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The Biggest Marketing Error Professionals Make

One of my previous clients was a medical specialist. He was well known in his field. A well respected, recognized expert.

His medical specialty had two primary groups of patients. With our two-tier Canadian healthcare system, many of his patients had services paid for by the government, and he also provided additional and ancillary services to patients who paid for their own treatments.

The first group came from referrals, either by other doctors or insurance companies. Naturally, the more recognized he was by his peers and the medical community, the greater the number of referrals.

(I know of some doctors who are so well known and respected, their waiting lists are agonizingly long. One doctor who specializes in bunions has an 18-month waiting period just to see him.)

But the second group came as a result of his own marketing.

When I was hired, my first goal was to conduct an analysis — a diagnosis, if you will — of their current marketing strategy and systems. Within the first few days, the obvious was sticking out like a sore thumb.

His marketing materials all read like jargon-filled articles laced with medicospeak only meant to impress other medical professionals. While his intention was to position himself among his peers to capture more referrals, he used the same language when communicating with his patients.

This is the most common error I see professionals make.

It stems from a desire to be recognized in one's industry. Peer recognition is prevalent in many professions, not just the medical ones. We all crave industry kudos and patrician nods. I see this with lawyers, accountants, web developers, and more.

(Even other marketing consultants, too.)

Most professionals tend to market themselves in the same way to different audiences. Or they mix their messages by appealing to different markets.

Luckily, when I told my client about his biggest roadblock, he understood. He told me he would “dumb down his marketing.” So he did what many well-intentioned professionals have a tendency to do. He simply translated his existing materials for a less-than-sophisticated market.

But this, again, did not solve the issue.

As the famous advertising mogul David Ogilvie once said, “What you say in advertising is more important than how you say it.”

“Dumbing down” or “dressing up” your marketing materials meant for a different market is not going to help sell your products and services. Just because I dress up a hamburger with all the fixings, it's still not going to appeal to vegans.

No amount of clarification will help. (I hate saying “dumbing down.” That term is so disparaging. I used to use it a lot, too. But now I prefer “simplifying” or “appealing to the client's correct level of sophistication.” Not everyone had seven years of medical school.)

It's about communicating as directly and specifically as possible with your market. Using their language.

My client did know his market. I think we all do to a large degree. But he still tried to communicate in a way that:

  1. Flaunts his expertise (wrong goal).
  2. Attempts to attract peer recognition (wrong market).
  3. Conflates his audiences (wrong message).

Many professionals — I'm often guilty of this, too — write their marketing materials with the misguided assumption that clients should understand what they're saying, or that they have the same interest in the field in which professionals operate. Clients won't and don't.

Woo industry peers with your work, your writings in industry journals, your research, your credentials, your accolades, and your awards. But when writing for your clients…

… Write for your clients, not your peers.

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