marketing is not medicine

Marketing is Not the Same as Medicine

I read something recently about “the doctor method” of positioning yourself as an expert. If I understand it correctly, this is a way of positioning, marketing, and selling your business and services by presenting your recommendations to your client in the same way a doctor tells his or her patients how to fix what ails them. Which I take to mean, as an advisor whose expertise is above question.

This is excellent advice. It can help elevate you from vendor to advisor or trusted partner, which of course has a range of benefits, not least of which is increased pricing power. 

However, success with this kind of approach requires thoughtful and careful execution. (So if you’re considering adopting this kind of marketing, read more deeply about it than my quick summary above.) 

Why “Doctor Positioning” May Not Be For You

The danger with this approach is that for many of us, it’s difficult to back up any claim to absolute authority because there is no system built around what we do that inspires the same trust that the doctors have. (The fact that the healthcare industry has taken a credibility hit in our culture over recent years is another story entirely.) 

Contrast your own credentials with those of a doctor. He or she has years of specialized education, intensive training under the guidance of experienced practicing professionals, rigorous testing, and requirements for on-going certification. 

That’s why, whatever our misgivings about how the healthcare industry is evolving, we trust that our doctors know what they’re talking about. 

If you work in a field that has the same kind of systems, or if you happen to be in a situation where you have quantifiable, undeniable qualifications, you probably can’t go wrong with “the doctor method.”

For the rest of us, we need to be absolutely certain that our marketing does more than make unproven claims of expertise. Ideally, we demonstrate our expertise to win our prospects’ confidence rather than telling them we’re experts. Well crafted marketing content is an effective way to make your point without making unsubstantiated claims.

However, there’s another hurdle we have to overcome that doctors usually do not: your doctor isn’t selling you anything.

Sales Proposals vs. Diagnoses

When you meet your doctor, you’ve already agreed to pay him or her for their opinion and recommendations. Whatever happens after that is often independent of their fee, whether it’s making lifestyle changes, adjusting medications or doses, or seeing a specialist. The doctor isn’t selling anything other than his expert opinion. 

In contrast, most marketers are selling a service that is based on our expertise. Our “diagnosis” is often part of a proposal that is, of course, meant to present our services and make a case for their value. That’s quite different than the separation between a doctor’s opinion and how he or she gets paid. 

Two thoughts come to mind to help bridge the credibility gap and eliminate the appearance of any conflicts of interest. 

Content Marketing’s Role in Establishing Expertise

The doctor method works best when you’ve established your expertise, can outline the information you’ve used to arrive at your conclusions, and can tie your recommendations in to the pain that the prospect is experiences and problems they are trying to solve. 

Though there are a number of ways to do this, including social proof and being recognized by other respected experts, a library of content that is tailored to each audience segment you are targeting is perhaps the most effective. If that content simultaneously provides value to your prospects and demonstrates that you understand and have experience solving the issue they are grappling with, marketing yourself as an expert has a much greater chance of succeeding.

The Value of Paid Diagnostics 

It’s also worth considering the value of being paid for your expertise. 

You can wow prospects with an in-depth proposal, but beyond a certain point, you deserve to be paid for expertise. When you reach the point in your sales process where you’re providing advice tailored specifically to a prospects particular needs — the point where a doctor might say, “I’d like to run some more tests.” — you should probably be saying, “Here’s our fee for digging deeper into this issue with you and helping you create a solution tailored to your desired outcomes.”

That may be a shift in your thinking — and a big shift in prospect expectations in some industries — but can reap great benefits as you seek to position yourself as an expert, medical or otherwise.

Occasional large-scale changes can re-invigorate a marketing plan that’s beginning to falter and can provide a blast of inspiration that ripples out through the rest of your marketing. 
By the way, if you’re interested in hearing some of my podcast and radio appearances, you’ll find a few of them listed on the Andigo website.

Andrew Schulkind - Marketing for Small B2B Businesses

Photo by Owen Beard on Unsplash

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