Physician Practice Marketing Needs to Stay Relevant in Changing Times

By: Ruth Padilla Portacci, MA | rpadilla@barlowmccarthy.com

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.” – Peter Drucker

Recently we consulted with a large physician group who asked for our expertise in evaluating their current marketing direction.  While they were doing a lot of things well, two of the more obvious issues centered on their deeper understanding of the marketplace and the relevancy of their current marketing campaigns.

No one underestimates the fact that practice life is busy and, more often than not, hospital marketing teams are trying to take on that function for their physician groups on top of already full plates. Marketing campaigns that meet people where they are in a more personalized and relevant way take time and effort, but the results can be far more impacting. Here are a few thoughts to consider as you execute your physician marketing:

Research to better understand your consumers: Internal and external data drives the start of an effective and relevant marketing campaign.  Data doesn’t always have to be expensive either.  There is rich internal data and some publicly available data that can begin to inform the development of a strong campaign.  Central questions to ask yourself as you work to market your physicians are: What do my physician panels look like in terms of demographics?  Who are the consumers I want to attract that may be missing from the practice profile? What are any unique characteristics of the market or the practice that I need to be aware of? When I look at my current campaign and messaging do these data points meet up with what I have executed?

Understand what you have to sell:  A relevant campaign speaks to practice strengths.  If you don’t have them, it makes no sense to try to sell them. Consumers are far savvier than that.  If you promote “access” for instance as a main promise or message in a campaign, ensure that the practice and physicians are truly accessible. That definition varies greatly from practice to practice and individual to individual. Research can help understand how consumers define it.  Are you closed at lunch?  Closed at 4 p.m. every Friday?  Not open on weekends? No early morning hours?  If so, even if physicians have open appointments during the day, you may think about whether access is the strongest message.

Create campaigns that fit the needs and wants of consumers: Many times we see campaigns in our audits that sound like hospital marketing folks wrote it.  Many of us are guilty of that.  We might think we understand the needs and wants of consumers e.g., our ads still talk about “quality and compassionate care” but we may not have put in the time to truly find out those key things that really drive choice in picking a provider. Research, even if it has to be informal, can get to the needs and wants of consumers. Understanding those key desires can help develop a more salient and relevant campaign.

Invest in tools to understand performance: It’s difficult to know your relevancy or effectiveness if you cannot measure it.  Many medium size and larger practices are moving to automation or CRM applications in an effort to better manage their marketing campaign investments, improve collection of data, and to engage customers in ongoing communication outside of marketplace campaigns.  Tools like these can pay for themselves over time in a more comprehensive and data-driven approach to strategic practice marketing.

** Ruth Padilla Portacci is an independent consultant working with Barlow/McCarthy