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The Difference Between Marketing and Selling to Patients

Posted On April 1, 2014
April 01, 2014

The Difference between Marketing and Selling to Patients

Increasing revenue should be the goal of any sales or marketing campaign.  Medical practice owners and operators typically fall into to one of two categories when asked about marketing themselves or their services to patients:

  1. We’ve tried it…and it didn’t work.
  2. It works.
We’ve tried it…and it didn’t work.

People who’ve tried marketing themselves or their practice, and believed that it didn’t work make up the majority. At some point in his or her career, a physician was probably approached by a slick advertising salesperson who had “all of the solutions and tools to bring in the new patients.”

There is a steep learning curve when it comes to learning how to best market ones practices, and an advertising salesperson with a briefcase full of shiny options rarely is effective. This type of approach is what has historically given physicians a bad taste about “marketing” themselves or their practices.

There are many reasons why a one size fits all marketing campaign doesn’t work:

  • Not Enough Frequency
    • Marketing needs time in order to be successful. People on average need to see an ad seven times in order to remember it.
  • Improper Tracking
    • Marketing efforts without measurable metrics and statistics is wasted. Be sure that all staff knows what marketing efforts are in the marketing plan, and ensure that everyone from the front office to the billing department inquire how a patient heard about the practice.
  • Ineffective Message
    • Patients don’t care about your new medical equipment with its bells and whistles. But they do care about how it helps them feel better or corrects a medical issue.
  • Wrong Audience
    • The first step in a marketing strategy is to define your target audience so you can cater your message to the appropriate demographic.
The Difference between Marketing and Selling

Many people naively believe that marketing is selling. Besides the goal of increasing practice revenue the similarities end there. Below is a great chart that helps show the differences:

Marketing Sales
Approach Determines potential patient’s needs, and has a strategy in place to meet those needs for the long term relationship. Seeks to force patients to demand the products the physician office currently offers.
Focus Fulfill patients’s wants and needs through products and/or services the company can offer. Fulfill and beat sales volume goals and objectives.
Horizon Measure of success is measured over a longer period of time. Measure of success is short term.
Scope Identifying patient needs (research of current and future trends), creating products or partnerships to meet those needs, and advertise said products or services. Once a product or services has been created for patient need, persuade the customer to purchase the product to fullfill his or her needs.
Priority Marketing shows how to reach to the patients and build long lasting relationship that increase patient buy in and the life time value of each patient. Selling is the ultimate result of marketing.
Identity Marketing targets the construction of a brand identity so that it becomes easily associated with need fulfillment. Sales is the strategy of meeting needs in an opportunistic, individual method, driven by human interaction. There’s no premise of brand identity, longevity or continuity. It’s simply the ability to meet a need at the right time.

Selling is convincing the patient through emotion or promise that he or she “needs” what you have. It is driven by the practice’s needs (patient volume, revenue projections, equipment utilization, etc.). The message can feel and look like the sole motivation is revenue generation.

Marketing nurtures and builds value by addressing needs of the patient or prospective patient non-solicitously.  Successful physician or practice marketing identifies the needs of a target audience, and tailors the value building message to address their individual needs.

Successful healthcare marketing takes time to be effective. You will not see marketing success overnight, as it must be built over time.

Before you worry that your efforts are unsuccessful, be sure to allow enough time for them to work.

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