Maybe it’s the proliferation of those direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads for drugs that people can’t actually purchase — they all end with “Ask your doctor about…” — or the inflated claims of dietary supplements that promise more energy, better skin or flatter abs.
Healthcare marketing is getting a bad rap. That’s a shame — and potentially even worse if it lends any credence to the outdated idea that doctors shouldn’t engage in it because it smacks of selling products and services rather than helping people. The fact is that in these competitive times, marketing does more than help practices stand out from the crowd. It actually helps patients get better care:
Marketing helps educate patients
With new products and technologies expanding the market for aesthetic services, aesthetic consumers are faced with what can be a bewildering array of options. Doctors who engage in content marketing by blogging, creating newsletters and answering online questions provide the insights patients need to make more informed decisions. When patients are more informed, they have more realistic expectations, which leads to better outcomes and higher satisfaction.
Marketing combats misinformation
As a corollary to the above, doctors who share their expertise online counter the seemingly infinite supply of misinformation that runs rampant on the internet. As Minneapolis plastic surgeon Richard H. Tholen, MD, FACS, puts it, “Myths are debunked; ‘junk science’ is refuted and destroyed by fact, and BS is shot down by a barrage of better information.”
Marketing meets patients where they are
When was the last time you looked for a product or service in the Yellow Pages or made a purchase decision based on a billboard? Potential patients aren’t using those resources, either, preferring to get their information online, especially via social media. By establishing social profiles and updating the accompanying content on a regular basis, doctors can engage with patients where they’re most likely to congregate. (Increased exposure and better search rank are ancillary benefits.)
Marketing helps patients find the right doctor
All patients want (and deserve) excellent care but they also want doctors who “get” them, who understand the concerns that drive their aesthetic journeys and who demonstrate compassion as well as competency. And since many patients have trouble telling the difference between doctors, marketing represents one of the best ways to demonstrate what makes you unique and, by extension, uniquely suited to help them accomplish their aesthetic goals.
Given the above, dismissing marketing as inappropriate in healthcare makes no sense. Sure, some doctors may feel it’s beneath them or that it somehow equates with advertising or self-promotion. But when it’s approached appropriately, marketing is none of those things. When the focus is on helping potential patients, healthcare marketing is about providing solutions, not pushing services, and doctors who don’t actively engage in it do a disservice to aesthetic consumers as well as themselves.
It’s like the old saying: Healing is an art, medicine is a profession, but healthcare is a business. And if marketing one’s practice translates into more informed patients, less quackery and a stronger relationship between doctors, patients and the larger aesthetic community, then embracing it isn’t just a good thing. It’s the right thing to do.
Photo by Punam Choudhary via Flickr