Best Practices for Physician Marketing that Drives Engagement and Referrals

Whether your goals involve recruiting, generating referrals or strengthening clinical relationships, follow these best practices for physician marketing.

Mar­ket­ing to doc­tors is fraught with chal­lenges, as physi­cians are among the most time-con­strained audi­ences and typ­i­cal­ly sur­round­ed by gate­keep­ers pro­tect­ing them from sales-relat­ed outreach.

How­ev­er, there are tremen­dous oppor­tu­ni­ties for mar­keters who under­stand how to nav­i­gate the health­care envi­ron­ment, help physi­cians improve patient care and advance their practice.

Con­tent mar­ket­ing address­es both of these dynam­ics, as it’s designed to deliv­er use­ful infor­ma­tion in a non-intru­sive for­mat. That’s why con­tent is emerg­ing as one of the most uti­lized forms of physi­cian mar­ket­ing for hos­pi­tals and health systems.

Based on our expe­ri­ence in part­ner­ing with health­care orga­ni­za­tions to devel­op physi­cian mar­ket­ing strate­gies, here are best prac­tices for engag­ing employed and refer­ring providers around out­comes and inno­va­tion, con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties, clin­i­cal tri­als and oth­er crit­i­cal top­ics of interest.

Engage physicians at each stage of the decision cycle

Like the patient jour­ney, health­care providers fol­low a defined path­way to refer­ral rela­tion­ships that begins with aware­ness and leads to inter­ac­tion and ulti­mate­ly action.

Here are rec­om­men­da­tions for meet­ing physi­cians where they are in this deci­sion cycle:

Aware­ness stage — Dri­ve brand aware­ness at the top of the fun­nel around your orga­ni­za­tion’s clin­i­cal excel­lence, out­comes and inno­va­tion, research and cul­ture. This can be achieved through high qual­i­ty con­tent that is pro­mot­ed through native adver­tis­ing and social plat­forms like Doxim­i­ty. Con­tent will ide­al­ly fea­ture provider exper­tise and share sto­ries in a vari­ety of for­mats includ­ing blogs, video inter­views, pod­casts and more. 

Engage­ment stage — Move providers from aware­ness to engage­ment by pro­vid­ing more robust con­tent resources like whitepa­pers and guides, webi­na­rs, 1:1 con­ver­sa­tions and more tar­get­ed to their unique needs based on spe­cial­ty. At this stage, con­tent can be pro­mot­ed through organ­ic search, tar­get­ed dig­i­tal ads and retar­get­ing, high impact direct mail, Doxim­i­ty, and email engage­ment with opt­ed-in providers. 

Action stage — Cre­ate a fric­tion­less path for providers through clear, yet detailed, direc­tion on how to make a refer­ral and dig­i­tal strate­gies for mak­ing the process easy. Focus on cap­tur­ing high-intent vol­umes through paid search when appro­pri­ate, and use clear CTAs through­out mid­dle-fun­nel con­tent and con­tent hub resources. 

Email is the preferred means of ongoing communication

Accord­ing to the Health­Link Dimen­sions’ 2020 HCP Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Sur­vey of physi­cians across mul­ti­ple prac­tice areas, email is the pre­ferred chan­nel by a large mar­gin (see chart).

When com­pared to pro­fes­sion­al con­fer­ences, in-per­son vis­its, direct mail and oth­er chan­nels, email is the pri­ma­ry com­mu­ni­ca­tion method for receiv­ing indus­try news, prod­uct updates, announce­ments or research, and edu­ca­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties. The least pre­ferred chan­nels for receiv­ing this infor­ma­tion are SMS/text messages/phone (2%) and social media/fax (1%).

Pro Tip: When engag­ing physi­cians (or any audi­ence) via email, it’s impor­tant to mea­sure the per­for­mance of each deploy­ment and iden­ti­fy ele­ments that can be opti­mized. We rec­om­mend A/B test­ing sub­ject lines for the impact on open rate and arti­cle top­ics and calls to action for the impact on click rate. To illus­trate the advan­tages of test­ing, True North Cus­tom was able to help a chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal achieve an email open rate that blew indus­try aver­ages out of the water by lever­ag­ing this data-dri­ven approach.

Content should be educational

Accord­ing to the Health­Link Dimen­sions sur­vey, “med­ical pro­fes­sion­als pre­fer mar­keters to act as infor­ma­tion part­ners.” This includes con­tent about inno­v­a­tive tech­niques and tech­nol­o­gy, con­tin­u­ing med­ical edu­ca­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties, and oth­er top­ics that offer val­ue and help them effec­tive­ly man­age and grow their prac­tices and med­ical careers.

Pro Tip: Physi­cians trust cred­i­ble news sources (think JAMA, The New York Times), so find ways to align your con­tent with time­ly, rel­e­vant top­ics fea­tured with­in those infor­ma­tion sources where they’re already con­sum­ing con­tent (aka news­jack­ing).

Content must be mobile-friendly

When think­ing about best mar­ket­ing strate­gies for physi­cians that real­ly work relat­ed to con­tent, it’s sim­ple: Physi­cians are con­stant­ly on their smartphones—with more than 75% report­ing the use of mobile health in their prac­tices on a week­ly basis. Con­sid­er strate­gies that apply across all facil­i­ty sizes, from a small med­ical prac­tice to a large hos­pi­tal sys­tem and even a med­ical clin­ic mar­ket­ing plan.

Pro Tip: Con­sid­er using video as one of the most engag­ing and mobile-friend­ly for­mats, and fea­ture peers rather than patients as physi­cians pre­fer a more clin­i­cal per­spec­tive when read­ing about new treat­ments and technology.

Speak their language

When health­care mar­ket­ing to doc­tors, it is crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant to under­stand their clin­i­cal or aca­d­e­m­ic focus and tar­get them using the ter­mi­nol­o­gy that match­es their spe­cif­ic dis­ci­pline. “Con­text is king,” accord­ing to MediaPost.

Pro Tip: When work­ing to engage physi­cians, seg­ment the audi­ence by spe­cif­ic prac­tice areas like elec­tro­phys­i­ol­o­gy or inter­ven­tion­al car­di­ol­o­gy and plan con­tent accordingly.

Always think, “What’s in it for them?”

Make sure your out­reach includes a com­pelling offer or call to action, which could include down­load­ing a free white paper, sign­ing up for a rel­e­vant e‑newsletter or anoth­er incen­tive that aligns with their pro­fes­sion­al interests.

Pro Tip: Sub­scrib­ing to your physi­cian-focused newslet­ter is an excel­lent call to action, as it allows doc­tors to stay cur­rent on rel­e­vant med­ical top­ics while keep­ing your orga­ni­za­tion top of mind to dri­ve refer­ral and rep­u­ta­tion devel­op­ment. For exam­ple, a nation­al­ly ranked chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal lever­aged tar­get­ed physi­cian emails to increase rep­u­ta­tion scores that helped boost U.S. News & World Report rankings.

NOTE: This post was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Sep­tem­ber 2016 and has been updat­ed for freshness.

We Can Help You Engage Physicians

If mar­ket­ing for doc­tors and oth­er health­care providers falls in your purview, find out how we can help boost engage­ment, rep­u­ta­tion and referrals.

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