Finding the Right Time to Talk to Doctors

Photo credit: Kengo/Creative Commons

Time is everything, yet no one has enough of it. But especially in healthcare marketing, time and timing win customers. 

Dr. Suzanne Koven drove that point home last month in the New England Journal of Medicine. She describes her struggles rationing her time and emotional energy in an article titled “The Doctor's New Dilemma.” This story isn't unique to her; she just tells it well. Go read it, I'll wait….and now that you're back, let's look at why it's relevant to you.

Social media creates time.

I would have missed this story if not for Twitter. I don't follow the NEJM on Twitter. I don't subscribe to the journal. I'm not on its target list. They don't email me tables of content. If they had, the title — likely buried in the middle of a text-heavy email — wouldn't have stood out. 

My social community saw it, though, so I saw it. Social media gives me time. Instead of having to spend time searching for information, the social community I curated discovers for me and brings me value. Likewise, you can (and should) leverage social media to give your customers time. They'll appreciate it. 

Doctors are people first and customers a distant second.

Koven's article noted that doctors are almost too busy to be people first. When they finally get out of the office, you know what they do? The same things we do: Hang out with family, enjoy their hobbies, read. Most of that reading isn't CME or materials about phase II clinical trials. It's The New York Times over a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning. 

On a Friday last July, a brand manager I know chaired a call between editorial and legal to approve a nuanced subject line for an email campaign. She was hurrying things along, champing at the bit to head to the shore. You know what? In July your customers don't want to read your email any more than you want to write it. They're heading to the shore, too.

Connect with them…but only when they're ready to connect.

Have you ever been to a churrascaria, or Brazilian-style steakhouse? It's a great metaphor for time-based pharma marketing. You get a disk when you walk in—red on one side, green on the other. Flip to green and waiters will bring you meat on sticks, until you turn the red side up. So simple. Green means go.

Think of medical conferences as churrascarias where all the medical professionals have their disks flipped to green. They want to engage with content, people, and ideas. During the three-day American College of Cardiology's annual meeting last year, an average of 5,330 tweets a day referenced the conference. Compare that to an average of 184 tweets per day before and after the conference, from the entirety of Twitter, on heart failure. This stat shows that cardiologists engaged when they were ready — not before and not after. Green beat red 32 to 1.

Your audience only flips to green about five days a year. Find those spots. Twitter hashtags or Google AdWords will show you when your audience is active or searching — and those times coincide with conferences. The pattern in every market looks pretty much like the one in this chart. Marketers who don't use social to connect with their customers when they raise their hands are missing on their best opportunity. 

Deliver time. Time is everything. People want more of it. Leverage the tools that give people more time. And when the time is right, feed them. People with time, like people whose disks are flipped to green, are hungry and longing to be fed. 

Charles Benaiah is CEO of Watzan.