The Virtual CMO Podcast:
Season 1, Episode 8
Eric Dickmann - Founder/CMO of the Five Echelon Group, Twitter @EDickmann
Gregorio Sanchez - Marketing Specialist, Urge Interactive, Instagram: @thesassymarketer
In this episode of The Virtual CMO podcast, your host Eric Dickmann talks with Gregorio Sanchez about the importance of marketing for physicians and how changes in the insurance landscape are driving more practices to seek new sources of revenue.
Show Notes: The Importance of Marketing for Physicians
In this episode of The Virtual CMO podcast, your host Eric Dickmann speaks with Gregorio Sanchez about the importance of marketing for physicians. As costs have risen and reimbursement from insurance companies becomes more challenging, physicians have been forced to look for new ways of making money. Since many of these new services are cosmetic in nature, they have been forced to adopt new marketing strategies to drive awareness of their offerings, manage customer reviews, and find partnerships to help drive traffic.
Gregorio Sanchez has been working with physicians for the past 8 years at both small and large offices. He brings a unique perspective about the concerns faced by physicians and the problems he's encountered trying to help them implement marketing programs to drive awareness and demand. Gregorio is currently an Account Executive at Urge Interactive in West Hollywood, California.
Gregorio Sanchez can be found on Instagram @thesassymarketer and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/gregoriorsanchez/
Eric Dickmann can be found on Twitter @EDickmann and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/edickmann
Transcript: Season 1, Episode 8
Eric: [00:00:00] Welcome to The Virtual CMO podcast. I'm your host, Eric Dickmann here on the Virtual CMO podcast. We strive to unlock the best marketing practices for small and midsize businesses. We share strategies and tactics from fellow marketing professionals and provide practical advice that you can use to impact your company's marketing trajectory. If you're new to the show, welcome each week, our goal is to improve the value of the content shared here. I hope you'll join us through this journey and become a subscriber to this podcast through your podcast player of choice. Our primary mission here on the Virtual CMO podcast is to pass along insight and have meaningful conversations on topics of interest to marketing professionals. If you have questions, there's a link in the show notes to provide feedback or guest inquiries. Now let's get on with today's show.
This week, I'm excited to welcome Gregorio Sanchez to the podcast. With nine years of experience in the medical field and has worked in many specialties across the full spectrum of medical management from small independent to large healthcare organizations, Gregorio has an intimate understanding of the challenges, medical practices face. We welcome Gregorio to the podcast today. He can be reached on Instagram at thesassymarketer. He's also available on LinkedIn and email@example.com. So let's get started with our conversation with Gregorio Sanchez, Gregorio. Thanks for joining us today.
Greg: [00:01:49] Absolutely Eric, thanks for having me.
Eric: [00:01:51] I know that you're out in California and previous to that, you were here in Orlando, Florida working with physician's practices. And I wonder if you could just tell us a little bit about that experience working with these small businesses and what some of the challenges that you saw, from the perspective of a small business owner. What were they really trying to do in their business from a marketing perspective?
Greg: [00:02:15] Well, from a marketing perspective, it's a very interesting question because I have mainly worked with independent physicians. The main struggle that really has is their competition is a large hospital system. And Orlando, of course, you have Orlando health and you have, Florida hospital, which are among the top 10 hospitals in the country. So when these two giant hospitals are competing against each other and infusing the market with a strong budget to be able to withstand each other's competition.
The ones who really, take an impact in the market are going to be small businesses. And these, independent physicians who don't have those types of resources to compete against these two large hospital giants like Orlando Health and Florida Hospital really do see that kind of ebb and flow in their patient base.
Another strong challenge that these independent physicians face is the reality that their reimbursement from the insurance companies, gets minimized as time goes on. The insurance companies really are requiring more and more from these independent physicians in terms of their documentation and how they see patients and the outcomes that they have with these patients, that it's really affecting their reimbursement.
So on top of not being able to get their brand out into the community to say that they're here to serve, they're really struggling with getting the reimbursement to even think of trying to invest in the community that they serve.
Eric: [00:04:03] So did that mean that a lot of these practices were gearing their services toward a specific kind of patient?
