Healthcare Marketing 101: How to Sell to Healthcare Professionals


Marketing to Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) just isn’t cutting it from a creative point of view. Why is this area of health marketing so under-served when it comes to ideas and innovation?

If you look at the direct to consumer work that is being done today, you see an incredible shift in the quality of the thinking, the execution and the level of innovation. On the HCP side of the house, the pace is very different, and our industry seems content to serve up work that is old-fashioned and staid.  Many stick with the tried-and-true scientific headline and visual metaphor combo.  Which is then repeated everywhere.

The marketing industry is in danger of losing the attention of HCPs — because the way doctors consume media and content has changed just as much as it has for consumers — and doctors are starting to turn away from the traditional marketing tactics for their information.  Just look at the increasing number of doctors who do not see sales reps.  As a well-known Oncologist once said, “If the data is important enough it will find me.”

That means marketers need to change too, because HCPs are too important to simply offer up mediocrity or have a low bar.

Doctors are time pressured.  There are not enough doctors to serve a growing, aging and, all too often, chronically sick patient population.  Their patients need real help and support.  HCPs also need real help and support.  The marketing industry response?  Bullet point the copy because doctors don’t have time to read. The bottom line is, HCPs are not relating to or relying on the pharma industry the way they once were.

We suggest reevaluating assumptions about how HCPs connect. How are they connecting with their peer group?  How are they using social?  Where do they get their information?  How does the Oncologist quoted earlier expect information to find him? What is the best content for them and how should it manifest?  We need create programs that make it easier for people –both patients and HCPs — to find their way through an increasingly hard healthcare system to get the right treatment to the right people.

It’s time to stop worrying about where the work will appear and figure out what matters most to the Doctor.  What is the emotional and practical opportunity? It’s about putting aside our own prioritization of media channels and prioritizing the development of information that will empower Docs to make the biggest difference to their patients’ lives. Once that’s in focus, we must determine the context in which the messages will best resonate, the places to appear, how to get the timing right to hit HCPs, with the right message at the right time to drive the best possible outcomes.  As marketers turn their job into a service to create new experiences that support doctors in making better, more confident health decisions, then they are truly “helping, not selling”.

By Graham Mills of Digitas Health LifeBrandsa creative agency purpose-built to connect health and wellness brands with peoples’ deep desire to make healthy, confident choices for themselves and for their loved ones. Digitas Health is leading a new wave of thinking around HCP marketing, and the agency partners with Dreamit to provide marketing support and guidance to early stage startups.