By Stewart Gandolf, MBA
(Editor’s Note: I wrote the first version of this blog post back in 2006 when we launched Healthcare Success. While I intentionally wrote it with a quick, playful tone, more than sixteen years later, it remains one of our most popular posts. I recently updated it here for your reading pleasure!)
Every time I run into someone who is faced with the daunting challenge of marketing to doctors or other healthcare professionals, I giggle empathetically and say,
“I feel your pain.”
Let me explain:
Over the past twenty years, my colleagues and I have successfully marketed to hundreds of thousands of doctors, promoting various products and services for healthcare and consumer brands, device and pharma manufacturers, SaaS companies, our agency, and many others.
We are often able to outperform so many others because we steadfastly focus on creating and executing best practices marketing programs. It turns out that marketing to physicians can even be fun and easy when you overcome the obstacles which frustrate most others.
Here are some of the secrets we have learned over the years, and continue to refine to this day.
When marketing to doctors and other HCPs, it is imperative to capture the prospect's attention – and establish credibility – immediately.
If you try to build to a big crescendo, you’ll lose them before you even get started.
Doctors are notoriously hard to reach and persuade. They are unbelievably busy, rarely respond to phone calls, resist cold outreaches from salespeople, and are protected by the most aggressive receptionists and call centers on the planet.
“No one talks to my doctors without my permission, thank you very much.”
Thus, marketing and lead acquisition costs can quickly spiral to the point of unprofitability. To succeed, you’ll need to rigorously follow time-tested marketing best practices to break through the clutter and get their attention.
Developing a unique selling proposition (USP) is marketing 101, so it is surprising how few firms really have established a compelling and clear USP. Medical software and various SaaS solutions are always hot and competitive products, yet when we look at the hundreds of competitors fighting for market share in that field, most say virtually the same things, like “paperless, fast, easy,” etc.
Doctors are skeptical, and they have heard it all before. If you cannot clearly deliver a unique benefit in 60 seconds, and then prove your claim, beware.
On that note, you’ll do much better with a specific message than a general one. Always offer specific solutions to specific problems.
Doctors are smart and love learning, yet they feel overwhelmed. It is nearly impossible for doctors to keep current on everything relevant to their patients, let alone the myriad of other issues that come up every day.
Providing useful, relevant content is the best way to not only get their attention but also earn credibility. As a rule, doctors love to deal with smart companies and people who have unrivaled expertise within their respective fields. Tell them something they don’t already know.
If your goal is to generate inquiries (leads), you’ll want to utilize proven direct response principles, such as testing, tracking, and ongoing optimization.
The most important thing for lead generation always comes down to your offer. In other words, the only way to get doctors to pay attention to your offering – let alone respond – is to provide them with a very compelling value proposition, prove why they should choose your product, and then give them an incentive to act now.
The offer could be content (e.g., a free CME course, white paper, or webinar), a discount, or (if compliant) something doctors can use personally. Spend the time required to develop strong offers – your success depends upon it.
In terms of media, lead generation programs may include a variety of media, including direct mail, trade publications, paid social, programmatic advertising, paid search, search engine optimization, blogs and other content, congresses, and others.
As you get results, you’ll need to evaluate the cost /benefit of each medium based on its respective return on investment (ROI).
For some reason, unbeknownst to me, most marketers forget doctors are people, too. While your messaging shouldn't feel like it is coming from a plaid-suited used car salesperson, you must remember to communicate with doctors on both intellectual and emotional levels.
Whatever marketing channels you choose, you need to communicate with them like real people. And while it varies by circumstance, it often helps to stand out by making things fun for them.
I hope these ideas were helpful to you. Here are some links to additional resources: