A global educational resource for e-business and Internet marketing strategies
The Health and Health Care
 e-Business North American Tour
Phase 1:
The Foundation Phase

Phase 2:
The Exploitation Phase

Phase 3:
The Innovation Phase

Phase 4:
The Business Extension Phase

Phase 5:
The Strategic Transformation Phase

A thorough resource for the use of technology in health and health care

A practical global resource for industry specific e-business strategies

A global educational resource for e-business and Internet marketing strategies

e-Business World Tours
Examples of the e-Business Roadmap applied across several industry sectors

This e-Business North American tour covers examples of e-business and Internet marketing in action, specifically in the Health and Health Care industry.

For the purposes of this analysis the Health and Health Care industry has been defined to include the following:

  • Vendors of medical products
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • First Aid Services
  • Fire and Rescue
  • Health Care Services (including hospitals)
  • Health Related Associations and Charities

The co-authors of this report are Alex Drossos and Tom Vassos. Tom Vassos researched, created and wrote the content that relates to the 35-stage e-Business Roadmap. Alex Drossos completed this work as partial fulfillment towards an MBA degree at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. This report was written for the course called Marketing in Electronic Commerce, taught by Tom Vassos, author of the book Strategic Internet Marketing. There are also several more research reports available that cover over 200 other products, services and industries. Your feedback is welcome.

Tom Vassos

 1. The e-Business Roadmap

In this report you will be introduced to the e-Business Roadmap that is the basis for the research in this industry. The e-Business Roadmap is a comprehensive framework that can be used to create your strategic Internet plan. It is made up of 35 distinct stages within 5 phases. This report will focus on the applicable sales and marketing aspects of this framework in the Health and Health Care industry. Here is an overview of the e-Business Roadmap:

  • The Foundation Phase: Assess your e-commerce market position, formulate your strategy, build your organization and infrastructure, build your e-brand, explore extranet and intranet opportunities and publish your content on the Web.
  • The Exploitation Phase: Exploit value from the Web through communications and collaboration, use it as powerful market research and competitive research tool, use it as an infrastructure for delivering education and use it to reduce your purchasing costs.
  • The Innovation Phase: Build a community, e-mail marketing strategies, personalization and viral marketing strategies, knowledge management, Web traffic generation strategies and customer relationship and retention strategies.
  • The Business Extension Phase: Launch automated interactive and human interactive customer support strategies, integrate your web site with back end databases, applications and employee processes, and conduct online commerce.
  • The Strategic Transformation Phase: Launch global marketing strategies, niche marketing strategies and e-channel strategies, partner with other companies through strategic alliances, improve your entire value chain through e-marketplaces and launch wireless/mobile marketing strategies.
Let's begin our e-business journey.

Phase 1: The Foundation Phase

The Foundation Phase

1. The Assessment Stage

The Assessment Stage involves the determination of the following:

  • Is there a good fit between your offering and the likelihood of successful Internet e-commerce sales?
  • What tactics will improve your Internet e-commerce success rate?
  • Is your company ready for e-commerce?
To help companies determine if they have a good fit for e-commerce, Tom Vassos has created a tool called the Internet Bullseye Marketing Model. There are several research reports available that utilize this model, analyzing several different products and services from various companies.

Determining whether or not you have a good fit for e-commerce can help you determine the overall objectives of your site. If there is not a good fit for e-commerce, you can focus on other objectives such as building your online brand, moving people through the sales cycle, driving traffic to your real world stores or dealerships, or simply providing customer support.

Vendors of Health and Health Care may want to consider these potential Web strategy objectives:

  • Ensure that your market size is substantial and profitable
  • Ensure that your product(s) or service(s) have a low level of complexity and few variations
  • Trying out your product(s) or service(s) shouldn't be a requirement before purchase
  • Shipping must be easy and associated costs must be low relative to the price of the product
  • Target B2B sales predominantly (over B2C)
Health and Health Care are a fairly poor fit for conducting online commerce. (To see an analysis of the e-commerce fit for several products and services, view the Bullseye Marketing Model Research Reports.) Let's analyze the characteristics of  Health and Health Care that make them a particularly good or bad fit for Internet e-commerce.

