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Medical Practice Business And Marketing Articles

Article #C - Dec. 2008

"Advertising... A Wart On Marketing's Finger"

Advertising is a splinter off of the Marketing Process.

"It's intellectual and moral pollution," is what a professor taught students at the New York New School of Social Research and what one of the world renowned advertising expert, David Ogilvy, used to point out the common misconception held by Galbraith and Toynbee, among many others.

In our world economy advertising has become the most efficient way to sell.  How else would any person find out a product existed, what its benefits are, where it's sold, and how much it costs? 

In the case of physicians, how will any patient know you have a medical practice "out there somewhere," what kind of medical practice you have, where you are located, and how you treat patients?  Relying on the outdated methods of building your practice, like word of mouth and surfing the yellow pages in this modern age of express information, is fraught with disappointment let alone the loss of income.  It's, "Money left on the table."

Advertising is a simple process of alerting patients in your area you exist and why they should seek your services.  Use of printed or spoken words in any channel of media that patients see (TV infomercials), read (newspapers), or hear (radio) is the basis for delivering  advertising to the public. 

The words and graphics must be presented in such a way it immediately attracts attention, quickly focuses attention on the product (your medical practice), and logically, clearly, and rapidly leads the viewer through the critical emotional benefits of using the product (seeing you for medical care). 

Constructing an ad which does all those things at the same time makes it highly effective in attracting patients to your practice.  It's a skill that few do well without learning---but can be learned and used productively in a
medical practice.

Advertising can be quite expensive but doesn't have to be if you
do it all yourself.


Why advertising won't make doctors rich

It's because advertising has several short-comings that marketing doesn't...

  • Ads don't reach all the patients.

  • Ads aren't focused on the group of patients you want to attract.

  • Ads have no follow-up methodology.

  • Ads don't rely on what patients are interested in knowing.

  • Ads must be constantly changed to avoid customer boredom.

  • Ads have only one shot at catching attention and usefulness.

  • Ads are perceived to be manipulative, insincere, and misleading.

Ads are like shooting an arrow and hope you hit something you're looking for. 

Advertising strategies shine when they're merged with your marketing plans.  Putting a great player on a poor team diminishes the player's ability, not his or her talent.  Ads are only valuable when they're coordinated with your marketing plans and goals. If your efforts at marketing are less than desirable, advertising won't help much.

Marketing is an ongoing process.

Marketing is a blanketing protocol.  When you think about the actions of the football team on the field Friday night, do you consider the often unrecognized factors responsible for the team playing such a great game? The school must search for a coach with certain qualifications. The coach must adapt to the school expectations. 

The team must learn to comply with the coach's methods and techniques.  After the game's over, comes the evaluation of what went wrong and how to correct it before the next game---exactly like the marketing game.

The marketing process begins as an idea for increasing income and expands into any and all steps required to bring it to maximum efficiency and use.  It includes every detail to make it profitable from start to finish, modifications over time to extract the largest amount of income from the needs of the public, and refined to become a profitable tool for a prolonged period of time.

What marketing a medical practice does that advertising doesn't accomplish... 

  1. Marketing is directed at the segment of patients you want in
    your practice

  2. Uses multiple methods for persuading a patient you are the best
    doctor for them

  3. Applies strategies and tactics that are constantly revised for
    maximum effect

  4. Is designed for the long term

  5. Modifications in the marketing plan can be made immediately
    for best results

  6. Applying the laws of marketing is not very effective through
    advertising itself

Is all this sinking in.......or what?

Al Ries and Jack Trout published "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing" in 1993.  Their straight talk about the concepts well known to marketing experts set new standards for even doctors to follow in marketing their own medical practices.

The laws work for doctors as well as for other medical practice professionals and health care providers

  • It's better to be first at doing a new procedure than it is to be better
    at doing it.

  • If you can't be first in a category, set up a new category you
    can be first in.

  • It's better to be first in minds of patients about a new treatment than to be first in doing a new treatment.

  • Marketing is not a battle of how smart and talented you are, it's a battle of how smart and talented your patients perceive you are.

  • The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word (ex. "hip replacement" instantly brings up your name) in the patient's mind.

  • Two doctors cannot own the same word in the patient's mind.

  • The strategy to use depends on which rung you occupy on the professional ladder. If you're not top doctor for a certain medical treatment, you market your talent in a way that appears top rung---AVIS number 2 in car rental "We try harder."

  • In the long run, every physician market becomes a two-horse race. The top doc drops to second and the second rung doc becomes
    doc eventually.

  • If you're shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by what the top doc used to reach first place.

  • Over time, a category of medical practice will divide and become two or more categories. There's room for you to then be top doc in another category instead of second in the original one.

  • Marketing effects take place over an extended period of time. Therefore, the need to be persistent at marketing efforts to be successful.

  • There's an irresistible pressure to extend your knowledge, expertise, and talents beyond which you are unable to cope with, with few exceptions.

  • You have to give up something in order to get something... you don't have time for all you'd love to be doing.

  • For every attribute, there's an opposite, effective attribute. When the top doc owns the turf don't try to copy him or her. Choose an opposite expertise position that equals or competes with his marketing focus.

  • When you admit a negative or mistake it's disarming, but the result
    is positive.

  • In each situation, only one move will produce substantial results. Forget about marketing everything you do, make a bold audacious thrust at what you do best.

  • Unless you write your competitors' plans, you can't predict the future.

  • Success often leads to arrogance and arrogance to failure.

  • Failure is to be expected and accepted. You go at the project a different way next time.

  • Your marketing strategies are often the opposite of the way it appears
    in the press.

  • Successful practice marketing programs are not built on fads, they're
    built on trends.

  • Without adequate funding an idea to improve your income won't fly.

The worst thing I can think of in today's world is the disappearance of private medical practice, but that's where we are headed. Perhaps physicians who market their practice will hang on forever.

"A prudent person profits from personal experience,
a wise one from the experience of others."   
                                                    Dr. Joseph Collins

As I'm sure you know, the whole field of marketing is kind of like the big boy's club.  The tendency of commercial marketers is to avoid teaching you much, if anything about doing your own marketing.  It would be like shooting themselves in the foot.  They want your business and to earn money.
Because I'm a physician who has run the medical practice gauntlet, I look at marketing in quite a different and emotional manner.  My lack of knowledge about marketing kept me from building a better practice, kept my income at a level that I am ashamed to admit now, and made me on many occasions believe that I had chosen the wrong profession, or at least the
wrong specialty.
Marketing and office business are areas of knowledge most of us were never taught and had to learn by trial and error.  It's a wide gap in a physicians academic training.  A few medical schools are beginning to wise up and add some of this to medical school curriculums.

The author, Curt Graham, is a highly experienced business and marketing expert, copywriter, and entrepreneur who has been published in various media over 50 years while in medical practice and after.

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2004-2015, Curt Graham M.D., , All rights reserved.

Word Count = 1474

Keywords = advertising, ads, marketing plans, marketing process, medical practice marketing, healthcare providers,marketing programs, medical practice


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