Fatal Last Words That Wreck Doctor Marketing

Two of the most important benefits that we bring to our clients—both hospitals and provider practices—are objectivity and experience. We were reminded of this again recently while working with a large specialty practice in the northeast.

We’ve paraphrased the following quote, but it falls into our collection of “fatal last words,” which we know from experience in doctor marketing are worth investigating and resolving.

Here’s what unfolded when the client, speaking about one of their professional referral sources, said:

“Our colleagues know us. And [that practice] refers everyone to us.”

The back-story is that our client seemed to be taking one referral source for granted. The principals of both practices were well acquainted and the two practices had worked together for several years. (“They refer everyone to us.”)

Our objectivity and experience suggested digging deeper. Despite an ongoing system, we discovered that the referring general practice was not referring “everyone” or even close to it. We checked, and in reality the front desk of the referring practice was rarely mentioning the specialist practice.

An ongoing relationship with a referring general practice is a life-blood resource for a specialist. The lesson here is that relationship building is an on-going process that requires continuing care and attention. It’s vital to always be top of mind with current and potential referral sources. Listen for words of complacency. The reality may be painfully different from what you believe it to be.

There are many other familiar (but potentially fatal) quotes that are actually danger signals standing in the way of successful marketing. Here are a few that you might recognize:

“We’ve been kinda strapped lately, so we cut the marketing expense.”

Objectivity and experience says: one reason for being “strapped” is that there is no marketing effort. The situation that is likely to get worse by continued neglect. What’s more, marketing is not an expense; it’s an investment that produces a measurable return.

“Advertising doesn’t work.” Or, “We tried that (advertising tactic) and it doesn’t work.”

Objectivity and experience says: healthcare advertising does work. It isn’t easy to get it right and there are no guarantees, but advertising does produce meaningful results. On the other hand, briefly trying and giving up on advertising only benefits the competition. They are happy about the resulting void in the marketplace.

 “We’re not big enough to need a marketing plan.”

Objectivity and experience says: a large or small marketing effort requires a well-considered and organized plan to define objectives, schedule elements, assign resources and responsibilities, measure results and many other details. A marketing plan—even a relatively small one—can make the difference between success and wasted time and money.

What would you add to this list of fatal last words? No doubt you’ve seen well-intended and potentially helpful marketing ideas pushed to the sidelines due to the lack of objectivity and/or experience. Tell us about your experience in the space below. And click through here for a recent related post, Are You Kidding Department: Can’t Do Marketing Until the Website is Done?

Lonnie Hirsch

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer & Creative Director at Healthcare Success
Over the years Stewart has personally marketed and consulted for over 1,457 healthcare clients, ranging from private practices to multi-billion dollar corporations. Additionally, he has marketed a variety of America’s leading companies, including Citicorp, J. Walter Thompson, Grubb & Ellis, Bally Total Fitness, Wells Fargo and Chase Manhattan. Stewart co-founded our company, and today acts as Chief Executive Officer and Creative Director. He is also a frequent author and speaker on the topic of healthcare marketing. His personal accomplishments are supported by a loving wife and two beautiful daughters.



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