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Why Are So Many Doctors “Coyote Marketers?”

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Coyote iconThroughout the year I have the opportunity to speak with groups of doctors about marketing. I thoroughly enjoy the intellectual exchange with smart people, particularly when the topic is advancing the business side of their practice.

Putting aside the poster presentations and beyond sharing clinical info that dominates professional meetings, doctors—usually successful practitioners—are eager to learn what’s working in marketing, and generally, how to efficiently and cost-effectively advance their goals.

But now and then, I bump into a doctor who I think of as a “coyote marketer.” That's the label for a well intended, but totally misguided, mindset where a practitioner figuratively chews his own arm off to escape the “trap” of doing practical marketing.

To illustrate, here’s a recent, real-world encounter.

True story. Recently, a well-credentialed physician approached after my presentation to a group of medical specialists. He proudly displayed his business cards. He had created the cards online for free. With considerable pride he announced that (a) he doesn’t do marketing, (b) the cards are his only promotional effort, and (c) his budget was zero.

Of course I was curious to know how that was working for him.

His eager response was that he spends little or nothing, perhaps believing that budget savings was the endgame. (Commence coyote arm-chewing.)

But was he realizing any business growth, I asked. (Well, no.) Did the zero-budget business cards bring in new patients or referrals. (Well, no.) And pressed a little further, it seems his market share was eroding to the competition. (Hummm…well, yeah.)

So here was the classic “coyote marketing” at work. Not all "coyote" practitioners are as severe as this particular illustration. But others we know cut corners or hold back on parts of their marketing efforts to some degree, usually with the same diminished results. When the objective is to spend less (or nothing), the results are little or nothing. Zero is no game at all, and by chewing off his arm, his “savings” have actually produced a negative in the form of lost opportunity, no revenue and shrinking market share.

This chap might not know it but everyone in business does marketing. It may be effective, or in this instance, totally ineffective, but denial is not a working game plan. The reality is: Yes, you do have competition. And right now, some extremely intelligent, business-savvy people are engineering aggressive ways to take patients from you.

The true test in healthcare marketing is an accurate measurement of Return-on-Investment (ROI). I know many providers who happily budget thousands of dollars per month because the investment is delivering a million dollars in revenue.

I have yet to meet a business-card-toting, non-marketing-doc whose business was thriving on neglect. Ultimately, “coyote marketers” have the choice to do little or nothing that defends and grows the business side of the practice. It's their choice. Good luck with that.

I can, however, assure them that they will “miss 100 percent of the shots they never take.” In healthcare marketing, doing nothing is certain to produce nothing. And, if you need help in knowing where to begin, feel free to give us a call.

Author: Stewart Gandolf, MBA

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