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The First Thing Every Successful Doctor Should Know about Marketing

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

marketing ballFor most medical doctors, the typical workweek is somewhere north of 50 hours. And that doesn’t include the time thinking about the marketing part of the business.

Professionally trained, experienced and licensed in the healing arts, a practitioner spends a day mostly applying clinical skills. It hardly seems like there is any time to spare, but many physicians are also inventors, thinkers, and community leaders.

And, on top of that, the successful doctors we know are business-savvy entrepreneurs. They are ”MD” full-time, and medical practice Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at other times.

Fortunately, the time-stretched MD-slash-CMO—a solo practitioner or the designated marketing champion of a multi-specialty group—there’s a key concept that drives medical marketing. It’s a “long-view” leadership principle that’s worth keeping top-of-mind.

We like the way that author and professor Peter Drucker—arguably “the man who invented management”—put it: Marketing is not a function, it is the whole business seen from the customer’s point of view.

Some physicians dislike marketing; It's too much like "selling," or they feel it is someone's assigned task. In Drucker’s perspective, top management can’t hand off the task. Entrepreneurial doctors embrace the idea and lead from the proposition that marketing is an essential ingredient that fuels the enterprise.  

In a word, what the patient is buying is happiness. It’s the one and only reason people buy healthcare. Drucker’s words are a reminder that the customer (patient, prospective patient) is of primary importance. A customer-centric business identifies the problems and needs of the audience, and succeeds by effectively delivering solutions that answer those needs.

A patient-centered practice is the product of leadership of a top-to-bottom culture. To borrow an example from business, consider Amazon’s core values where “customers are an obsession,” (and Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer.) In their words, “Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”

The big idea for doctors is that marketing is not an added task appended to a busy schedule. It is the whole business seen from the customer’s point of view. MDs share management and leadership qualities with the best-of-class marketing executives. And in a previous article, we listed some of the characteristics of the successful MD who thinks like a CMO.

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