Four Money-Wasting Marketing Mistakes Doctors Make

Money folded in the shape of a recycling symbol Has there been a dramatic up-tick in the number of marketing mistakes lately? Perhaps there’s some sort of business-blooper epidemic; a bug of sorts, making the rounds.

I raise this mostly rhetorical question because there seems to be a bumper crop of published articles that offer much the same advice. Roughly translated they admonish readers:

Making mistakes in healthcare marketing is sort of a good thing because you have to make mistakes to learn something. Mistakes produce experience. And, if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing anything.

It’s reasonably good advice…for as far as it goes. There are bound to be mistakes in business, and learning from them has great value. Unfortunately, there’s a price tag that comes with this benefit. Learning-by making-mistakes costs something; perhaps money spent without a return, lost opportunity, or maybe both.

What would you add to this list?

So, with that in mind, here are four common money-wasting marketing mistakes and how to avoid them. (There are dozens more.) We’ve seen doctors and medical practices make these often, so consider them “pre-paid.” Embrace the good advice, and chalk it up to experience (with no extra cost.)

Understand the difference between direct response and brand awareness advertising. There’s a throwback idea that says—in brand awareness—a physician “just needs to get his name out there” and new patients will flock to the front door. While there is value in branding, name recognition and reputation management, it is a long-term process.

Direct response advertising, on the other hand, is intended to inspire immediate action on the part of the consumer or target audience; to make an appointment, for example. Direct response advertising is more cost-effective in that the investment produces more immediate and measurable results.

Tracking results—in specific and quantifiable terms—is absolutely vital to marketing success. If you don’t have a reliable means to track response in near-real time, you have no way to know what’s working, what’s not working, and how to measure your Return-on-Investment. Without a tracking system, you’re driving blind…and likely over a cliff.

An effective marketing plan will integrate multiple tactics. Healthcare is entirely too competitive to put all your marketing eggs in one, do-everything basket. It is especially important to realize that the online and the off-line components of your plan must work together.

Train your staff—especially the front desk—to handle prospective new patient phone calls. One of the most wasteful situations is where a marketing and advertising investment causes the phone to ring, and the person in your office doesn’t know how to handle convert the call to an appointment. (Hint: Their only objective is to have the caller make and keep an appointment.)

“Experience,” to quote Oscar Wilde, “is simply the name we give our mistakes.” We’re all in favor of learning and gaining experience. And it’s all the better to gain experience without paying a big price for the mistake.

What can you add to this list? Please take a minute and share with others how to avoid a mistake, or even something you “learned the hard way.”

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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