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What Doctors Can Learn About Retail Marketing from “Truck Stop Missouri”

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer
people at truck stop

Truck Stop Missouri

The truth is we rarely have much time to watch television, and if we do have a spare moment, most reality shows would not make the line-up. But there’s at least one exception. The promotional announcements for Truck Stop Missouri on the Travel Channel caught our attention recently.

The intriguing concept behind the show—and the jumpstart for some physician practice marketing ideas—was the engaging spirit of the show’s central figure, the truck stop proprietor. Here’s a business-smart entrepreneur in one of the least likely places…a truck stop in Columbia, Missouri.

The show’s new this summer, so here’s the scene. Joe Bechtold is the general manager of what might be the most unique, independently-owned truck stop in America. This place has the expected fuel, rest rooms and food, but Midway Auto Truck Plaza has multiple businesses. In fact there are ten of them at last count, including a boot store, tire shop, motel, tattoo parlor, fireworks stand, antique mall, paintball attraction, storage lot and even a daycare center.

Truck and auto fuel attracts his most important asset, the steady stream of customers. And, as long as they are on the property, Joe actively cross-promotes many other products, services and entertaining/fun events. It’s a family business, and Joe and his staff truly care about their customers.

He looks for business opportunities that appeal to the traveling public and he often hosts fun promotions to boot. What’s more, he unabashedly promotes it all any way he can, including talking-up an event on a CB radio.

So what, you might ask, does this colorful and entertaining slice of retail Americana have to do with doctor marketing? Obviously, you don’t want to run a private practice or hospital like a free-spirited truck stop. But there are beneficial healthcare marketing principles that are useful at the 50,000 ft altitude.

For those practices or medical facilities that have a high volume—such as primary care, family practice or dentistry—allow yourself to think like an entrepreneur. Consider what additional services, products or events would these customers find appealing? Where can a practitioner or facility capitalize on the traffic?

It’s commonplace for medical centers to have flower shops, gift and convenience stores, coffee shops and bookstores. Some doctor’s offices offer fitness training, sell vitamins and nutraceutical products or facilitate nutritional cooking classes. What would the people who visit your office or facility like to have, be surprised and delighted to see or find helpful or convenient?

Thinking like an entrepreneur can lead to new business and enhance the patient experience. What have you been thinking about?

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