Does “M.D.” stand for Marketing Director?

Posted on August 3, 2010

Let's face it: no one wants a marketer holding a scalpel in the operating suite any more than we want a physician dabbling in our world. But despite this logic, physicians insist on being marketing experts.

When physicians become directly involved in developing marketing strategies or tactics, make sure you are ready to demonstrate the science behind the art of marketing, and to educate them on the fact that advertising is simply one method to achieve your objectives.

For example, almost every time I meet a new physician the first thing I hear is "You're the guy who's going to do my ad."  As frustrating as it can be,  I quickly turn the conversation to the comprehensive plan that may or may not include advertising - but absolutely includes physician participation in community events, speakers' bureau, media relations and other practice development activities. It doesn't hurt to share with them new patient referral data that shows what little impact traditional advertising has on new patient acquisition.

Likewise with service line planning, whenever the discussion turns to advertising I quickly pull it back into an integrated strategy that goes beyond deciding how many physician photos we can fit on a billboard. It's critical to get the physicians' buy-in on holding community education seminars, sponsoring community events that tie into their service line or simply spending time in the physician lounge getting to know their colleagues.

This isn't to say I am against advertising.  It should be part of most communication plans. Just remember that those same physicians may try to control the message, creative and placement for whatever advertising you recommend.  That provides another educational opportunity - too bad the docs can't get CME credits for these one-on-ones isn't it? - to explain effective advertising, reach and frequency, message development and cost.

It's also important to remind them that you share common goals. Your focus is to take the most direct and effective course to help reach those goals.

I don't pretend that these are easy conversations or that you'll win a physician over the first time you try.  Many times all they're hearing is "No ad = no patients" and they become defensive.  Try and try again.  Show examples of how other tactics were effective.  Physicians are smart, and they can be persuaded with the facts.

Only once did I have to offer to perform their surgery the next day so they could focus more on being the marketing director.

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Busting health care’s top marketing myths

Posted on August 23, 2010

As a health care marketer, you have undoubtedly heard dozens of theories about how to grow your business.  Every leader or physician has his or her own viewpoint and it's your job to guide the organization down the correct path.

So how are you supposed to know what to believe and how can you dispel common beliefs that simply don't work?

Over the coming months I will uncover many of health care's top marketing myths and suggest how you can navigate through the potential land mines.

Coming next week: "The Halo Effect."

To make sure you receive this article and the remainder of the health care marketing myth series, if you're not already a subscriber  I invite you to join the LegatoBlog at . Just scroll down in the far right column and enter your e-mail address.  No promotion or sales pitches.  Just engaging dialogue with your fellow health care marketing colleagues.  Check out some of our previous articles, and see if you find them interesting.  You can unsubscribe at any time.  When joining the LegatoBlog community, you'll receive an email asking you to follow a link to confirm your subscription.

I look forward to sharing health care's top marketing myths with you, and in participating in a discussion with you and other colleagues from around the country.

Mike Milligan, President

Legato Marketing & Communications, Inc.

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Health care myth #1: The Halo Effect

Posted on August 30, 2010

One widely accepted belief is that there is a so-called "Halo Effect" in branding. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, it's based on research that showed if people have a positive impression of one product or service within a brand, they are more likely to look favorably on other products or services within the same brand. Over the years, many brands have benefitted greatly from the halo effect to the point that new product development assumes acceptance because of it.

One recent brand that has seen a push from a halo effect is Apple thanks to the popularity of the iPod. Clearly the launches of the iPhone and the iPad saw spikes from the iPod halo effect.

But does it work the same in health care? Let me suggest that there is legitimacy to the halo effect on overall brand perception, but that you should not get too caught up in it driving individual service line volumes similar to what happens for retail-based products. In other words, just because you communicate your expertise in brain surgery or trauma care doesn't necessarily mean that consumers who accept that message will flock to your facility for other services. For one thing, there is more data available today than ever before. Consumers can look up quality and cost data and use it to compare you to the competition. Just because they had a favorable experience when they had their baby at your hospital does not mean they will come there for a high-priced knee surgery that ranks low in quality. Another part of that is because people don't think about health care until they need it. That is why you need to invest in brand advertising as part of your annual marketing plans without relying on it to drive new revenue. Frankly, it's a balancing act that can be difficult to maneuver when pressured to show cause and effect of your efforts.

My advice is to analyze every service line and make sure you are addressing the individual marketing needs of each while continuing to invest in your long-term brand.

Do you agree, or do you see things differently?  I would love to see some various perspectives shared on this one. By the way, next week's Legato Blog, myth #2, is on the overused doctrine that women are the health care decision makers.  It should be a good debate.

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