The institutional market consists of schools, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and other institutions that provide goods and services to people in their care. Institutions differ from one another in their sponsors and in their objectives. Many institutional markets are characterized by low budgets and captive patrons.
For example, hospital patients have little choice but to eat whatever food the hospital supplies. A hospital-purchasing agent has to decide on the quality of food to buy for patients. Because the food is provided as a part of a total service package, the buying objective is not profit. Nor is strict cost minimization the goal—patients receiving poorquality food will complain to others and damage the hospital's reputation. Thus, the hospitalpurchasing agent must search for institutional-food vendors whose quality meets or exceeds a certain minimum standard and whose prices are low. Many marketers set up separate divisions to meet the special characteristics and needs of institutional buyers.
The government market offers large opportunities for many companies, both big and small. In most countries, government organizations are major buyers of goods and services. Government buying and business buying are similar in many ways. But there are also differences that must be understood by companies that wish to sell products and services to governments. To succeed in the government market, sellers must locate key decision makers, identify the factors that affect buyer behavior, and understand the buying decision process.
Government organizations typically require suppliers to submit bids, and normally they award the contract to the lowest bidder. In some cases, the government unit will make allowance for the supplier's superior quality or reputation for completing contracts on time. Many companies that sell to the government have not been marketing oriented for a number of reasons. Total government spending is determined by elected officials rather than by any marketing effort to develop this market. Government buying has emphasized price, making suppliers invest their effort in technology to bring costs down. When the product's characteristics are specified carefully, product differentiation is not a marketing factor. Nor do advertising or personal selling matter much in winning bids on an open-bid basis.