At the turn of the century, our marketing advice to healthcare providers that needed doctors’ orders had a recurring theme: target the doctors. It sounds simple now, but back then, a quick review of marketing budgets frequently revealed a preponderance of spending on community-oriented marketing efforts. Today, most of our referral-based clients come to us already understanding the necessity of marketing to physicians, but we are now finding a new version of the same mistake – not targeting the audience correctly. We’re seeing this with physical therapy marketing, non-medical home care marketing, home health marketing, and hospice marketing.
Currently, the common, incorrect audience-targeting we are noticing comes in the form of presenting to doctors marketing materials appropriate for patients or merely being social and present instead of being helpful through information. A referral-based health care provider cannot present patient-level material to doctors on a consistent basis and expect a strong result. Doctors and patients are starting from different knowledge bases, have slightly different goals, and have different information needs.
To understand how you should be advertising to doctors, get a copy of a professional journal of interest to them such as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, Spine, or the American Family Practitioner. These are journals wherein doctors are talking to doctors about how to diagnose, treat, and refer. Notice the content and writing style, the efficiency, the factual nature, the extreme specificity of everything said, and the demand for proof of every statement. This is the blueprint for how to persuade doctors.
Most of what patients need to know doctors already know. Most of what doctors need to know won’t help patients. When targeting both patients and doctors with advertising, the more you try to do both, the less you accomplish either.
One active doctor can do more for your home health agency or physical therapy practice in six months than most loyal patients could do in a lifetime. Using intelligent, informative, helpful marketing materials on a consistent basis stands apart as one of the most proven ways to increase the referral activity of doctors and discharge planners. Developing material that doctors would find informative and helpful requires considerably more expertise and effort, but is well worth it. Doctors and other medical referral sources have more than enough referral potential to justify developing marketing materials specifically for them.
The aforementioned journals constantly emphasize pharmaceutical and surgical solutions for patient complaints while giving nursing and therapy solutions an afterthought status. Don’t count on physician-to-physician education such as these journals to make doctors better referral sources for your services. If you want your outpatient and community-based services to have top-of-mind awareness as doctors consider their treatment/referral options, you must communicate with your medical referral sources consistently and on a level that addresses their informational needs.