How To Keep Doctors From Killing Your Advertising

By Jonathan David Lewis

Physicians are a unique breed in marketing because, unlike most of us, they usually really are the smartest people in the room. But the very thing that makes them capable of performing near-miracles on a daily basis is what makes them really bad, no-good, horrible marketers.

They are trained to diagnose and treat patients, not walk in their shoes.

Physicians are ruthlessly trained to objectively consider multiple symptoms, make detached diagnoses, rely on peer-reviewed, evidence-based processes, prescribe scientific treatment plans, and never, ever let emotion get in the way of good decision-making. 

In other words, the perfect recipe for terrible marketing. 

By contrast, marketing best practices call for being consistently subjective, becoming intimately familiar with the perspective of your audience, constantly innovating beyond current “best practices,” and always, always connecting to the emotions of those you’re trying to reach.

In short, the complete opposite of good medicine.

Perspective isn’t just the most important thing in communication; it’s the only thing. And once you’ve lost it, it’s impossible to make good marketing decisions. Where science and medicine tell us to disregard unreliable emotion and subjectivity, effective human communication demands we dive in to the deep end.

By asking physicians to make subjective marketing decisions, review creative messaging, and take risks on never-tried-before tactics, you’re asking them to betray everything they have been trained to hold dear.

So as a marketer, how do you create great marketing when physicians are involved? First, don’t worry. There is hope. It has been done before and can be done again. By implementing the three methods below, you can work towards effective marketing that is both creative and accepted by your physician stakeholders.

Work on the Relationship

Regardless of what people may think, doctors are people too. And they come with all the emotions and feelings that other humans do. Instead of trying to argue your way to success, first build a relationship with your physician stakeholders. They are far more likely to take a chance on a person than an idea. So first, be that person.

Continuing Education

If there is one thing physicians understand, it’s continuing education. Just because physicians don’t naturally understand good marketing doesn’t mean they can’t learn. Invest in helping your physician stakeholders understand what makes good marketing good, and plan on continuing the process in perpetuity.

Show Respect (and Demand It)

I would likely kill a patient if tasked with performing a surgery tomorrow. But I can create a marketing plan in my sleep. There is a reason your physician stakeholders are sitting in their chairs. They worked hard and earned it. Show respect where it is due. But don’t stop there. There is a reason you’re sitting in your chair too. Demand the respect you deserve as a professional marketer, and lead with confidence. Let the physician perform the surgery, and the marketer communicate the message.

In the end, getting physician buy-in is a lot like communicating with your consumer; focus on understanding and empathizing with your target, show them the deepest respect, and plan on getting out of it what you put in. 

Jonathan David Lewis

President and author, Jonathan specializes in the spirit of the matter. Call Jonathan when problems feel ambiguous and morale is low. He’ll know what to do.

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