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Do You Know Who Your Customers Are?

Understanding the buttons that drive patient behavior

Do you really know your target customers?  Can you clearly define their characteristics in terms of who are they, where they live, their motivations, what information they need before they buy, their economic conditions, or why they would want your services?

One of the most important things you can do to help make your service more relevant is to get to know your customers. Conducting analysis, soliciting patient feedback, interviewing and surveying are all good ways of doing this, but there are many more. You can further increase the usefulness of this information, as well as add to it, by creating personas for your customers.

Personas are an extremely valuable tool for defining customer profiles in any field. If you’re not familiar with the term, here’s a brief definition:

Personas are representations of your target audience that you’re trying to attract to your clinic or hospital based on demographics and socio-economic conditions.

A persona is a customer profile that you can use to help make consumption decisions. These profiles are created from knowledge usually gained from current patient bases and research. Think of a persona model as having a “virtual” customer to bounce ideas off of and help you keep the goals of the customer in mind on a day-to-day basis. They are another powerful and valuable tool you can add to your toolbox.

From individual doctors to clinics to hospitals, anyone can benefit from developing personas of their prospective patients and their own brand to gain competitive advantages.

What are Personas and why do we need them?
A persona typically involves giving a fictitious name and characteristics to a ‘client’ that is consistent with one of the main consumer groups you have identified for the services you are offering.

Personas put a face on the customer. Some persona programs give people names so you can refer to them and see them in a “physical” manifestation or representation.  A persona removes the tendency to think of yourself as the customer, and instead forces you to step back and visualize your customers.  This method offers the structure to do so. Some of the key elements of persona development include:

  1. Who are your customers?
  2. Why are they looking for services?
  3. What is important to them?
  4. What do they need to know?
  5. Where will they look?
  6. How do they decide?

What are some characteristics of Personas that need to be defined?

  • Persona name
  • Demographics: age group, gender, education, ethnicity, family status, location
  • Type of Profession: job title and major responsibilities in professional life
  • Decision Maker or Head of Household?
  • Economics – yearly income, type of home, home value
  • Goals and tasks in relation to your services
  • Environment – physical, social, technological

What are the Key Questions a Persona should address?

  • Why would this person be interested in your products and services?
  • What questions or concerns does this person have about your products and services?
  • What key information do we want to communicate to this person?
  • What challenges do we face in achieving our communication goals?
  • What are this person’s media habits?
  • What challenges does this person face at work/home?
  • Describe this person’s decision-making process?
  • Where does this person shop?
  • A quote that sums up what matters most to the persona with relevance for your services.

How to you Develop Personas?
The first and most important thing you’ll need to do before developing a persona is to gather information about your patients. Depending on your resources and budget, this can be done in various ways and to varying levels of detail. Let’s concentrate on a few simple ways that will specifically help you create personas.

The best personas will also go the extra step by describing key behaviors such as the decision-making process, information-browsing approaches, or shopping modes and habits—the drivers that affect how people approach a given solution.

Ask these questions:

  1. Finding patients – Who are the prospective patients? How many are there? What do they do with the services/brand that you are offering?
  2. Building a hypothesis – What are the differences (cultural, beliefs, attitudes) between patients from different backgrounds?
  3. Verifications: Compile data for personas (likes/dislikes, inner needs, values), data for situations (area of work, work conditions), data for scenarios (work and information strategies and goals).
  4. Finding patterns: Does the initial labeling hold? Are there more groups to consider? Are all equally important?
  5. Constructing personas: Body (name, age picture). Psyche (extrovert/introvert). Background (occupation). Emotions and attitude toward seeking alternative healthcare options, the company (sender) or the information that they need. Don’t forget personal traits.
  6. Defining situations – What is the need of this persona?
  7. Validation and buy-in – Do you know someone like this?
  8. Dissemination of knowledge: How can we share the personas with the organization?
  9. Creating scenarios – In a given situation, with a given goal, what happens when the persona engages with the brand?
  10. On-going development – Does new information alter the personas?


