How to position your health and wellness tourism brand for growth

Eureka! After 35 years, I finally figured out the secret, mystical, algorithm! As you know, an algorithm is a formula to solve a problem with predictable steps. They improve your odds of getting the right answer.

Without a system to develop your health and wellness tourism business, creating your offer is a hit-or-miss process

For decades I’ve been helping clients (and following my own advice with practical experimentation on our health and wellness tourism verticals, Medical Tourism Journeys (for consumers) and Mercury Health Travel (corporate medical tourism) to decide what they will say, how they will say it and what words they will use – on their website, in their advertising collateral, in their elevator pitch, in negotiating their contracts, and n opening doors for new opportunities with insurance companies and employers. My professional training in nursing, health administration and my cross training and tacit knowledge from 35 years of cross training has been a blessing. It has shown me the algorithms to use and to share with clients.

I have been a nurse and a hospital executive, and the administrator of a free-standing ambulatory surgery center. I have been a contracting supervisor at a health insurance plan. I’ve worked with employers who want to start a Center of Excellence medical travel program. I’ve been on the Diamond Rating inspections team for hotels and restaurants and worked as a Maritz mystery shopper. Imagine how blessed I have been to have had the opportunity to tour and advise thousands of hospitals hotels and resorts, and government tourism and economic development agencies in hundreds destinations in more than 120 countries. I have studied what they did wrong, right, differently, and the unique approaches, good or bad of each.

By working in and among world class hospitals, clinics, doctors, dentists, spas, hotels and resorts, I learned to combine different methodologies for new health and wellness tourism combinations and I didn’t have to adhere to any set of rules. My clients get my handpicked best examples and lessons learned from 35 years of experience. They benefit from my ability to bypass the usual steps of building a health or wellness tourism business and jump straight to the end game and grow and thrive. How? The algorithm. It comes from doing, consulting, and immersion – not from armchair philosophizing and selling conference stands. It comes from teaching workshops and Master Classes where students ask touch challenging questions and I am challenged to come up with the answers they can use right away.

I didn’t realize that I had created an algorithm of my own for this health and wellness tourism business development. Not until until last night at about 0019! Now I want to share it with you.

My algorithm begins and ends with one trick question you have to answer. But my way of asking it to prospective clients – very direct and succinct – was off putting to many. They thought I was insulting them! In hindsight, few of these doctors, hospital administrators, investors, and entrepreneurs understood what I was asking. What was that question? I always ask “How are you so special that people should want to buy their health and wellness tourism experience from you?” Perhaps they interpreted what I was asking as “prove to me that you are special” – which was not what I was saying at all. They got into defensive mode on their own and the rest of the value, for several, was impossible to absorb because they were probably saying “Who the hell does Maria Todd think she is to ask me that?”

In fact, about a year ago, I asked that of a neurosurgeon here in Denver and his accountant was sitting there. She said “Ouch!” Her response baffled me. Now I get it! She must have interpreted what I said as, “I don’t believe you are special; prove it.” That wasn’t what I was saying at all! I was attempting to communicate “Ok. You are special. Now tell me about what makes you special and what your patients believe is special about you?”

So for the record, if any of you have been asked by me “What makes you special?” and you took offense, none was ever intended. Please forgive me and lets try again. I am sorry if I accidentally offended you. In my eyes, every doctor, nurse, dentist, therapist, hospital, clinic, spa, thalasso center or other place where healing happens is “special”. I was simply and directly asking you to articulate for me in a nutshell the one thing that explains “what” you believe and your patients and visitors believe is special about you. Because otherwise I have to move in with you and learn this on my own and to do that I would have to charge you a lot of money.

Instead, I was inviting you, the brand owner and creator of your brand and your health and wellness tourism product, to explain how your are special and “why” you believe it. In other words, to point to specific case examples that led you to that specific conclusion. In retrospect, no wonder you were offended if I didn’t communicate my inquiry in a way you could understand. Mea culpa!

So last night, I took some of my own growth hacking advice. You know the one where I recommend you are always open to introspection and finding a better way to express an idea, a concept, refine a product and achieve synchronicity with the client in front of you. And Euroeka! It dawned on me. One word! One measly little word. That’s what I needed to change. Of all the words in the dictionary I needed a better word than “special”.

So here is the new question you must answer. It is the first and foremost question you must answer in order to grow and thrive in health and wellness tourism. It is the toughest strategy question to answer:

“What makes your professional reputation and offer “fascinating” to a global prospect or a local prospect?” There are two answers here. One global or regional, one local. That’s because the customers are different. But cash is cash. How you fascinate local customers fills consultation appointment slots and operating theater schedules just as much as how you fascinate patients from far away. The health or wellness tourism provider opens their practice and clinic to foreign and distant domestic patient prospects to grow new customers and make money. Money from one postal code to another doesn’t matter. In fact, the one from the distant postal code probably costs more to acquire, so your profitability is less, but your schedule fills just the same. The same goes for hotels and resorts a head in a bed is a head in a bed or on a massage table.

You must be able to supply me the answer to what makes your offer and service fascinating to a local patient that drives by your place frequently as they go about their local errands, and visits patients in your hospital or knows someone who has been a patient in your service. You must also provide me the answer in the alternate case for a patient that is not local, does not drive by and is otherwise unaware of your existence and knows little about you.

So today and for the rest of your weekend, I want that one single question, “What makes your offer and business fascinating” to keep playing in your head, in the shower, walking to the metro, opening the refrigerator – like the melody and the lyrics of song that won’t stop playing in your mind.

When you are able to articulate the thing that fascinates your customers, call me and tell me about it.

I will use my algorithm developed over 35+ years in the business of healthcare and health tourism to get you organized and launched, prepare you for accreditation surveys, build your international patient department, organize your health and wellness tourism cluster, or whatever else it takes to round out your health and wellness tourism product. I will connect you to the best and most established facilitators and referral agencies on the planet. I will send insurance contracting representatives to your doorstep. I will introduce you to self insured employers seeking a Center of Excellence to buy better value and higher quality for the money they spend in healthcare claims.

You’ll get a bonus when you do that. The bonus is the answer to the second question I ask: “What differentiates you from your competitors and makes you unique and distinctive?” That’s because if you know how you fascinate others, and can communicate it, the unique differentiation is probably embedded in that explanation.

On the other hand, if you cannot describe what makes your offer fascinating, spellbinding, compelling, captivating, enthralling, riveting to the customers you want to attract and makes them choose you over all others, then we have some work to do. Because we cannot move forward and you cannot grow your health and wellness tourism business without an understanding and clear articulation of how your health and wellness tourism product, experience or offer fascinates others. In that case, call me. All we have to do is start from a different point

Maria K Todd MHA PhD

Consultant, CEO, Author, Speaker, Publisher — Healthcare & Health Tourism Sectors

The Mercury Healthcare Companies