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.

Subscribe to our blog

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.

Sign up for updates!

Sign up for updates!

Get marketing tips delivered straight to your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!