The following characteristics of Health and Health Care products make them a good potential fit for online e-commerce:

  • The target market is very large (effectively everyone is a potential patient); some jurisdiction and insurance regulations/laws apply of course.
  • Health and Health Care products typically don't need to be tested prior to purchase. When a doctor or other health care professional prescribes a course of treatment the patient typically will accept it instead of asking to "test drive" it first.
  • B2B sales have significant potential.
But the following characteristics of Health and Health Care products may be possible inhibitors to successful online e-commerce:
  • Health and Health Care products are typically very complex.
  • Shipping Health and Health Care products can be difficult. The exception is when the service is simply a consultation, or piece of advice, that can be transmitted electronically in an e-mail or via a web page.
  • B2C customers (or patients) are often not highly educated. Since everyone is a potential patient/customer there will be a full range from highly uneducated to highly educated.
The following tactics could be considered in order to improve your online e-commerce success for Health and Health Care products:
  • Focus on B2B sales by setting up extranet and intranet technologies.
  • Sell only a small subset of your products online rather than the full gamut. Select those products that are easy to configure and ship.
  • Sell different products online than you would in your real world selection. For example, a hospital could sell flowers and greeting cards online (that it would deliver to its patients) if it doesn't have a real world flower/gift shop.
2. The Strategy Stage

Creating a successful e-business involves some or all of the following strategies:

  • Build a skilled e-business organization
  • Build a technology infrastructure
  • Build an effective e-brand
  • Build web site content and applications
  • Integrate your web front end with live back end databases and applications
  • Reengineer your business processes
  • Build a support infrastructure to support your e-business
  • Create and execute your Internet marketing plan
  • Capitalize on new trends such as e-marketplaces and mobile Internet enabled devices
  • Secure sufficient funding for your e-business initiatives
Successfully achieving all of these objectives is a monumental task – especially when you consider the fact that it must be achieved with a fixed level of funding and limited human resources. The objective of the Strategy Stage is to determine what overall strategy will maximize your success.

The Strategy Stage involves the following:

  • Prioritize your various stakeholder groups and understand their needs
  • Understand all 35 stages of the e-Business Roadmap that are described in this document, and create your strategic plan by prioritizing and focusing on the stages that will:
    • Drive the biggest Return on Investment (ROI) the quickest
    • Increase your sales, decrease your costs or give you a sustainable competitive advantage the quickest
    • Allow you to build barriers to entry that will slow down or eliminate competitors
  • Build the business case for your e-business initiatives including detailed costs and benefits
  • Secure your funding and allocate the budget according to your priorities
  • Determine the optimal business model that makes sense for your company.
Companies in the business of selling Health and Health Care have implemented some interesting business models. For example, Nurse.com has focused on e-Commerce instead of a full range of information services like most Health and Health Care web sites. It sells products such as books, clothing, shoes, stethoscopes and even continuing education related to the nursing profession. Another example is the Medical Wellness Center, which offers physician consultations and medication prescriptions online starting at a cost of $49.95 US.

The key to building a powerful and profitable e-business is creating a strategy which builds barriers to entry to other companies and/or creates features or functions that establish a sustainable competitive advantage. This is not easy to do in an open accessible environment like the Internet, but ways to achieve these objectives will be discussed. 

In the Health and Health Care industry, companies could consider these possible approaches:

  • Establish an online community with a high degree of relevance that will compel users to come (and come back) to your web site. Create content that is specific to certain people, such as patients, physicians, hospital administrators, etc.
  • Know your market, do your market research, and make sure your e-branding is top notch. Once you gain customers make sure you keep them by "learning" about their needs, wants and desires.
  • Ensure that you have some sort of human back end support mechanism so that customers can talk to someone or at least e-mail someone with questions or concerns. People need personal attention, especially when it comes to Health and Health Care.
From the standpoint of the e-Business Roadmap, companies in the Health and Health Care industry should be spending less time building cool applications and more time focusing on these stages and strategies:
  • The Assessment Stage: Analyze your level of e-business readiness.
  • The Strategy Stage: Develop a comprehensive e-business strategy; don't just "jump on the net".
  • The e-Branding Stage: You've branded yourself in the real world (hopefully!) so make sure you brand yourself on the Internet as well.
  • The Market Research Stage: Establish a market research tool on your web site to gain information and knowledge about your customers.
  • The Community Stage: Build an online community - they will come.
  • The Viral Marketing Stage: Focus on word of mouth. Word of mouth is very powerful in Health and Health Care.
  • The Personalization Stage: Design personalized content on your web site for your customers. Allow them to customize their own content.
  • The Customer Relationship Stage: Build strong and powerful customer relationships.
3. The Organization Stage

