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“Doctors Don’t Advertise” and 10 Other Lame Marketing Myths

By Kathy, Senior Marketing Strategist

Gold "Myth" block letters hanging up on dark marble-like wallNearly 100 percent of the hospitals and medical practices that we meet in the course of a year want their business to expand. These are the marketing savvy doctors and communications professionals who recognize that medicine is a profession, but healthcare is a business.

They usually represent the premier providers in a region—already holding a leadership position in the marketplace. Virtually everyone in this category respects marketing and advertising as the primary means to attract and retain new business, differentiate themselves beyond the competition and extend their professional reputation. What’s more, they want to be more efficient and effective in their marketing efforts.

Those lame marketing myths are fading…

Unfortunately, we still encounter some old-school marketing myths and naysayer attitudes. I’m pleased to say that this negative side is shrinking. Changes in healthcare, and increasing competition, are been significant influences. And many of the individuals, who previously proclaimed, “doctors don’t advertise” are now employees, retired or they have changed their minds.

These are the ideas that genuinely hurt growth. They undermine otherwise sound business intents with head-in-the-sand denials and rationalizations about competition. As we approach the end of the year, we take a moment to reconnect with a few of the lame marketing myths…with a new resolve to see them completely disappear.

We’ve pointed to some of these ideas previously. And, if you happen to encounter any of these comments, consider it a red flag warning. Someone’s in trouble if you hear:

Myth 10: Simply being a good doctor is enough. The public expects excellence in clinical care. There is no guarantee, however, that business success automatically follows.

Myth 9: I don’t need to advertise because everybody knows me. Self-confidence is good, but prospective patients in any market are constantly changing. Sorry, but you are not as well known as you think.

Myth 8: Everyone knows all that I have to offer. Advertising educates and presents answers to peoples needs. You know these capabilities and benefits, but the community does not.

Myth 7: You’ve been in the community so long that people will automatically come to you. Everyone would like to believe that new patients appear “automatically” or magically. Longevity can be a strength, but it does not fuel public awareness or trigger an unquestioned selection.

Myth 6: Only bad doctors have to promote. Effective communications inform those people who are in need about qualified resources for professional help.

Myth 5: There isn’t any competition here. In fact, healthcare has become intensely competitive. Many other businesses and organizations are offering alternatives and enticing distractions daily.

Myth 4: I tried a little advertising and it didn’t work. There are probably a dozen reasons why it didn’t work, but most likely it was just “a little advertising.” A poor plan, an inadequate budget and expectation of immediate results, are the most likely suspects.

Myth 3: Word-of-Mouth is all I need. The old-fashioned definition of word-of-mouth, where one person tells one person, somehow “feels good,” but is highly ineffective. The present-day version of this includes online reputation management, physician reviews and patient referrals and recommendations--a process made efficient and effective because it’s online.

Myth 2: Advertising is another word for “needy, cheesy, sleazy or greedy.” This is the all-time classic, old-school attitude. In reality, it is the professional and ethical marketing programs that have created authoritative names in the industry. Consider, for example, Kaiser Permanente, Cleveland Clinic, UPMC and Mayo Clinic among many others.

Myth 1: We stopped marketing to save money. This is a favorite because of the amusing (i.e. twisted and harmful) logic. Henry Ford put it this way: “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.” Marketing and advertising are not an expense, they are investments—and a means to create new business.

Successful hospitals, medical groups and other providers recognize these myths as mistakes in today’s business world. They express risk avoidance, fear of the unknown and resistance to change.

Advertising, marketing and dealing with increased competition are relatively new in healthcare. Growing organizations, practices and providers have put these myths behind them and have connected with new business opportunity, increased profits and wider community outreach.

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