Why Pretty Marketing Materials Can Kill You

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

A single red rose surrounded by a pile of rose petalsEveryone wants their marketing materials to look attractive.

After all, most patients have a very difficult time evaluating providers, and therefore consciously or unconsciously, look for clues about you based upon what they can see and understand.

If your facilities, office, hospital and marketing materials look professional and inspire confidence, you are set up to win before you even meet the patient. Conversely, if your advertising “face” looks amateurish or cheap, many of your would-be patients and referrers will quietly disappear.

This harsh reality shouldn’t surprise you – after all, you do exactly the same thing. Would you be excited about trying a new hair stylist who sports blue spiked hair? Want to eat at a restaurant with stained tablecloths and chunks of food on the floor?

So, generally you are right to want attractive support materials.


  1. Pretty is not synonymous with effective. Very few private practitioners are trained marketers. Medical doctors, dentists and physical therapists can generally tell a graphic designer whether or not they think a brochure looks pretty, but their input stops there.That’s a shame because, over and over again, the evidence clearly shows that “pretty” marketing alone has little correlation with “results. It turns out that attractiveness is necessary, but not sufficient.Put another way, focus solely on how your brochure looks and you are likely to have a “beautiful failure.”
  2. Over their heads. Most doctors and other providers have acquired middle upper class tastes, and judge their marketing materials against their own biases. The trouble is, most of North America (70%) is middle to lower income. These are the folks who shop at Sears.So while you and your friends may love your tasteful and upscale healthcare marketing materials, if you are located in a blue collar area your patients may prejudge you as cold, expensive or even “snooty.”Nothing is more disheartening than creating a fabulous new office and marketing materials, only to have patients say, “Boy you seem to be making a lot of money. I’m must be overpaying here.”


The first step is to make sure you have really defined your target audience.

  • Who are you targeting? Patients, referring doctors, businesses?
  • What services are you selling?
  • Specifically, what geographic area are you targeting?
  • What are the demographics (age, sex, income, etc.)?
  • What are the psychographics (politics, lifestyles, attitudes, etc.)?

Remember that most of your effectiveness will be a result of the effectiveness of your message and your offer — not how pretty your brochures and logos appear. Your message and your offer are primarily determined by the words – what the materials say.

Finally, make sure whomever you work with is highly experienced with healthcare marketing.

(Forget trying to be a do-it-yourselfer. This is your reputation we are talking about.)

Generally at least three people should team together to help you. The leader needs to be a marketing strategist who will lead the entire process and make sure the messaging is on target. Then, the strategist will generally work directly with the writer and graphic artist.

For example, whenever we work with clients, we often go through many revisions with our creative team before we ever present to the client. That way we are assured of the highest quality, most on target marketing materials possible.

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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