Best Marketing Strategies for Physicians That Really Work

Whether your goals involve recruiting, marketing to physicians for referrals or strengthening physician relationships, follow these best practices for connecting with one of the most sought-after—and fiercely hard to reach—healthcare audiences.

Here are some of the best marketing strategies for physicians that really work to set your content apart from the myriad messages vying for providers' attention.

Email is the preferred means of initial 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.

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Direct Mail Marketing for Physicians in the Digital Age

Direct mail marketing still works for physicians, as long as the campaign is informative, highly targeted and designed for the digital age.

Email and direct mail campaigns are both useful assets in the healthcare marketer’s toolbox when attempting physician marketing outreach; however, direct mail marketing for physicians in the digital age involves very different return-on-investment (ROI) metrics.

While email campaigns require little expense beyond the cost of the mailing list, deploying them doesn’t mean their recipients will open, let alone respond to, them. Direct-mail marketing entails printing and mailing costs that can vary based on scope. In most cases, though, using this vehicle to deliver your message virtually guarantees contact with your target audience.

According to the results of a 2012 Direct Marketing Association survey, direct mail elicits a 4.4% consumer response rate, compared with a 0.12% response rate for email. So despite higher costs than email, studies show direct mail is more effective—and potentially more profitable when thinking about physician marketing.

How can you derive the most benefit from a direct mail campaign? Crafting your strategy, knowing your audience, selecting the proper message, and being creative—among other best practices—contribute to campaign success.

Direct Mail Marketing for Physicians in the Digital Age

To get the most from your direct mail investment, keep these ideas in mind:

  • Know thyself! Pinpoint areas in which your practice lacks patient volume and determine the potential for growth. Create strategic goals based on your practice’s weaknesses and strengths.
  • Seek out resources. Read up on digital direct mail examples, types of direct mail and digital marketing, and other resources for direct mail. These references will help inform your own strategies.
  • Research, research, research. What segments of the population that aren’t utilizing a particular service are most likely to (1) have the need and/or the desire for it and (2) be most likely to obtain it? What type of patient does medical staff find most advantageous—both financially and personally? These types of questions will help you focus the scope of your campaign and achieve a greater ROI.
  • What’s your story, Morning Glory? Direct mail should be used as a form of introduction between a health system and its physicians with new patients. This can be done with a call to action to alert potential patients to a seminar, new service, screening or promotion.”
  • “Gogh” the extra mile. To put it simply, make it pretty. If your direct mail piece lacks visual appeal, it’s likely headed straight from mailbox to trash can. Engage the recipient by serving your message on an attractive platter.

Learn More!

Read the full American Medical News article for more insightful tips.