healthcare advertising

Why most doctors should never advertise

In short: Most doctors should never have to spend money on advertising, because there is a smarter way to develop your private practice. Let’s go over the main reasons why medical marketing in particular offers the potential to do things differently. The outcome? Ongoing business growth without breaking the bank in terms of ongoing advertising costs. 

healthcare advertising

Why most doctors should never advertise

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

April 27, 2022

Do you need an advertising agency?

ad agency for doctors

Before we unpack what happens with healthcare advertising and content marketing for doctors, let’s face a reality that you may be aware of. When doctors discuss business development, the tendency is to speak to an advertising agency. Traditional advertising has a major glitch and it’s important to address the elephant in the room. 

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"Advertising can also be seen as a broker service to sell advertising space in newspapers, broadcast programs, on billboards and in a specialised magazine. As such, the starting point is always the space that you rent, not the business goal you have as a doctor."

To a person with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

The ideal ad agency for doctors looks at the bigger picture and first enquires about your business goals. If your goal is to increase your patient numbers for a specific treatment or procedure and to build your practice around a real leadership status for a sub-specialty… then perhaps advertising is not the first thing to look at.

Let’s investigate what content marketing does for leading doctors and clinics, and then you will be in a better position to assess which advertising solutions you may still need to support your business growth as a private practice owner.

Content: the investment in long-term value

content strategies for doctors

There are hypes and trends in healthcare marketing and healthcare advertising, and then there are sustainable long-term content strategies for doctors. Content in the context of digital marketing is such a thing. Of course, as a doctor, an academic, a surgeon or a scientist, your definition of content is not entirely ours. So let’s do definitions first. 

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"In the context of digital marketing, quality content is defined by information that is contained in a combination of formats: copy, styling elements, graphics, images, videos, headers, titles and meta information for the search engines, and meta information about the website the content is contained by."

I know. What a boring definition of content. What is worth mentioning – and I would even say necessary at the start of every conversation between a marketing expert and a doctor – is this:

  • Content is more than just what you write. It’s how it’s presented.
  • Google is smart and scans the content, the writing style, the structure, the images, the readability, the headers and titles and the loading speed of the website.
  • Great content serves the audience and flags to Google that it is doing so.

That is why here at Digital Practice, we choose content marketing over healthcare advertising. Content can give you organic authority and visibility, often in places that no advertising space can buy you: in the part of the consumer’s brain where trust and rapport, credibility and leadership authority all come together to assist the decision making process. A process that – every day while you are seeing patients – defines whether you will grow a more successful private practice or not.

The marketing tool that allows you to stretch your dollar

sustainable medical marketing

We have established that not appearing in an ad, but in a quality content page on a website, gives you a stronger foundation to establish leadership and authority. But what also helps as you balance out healthcare advertising and medical content marketing, is the fact that marketing is all short-term spend, long-term gain.

Let’s zoom in on that exceptional aspect of sustainable medical marketing, built around the power of patient education and valuable content: the fact that it keeps creating value. 

The careful advice not to jump onto advertising

healthcare ads

Healthcare ads are great if you are selling a product. Lozenges, cough syrup, over-the-counter healthcare products for example. Depending on local legislation, you will need to look into consumer law and healthcare advertising regulations but you can do it. 

As a doctor whose product can best be defined as a treatment or a surgical procedure, your opportunity to get away with ads is smaller.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"Dentistry, plastic surgery and obesity surgery tend to be the typical elective treatments and procedures that support advertising, because there is a strong shopping component to the process that involves choosing a specialist. The pitfall is that you might be perceived as someone who offers attractive packages, not as someone the patient would trust with their health."

Healthcare advertising in mainstream media can be justified if your additional 5 or 10 patients bring in much more than the advertising budget. Google Ads can be a good add-on but may deliver low conversion rates if the pages the ad connects to are not convincing…or only focusing on the offer, not on building rapport and establishing credibility.

The main reason why healthcare advertising is not the most sustainable business investment is its volatile nature. Compared to content marketing, it is renting the most expensive luxury home for a month, while you could have used the money as a deposit toward a reasonably priced dwelling. 

healthcare advertising

The solid advice to start doing content marketing

content planning

Content generates leads while you’re asleep. Or while you are seeing patients. And unlike ads, the clicks don’t cost you extra money. 

Great content on a medical website can do many things, provided it was created through meticulous content planning:

  • The pages create Google visibility because they have been built with the exact Google Search topics in mind, that your patients are searching for.
  • The content generates traffic and engages with new visitors because it presents the information like a quality magazine.
  • Content creates conversations around your clinic as a brand. Conversations that may occur around the dinner table or that may travel to another suburb, when someone simply forwards a link to your amazing page to a friend or relative.
  • Content pages on your website can amplify the intention to give a word-of-mouth referral long after the patient left your care. If you’re easy to find, with quality content that quickly brings back the memory of a great service experience, patients will happily pass on your website link, and so will GPs.
    Content maintains lasting value because Google keeps recognising it as worth ranking high, particularly if you surround the older content with new blog posts or additional pages, so Google also gets pinged when you publish new pages. Freshly updated websites are always flagged as more credible than abandoned ones.It’s like buying versus renting a house. If you rent a house, it’s almost like a paid advertisement impression on Facebook or Google, where the inventory is finite. Once someone refreshes a page or clicks away, you’ve paid for that brand interaction, but it’s replaced by another brand.

Content marketing, from the perspective of a doctor in private practice, is really buying yourself the gift that keeps on giving. It’s owning digital real estate that lives on your medical website, and on the search engines results page. Yes, there is a cost to produce and build this highly optimised medical content, but after that it’s yours and it keeps generating leads and conversions.

It’s like buying a decent block of land or a house to see its value increase year after year, looking back at those years of expensive renting without getting any equity as a result.

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should doctors advertise

There are situations where some healthcare advertising is useful to drive additional traffic to your practice. But in most situations, your practice is in a position to create ongoing growth with a strong focus on content marketing, avoiding the pitfalls of pay-per-click (they click but I don’t see any new patients because of it) or other types of mainstream advertising. Every situation is different, so book a free 1:1 Strategy Session to discuss your patient lead generation and practice growth.

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