The Organization Stage involves building an organization with the skills needed to create and execute your e-business plan. Your skill requirements will vary greatly depending on whether you decide to focus your efforts on e-commerce, supply chain automation, e-branding, Internet customer support, etc.

The Organization Stage requires that your firm assesses the resources required to undertake your e-business strategy, compare available and required resources, and take action to address resource deficiencies. Often shortfalls can also be addressed by outsourcing your requirements to other firms.

The Organization Stage also involves the creation or evolution of existing organizational structures to enable the execution of the e-business strategy. Often companies will begin by creating an informal task force with individuals from various parts of the organization in order to create the e-business plan.

Other companies create a totally separate division with full responsibility and full funding to execute their plan. Others create an entirely separate company with responsibility for executing the e-business plan. And finally, others will outsource their entire e-business operations to a company that specializes in this area, while they focus on their core competencies which may have nothing to do with e-business.

The optimal organizational structure is determined by a number of factors including the amount of funding available, the level of e-business sophistication of the company and the industry, and the availability of e-business skills in the company.

4. The Infrastructure Stage

The Infrastructure Stage involves the creation of the technology infrastructure for your e-business. This includes your computers, networking equipment and software. Rather than building this entire infrastructure internally, some companies will outsource this requirement to companies such as web hosting firms and Application Service Providers (ASPs).

Web hosting firms will store all of your web content, potentially eliminating the need for you to have any of your own web servers. ASPs will allow you to use their servers and their web applications. Web hosting firms and ASPs both charge an ongoing fee based on factors such as the amount of disk storage required, the number of transactions being processed, the value of the transactions being processed, the need for credit card processing requirements, etc. This eliminates the need for a large up front investment since the fees are payable on a monthly basis.

For companies that sell Health and Health CareIBM Healthcare Solutions, IBM offers ASP Healthcare Services, specializing in building an e-business infrastructure and applications that are specific to this industry.

This includes applications such as:

5. The Reach Stage

The Reach Stage involves a strategic decision about the scope of your e-business initiatives. What reach will drive the biggest Return on Investment (ROI) for your company?

  • The Internet – Focus on reaching hundreds of millions of people on the public Internet (typically sales prospects for your offerings)
  • An Extranet – Focus on enabling communications and business systems with the business partners in your value chain across an extranet semi-private network (typically with suppliers, B2B (business to business) customers, large customers, etc.)
  • An Intranet – Focus on enabling communications and business systems between your employees on an intranet private network
Of course your company may choose to pursue all three of these options, but with limited funding and human resources, you may need to be more focused in your efforts. Many companies jump at the Internet opportunity while not being as aggressive in pursuing extranet and intranet opportunities. This could be a mistake.

According to the Meta Group, 80% of the companies they surveyed generated a positive return on their intranet application investments, with ROIs as high as 68%. And according to IDC, many companies are generating up to 100% ROI on their extranet investments. On the Internet however, there seems to be many examples of companies that have experienced major losses.

Having said that, this report covers many examples of what companies are doing on the Internet since that is what is publicly accessible for review. Do not let that sway your decision though to focus on the area that will generate the biggest return for your company. The same stages that will be discussed for your Internet strategy can also be applied to your intranet or extranet strategies.

