advertising for doctors

Marketing vs advertising for doctors

Do you find yourself using both concepts interchangeably when you discuss lead generation tactics for your practice? The confusion is not just about the words. This is a fundamental distinction to make and we have helped doctors save hundreds of thousands of dollars once we had clarified the differences. 

advertising for doctors

Marketing vs advertising for doctors

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

February 8, 2022

What is the difference between marketing and advertising?

medical advertising

This journey starts with an important distinction. In order to gain a deeper insight into the most effective choices for your practice, we need to unravel a myth first. Marketing and advertising are not the same. 

I like to work with the American Marketing Association’s definitions: Marketing is the process of identifying customer needs and determining how best to meet those needs. In contrast, advertising is the exercise of promoting a company and its products or services through paid channels.

Let’s work through what that actually means for your private practice and how you can comply with regulations and choose a sustainable, long-term strategy that gives you the best return on investment.

Advertising campaigns for doctors

ads for doctors

Here in Australia, full-blown ad campaigns for doctors in traditional media are rare because of the strict AHPRA-regulations for health practitioners. Dentists tend to find it convenient to use radio and TV advertising as well as print to simply pay for space and promote their qualities. 

Advertising is often defined by its format: it sits in space that is paid for, and the reason someone is willing to pay for that space is that the container of the space hooks the audience: the newspaper page with the story of the day, the TV channel that has Neighbours on in a few moments, the radio that just promised you three great hits in a row after this break.

You pay for the space and the volume this outlet promises you will reach by inserting your message into theirs.

There is no market research into the exact needs of those readers, viewers or listeners for shoulder surgery, IVF treatment, endometriosis surgery or breast enhancement. Nor is there any direct way to measure the connection between the money you have spent and the patients you would otherwise have gained through other channels.

In brief: there is no connection with the needs of the market. Advertising works because you spend big dollars on big numbers of people, some of whom might coincidentally be open to what you have to say.

advertising for doctors

Why marketing is so much bigger than advertising

what is marketing for doctors

Let’s unpack this other concept called “marketing” with a particular interest in what that means for you, a surgeon or a specialist doctor in private practice.

If advertising is a slice of the pie, then marketing is the whole pie.

Marketing can be described as everything we do to understand the market, bring your product to the market and get the market’s feedback so you can improve your system and serve your market even better next time. Advertising can be part of that, but it doesn’t have to be.

The essence in the above definition can be unpacked even further:

  • We aim to understand what the patient needs at various stages
  • We make sure their information needs are met at the right moment
  • We measure what they do with the information and how we can finetune the information

We have just created the blueprint for an exceptional marketing strategy for doctors. Well, actually, we already did that 6 years ago when we created Digital Practice, developing a sophisticated marketing methodology for doctors, that has allowed many leading specialists to build the private practice they deserve.

Why everyone speaks about content marketing

content marketing basics

Understanding the market, serving information and measuring could be the textbook definition of content marketing. It’s the Holy Grail of business expertise for doctors, and because nobody at Medical School teaches you this stuff, we have some pretty mindblowing aha moments with our customers when we discuss this in our strategy sessions.

Content marketing for doctors is exactly that:

  • Analysing what patients google for in your niche, whether it’s obstetrics, orthopaedics paediatrics, psychiatry, cosmetic surgery or weight loss. The data is gold and without it, anyone who pretends they do your marketing, SEO or medical website development is taking the mickey out of you.
  • Producing content based on that data: page by page, paragraph by paragraph. Data-driven content production is a blend of journalism and on-page SEO.
  • Measuring what patients do on your website and how this relates to patient numbers.

Content marketing is a one-off investment in this systemised approach, and in the content that supports it. It means that you can then switch off the advertising tap and reap the benefits of your newly found online visibility in years to come.

Do the maths with your accountant, writing off the cost of this strategy over 5 highly profitable business years for your practice, and compare it to the years you were pumping thousands into Mr Google’s pockets!

Hooray. Time for champagne.

How to 3x your practice turnover with this information?

medical marketing basics

The magic happens when you let the engine run for you and keep it in good order. Your medical marketing agency should be a sounding board and a strategic partner to help you go in the direction of your ideal practice. 

More focus on a particular treatment? Simply plan content to increase your visibility. A shift towards more profitable or more enjoyable work? Use the power of data to understand which content is needed to drive more online conversations and fill your practice funnel with the exact type of patient leads you have prioritised in your business plan.

After 1 or 2 years of top-notch content marketing by our team at Digital Practice, select customers have reported turnover increases.

These customers were able to achieve a +200% growth generating 3x the turnover they had before using this level of content marketing.

There’s more good news. Once this system works for you, you maintain it but you don’t have to recreate it over and over again. If you have ever bought half a page in your local newspaper to run your ad, or ordered a television commercial, you’ll know that as soon as the slot is over, the effect wanes pretty quickly.

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Need advice about both?

marketing and advertising consultants for doctors

Advertising or marketing plans? Run them past our team of experts. We will offer unbiased strategic advice with a focus on putting in place a sustainable business growth system for your practice. Book your obligation-free consultation today.

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