Greg: [00:04:12] Yes. Whenever we think of healthcare, there is a reactive model of care and there is a proactive model of care. The reactive model of care that we're all accustomed to is the model of care where you're sick, you go to the doctor and that reactive model of care is what these insurance companies have been trying to transition into a more proactive model where you go to the doctor for an annual physical, you get a checkup. and you really try to tackle things before they become something that's reactive. Now with physicians having to essentially jump through all these hoops, to mold themselves to this proactive model of care, what they realized, what they started to try to get more into is to say, you know what, insurance companies you don't want to pay us what we deserve we're going to drop you all together and we're going to create a more concierge model of care and a more cash-based approach to try and create our own patient base, where we establish a set minimum per month or whatever the model or program we create. So that we can now take care of our patients and we're not limiting ourselves on the time or the scope and aren't limiting ourselves in terms of what we can actually prescribe. Because a lot of these insurances do have a lot of strict regulations in terms of how providers are supposed to practice. So instead of insurance telling the provider how to practice the provider wants that autonomy to say, I want to practice in this way. I'm going to set up my own concierge model and that's really the golden ticket that a lot of these independent providers are after in terms of trying to build a concierge model where they can create a patient base that can afford this as affordable as they can make it for them because a lot of these treatments and these facilities that they have to build are still very expensive.
Eric: [00:06:09] So they really wanted to emphasize their service levels and what kind of service they could provide to these clients to basically up-level their practice over another practice?
Greg: [00:06:20] Absolutely. The struggle in this, however, is that they are still tied to the insurance companies. So a lot of physicians aside from creating a concierge model of care decided to really go more into the aesthetic space because those are patients that are already accustomed to having to pay out of pocket for those specific treatments.
Eric: [00:06:47] So the aesthetic space being things like Botox treatments or skincare regimens and things like that?
Greg: [00:06:54] Yes. Correct. So if we think of those types of treatments that are facials or anything really in terms of Botox and neurotoxins or facial fillers of the sort for wrinkles and anti-aging or rejuvenation, those treatments were predominantly in the dermatological space.
A lot of dermatologists had laser devices that really helped patients, that they were seeing for maybe rosacea or for skin problems. They started to dive more into the aesthetic realm and really stayed in the plastic surgeon space and the dermatology space. But as decisions, independent primary care doctors or specialty care doctors started seeing this hit from insurance and the reimbursement kind of dwindle.
A lot of these device companies have started to target them and they started to kind of transform their practices to become a hybrid of sorts, to be able to, try, and transition as much as they can into the cash-based payment model.
Eric: [00:08:01] What you're really describing is a physician practice where they were more used to practicing traditional medicines and now they're actually having to become salespeople, marketers. Right? They're having to talk about the value of their brand as a practice, and also talk about the kinds of services that they offered, because these are optional treatments. These are cosmetic treatments. How did that affect how they went to market, how they positioned themselves as an entity to their client base?
Greg: [00:08:29] Yes. Well, this actually creates an entirely new problem for the practice. Essentially, you're seeing a doctor who has marketed himself to other providers. Who've really created relationships with the hospitals and the emergent care in their communities to say, I am a primary care doctor in the area refer to me I'll take care of your patient. You'll get the records and no time you'll be able to make decisions, in terms of this patient's health and we'll have that collaboration. Now, in terms of those relationships, a lot of them, you know, these are their tennis friends. These are, there are country club friends that they've been able to just simply make that connection and they see that flow of patients and it goes both ways, whether it's a primary care doctor or a specialist who does cardiology or neurology, the primary care will refer over to that specialist.
Now, when it comes to marketing for aesthetics, as you mentioned, it is a completely different, positioning. So the doctor is used to not having to invest too much of a budget into marketing other than maybe printing a folder or printing collateral that you'll give to those offices, maybe a notebook that he hands off and pens that he kind of that's his brand awareness. Now in the aesthetic space, they don't realize the transition that they have to do in terms of having to sell the product, having to sell themselves as kind of the conduit to that product, that laser device that's going to either provide body contouring or it's going to help with their, produced, collagen for anti-wrinkle treatment. So there is that struggle. Not only in being accustomed to, market themselves in that way but in feeling like they can still rely on the word of mouth and the relationships that they've built.
Eric: [00:10:32] Yeah, it's a big change when you have to go from a mindset that a pen with your office phone number on it and some business cards at the reception desk are going to be enough for lead generation, right? To really going into a marketing mindset where you're having to say, I've got to get my brand out in front of new potential customers to try to tell them that I offer these kinds of services. It's a real change. So how did you help navigate that with the practices that you work with? How did you get them into this mindset that you've got to invest some money in marketing?