Here are some potential extranet applications that could be implemented in the Health and Health Care industry:

  • Enable channel partners to place and track orders
  • Enable electronic bill presentment and bill payment systems
  • Enable channel partners to access detailed product specifications
  • Provide advanced online support for channel partners
  • Provide online education courses to large customers
We found these examples of companies in the Health and Health Care industry requiring a password at their web site. This likely means that they have set up an extranet to provide these applications across a semi-private network: There are many potential intranet applications that could be implemented by companies in the Health and Health Care segment. On an intranet, employees could:
  • Communicate and collaborate with each other on projects
  • Access databases such as the employee telephone directory, HR policies, internal job postings, etc.
  • Share information such as sales proposals, customer presentations and other intellectual capital
  • Access applications such as benefit claims processing and expense processing
  • Access purchasing applications to order goods such as office supplies, airline tickets and hotel bookings
  • Take education courses
A government of Ontario initiative called Smart Systems for Health (note that this link is on a web site that gives information about the SSH initiative; it is not the actual SSH site itself) is basically going to act as one very large intranet connecting all health care professionals across Ontario, Canada.

6. The e-Branding Stage

The e-Branding Stage involves the creation of your online e-brand and personality. To assist in this area, Tom Vassos has created the e-Brand Strategy Pyramid which is a framework for building an e-brand.

The e-Brand Strategy Pyramid

Corporate Wordmarks and Corporate Logos

The core element of a company's overall brand strategy is their corporate wordmark. The corporate wordmark refers to the graphic treatment that is given to the company's name. This involves the use of a particular font, background colour and other defining characteristics. 

Another component of the company's brand is their corporate logo or mark, which is the graphical element to their corporate identity. The logo/mark often appears with the corporate wordmark. For example, notice the colorful butterfly (i.e., the logo/mark) that appears with the MSN logo (i.e., the corporate wordmark):

Here are some examples of corporate wordmarks and corporate logos in the Health and Health Care industry:
Canadian Red Cross Laerdal Toronto EMS

Internet Brands (Domain Names)

The most important component of an e-brand is the Internet brand. This is the domain name that includes the top level domain portion of the name (i.e., the ".com" part).  For example, UofEbusiness.com is an Internet brand.  Notice that the Internet brand excludes the “www.” portion of the web address. Also notice the capitalization of certain letters in the name to make it more readable. The Internet brand will appear in all text based environments such as e-mail messages, newspaper articles, etc.

Here are some examples of Internet Brands in the Health and Health Care industry:

Internet Wordmarks 

The Internet wordmark refers to the graphic treatment that is given to the domain name (once again, also including the “.com” portion of the name but excluding the “www.” portion of the name). This involves the use of a particular font, background colour and other defining characteristics. Here is an example of an Internet wordmark:


Here are some examples of Internet wordmarks in the Health and Health Care industry:


The webmark refers to a graphical element that often appears with the Internet wordmark. This could be the same as the corporate logo/mark mentioned above or it could be something different. For example, notice the webmark (i.e., the person and brass ring graphic image) that appears with the BrassRing.com Internet wordmark:

This is a good example of a webmark because the image of the webmark is a graphical representation of the actual domain name. This is a good approach to improve the memorability of the domain name and to potentially improve top-of-mind awareness and recall.

Here are some specific examples of webmarks in the Health and Health Care industry:
Drugs.com Doctor.com Nurse.com
The Drugs.com example above does a poor job of bringing the Internet brand to life and making it easy to remember. It should use an image that represents drugs, such as a number of pills, tablets, etc. and pill bottles around the wordmark "Drugs.com". The Doctor.com webmark is quite simple. It doesn't scream doctor, but the image is still visually appealing and has some reference to medicine (the cross). Unfortunately it does not aid in the memorability of the domain name. It is also difficult to distinguish this cross from several others that are similar in the Health and Health Care industry. The Nurse.com webmark is quite clever. It uses a stethoscope to represent the letter "U" in nurse. One problem with this approach however is that typically stethoscopes are associated more with physicians than they are with nurses.

AOL Keywords

AOL keywords are words that AOL users can type in to directly access a particular web site. By purchasing AOL keywords, companies can simplify access to their web site for all AOL users.

