Marketing and selling to doctors
How to create lead generation and sales systems that get results
By Stewart Gandolf, MBA
Every time I run into someone who is faced with the daunting challenge of marketing or selling to doctors, I giggle empathetically and say,
“I feel your pain.”
Let me explain:
Prior to co-founding Healthcare Success Strategies, I was Vice President of Marketing for the largest private practice marketing firm in the U.S., by far.
To give you an idea of scale, over the years we successfully sold tens of thousands of doctors a variety of products including paid newsletter subscriptions, workshop registrations, on-site consultations and ad agency services. No one else even came close to our size.
We were able to eclipse dozens of “mom and pop” marketing companies, not because we were so smart, but because we steadfastly focused on creating and executing the right marketing and sales models.
It turns out that marketing and selling to doctors can be fun and easy, when you overcome the obstacles which frustrate everyone else.
Here are some of the secrets I have learned over the years, and continue to refine to this day.
You’ve got to create ongoing, effective lead generation systems
Doctors are notoriously hard to reach. They are unbelievably busy, refuse to use technologies like voice mail and email, and are protected by the most aggressive receptionists on the planet.
“No one talks to my boss without my permission, thank you very much.”
Thus, lead acquisition costs can quickly spiral to the point of unprofitability.
To be successful, you’ll need to rigorously follow time-tested direct response principles: test new ideas, track results, roll out winners and continuously improve and refine your efforts.
Plan to test a variety of media to generate your leads, including direct mail, trade publications, fax, paid search, search engine optimization, e-newsletters, opt in email blasts, affiliate marketing, publicity, telemarketing, trade shows, schmoozing, you name it.
As you get results, you’ll need to evaluate the cost /benefit of each medium based upon its respective return on investment (ROI).
The offer is key
The most important thing always comes down to your offer.
In other words, the only way to get doctors to pay attention to you – let alone respond – is to provide them with a very compelling value proposition, prove why they should choose you, and then give them an incentive to act now.
The offer could be some kind of discount, a free white paper, e-newsletter subscription, seminar, or even something doctors or staff can use personally. Spend whatever time is required to develop strong offers – your success depends upon it.
You must have a unique selling proposition
Developing a unique selling proposition is marketing 101, so it is surprising how few firms really have one. Right now for example, medical software is a hot category, yet when I look at the hundreds of competitors fighting for market share in that field, most say exactly the same things. “It’s paperless, fast, easy, etc.”
Doctors are skeptical, and they have heard it all before. If you cannot clearly deliver a unique benefit in 60 seconds, and then prove your claim, beware.
On that note , you’ll do much better with a specific message than a general one. Always offer specific solutions to specific problems.
Get your doctors’ attention immediately
Whether you are utilizing marketing or direct sales, it is absolutely imperative that you capture the prospect’s attention – and establish credibility – right away.
If you try to build to a big crescendo, you’ll lose them before you even get started.
Add value to their day-to-day lives
Doctors are smart and love learning, yet they feel overwhelmed. It is nearly impossible for doctors to keep current on everything relevant to their patients, let alone the myriad of other issues that come up every day.
Providiing useful, relevant information and education is the best way to not only get their attention, but also to earn credibility. As a rule, doctors love to deal with smart people who have unrivaled expertise within their respective fields.
Don’t come across like a clown – but don’t be a robot, either
For some reason unbeknownst to me, most people remain intimidated by doctors. While you obviously cannot don a plaid suit and act like a used car salesman, you should remember that doctors are people too.
Whether you are reaching them through marketing or selling to them face-to-face, you need to communicate with them like a real person. And while it varies by circumstance, it often helps to make things fun for them.
I hope these ideas were helpful to you.
If you work with a corporation that needs some new marketing support, I invite you to check out the strategic relationships section of this web site.
And of course , feel free to call us directly at
This article is particularly
- Private practitioners who rely heavily on referrals from other doctors
- Healthcare marketing executives
- Healthcare sales executives
- Hospital physician pelations
- Device manufacturers
- Healthcare consultants
Since 1991, Stewart Gandolf has spoken to, consulted with, marketed to and sold to thousands of private practitioners of all kinds, including medical doctors, dentists, physical therapists and allied healthcare professionals.