Greg: [00:11:08] Well, there's this big thing where a lot of people think that if you build it, they will come. And, you know, what we really like to rely on is that if you market it and you marketed well and you position yourself with a strong brand identity and you have strong campaigns in the community on different types of platforms then you have the opportunity for someone to hear about you. And if it's strong enough and compelling enough that then they might come. And that's the thing about marketing, unfortunately, there's no guarantee and there are so many agencies out there that, a lot of times they guarantee so much and, you know, they promised the moon and the stars, but ultimately, they under-deliver and that's where it creates a dissatisfaction even more in providers minds in terms of what strategy can they actually take and form.
So my approach with providers is really helping them understand their goals and expectations. The thing about aesthetics is a lot about managing expectations for the patient. The same as important the other way around where we have to manage expectations for these providers to understand that if they're a provider that has a specialty an ear, nose, and throat, for example, and they're bringing on board a device that's for anti-aging, the positioning there is a little challenging because these are two separate specialties that are now colliding that could potentially clash. So depending on their specific unique circumstances, we look at their community and the way that we can position them, whether it's through developing a brand that is cohesive and that weaves a story together, or if it's going to be where they can separate both entities and have almost like a medspa approach to their aesthetic services and continue the healthcare approach to their specialty, whether it's internal medicine or whether it's any other healthcare specialty.
And it's really aligning their expectations with the goals and with what's reasonable in the market, that we help them understand the value of investing so that they can get that return that they're needing so that they can thrive with their practice.
Eric: [00:13:30] Marketing is the engine that drives demand, but too often it takes a back seat to other priorities. Awareness fails to materialize demand drops and sales falter. Don't wait until it's too late to build your brand awareness and demand generation programs. If your company is struggling to put together a comprehensive marketing strategy or simply doesn't have the resources to execute effective campaigns, we'd love to talk. Our goal is to help businesses grow and increase profitability.
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So when we fast forward a little bit you changed from being on that side of the business to now where you are today. You're at a company called urge interactive. You're on the agency side, but you're still dealing with a lot of these, medical practices. So how has it been being on the other side of the fence and now representing an agency to these various practitioners?
Greg: [00:15:11] Well, it's very rewarding to come across those specific physicians who have that mentality that, you know, if they have those pillars in place, strong marketing operations, a strong sales operations, aside from their internal operational, process when it comes to their staff this can absolutely produce great results for them.
And, those physicians that are willing to invest the time and resource in their practice it's really rewarding to see them thrive. There are those physicians who continuously don't see the value and unfortunately, those are the practices that go out of business because they don't have those strong pillars in place.
And, our goal is to educate these practices first and foremost, so that they can make the best decision for their practice. and I do consider myself to be a medical professional in the marketing space. As opposed to a marketer trying to sell to physicians because my goal is to help educate them, among anything else.
Eric: [00:16:16] Oh, I think that's great because you're providing value. you're speaking their language, which I think is crucially important, as opposed to just selling a service. I'm curious as you interact with some of these folks on the phone, what are some of the common mistakes that you see out there. I mean, what are some things that over and over you run into as you're dealing with these different practices.
Greg: [00:16:39] One of the biggest mistakes is not hiring for the job. And, you know, it takes a specific personality to be able to handle a cash-based payment program. And a lot of these practices have someone who's been answering the phone and scheduling the same appointment for years take over their aesthetics division and it really takes a unique personality to make those sales and to speak to those patients and be able to connect them with the right treatment and see if that treatment is ideal for them. So having a strong sales background is important for these practices, having someone who they can trust with those specific responsibilities is very valuable, but also having strong operations, you know, when it comes to sales, being able to have a strong presence on social media Have a strong presence with community partners. If you're a weight loss center, you want to have strong alliances with fitness centers in your community and other places that you can make those connections. A lot of these practices fall in terms of hiring the right person that can be able to execute on all of these things for them.
Eric: [00:17:56] You mentioned social media and one of the things that I've seen when I've interacted with a lot of small businesses is they think that because they have an Instagram account or a Facebook account that they understand social media, but they really don't have a strategy in place for what they're trying to accomplish with their social media.
Do you find that with a lot of your customers as well?
Greg: [00:18:19] Absolutely social media, even though it seems so easy to just take a picture and post with a couple of hashtags, there really is a science behind it and it's not rocket science, but there is a method to the madness. And a lot of times we do encourage practices to have in their office, a social media champion, someone dedicated to taking pictures and testimonials with patients to interact so that the personality of the practices represented well on social, because it can absolutely produce wonderful results, but it has to be cohesive.
The brand story has to be in line with it and you have to be consistent with it, which is where most people fail when it comes to social media, the consistency really is what produces the results.