Elective Procedure Medical Tourist
Our primary persona seeking elective procedures such as cosmetic surgery is “Jenny” who is between 40-45 years old.  She values her appearance and has some disposal income.  Jenny leads an active life and  would consider going abroad to save some money for improving her appearance.  You would find an image of her to use in your planning, a visual reminder of her type. Before deciding on type and place for the surgery, she will perform serious research.  She has high need for information, e.g., who will perform the surgery, do they carry relevant board certification, are there good sight-seeing or relaxing opportunities before and after the procedure, good  restaurants, shopping opportunities, etc.

Jenny will shop around for the procedure to determine which provider and location will provide the best value for her hard earned money. She will most likely need a broad scope and depth of information and use a guide more intensely.  In fact, she would probably prefer a pre-packaged product to meet her needs.

As you start making decisions about service and marketing strategies, you would check back to “Jenny” and ask yourself if such decisions would affect her or her needs. If not, what would reach her more effectively? What message does she need to hear?

Surgical Procedure Medical Tourist
Our persona for surgical procedure is “Steve” who is 60-65 years of age, is on fixed income, and has been considering a hip replacement surgery.  He has no insurance and would not be able to afford such surgery locally.  His activities have been limited over the years due to hip problems and he has a strong desire to play with his grand kids.  He has traveled internationally before and would consider going abroad for his hip surgery. He would perform an in-depth research on the hospital and surgeon who will perform surgery on him, the type of materials they will use, and sanitary conditions, among other key factors.

Steve is very sensitive about the end results and would like to see a doctor and hospital’s track record of performing similar surgeries.  He won’t consider the sight- seeing or tourism aspect as the primary reason for medical travel. He will be very time-conscious and would focus on his surgery and recovery period.  He would be a value traveler and most likely to put his own trip together after careful consideration of doctor, hospital, location, flight, etc.

Complementary & Alternative Medicine Medical Tourist
Our persona seeking integrative or alternative treatment is “Pam”.  Pam is 35-40 years old, educated and has a higher household income.  She has strong beliefs in organic and holistic products and services.  She is very health-conscious and would like to do the same for all her family members. She will always search for alternative ways to treat any symptoms for her family.

She would indulge herself going to the source or origin of particular alternative medicine in a foreign country to learn and obtain the best treatment from the “experts”.  Generally, money is not a huge concern; the main focus is authenticity. Pam considers herself a trend follower.  She is a leisure traveler and a tourist when she travels abroad for alternative or integrated medicine treatment.  She would enjoy packaged products and services that include everything required for her treatment and hence making the decision making process very simple and easy.

Using appropriate personas e.g., you can determine the behavior of a patient.  For example, when responding to an email inquiry from a patient, ask yourself, “When Jenny, Steve or Pam receive this email, how would they react?” Would THEY be satisfied with the information provided in the email? Would THEY jump on a plane and come to your facility for treatment OR what more do they  need to know before they made up their mind?

Hence, putting yourself in the patient’s shoes will help you understand the situation better and hopefully your response to a patient inquiry will be more personal. Your chances of closing the deal with the patient would be much higher.

Always ask, “How would my persona react when they receive this email from me?” or “Will my persona from America will come to my facility considering the current economic crisis in America?” Will my persona have the money to travel to my center for an elective procedure or will he or she wait?”  Answering such questions will help you define new ways to attract people from new locations by fine-tuning your services and becoming innovative.

Benefits of Creating a Persona Model

  • Better understanding of your customers
  • Improved product and service quality
  • Targeted consumer goals. Needs become a common focal point for your services
  • By always asking, “Would my persona use this?” the team can avoid the trap of building what consumer asks for rather than what they will actually use
  • Services can be prioritized based on the personas
  • Disagreements over service and pricing decisions can be sorted out by referring back to the personas
  • Services can be constantly evaluated against the personas,  generating better services

You’ll want to develop several personas – perhaps seven or eight initially for the clinic, to ensure that you explore all the needs of your user base. The simplicity of the end product—a rich description of a person who represents a like group of customers—can make persona creation seem easy.

Do fun exercises in your office- create a persona of your typical customer – try to answer all the questions listed in this white paper to determine if you see a trend among a set group of clients you tend to attract. We would love it if you shared your results with us.

Know your customers! Use personas when defining your products and services and turn your business into a sales machine!


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