Doctor Marketing: How to Integrate Doctors Into Your Marketing Programs
Doctors are central to the success of virtually every multi-location healthcare practice and health system we work with. Moreover, today’s doctor partners have strong opinions about marketing and growing their locations within the larger business.
Some of the hospitals and multilocation practices that engage our agency have doctors, executives, investors, and other stakeholders aligned around their brand strategy and marketing plan.
However, others do not.
For example, a fast-growing PPM (physician practice management company) or DSO (dental service organization) might include dozens of doctors who recently owned their practices. Each practice previously had its own name, systems, and marketing programs. In these situations, doctor partners are often reluctant to give up control and sometimes expect more than their “fair share” of marketing support.
Therefore, organizations need to involve their doctors, build trust, and continuously work to gain alignment.
Are your doctors’ marketing initiatives aligned with your organization’s vision and brand identity? Do your doctors look, sound, and feel like they are a part of your organization?
If not, it’s time to communicate a clear, comprehensive, and overarching marketing plan to your doctors and get their buy-in and compliance.
Before you can effectively promote individual doctors within your multilocation business or encourage them to engage in self-promotion, you must develop a comprehensive and strategic marketing plan—and get your doctors on board.
This plan serves as a roadmap for the organization and individual doctors. It should ensure that its marketing initiatives align with the organization’s vision.
A lack of planning and doctor buy-in can lead to discord across your entire organization, often resulting in chaos and inefficiency.
Determining the most effective approach to market your business is the first step. Your marketing plan should include vital components such as
- Target audience
- SWOT analysis
- Various marketing strategies (e.g., digital, traditional, HCP referral, patient experience, PR, and branding).
A classic dilemma for multilocation practices is how and when to merge individual practice brands into the larger new brand.
Should each office keep its identity forever, temporarily during the transition, or merge into the larger master brand?
The “house of brands” strategy includes several individual brands within the organization. The “branded house” merges all brands into a single organizational brand.
Your brand structure choice will set the tone for all subsequent marketing decisions.
Building a “branded house” for your business creates a confident and unified brand identity across all providers, platforms, and offerings. It is also more cost-effective.
However, a "house of brands" approach is sometimes more appropriate. Smaller brands can create a community feel and reduce organizational reputational risk should something go awry at one of your locations.
Learn more about branding multilocation practices here.
Once your organization has established a clear marketing plan, it must be “sold” to your individual doctors.
Doctors wield significant influence over each other, especially regarding professional fulfillment, organizational factors, and quality of patient care.
Without their buy-in and compliance, your marketing plan will not work optimally, making it more challenging to scale your marketing efforts and achieve goals.
We recommend forming a sub-committee of a handful of trusted doctors who are passionate about marketing well. Involve them in your planning process and incorporate their needs, wants, thoughts, ideas, and preferences where appropriate.
When doctors feel valued and respected, they are more likely to become brand advocates and persuade other providers within the organization to embrace corporate guidelines, policies, and best practices.
To enjoy long-term marketing success, your plan must be regularly refreshed, “re-sold” to doctors (by presenting successful data and results), and supported by the right staff.
Whether you manage 10s or 100s of provider locations, you need experienced internal support to lead and scale your marketing efforts.
The right person can help doctors market their location more effectively while staying within your corporate guidelines.
In most cases, one of the best ways to start is to hire a director-level marketing professional. This individual can help execute tasks, manage and work with your healthcare marketing agency, and support doctors one-on-one as needed.
A director is ideally positioned to command respect from providers and be self-motivated to execute tasks as needed.
A word of caution: Avoid hiring too high in the hierarchy, too early. A Chief Marketing Officer for a younger business probably won’t make sense because those businesses require a lot of task-oriented work to support your providers and help them grow.
Healthcare marketing agencies play a vital role in achieving business goals, but delegating smaller, more intimate tasks to an internal marketing professional is essential.
Let’s explore this division of duties more closely.
How can your organization avoid chaos and protect the integrity of your brand while giving doctors the flexibility to promote their business to their community?
Identify which responsibilities should be managed at the organizational level and which ones your doctors can manage while adhering to brand guidelines and best practices.
Typically, critical marketing functions must be led by your marketing agency and internal team. These may include the website, paid search, paid social media, traditional advertising, SEO, and more.
At the same time, you can enable doctors who want to be more involved and promote their own practices on an individual level.
Below are ways executives at hospitals and multilocation practices (who engage marketing agencies) can partner with, empower, and encourage doctors to create on-brand content for their local marketing campaigns.
- Involve them
Solicit their input, understand what their needs are, and secure buy-in on policies, procedures, guidelines, and best practices
- Educate them
Provide guidance on how to build and maintain personalized marketing initiatives
- Show them
Create a marketing plan and show them your vision
- Help them
Take everything you can off their plate and create a scalable solution with an external marketing agency (e.g., paid ads, main website, broader strategy, call tracking, etc.)
- Communicate with them
Identify or hire an internal—dedicated—resource to respond to requests and inquiries (e.g., content updates, content changes, event planning, etc.)
- Assist them
Implement a centralized call center so they can focus on maintaining and improving the quality of patient care
- Inform them
Provide access to and analysis of reporting regularly so they understand how all marketing efforts are going
- Convince them (over and over again)
Regularly promote your marketing program and highlight all wins to maintain doctor interest and underscore the importance of these efforts
In many multilocation healthcare businesses, a handful of doctors will want to promote their own practices beyond the agreed-upon standard.
If your doctors have expressed an interest in taking a more significant role in marketing their products, services, and expertise—your healthcare organization can create templates and guidelines that allow them the flexibility to promote their unique strengths and offerings in their local market—while remaining aligned with the organization's look, feel, tone, and message.
Here is how you can maintain brand consistency while helping them achieve their unique business goals efficiently and smoothly.
- Social media engagement
Encourage them to post and share on-brand organic content aligned with the organization’s social media policies, guidelines, and best practices and use approved assets (e.g., imagery, graphics, fonts, content).
- Community involvement
Help them create community events or get involved with local health fairs to engage with their community and reach strategic business goals.
- Internal marketing
Teach them to do smaller, more personalized marketing tactics that complement organizational efforts.
- Patient and referring physician engagement
Encourage doctors to
- Ask patients for referrals
- Ask patients for reviews
- Build relationships with referring physicians
- Train staff to handle calls more efficiently (e.g., call scripts and proper triaging) to increase conversions
You can also help your doctors earn press mentions or appearances and help them enhance awareness and engage within their community.
Work with—not against—your providers who are passionate about growing their business, comfortable with self-marketing, confident with their marketing skills, and want to continue doing their own marketing.
Give them marketing support and opportunities to promote their unique products, services, and expertise in local markets.
When you leverage this passion, give them the flexibility they desire, and make them an integral part of your strategic marketing plan, everyone wins.