Search Engine Keywords

Search engine keywords can be purchased from several search engines such as Yahoo!, Google and Altavista.  When purchasing keywords from Yahoo!, your banner ad only appears to users typing in this specific keyword.  When purchasing search engine keywords from Google, and Altavista; the result is that your company will get a top placement on the search results as a "sponsored link".  For example, when searching for the word "Health" at Yahoo!, the following advertisement appears:
Yahoo! Health Advertisement

This could mean that no one has purchased the keyword "Health" at Yahoo! However, the same search at both Yahoo! and Altavista turns up the following companies with a "sponsored link":

Therefore this means that these three companies have purchased the keyword "Health" giving them exposure every time someone searches for this word. Since they are selling Health and Health Care, this makes sound business sense since it is a direct match with their target market.


A tagline is an important component of your e-brand strategy. A tagline is a 4 to 12 word phrase that should contain the following information:

  • Description of your company or offering (what business are you in or what are you selling)
  • Your value proposition (e.g., lowest cost, fastest, biggest, biggest selection, etc.)
  • If you only conduct business in certain countries, it should also contain a geographic phrase such as "in Canada" or "in the U.S." And if your web site is targeted at the global market, then the tagline could contain a phrase such as "in the World" or "global".
For example, the tagline for UofEbusiness.com is "A global educational resource for e-business and Internet marketing strategies" and the tagline for TomVassos.com is "A practical global resource for industry specific e-business strategies." Ideally the tagline should always appear along with the Internet brand (the domain name) and with the Internet wordmark.

There are very few companies in the Health and Health Care industry that have a tagline. This is a mistake. But here are a few examples of taglines (along with the associated domain name) that were found in the Health and Health Care industry:

  • The tagline for Drugs.com is "The Internet's Drug Information Resource."
  • The tagline for Paramedicine.com is "A Non Profit Resource for Paramedics, by Paramedics."
In the first example the offering is described and there is an assumed global geographic coverage since the tagline says the entire "Internet", but no value proposition is given. The second example does a better job of a value proposition and describes the offering, but it misses the mark on specifying the geography being covered.


A Slogan is a catchy phrase that companies use to build their brand and their corporate image. It is typically about 2 to 5 words in length. For example, Volkswagen's slogan is "Drivers Wanted." Nike's slogan is "Just do it!" Mazda's recent slogan is "Zoom zoom." These slogans do not describe the company or suggest a value proposition. They are simply phrases that these companies have selected as a key component to their advertising and branding strategy.

Here are some examples of slogans in the Health and Health Care industry along with the associated company that uses that slogan:
The slogan for The American Red Cross is "Together, we can save a life."
The slogan for Laerdal Medical is "Helping save lives."
The slogan for CityFirefighter.com is "The Bravest."

e-Brand Personality

The e-Brand Personality refers to the personality that the company is trying to convey. Are they trying to convey an image of being conservative, hip and cool, wild, fun, technical, ethical, caring, etc.? Companies should make this decision consciously, rather than simply allowing a webmaster to make this decision.

Here are some examples of personalities being conveyed by companies in the Health and Health Care industry. Note that in this industry the personality being conveyed is almost exclusively one of professionalism and credibility. Thus, all the examples listed below convey these personality characteristics.

It should be mentioned that the MayoClinic.com web site is separate from information about the real world Mayo Clinic which is found at MayoClinic.org. MayoClinic.com is a resource of medical information from a trusted source.

Factitious Characters or Spokespersons

Some companies will create a fictitious character to represent their company. For example, Ernst & Young created a service called "Ask Ernie." Some companies hire a real spokesperson to represent their company. For example, Priceline uses William Shatner as their spokesperson. The values and personality of the real world spokesperson or the fictitious character will then naturally be associated with that company.

Another good example of a fictitious character can be found at monster.com. This is an especially good fit because the fictitious character graphically represents the domain name itself. This should help to improve domain name memorability, strengthening monster.com's e-brand. 

One example of the use of a fictitious character at a Health and Health Care web site was found. This was at a web site called Kids Health. This is an excellent web site containing information about the health of children with areas dedicated to parents, kids and teens. The fictitious character used here is in a section about Sun Safety:

Kids Health fictitious character

Brand Alliances

"Brand alliances" refers to an alliance with another company, organization or institution whereby you arrange to have your alliance partner's logo or brand visible on your web site. When a brand alliance is created with another company that has a stronger brand than yours, it can have a positive influence on your own brand image.

