Charting the Rings of Influence in Medical Practice Marketing

Crowd of 2D stick figures with some having red targets on their faces Picture the concentric rings on a paper target. The “bull’s-eye” center is primary, but “hits” within the other circles contribute to the total score. In medical practice marketing, it’s easy to overlook the fact that for each “ideal new patient,” there are several others around him or her.

For accuracy (and marketing effectiveness) the complete target audience definition should thoughtfully consider these broader circles of influence. Here are some hypotheticals to illustrate possible ancillary marketing targets. Depending on their degree of influence, a medical practice advertising message may be appropriate to secondary or support circles.

  • In a simple example, the routine (and sometimes urgent) healthcare needs of an upper-middle income family of four are coordinated by the wife/mother of the household. With the professional assistance of a pharmacist, she also supervises medications and follow-up appointments.
  • A teenage candidate for orthodontics will likely have “influencers” that include parents and other family members, social peers, regular and/or referring general dentist (and staff), and others. In fact, the actual decision-makers are likely to be the prospective patient AND the parents.
  • A 37-year-old father of four as a vasectomy prospect will discuss the procedure with his spouse, close male friends, family members, his general practitioner…and perhaps a urologist (if he happens to know urologists commonly perform the procedure.)
  • As a multi-layered example, an 87-year-old widow with symptoms of arthritis and osteoarthritis relies on two of her adult children for major medical decisions, personal and household assistance, transportation, making and keeping medical appointments, treatment and adhering to medication regimens. Her patient care team includes a GP, three specialists, nurses and staff, a patient advocate and a social service caseworker.

From the simple to the complex, every scenario will include “patient influencers” who play a greater or lesser role in the healthcare decision-making process. How do you know who is who? How do you reach them, and what is the message for each?

  1. Sketch the details of a typical patient profile (or multiple profiles).
  2. List the most likely personal influencers; spouse, family, friends.
  3. List the most likely professional influencers; GP/FP, referring practitioner, other care team providers.

And perhaps the most insightful resource will be:

4. Have a conversation and ask patients; identify additional and/or less obvious influencers.

A well-considered marketing plan will carefully examine these dynamics, and where it is appropriate, provide educational and/or informational material that supports their role in the decision process.

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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