Monday, May 4, 2015

Why does physician advertising seem stuck in the 90s?

Seems to be that time of the year when hospital sponsored advertisements promoting physicians- primary care and specialties fill the newspaper pages and airwaves.  I see many a smiling physician in the ads looking so cheerful and accepting new patients, with lots of copy that is more features and benefits marketing then providing a solution to the healthcare consumer’s choice question.  Other ad layouts include physicians thoughtfully gazing upward pondering the great question of medical science. While other advertisements make an attempt at branding the physician to the hospital proclaiming the greatness of both.

That is so 1990s advertising.

There are of course many reasons for this and no need to go into great detail.  The important point is that the current wave of physician practice building advertising probably isn’t meeting the needs of the newly minted healthcare consumer.

It’s not just about the physician anymore in an advertisement with vague copy that really doesn’t say anything except for a laundry list of items. Let me be clear, I do not doubt the medical qualifications, skills and experience of the physicians.

The market and competition for the healthcare consumer and patient is changing.

Now accepting new patients is unacceptable.

Healthcare consumer’s and patient’s are making physician choices based cost, location and convenience due to increasing co-pays and rising deductibles.  If you're just going to throw some ads out there with a picture of a nice smiling doc with copy written in the third person about how wonderful and compassionate he or she is, its falling on blind eyes.

What is needed is a new look at what you are doing and changing to meet the needs of the healthcare consumer.  With great market change arrives opportunity for growth.  That is if one is willing to embrace that change and create value. 

Some new essential steps for physician practice building the marketing effort are in order in a retail market.

Do some primary market research to understand the characteristics of the audience and what they are looking for in a physician. Understand the healthcare consumer. That is the starting point, not what senior management or a doctor thinks.   Now that being said, their opinions are important but the discussion marketing needs to have must be based on market data.

In an opinion based discussion everyone is right. To change your approach to the market, the discussion needs to be around the data not opinion. Physicians and hospital leadership are trained in the use of data. They make decision based on data. Why should a marketing discussion be any different? It’s more than marketing communications and making things look pretty.

The campaign must answer the healthcare consumer’s question of what is special about this physician and why should I select her or him?  Stop talking at people, talk to them. Engage them with a compelling value proposition on why they should select that doctor, or even why they should even considering switching physicians.  Answer the question of why.

Every marketing effort on building the physician practice in today’s  retail medical environment, needs to be highly integrated with traditional, social media, mobile,  online and public relations.  It includes patient testimonials, engages and establishes expectations for the experience.  It is focused on the healthcare consumer and meets their needs for primary or specialty care.

In the end, it’s all about knowing what healthcare consumer and patient needs are, and delivering a compelling answer that has them making a choice in selecting the right physician that will meet their needs. 

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