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How research transformed the mindset and business success of a medical specialist

Golden Key

Research: The key to successful marketing

How research transformed the mindset and business success of a medical specialist

Dr James Davison* sat in quiet despair. Worse, he was starting to doubt his own worth.

“It’s not like I killed anyone. I’ve trawled through my medical records; the vast majority of my patients have successful outcomes. The rest I just can’t help.”  

A leading medical specialist and surgeon, the level of incoming referrals to his practice had plummeted over the previous three years.

“Where’s it going wrong?”

Research – it always starts there

First principles help solve most business problems. They are the foundation propositions that guide problem solving and decision making.

In marketing, research is a first principle.

It’s quite simple. If you don’t do the research, you don’t know what’s going on. You are making shit up.  Which rarely works.

So, ask them …. And listen

James has two key client groups: patients and referrers. In depth interviews with both groups busted prejudices and revealed insights fundamental to getting the phones ringing again.


  • Patients spend hours online researching their medical conditions and medical specialists.

Your website matters. But make sure it is written for your key audiences and what they want to know. Not some glorified I/we centric resumé laden with jargon and so-what claims.

Your Google rankings matter – are you on page 1 for their search terms?

Your Google reviews matter. Patients read them.


  • Their underlying emotional state was one of anxiety and fear.

Surgery is a big deal. Scary. And beneath that there’s a worry that nothing can be done for them. That they are facing a life sentence of pain.

Emotion drives behaviour; even in business. So be sensitive to what the real drivers are in your clients’ decision-making processes.


  • Patients influence referrals.

Data can provide insight and paint a story. Prior to our research James assumed that patients had zero influence on GP referrals.

In fact, after we had transferred referral data to Zoho CRM we identified that 23% of all referrals were initiated by patients.

Patients were now an important secondary focus for our marketing campaigns.


  • James’ patients spoke in glowing terms about his consultation and after-care process.

Feedback is valuable. For James this was the first time he had any aggregated patient feedback. It lifted his spirits. Gave him renewed confidence.

It was also the first nugget of his value proposition.


  • Many referrers had not met James nor knew anything about him.

This shocked us. Referrals were based on word of mouth and often second or third hand.

If they don’t know you, they don’t care about you and you can be easily replaced by another name. Which was happening.


  • The GPs did want to know more.

About his patient case process, his medical ethos, and to have periodic educational briefings.

“But newsletters don’t work, specialists don’t do that, GPs won’t read them. Specialists don’t visit GPs, it’s unheard of.”

Beware of your own prejudices.

Well written communications, that add value to your readers’ lives and are interesting, are read. They keep your brand front of mind.

Clients and referrers are people first. Relationships are always best built person to person. And your referrers will appreciate the effort you took. Call them, meet them.

The corollary also applies. Marketing by rote, a tick box exercise, does not. It gets chucked.


  • Even medical specialists are under a competitive onslaught.

Medical schools are pumping out ever more GPs and specialists. Then they are out in the marketplace looking for work, for referrals. Times change and if you don’t meet your clients’ needs, they go elsewhere.

Doing something innovative is remarkable.

Without these findings, the marketing activities would have lacked focus and cut-through. Instead, James is now booked out and is smiling again.


To uncover what your market and your clients really want, call me on 02 4023 5859 and let’s talk.

*Name changed to preserve client confidentiality.
Posted on 25 Jul 2019


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