How to Market to Doctors & Physicians: Step 1

ByRachelle R. Sowell

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Marketing to doctors, physicians, surgeons, and other health care professionals can be extremely challenging, complicated, and expensive. What’s more, most doctors work in a hospital or multilocation medical practice, making it even more challenging to identify key decision-makers.

Not only are doctors and decision-makers difficult to reach—and even more difficult to persuade—you have to contend with a ton of competition. 

The B2B marketing strategy you use has to stand out. 

The good news is you can find success through many of the best practices marketers have proven over the years. 

Today’s traditional and digital marketing technologies offer unprecedented opportunities to reach physicians and other health care professionals cost-effectively—and at scale.

The fact is, people in every industry want to market to doctors. 

Generally speaking, doctors control large sums of money both professionally and personally, making them a highly desirable target audience for pharmaceutical companies, device and supply companies, SaaS, and even those outside the healthcare industry, like real estate brokers and investment advisors.

Now that you know a little bit about why marketing to doctors is challenging—and that seemingly everyone wants their attention—let’s look at how to market to doctors, including five ways you can dial in your marketing strategies and stand out.

How to Market to Physicians and Doctors in Five Steps 

As marketing to doctors is such a vast topic, we’ve developed a 5-part blog series to help people in virtually every industry successfully market to physicians and other health care professionals. This is the first blog in the series.

  • Step 1: Define Your Doctor Audience 
  • Step 2: Create Digital Marketing Campaigns 
  • Step 3: Develop & Promote Content that Markets to Doctors 
  • Step 4: Implement Marketing Strategies to Build Doctor Referrals or Direct Sales
  • Step 5: Track, Measure, and Optimize

Step 1: How to Define Your Doctor Audience 

There are more than one million active physicians in the United States. It would be impossible—and foolhardy—to market your products and services to all of them in the same way.

Narrowing this huge audience into highly-relevant market segments is a critical factor for success. The more precisely you define your target audience, the more effectively you can market your products and services to them.

Here are two ways to define your doctor audience:

  1. Target your best prospects
  2. Enhance your database to target more precisely

1. Target Your Best Prospects

The best way to target your best prospects is to define the type of clients you want to acquire by assessing your existing customer base. The best customers are the ones that are the most profitable, stay the longest, expand service, and recommend your products or services to others.

Here are a few basic categories you can use to begin analyzing your existing customers:

  • Setting and size (hospital- or practice-based physicians)
    The smaller the organization, the more likely physicians will be the decision-makers. However, it’s important to note that medical practices are consolidating at an alarming and ever-increasing rate. So much so that private practice has become an “endangered species.” In fact, nearly three in four doctors work for a hospital, health system, or corporate entity today, according to Avalere Health.

    While you may still have private practice doctors on your lead list, the majority are probably employees of a much larger system. Here are a few key settings to consider:

    • Government employees
    • University or large-scale health organizations
    • Hospitals and clinic-based practices
    • Medical groups
  • Geography
    Depending on your product or service, Geography may or may not be a factor in your marketing strategy. Here are a few examples of when it could be critical:
    • Your target doctors treat conditions that primarily occur in specific areas.
    • You’re selling a product or service regulated by the state (or county).
    • You’re selling a product or service with significant state or local competition.
  • Gender
    Understanding whether your target audience is predominantly male or female will guide your marketing message.
  • Age (stage of career)
    The places you choose to market is largely dependent on the age of your target audience. Younger doctors are more likely to leverage online tools like email, LinkedIn, live chat, and other online platforms whereas older doctors may still prefer in-person meetings or sales calls.
  • Title
    Segmenting your database by job title may allow you to target employed doctors and physicians in certain roles as well as those that are most likely key decision-makers.
  • Role
    Now that you’ve defined which doctors you want to communicate with, it’s important to understand that doctors wear multiple hats. Your next decision is to determine how to best engage with or appeal to them:
    • Doctor-as-physician
      When engaging with doctors in this capacity, focus your messaging around patient safety and well-being to appeal to the doctor-as-physician sensibilities and establish trust and credibility.
    • Doctor-as-businessperson
      Remember this role, especially when targeting private practice doctors, as most are also business owners. Discuss how your product or service can enhance patient well-being first, but be sure also to highlight the economic benefits of your product or service.
    • Doctor-as-human
      It’s easy to forget, but doctors have lives outside medicine, too, with husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, houses, mortgages, cars, etc., so keep that in mind and appeal to their lives outside of work when marketing relevant products and services.

Once you have this information at a corporate level, you can identify where you’d like to focus your prospecting efforts and deploy this information to support your sales field rep’s efforts. 

2. Enhance Database to Target More Precisely 

More data is always better. Once you have a targeted list, it’s time to enhance each consumer’s data to make it even stronger. 

Instead of relying on assumptions and flimsy correlations, statistically significant data results in more granular targeting and better results (e.g., click-throughs, conversions, etc.). 

Take your targeting game to the next level by expanding the depth and breadth of data you collect. For example, licensing lists from reputable providers and vendors is extremely important for B2B marketing success.

Find, track, and merge the following data into your CRM (consumer relationship management) platform or database to improve your targeting capabilities:

  • Purchase life cycle—Segment your audience based on which stage they are in the buying journey. 
  • Sales field representatives—Include any data or insights they’ve provided that could enhance your database.
  • Buyer personas—Is there any information your marketing team could translate into models to create personas for your target prospects?
  • Claims data—Identify and segment your audience based on what diseases, illnesses, etc., doctors are treating most often.
  • Referral patterns—Identify and segment your audience based on where doctors often refer their patients.
  • Prescription data—Identify and segment your audience based on the medications doctors prescribe most often.
  • Merge data from multiple sources—Identify and segment data from validated external resources (e.g., email lists, subscription services) to uncover critical contact information. The email address they use most often may not be their public-facing address.
  • User-provided data and online behavior—Analyze and segment your audience based on where your target audience is going online.

When you have a clearly defined audience backed up by timely, relevant data, you can more effectively employ sophisticated digital marketing campaigns to market to doctors. 

Step 2 is next in this blog series, where you’ll learn how to create winning digital marketing campaigns using advanced marketing automation techniques to support your sales efforts further.