Introduction to Medical Marketing
The following is an excerpt from The Evangelists: Insights from Leaders of the Nation’s Most Beloved Brands. Written by Roselin Manawis, this chapter is titled “Communicating Healthcare to All.” In it, Paolo Bugayong, the CEO of AIDE, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in disseminating the importance of healthcare to the public.
Make your customers’ know their need and your solution to itThe concept of AIDE came to Paolo Bugayong during a routine activity in his life: getting ready for his grandmother’s monthly checkup. Back then, the nearest hospital within their reach was across the city, which meant they would have to brave Metro Manila’s horrible traffic. Bugayong was then driven to create a single platform where Filipino patients, doctors, nurses and medical professionals can connect, engage and provide credible medical advice as needed in the comfort of their own homes. His brother, Patrick Bugayong, M.D., saw the novel promise of the idea confident that fellow doctors, nurses, and medical practitioners would think so too. Thus, in 2016, they launched AIDE.
AIDE then went to become the first home medical care mobile app in the Philippines. With medical services ranging from check-ups, vaccinations, medicine delivery, various lab works (such as blood tests and DNA analyses), nutritional evaluations, physical therapy sessions, and hair-loss treatments, it was the latest innovation in Philippine medical care.
In shaping AIDE’s mission, Bugayong formed three main goals: to increase work opportunities for medical practitioners; to introduce quality and personalized care; and to receive convenient, reliable healthcare at home. All of them fueled the possibility of several short-term benefits and positive long-term impacts for the Philippine healthcare industry.
However, this vision was not enough—now, they had to source funds. It is common to hear of startups financially backed by venture capitalists, but in the case of AIDE, partnering up with conglomerate Ayala’s health portfolio AC Health was the most strategic way to go.
When asked why he chose to partner up with a conglomerate, Bugayong stated that the partnership was intentionally pursued with AC Health in mind from day one. This is because AIDE was formed with the priority of reinventing and improving the healthcare system of the country. Considering that his startup would be tapping into the health sector in the Philippines, he mentioned it made much more sense to partner with a renowned institution such as Ayala, which shares a similarly progressive, futuristic, and community oriented mindset and priority for the country.
With these intentions in mind, Bugayong knew of the hurdles he would have to face to convince, move, and get users to use AIDE. First, he knew of services similar to AIDE’s that were offered on other online platforms, such as Facebook Marketplace and OLX. There was also the issue of having to build trust and rapport with customers, which, as a startup, was no easy feat. But with the strategic support of an institution such as Ayala, people would find it easier to trust their brand, as the priceless value of the Filipino people’s social trust with Ayala and its group of companies would allow Bugayong access to a window of opportunities and strategic partnerships. In this way, AIDE is able to move robustly around the Philippines.
Although they are backed by Ayala, AIDE is not exclusive to the Ayala group. Staying true to both parties’ priority of providing accessible healthcare for all Filipinos, it had been part of
the initial agreement that AIDE could venture to other healthcare providers who were also part of other conglomerates. The big idea was that AIDE would be a big marketplace in the country. Ever since the partnership, Bugayong has been grateful to Ayala as he was given the opportunity to work with Globe and BPI for seamless banking and accommodating payment systems across the nation.
It is important to note, however, that being associated with Ayala also did not mean that AIDE relied on the bigger group for all their needs. Bugayong and his team were in charge of conceptualizing their offerings and marketing strategies on their own. They would identify their customers’ pain points themselves and Bugayong would explain their hands-on approach in guiding the product development and category innovation for AIDE. According to him, feedback is the number one priority, including negative feedback as it can be utilized to create a better platform.
For product development, their process is relatively simple. They have their own development team in the company which is led by his brother Patrick, AIDE’s Chief Product Officer. First, they would try to understand how they would like their product for their users, checking how accessible and easily understood it could be for everyone. Afterwards, with the help of their sister, Pamela Bugayong-Donato, the company’s Chief Operating Officer, they turn to consult real doctors on the product.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Philippines, AIDE became all the more relevant as Filipinos grew more conscious of their health and wanted to receive medical care right at their own home. Before the onslaught of the pandemic, their biggest service demands were attributed to lab work and nursing care. But during the pandemic, the demand for their services increased, particularly for their doctor house call, vaccine home services, and their COVID-19 testing home services.
On the marketing end, Bugayong stated that since pioneering the startup, he had to learn how to market, sell, hire, and manage people in less than a year. It was a complete adventure for him, having to learn all these different functions and deliver consistent results. Unlike when working in a big firm where everything was defined from the start, Bugayong highlighted that building a startup is everything all at once. “To run a startup means you are agile, fast, and constantly solving things in an unconventional way. So this also means it will take more from you to get it going. Remember, you’re trying to create something from nothing. Energy, positivity and a team willing to go the extra mile are essentials,” he said.
Alongside these internal conditions, he emphasized that one key thing he’s learning through the journey is to certainly have that right mix of growth and sustainability. The biggest challenge is “To create revenue while creating value at the same time.” Bugayong believes in allowing some failure to happen, as these can be opportunities to better innovate. When in doubt, he said it would be good to go back to the basics and “keep the expense low, grow at a sustainable level, and always keep the monetization in mind so that your business is stable and sustainable.”
A startup team is a dynamic team growing as it deals with various challenges. Bugayong explained, “There is much to learn from the risks that startups are willing to go through, so share with your corporate investor what you know while also learning what makes a corporation built to last. You’re the CEO; they’re an investor, each one has a role. Make sure that they feel that you know what you’re doing, that you know how to execute the assets that they’re providing.”
What started as a pain point for most Filipinos looking to get accessible, quality healthcare, rapidly turned into a huge marketplace which enabled Filipino patients, doctors, and nurses to meet. With AIDE, a simple swipe of the hand would have been all you needed to get all the aid you need.
To get more insights from other marketing leaders like Paolo Bugayong, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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