Brand alliances are especially valuable to small to medium sized companies that may not be very well known in their current country of operations or other parts of the world. Strong brand alliances could make the difference between someone trusting you enough to place an order on your site, or not. Consider brand alliances with large corporations, financial institutions, credit card companies, government institutions or e-commerce auditing services such as Trust-e.

In the Health and Health Care industry we found some evidence of brand alliances. For example, at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society web site, we found this logo from Google: 
Google Search

At the Association of Campus Emergency Response Teams web site, we found this logo from Charity.ca: 
Powered by Charity.ca

Web Site Look and Feel and Overall Experience

Another factor that has an impact on your e-brand is the overall experience at your web site. If visitors cannot easily find what they are looking for, they will be frustrated. If visitors cannot accomplish a specific task that they are trying to accomplish, they will be frustrated. Research has proven that a poor user experience can have a physical effect on people – their blood pressure will actually rise!

For example, if a visitor sends an e-mail query to your web site and it takes several days for you to respond (or you never respond), this could have a negative impact on your e-brand image. This may not only result in the loss of a sale or the loss of a potential channel partner, but it could be significant enough that this user will tell many others about the poor experience at your site.

If a user is trying to conduct a commerce transaction and does not find out until the end of a lengthy process that you do not even ship to their country, this will have a negative impact on both your e-brand and your brand image. And the impact will not just be limited to this one customer. They are bound to tell many others.

The user experience at your web site actually provides a lot more potential for a negative impact on your e-brand than a positive one.

In the Health and Health Care industry, we found an example of a negative user experience that will likely have an impact on the e-brand. For example, the Hospital for Sick Children of Toronto, Canada web site was recently redesigned. The previous web site had a section that was specifically for "Kids Only". I had a frustrating experience at their new web site however, spending 15 minutes trying to find it. Only then did I realize that this section had been eliminated.

7.A. The Publishing Stage

The Publishing Stage involves the creation of web pages (primarily html pages) with everything from product information and catalogues to annual reports, job postings and corporate information. This is content that must be maintained manually, with no links to live content on databases that are constantly being updated.

This is typically the first stage that most companies implement at their web site. It is easy to do, it allows companies to quickly establish a Web presence, and it provides visibility for their company globally. However, simply publishing such content does not generate much of a return on investment for most companies.

There are of course, many examples of the Publishing Stage in the Health and Health Care industry. The type of content that is typically published in this industry includes corporate information, product/service information, job postings, etc. One example of such a web site is for West Park Healthcare Centre. West Park received an Hygeia Award for excellence in public relations on its web site.

7.B. The Cool Stage

The Cool Stage involves the use of leading edge multimedia capabilities to display or present audio clips, video clips, animation, scrolling content, etc. The problem with the Cool Stage is that companies will often spend time and resources on cool applications that do not necessarily drive business value to the company or the visitor.

As well, the more advanced the technology being used, the more limited the audience becomes. Many users will not have the bandwidth or the processing power to be able to easily view these multimedia applications, or, they will not have the software required to view them at all.

In fact, the purpose of highlighting some of these limitations is to get companies to realize that it may make more sense to avoid cool applications altogether, instead focusing on many of the other stages of the e-Business Roadmap that are easier to implement and have a more direct impact on helping companies to meet their e-business objectives.

Having said that, we did find some evidence of cool applications in the Health and Health Care industry. For example, at the Kids Health site there is a Macromedia Flash application to promote Sun Safety.

Click here to continue to the next phase (Phase 2).
Phase 1:
The Foundation Phase
Phase 2:
The Exploitation Phase
Phase 3:
The Innovation Phase
Phase 4:
The Business Extension Phase
Phase 5:
The Strategic Transformation Phase
A practical global resource for industry specific e-business strategies
A global educational resource for e-business and Internet marketing strategies

© 2002 Alex Drossos
© 2002 UofEbusiness.com