up in despair as hardly any referrals get generated in spite of spending so much time and money.

Over the last few years while I have had the opportunity to organise a few camps and CMEs for my client hospitals, I have developed a few guidelines which may help a hospital to gain maximum advantage from a camp or a CME.

I would, however, assert that these two are not the only ways of generating patient flow. Also, the hospitals in my opinion should use these as a long term brand building tool rather than a formula for instant patient generation. It would be useful to add that the guidelines being mentioned here are useful in many ways but they do not guarantee anything.

First of all, the hospital must always organise the CME and the camp together for a long lasting effect. Mostly my client hospitals/nursing homes would have the camp during the day followed by a CME in the night.

Guidelines to make your camp a hit:

  1. Organise the camp on a holiday or a weekend. This will allow more patient flow

  2. If you are organising a speciality camp for a particular disease, consider keeping a fee of Rs 10 or so because it will help to filter ?genuine patients? from the free camp buffs who grace all the camps in town with their presence

  3. Take help of a local Red-Cross authority, or the Rotary Club or some other NGO to impart some credibility to the camp. Use their facility for the camp. It is also a good idea to use the facility of a smaller nursing home or a clinic for the event

    Just make sure that the clinic you are using enjoys a good reputation among the locals. In such a case, the clinic or the nursing home which is co-organising with you may also share the publicity expenditure with you. They would do so because you are boosting their image in the local market and they will also earn from the investigations or the medicines you might prescribe to the patients

  4. Make sure you carry a lot of medicine samples to be distributed free to the patients

  5. Always market a camp as a screening camp for the procedures which would be carried out at the hospital at a later date. Announce a discount for the ?selected? patients. The ideal thing would be to rope in the NGO or some local government body or politicians or businessmen or all of these to bear some percentage of expenses for the procedures you would carry out on ?selected? patients if they are poor.

    This will help in making your camp a great hit. People will not get offended if you call them over to your place for the procedure since you have already admitted that the purpose of the camp is to screen eligible candidates for surgery or other procedures. Plus pitching in credible sponsors will instill confidence in people apart from reducing their monetary burden

  6. Build a hype for the camp at least four days before the event.

    Make your camp unique. Don?t make it sound as just another camp by some hospital. This can be done using myriad marketing tools. The most effective in my opinion are :

    1. Pamphlets [if designed professionally], give it a catchy headline, use short sentences, mention free medicines, include a picture in the pamphlet to catch attention. These pamphlets can be used as inserts in the paper

    2. A loud speaker mounted on the top of a vehicle and a person announcing the event date and other particulars. You could be innovative to have these announcements be made in an interesting way, like in form of a poem or a song. This helps to gain attention of people

    3. Banners put at a decent height so as to be visible. Put these at places like bus stand or a busy crossing

    4. Run an ad on the local cable TV channel. Highlight whatever is free and also tell them that the procedures will be performed at a discount rate on patients selected from the camp.

    5. Give a pre-camp press note to all the leading newspapers of the area. Tell them you are arriving with something very relevant and unique

    6. Always have a small opening ceremony for the camp. The person who should be cutting the red ribbon should be chosen carefully. A shrewd businessman, president of a rich NGO, your local MLA, the Deputy Commissioner or the richest businessman having a penchant for social service do the honours. This will help you get the funds for operating people selected as eligible candidates at your camp. Do not forget to have a cameraman be present there for clicking the photographs

  7. During the camp manage the crowd in a systematic way. Make sure that people do not have to wait long hours and are taken care of. Always have a ?marketing guy? seated alongside you when examining people. This person will do the job of telling eligible patients how much discount they would get if they reach within 10 days for surgery. Who all are paying a part of their hospital bill, what is the best way to reach the hospital and what advantages they would get if they come to you in the next ten days.

    Take care that all this is done in a subtle way. People are likely to get upset if they experience any hardshell. This guy must take the addresses and phone numbers of all the potential patients so that they are informed whenever you have another camp in the area.

  8. Ensure that you are running audio visual clips in the OPD area while the camp is on. These clips may highlight your hospital services and may also contain testimonials from your previous patients. Also give brochures and other reading material to the patients generously.

  9. Invariably follow a camp with a press conference. Have the local press and cable TV people be present at a nearby caf?. Give them photographs of the camp to be printed. Tell them something which is sensational enough to make headlines the next day. For instance tell them why Indians are more prone to heart disease or how women get gall stones so frequently these days or how the new technique available at your hospital has revolutionised the medical field, etc.

  10. At the end of the day if you get the names and addresses of a few legitimate patients and if the press people send in a detailed report on your camp, you have done your job. Not to forget the ?sponsors? who chip in to help poor patients requiring surgery. As it turns out, organising a camp is not a joke. It requires a team of three-four people out of which at least one is a marketing professional with some exposure in this area. However, if done correctly, a camp can be a sure way to increase brand equity and business. More on having successful CMEs next time....

(The author is a healthcare and marketing consultant with Marketingplans, Dharmasala, Himachal Pradesh. Email:vivekshukla2002@hotmail.com)

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