Marketing Maternity Programs

maternity1Fortis La Femme, a boutique hospital for women is running a promotional campaign on a local radio station for their IVF program and the venerable Moolchand Hospital has launched ‘Mother’s Nest’ a maternity services program targeting would be parents. A full page advertisement announcing the new program was carried in HT City a few days ago.

Fortis La Femme, which was known as Cradles earlier was a brain child of Ratan Jalan, the CEO of Apollo Health and Lifestyle Ltd. (AHLL) who was my boss, when I headed marketing at AHLL. The Cradles was set up as a franchised operation and was later bought over by Fortis. It was conceived by Mr. Jalan as a high end birthing centre and has now been repositioned a s a hospital for women, with Maternity Services being one of the several service lines.

Moolchand Hospital has of course been a fixture in Delhi’s firmament for decades and is undergoing a complete makeover under the guidance of Shravan and Vibhu Talwar, the present owners. Both of them are well known to me.  

Childbirth is one happy occasion in the life of a hospital. It is the only time when one looks forward to going to a hospital. In most people’s lives the arrival of a new family member is a time of unalloyed joy and hospitals try to deliver a great experience. 

In fact, many prospective parents select a hospital based on their assessment of the kind of experience they can expect. The hospitals realising this try to offer a great experience for the would be mothers as well as the enire extended family.

Many hospitals offer packages, which include regular care during the ante-natal period, a great and hassle free birthing experience during the time of the delivery and than a post natal package including infant care. The packages are designed to ensure customer lock in and the hospitals encourage both the would be parents to share the experience of preparing for the arrival of the new one.

The Marketing of these packages involve effective branding and packaging of the services and than connecting with folks planning a family. 

The million dollar question is how to identify such families and than whom to communicate with. While attempting to create effective communication for the Maternity Program we were not sure if the communication should be directed at the would be mother, father, the mother in law or the sister/sister in law who had had a baby the previous year!

I remember having long but unfortunately fruitless discussions with my team mates trying to figur this out. We even once asked our below the line Marketing agency to collect information on all the marriages being registered in Delhi so that one can start approaching couples with marketing messages on the ‘joys of parenthood’. Fortunately, better sense prevailed and we gave up this exercise as impractical.

We tried associating with stores selling Maternity related products and get information from the web about people downloading maternity related information from pre defined websites. All this just did not work.

Very soon we realised that direct marketing was perhaps not as effective as we thought it would be. We quickly reverted to above the line advertising and slick branding. The Max Hospital’s maternity package was called ‘MaxiMum’. We created information booklets on what to expect during pregnancy, acquired videos of child birth to demystify the entire experience and also developed information on infant care. We also tried to standardise the experiences across the hospital touchpoints.

All this worked far better than the earlier direct marketing approach. Young couples planning a family would call, visit the hospital, be taken around to see the facilities for themselves and interact with their obstetricians. They were given answers to all their questions by trained executievs, handed over the literature we had developed and encouraged to enrol for the program. Customers could ‘touch’ and ‘feel’ the hospital and interact with the caregivers. They also understood that the hospital wanted to partner with them in their moment of great joy.

And in the course of all this we also discovered that India is changing and at least in urban, educated, middle class India, the decision about choosing a hospital for a childbirth is now largely a decision of the would be parents.



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