Eric: [00:19:06] Yeah, that is so true. Do you find too that a lot of these don't really have much of a strategy around SEO? Do they even know what search engine optimization is? I'm sure that they understand at some level the importance of being seen on Google, but do they really understand what that takes?
Greg: [00:19:27] Most providers have heard the words or the terms. SEO is search engine optimization, and there's so much noise around what this is and can be that a lot of them have also been conned into purchasing, maybe 4,000 or $5,000 packages from some small agency and they really haven't been able to explain to them what they're getting from that SEO program or platform. So absolutely they know the word, but they don't understand the meaning.
Eric: [00:19:59] Is there a lot of focus too on online reviews and being seen through ratings or through Yelp or through the Google reviews?
Greg: [00:20:08] Absolutely. And that's where word of mouth is so important. I know there's a statistic that I can't think of off the top of my head, but, you know, people do their research more than ever today and they go on Yelp. They go on Google and they look at the reviews. If you don't have reviews, they might skip you over and go to the next one who does, even if it's only one.
And if you have one review and it's bad then that's absolutely affecting your practice. So we do work with these practices to make sure that they have a process in place where they're capturing these reviews and pushing them through these channels so that they can be seen by other clients or potential clients and gain that trust or that immediate trust just by that review that someone left.
Eric: [00:20:52] That positive word of mouth is so important, especially in this day and age. Do you sense a lot of pushback from customers who say, well, I have a website I invested in that five years ago and not really understand that it's a constant evolution that these things need to be updated, maintained, enhanced over time?
Absolutely. It's a constant. People really don't understand the value a, of a website, which really is a living document that has to be maintained and updated and not just the website itself, but the plugins and Google and all the other search engines that are constantly updating themselves. The website has to be to par and to standard to meet those same updates that others are constantly pushing out. So that is some education that we are constantly providing to these physicians so that they understand, what it means to have a website, a living document, and the maintenance that comes with it.
Would you say that most of these physicians have somebody in their offices that they put in charge of their marketing efforts? You know, maybe it's an office manager. Maybe they hire somebody to do social media or whatnot, or is the preference really to do as much outsourced as possible?
Greg: [00:22:09] A lot of these physicians prefer to keep it in-house as much as possible. And that's where the challenge is because they are also used to having an office manager who kind of runs the show that they can delegate and trust they really do try and keep it in-house as much as possible so that they can have a close eye on these sorts of operations. So there is a lot of skepticism in terms of speaking to an agency. And then also a lot of them have been kind of burned by some agencies. So they have that extra added skepticism and trusting someone else. And that's where a lot of the relationship building and understanding their operations and helping them out with education so that they know that they can trust us or that they can trust someone in this field who really is looking out for their best interests, as opposed to just trying to sell them a program that may not benefit them.
Eric: [00:23:05] When you say that they feel burned, do you think that they were sold something that didn't deliver or that expectations weren't set correctly going into the engagement so they really didn't know what they were going to get out of it?
Greg: [00:23:18] Absolutely. And I think it's a combination of both of those, and that's why expectations are very important to my conversations with the clients that I speak to because I want them to clearly understand what's possible and that unfortunately, nothing is guaranteed, but that we will give it our best shot.
A lot of these physicians, because they don't understand it very well. they may have a specific expectation that they set for themselves that was never clarified. And that's where they themselves might have, you know, felt that their deliverables weren't provided to them in the best way possible.
Eric: [00:23:53] So when you talk to them, do you think there is a reluctance to spend money because they simply don't want to spend money? Do you think it's because they prefer to do things in- house or do you think it's this feeling that they've been burned in the past? What is the hindrance do you think to these physicians spending money on marketing?
Greg: [00:24:14] What is my return on it? That I think it sums it up to what is my return on this investment in marketing? What can you guarantee me? A lot of providers and physicians will say, and a lot of them recognize that nothing is guaranteed and this is the challenge. I mean, this is a challenge that they face when they look at a patient and a lot of them can prescribe a specific drug to combat a condition, but, unfortunately, it's not guaranteed that the patient won't have any side effects that come with that medication. It's not guaranteed that that medication will entirely fix that patient's problems. For certain conditions, there's absolutely some guarantee that they have but that's really where I try to tie in what's familiar to them and how we see the market and how we can help position them. Unfortunately, we can't guarantee anything, but again, we can take our best shot at it to help them get the most out of their investment. What we can do is, comprehensively examine the market and provide them the best feedback, according to our own expertise in it.
