Marketing-Smart Leadership: When an MD Needs to Think Like a CMO

chief marketing officer Physicians are extremely well trained in their profession, with years of education and more years in practice. And at some point in their career, it becomes apparent that medicine is a profession, but healthcare is a business.

Often, the doctor is the business…the product…the service provider. He or she is the CEO (Chief Executive Officer), and perhaps the COO (Chief Operating Officer), and ultimately, the CFO (Chief Financial Officer).

And, as the primary resident of the “C-suite,” and as the business success grows (or fails to grow), the MD takes on the role—deliberately or by default—as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of the medical practice.

Thinking like a CMO

In our work with hundreds of growing medical practices, we’ve found that MDs often share management and leadership qualities with the best-of-class marketing executives.

For our purpose here, we’ll assume here that the leader is grounded in solid business principles, and appreciates the fundamentals of branding, marketing and advertising. They have a detailed plan to achieve specific goals that they monitor (and adjust as needed) regularly.

But going deeper, here are a few of the characteristics of the successful MD who thinks like a CMO. (This list is by no means exhaustive, so please tell us what you would add as advice to others.)

  • Articulates a clear, “big picture” vision and a strategy to achieve it.
  • Focuses on the needs and service experience of the patient.
  • Is an organizational role model and champion for the brand.
  • Skillfully navigates a tough competitive landscape.
  • Channels resources in support of defined business objectives.
  • Is open to current and emerging Internet and communications technology.
  • Looks beyond the horizon, identify trends, and pilots with flexibility.
  • Delegates responsibilities; empowers progress; monitors results.
  • Receptive to sound advice, innovative ideas and well-managed risk.
  • Marketing results are quantifiable, measurable, and therefore manageable.

For most businesses, the role of marketing is the critical link that brings customer and the product or service together. Effective (and cost efficient) marketing efforts are directly connected to business success. And a marketing-savvy CEO and CMO can assure that the goals are achieved.

Please tell us, what would you add to this list?

RELATED READING: Why Organizational Leadership is Plural, Not Singular and Lessons in Leadership for Healthcare Marketing Strategists.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA


Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer & Creative Director at Healthcare Success
Over the years Stewart has personally marketed and consulted for over 1,457 healthcare clients, ranging from private practices to multi-billion dollar corporations. Additionally, he has marketed a variety of America’s leading companies, including Citicorp, J. Walter Thompson, Grubb & Ellis, Bally Total Fitness, Wells Fargo and Chase Manhattan. Stewart co-founded our company, and today acts as Chief Executive Officer and Creative Director. He is also a frequent author and speaker on the topic of healthcare marketing. His personal accomplishments are supported by a loving wife and two beautiful daughters.



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