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Why Marketing is Obsolete for Medical Practices

It’s time to create the distinction between mass marketing and personalized experiences.  


Henry Ford gives way to Michael Dell 


1913 yielded an amazing feat with the first mass production assembly line producing cars in less than two hours. This was a radical improvement that paved the way for mainstream acceptance of automobiles. 1985 marked the first shipment of a personal computer built to the specifications of the user, an equally radical improvement that paved the way for mainstream adoption of personal computers.  


While Henry Ford was the founder of mass production, Michael Dell deserves credit as the founder of mass customization. Dell blurred the line between goods and services, as his computers were built-to-order, typically shipped within several days, and supported so well that the company became the world’s #1 PC maker within 15 years.  


This brief history lesson has huge meaning for how we need to think about attracting and serving customers today. The internet and quantum leaps in computer processing cemented the world moving from analog to digital. As The Experience Economy co-author Joe Pine has often said, “if it can be digitized it can be customized.”  


Are You Marketing to Consumers or the Masses?

In certain areas of commerce, we have already seen the transition from a mass-market approach to Markets of One. With this approach, consumers are served as individuals with unique preferences rather than as another number among consumers that are all willing to buy the identical good or service.    

Nowhere is the potential for customering greater than in the realm of elective medical services. The optical industry has already been doing this for decades. While the mechanics of production are identical, the physical goods produced are one-of-a-kind and unique for each and every customer. This same approach can apply to the services you provide patients.  

Even though the equipment and technique used to perform a treatment or procedure may be the same, the end result has unique meaning and value to the customer. Uncovering this uniqueness requires a re-thinking of how you approach the entire process, from attracting to educating, from performing to conducting post-ops. These are among the many steps of the overall patient experience.

How to Transition to Customer-ing in Your Medical Practice

If you’re tired of marketing and trying to reach the masses, now is the time to think about each customers as its own “market.” I agree that you still need to create awareness of who you are and what you do, so there’s some room for marketing and paid advertising. But if you think less like Ford and more like Dell, what you will find is that your customers will do the marketing and advertising for you without you having to ask.  
I close this blog with several examples to serve as thought starters:

  1. Say Their Name –  A personalized experience begins with respecting the individual and their name. Use it early and often when engaging with each customer.  
  2. Learn Their Story – Everybody has a reason when exploring options in medical services.  Your ability to uncover that story is critical and your chances for success go way up when you shift from telling to asking. Using inquiry and curiosity to learn about your customer unlocks the personal inherent value they are seeking for their lives.
  3. Celebrate Their Success – For elective surgical procedures that tend to be “one and done,” we’ve largely failed to ask the customer over a longer period of time how the experience they had has impacted their lives. This is a lost opportunity to capture the magic of that moment in ways that helps generate more customer-ing ideas (it gets less awkward the more you think it and say it!).

The Future is Customer-ing

Markets of One are all around us. Starbucks says there are more than 80,000 ways to order a cup of coffee. Etsy allows you to peruse and purchase customized artwork. Netflix dutifully keeps track of what we watch so it can recommend new programming we might enjoy. Indeed, Pine has told me that he believes there are no longer markets or marketing.  There are only customers and customer-ing.

Now, please excuse me while I order my “half caff iced venti latte with skim milk and extra foam. Light on the ice.”  

Want more ideas for creating personalized patient experiences?

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