Yesterday I asked a physician client "What do you think of when you think of marketing?"
I wasn't surprised at her response of "used car salesman, someone full of hype, sleazy, fast-talking, obnoxious". I might have even replied that way myself, early on in my business!
My physician client was embarking on a new and different non-clinical business and she was encountering, for the first time, the challenge of selling her services.
She was taken aback when I asked her to consider that she had been in full marketing and even "selling" mode for years as a physician. Whenever she had recommended a treatment or surgery for a patient, she was "selling" her expertise to someone who was relying on her to provide a solution for her problem. In her white coat, surrounded by the tools and trappings of her profession, with her attentive listening and probing and thoughtful recommendations, she was a master-marketer without even realizing it.
I heard it said that marketing is everything you have to do to make the sale easier. Going back to my client, let's look at how she was unintentionally marketing herself.
- She used her white coat, stethoscope, examining room and medical paraphernalia to brand herself - done well, all of these items led the patient to perceive and believe that she was a competent medical professional.
- She made the patient the focus of her questioning, to elicit information that would help her recommend a specific set of options to address and resolve the patient's problem. She didn't jump in with a "sales pitch" about a recommended surgery or treatment UNTIL she had a clearer understanding of the appropriateness of her recommendations.
- She engaged in a trust-building conversation, educating the patient about her problem. This resulted in my client recommending treatment options that she could either deliver herself or refer the patient to get elsewhere. The patient was now primed to make an informed decision!
Imagine my client's relief when she caught a glimpse, however brief, of herself as a capable, competent marketer who regularly "closed deals" with patients.
To take the "ugly" out of marketing, here are some ideas to consider, drawn from your experience as a good physician. This applies no matter what your business is:
- Figure out your brand. What do you wish to convey to your potential buyers? What symbols, artefacts, logos, taglines, or personal presence will you deploy, to begin the process of convincing others of your legitimacy and value? Remember, people form an impression of you and your company in a couple of seconds.
- Understand the needs, desires, fears and concerns of your prospective customers or clients. Take the diagnostic approach - ask good, polite, probing questions first, before feeling the pressure to come up with a recommended solution!
- Propose your solution as a legitimate offer of help, if their needs match your ability to deliver the "treatment". If not, then refer them to the correct person who can help them. This will do wonders to enhance your image as a caring professional who has the client's best interest at heart. That's quite a reversal of the used car salesman image, isn't it?
Having been marketing-phobic when I first started my coaching business, I empathize with the fear and discomfort new physician entrepreneurs feel when they realize they have to take pro-active steps to actually get clients or sell products or ideas.
I can, however, offer the reassurance that a) learning to market yourself and promote your services is a lot easier than getting through an internship, and b) it can become a most enjoyable way to engage in a conversation and learn about people who might be eager for your expertise, help and solutions.