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Hard-Dollar Reasons Why Physician Marketing Begins with Simply Being Liked

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Likeonomics CoverThe core concepts of Likeonomics are so essential to successful healthcare branding and marketing that every doctor, dentist, physician, surgeon, provider (and their staff) will find value in this powerful little business book.

Healthcare delivery is a highly personal transaction that primarily occurs while a provider and patient are face-to-face. And if this intersection does not include a two-way “likeability” factor, the provider’s years of medical training and experience may not be enough to fully help the patient.

What’s more, it’s not enough to “be nice.” Most doctors and dentists are “nice.” The more crucial ingredient to success in this interaction is trust. To grasp how this core idea impacts healthcare delivery, branding and marketing, consider the benefits in full title: Likeonomics – The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust, Influencing Behavior, and Inspiring Action, by Rohit Bhargava. [Available from Amazon and elsewhere.]

Successful outcomes (and hard-dollar) benefits of Likeonomics principles

In Likeonomics, author and marketing guru Rohit Bhargava illustrates how success in business has everything to do with your ability to build trust. Transporting this to the patient/physician encounter, this means that a patient who likes the provider is more likely to:

  • Understand the course of treatment (earned trust);
  • Diligently comply with recommendations and medications (influenced behavior);
  • Gain maximum benefit from treatment and/or health recommendations;
  • Experience greater satisfaction and return to the practice in the future; and
  • Go out of their way to make patient-to-patient referrals (inspired action).

In a broader sense, it’s simply good business. Professional colleagues will, in all probability, refer patients to another practice when they know, like and trust their fellow provider. In short, people (other doctors) do business and build relationships with people (doctors) they like.

And from a fundamental marketing perspective, all that you do and say to build and protect your professional reputation and practice brand begins (and sometimes ends) with likeability. It’s an indispensable component of the patient/physician encounter. For the patient, it differentiates “my liked-and-trusted doctor” among so many others with a white coat.

In Likeonomics, Bhargava writes, “Differentiation is hard to accomplish, and even harder to maintain. In a world where almost any product or idea can be copied relatively quickly, the only competitive edge that lasts is what you can build based on relationships.”

Doctors need to be competent and kind according to a section in Likeonomics specifically about the work of physicians. “Too often, doctors are seen by patients as arrogant or too busy to take enough time to explain procedures and efforts, or to demonstrate enough empathy. In healthcare, writes Bhargava, “the issue of compassion and altruism intersects everyday with the harsher reality of the economics of medicine.”

The patient experience as the moment of truth for healthcare

More than any time in the past, according to a new Health Research Institute (HRI)/PwC report, the customer experience is the critical “moment of truth” for healthcare organizations. Providers and healthcare organizations have to work harder for consumer engagement and loyalty, in part because consumers (patients) “exert greater control over how their healthcare dollars are spent and exercise power to vote with their feet and wallets.” [Details are available in the PwC/HRI report here.]

Author Bhargava didn’t write Likeonomics specifically for physicians, although it is nearly universally applicable and useful. To peal a self-descriptive capsule from the book, “With today's ‘modern believability crisis,’ earning the trust of your customers, employees, and colleagues is much harder to do. Likeonomics offers a new vision of a world beyond Facebook, where real relationships and personal values such as unabashed honesty, extreme simplicity, and basic humanity are the keys to success.

“There is a real ROI to likeability, and exactly how big it is will amaze you," Mr. Bhargava writes.” And we would add that it is a fundamental component to success, with better outcomes and bottom-line benefits for physician marketing. And all of that begins with simply being liked.

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Author Rohit Bhargava advises some of the world's largest global brands on communications strategy as a member of the Strategy & Planning group at Ogilvy. He is an Adjunct Professor of Marketing at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

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