Marketing communications issues in Turkey’s healthcare industry

Marketing and sales tend to operate in a traditional fashion, using the tools from the “conventional toolbox”. Their relationship with hospitals is the single most important element in the commercialization of products and these relations are built and maintained “face to face”.

In our previous article exploring marketing communications in Germany, we discussed how both the areas of marketing and sales tend to operate in a traditional fashion, using the tools from the “conventional toolbox”.
Their relationship with hospitals is the single most important element in the commercialization of products and these relations are built and maintained “face to face”.

To some extent, Turkey is very much a traditional “social contact” country, free of the financial issues that play much more of a (dominating) role in the countries east of Turkey, Middle East, Gulf States. The market has been controlled by large (very large) distributors. For a long time, manufacturers were clever enough to use those large distributors that have the relations, the grip, the contacts and “fall in line”. Very personal relationships between commercial organizations and healthcare providers (clinics, hospital) are still very important.

The audience is changing less rapidly than in markets than can be characterized as shift markets (i.e. more traditional and mature markets, like Germany). In the large majority of the hospitals, physicians still play a dominating role in the decision making. Other disciplines are gaining importance (Specialized Nursing, Bio-techs, ICT etc.) but in the majority of cases the physician has a controlling vote.

A relatively stable audience and decision-making unit, would imply a limited change of content.
The involvement of additional disciplines require additional services, information and support to take a bigger role in the decision-making but also, more information facilitates the importance of the roles. Any additional profile (other than physicians) will require additional support.

In the larger cities (Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir) the secondary segment is developing more rapidly than in the more rural areas of Turkey. As the developing economy increases, so does the size of the populations that have the requirements, desire and financials, to obtain high quality healthcare (and excellent quality hospitals). Private clinics are limited in quantity but the number, size and quality is going up. The higher the level of the provider (the hospital), the more they will mimic the requirements of the good (comparable) hospitals.

Marketing communication issues in Turkey

The emphasis in the marketing mix is product (technology) related
There is a need for product and technology related information and documentation.

Pricing is extremely relevant (dominant)
Volume related discounts, extended warranties, technical service and training support among others, are important, if not essential.

Installed base strategies are still important (dominant)
Initial unit placements are important for further, future deals. Homogeneous equipment-functionality etc. is considered to be advantageous.

Secondary (Hospital) care is still in the heart of the system
The Hospital share of the business is still dominant and increasing, in absolute terms and as a percentage of the total.

Central purchasing is a limited factor
(Government) tenders and central purchasing is putting an emphasis on pricing and non-medical issues.

Marketing (promotion) is more “Point of Sales” oriented than in a Shift market
In a substantial number of cases the sales of Medical Devices, equipment in particular is still very traditional with a decision making unit that is limited and strongly influenced by the physician.
Physicians play a more important part than in Shift markets (and Germany is still a bit an exception to the rule)

Evidence based medicine is less of an issue.

The industry view – more than changing channels and messages.

During our exploration in Turkey and Germany (see previous article) we noted that: rather than an overview of the development of channels, messages and methods, the changes in the healthcare markets in Europe present a picture that requires much more of a structural change of relationship between industry and healthcare providers, payers and policy makers. Especially (particularly) in “shift” markets like Germany there is a large gap between information needed, and information provided.

TforG will be targeting future research towards “the receiving end” of the discussed communication, mainly providers, medical professionals and hospital managers but also payers and policy makers.

In addition to the communication issues described above, we will also research some more basic discrepancies.

About Ritza Suazo

Researches and creates Clinical Pathways and Country Deep Dive Reports at TforG. With almost a decade of experience in Clinical Market research she also manages and recruits the TforG advisory board. She graduated with a double major in psychology and international business management from Stony Brook University in New York and continues to apply her experience in research specializing in the US, UK, Spain and South American Markets.