Eric: [00:25:19] Yeah, that's great. Do you think that they're willing to give enough time? I think, you know, one of the things that I've seen often with businesses is that they're looking for immediate results. They need, new customers this quarter. Are they willing to give it six months, nine months, 12 months, in order for a marketing program to really materialize that ROI?
Greg: [00:25:40] It really depends on the practice, the size, the location, the community that they're treating, and intending to. So, most of the time, physicians can be patient with the right education and with, the right approach, which is managing their expectations along the way to ensure that they're successful because it is a longterm game.
And that's what we constantly help them understand.
Eric: [00:26:04] Let's switch gears and talk about Urge and what kind of tools do you guys like to use internally for your marketing efforts?
Greg: [00:26:12] So internally we do have a subscription with HubSpot, and that's really where we manage a lot of our internal, day to day operations when it comes to new leads, prospecting leads, and making sure that we stay up to date with our contacts, to help them, as much as possible and make sure that we're available for them. We use, other programs for internal communication, like Slack, and we're constantly looking at new, software that exists to see how we can improve our own processes and our own operations so that we can be more diligent when serving our clients.
Eric: [00:26:47] Now, obviously we're recording this in mid-April. We're in the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic. It's affecting businesses all over, not specifically in terms of your business numbers or anything like that, but how are you seeing interactions with clients at this point? Do you see an eagerness to get back to normal? An understanding that business is going to come back? Has it impacted these physicians, or is everybody just taking a wait and see right now?
Greg: [00:27:14] Because we have clients all across the state, it really depends on the state and the laws that they have or their response to the specific crisis. We absolutely see across the board and eagerness to get back to normal, or to get back to some sort of normal in terms of seeing patients. Some of them really are not. Impacted as much because they are essential businesses in terms of the internal medicine, primary care doctors who see these patients, a lot of them have implemented telemedicine to make sure that they are there for their patients and continue seeing them one way or the other.
But yeah, across the board, we are seeing an eagerness to try and find a way to continue to operate under the circumstances.
Eric: [00:28:00] Now, do you have a lot of partnerships where you work with other companies in the marketing field, or do you do referrals to other companies? How does that work in the agency business that you're working in?
Greg: [00:28:11] Well, partnerships are very important and we do have partnerships with some device companies and are we checking their response through this crisis in terms of how they're communicating via webinars and communications to their current contacts and clients, to make sure that they're providing as much as they can during the crisis in terms of information and how they can continue to thrive under these circumstances.
Eric: [00:28:37] Now, when you deal with your specific clients, is it all a virtual relationship? Do you work with them onsite? How does that work?
Greg: [00:28:45] It is mostly a virtual relationship that we have. And it's really one that we're really good at fostering. We're big on having that human touch. And again, it's really relating it to how these physicians take care of their patients and patient care it's all about experience and making sure that it's one that is very humane and compassionate and personable. And that's really what we like to convey with our providers because we do have, medical professionals at the helm we're very easily able to have that same relationship that physicians form with their patients, we form with their physicians.
Eric: [00:29:28] So I can't let you go today before I ask if you've got one great story about a physician's office that you may have dealt with, where you just kind of rolled your eyes when you saw the kinds of marketing activities that they were involved in does any story come to mind?
Well, you know, I really like to call this cringeworthy.
Greg: [00:29:47] There are so many physicians out there who just have absolutely no marketing technique in place and they have this expensive device where they sometimes do expect people to just walk in the door without having any exposure. there's so many that I, I, you know, I think they've all kind of just clashed into the same, scenario that I constantly see where, you know, they might have a small web builds that probably from early two, thousands has no images and it's just really their name and their address. And it has no sort of information on what specifically they do and who they are and how they can help.
Eric: [00:30:34] Yeah, there's some pretty terrible websites out there. There's absolutely no doubt about that. Some are in desperate need of radical help.
Greg: [00:30:43] Absolutely
Eric: [00:30:45] Gregorio Sanchez from Urge Interactive, thank you so much for being on the Virtual CMO podcast today. I really enjoyed our time together.
Greg: [00:30:54] Thank you so much for having me, Eric. I really appreciate it. And anytime I'm here to help.
Eric: [00:31:00] Thank you so much.
Greg: [00:31:01] You're welcome
That wraps up another episode of The Virtual CMO podcast. Join us again next week for another conversation about marketing. As a reminder, if you'd like to learn more about Virtual CMO services or anything else discussed here today. Please visit us at fiveechelon.com. That's fiveechelon.com.
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Have a great week.