Zed Williamson

How to Know if You’re Wasting Money on Commercials for Your Practice

Running a commercial to advertise a medical practice is common these days. What’s not common?

Running a commercial to advertise a medical practice is common these days. What’s not common? Getting a good return on those commercials.

Unfortunately, many physicians and practice owners fail to know how to capture their audience’s attention in a way that leads to ROI.

But we’re going to help you overcome that in this article.

In fact, when you understand how attention works, and how to apply that knowledge, you’ll see an interesting shift: your commercials actually lead to increased appointments!

The signal vs. the noise

Let’s start with a familiar example: an operating room.

An operating room is a busy place. The bright lights, beeping machines, and muffled voices of the surgical team can all add up to a lot of sensory input. But despite the distractions, you tune them out and concentrate solely on the task at hand. How is this possible?

The answer lies in your brain's ability to filter out irrelevant information and prioritize what is most important in a given situation, thanks to a filtering mechanism called the reticular activating system (RAS).

The RAS makes your brain choose the surgical procedure ahead of you as the most important activity in that moment, and filters out the other distractions so you can focus.

Now, let’s make this analogy as obvious as possible:

Your bland commercial is a beeping machine in the background

QUOTE: “The factor most likely to determine a person’s choice in a situation is not the one that counsels most wisely; it is one that has been elevated in attention.” — Robert Cialdini

Just as the RAS filters irrelevant information in the operating room, it also dictates how we process advertising and other media. It tunes out most of the ads and commercials we see, determining what is important to us and prioritizing that information.

This is why some commercials are able to grab our attention while others are easily ignored.

In this analogy, your commercial is a beeping machine in the background for your audience — rather than the surgery, as it should be.

It comes down to a matter of connection and relevance:

●  If a commercial speaks to the things that really matter to us in that moment, our RAS is more likely to categorize it as relevant and make us pay attention.

●  On the other hand, if a commercial fails to register as relevant, we filter it out.

The problem is, you’re probably making the wrong assumptions about what’s “relevant.”

Why audiences ignore your ads:Are you making these 4 mistakes?

Based on the number of advertising reviews we’ve done with clients over the years, odds are, you’re wasting money with your current messaging –resulting in paying thousands of dollars for ads that fail to make it past your audience’s filters.

In fact, 97% of medical commercials are doomed before they get out of the gate (most only succeeding with the most active subset of buyers), mostly due to mistakes like these:

1. You open with a statement about your company

From the start, you’re failing to capture attention.

Each piece of an ad needs to compel the audience to pay attention to the next piece of the ad. If you start it off with generic company messaging or the same cliched points everyone else is making, the viewer’s brain is going to immediately file it away as “Unimportant: Ignore.”

Example of this mistake:

“At Surgical Associates XYZ, we help you alleviate pain….blah blah”

Ugh. It’s all about you. If you open with your name, your logo, or statements about your company (or feature these things prominently in the ad), it tells the viewer it’s about you, not them. In fact, viewers would probably be more captivated by a blank screen. After all, at least a blank screen is mysterious.

2. Your messaging is generic

If you’re running the same playbook that every other practice runs (i.e. regurgitating the same messaging that every other medical commercial uses), you might as well tuck your audience into bed, because you’re putting them to sleep.

So, if your commercial messages sound anything like these, you have a problem:

●   "Your health is our top priority"

●   “We aim to understand your medical needs”

●   "Cutting-edge technology"

●   "Trusted by the community"

●   "Compassionate care for all"

●   "Experienced and qualified doctors"

●   "State-of-the-art facilities"

●   “We work with you to build a care plan that works for you”

●   "Dedicated to providing quality care"

●   "We put patients first"

Imagine you got on a plane and they announced your flight is being handled by a “fully trained” pilot. Would you really feel safer?

3. You’re using a “hope for the future” angle as a promise.

Commercial messages tend to lean towards hope for the future as a promise, as in “it’ll be better later.”

But if this intangible “better future” was actually compelling, would there be any smokers? The reason to quit smoking is for future health: people know it’ll kill them someday, but that’s not enough to get them to quit.

QUOTE: Humans are not driven towards behavior change from abstract future promises, but pain or pleasure in the here and now. It sounds counterintuitive, but that’s what gets results..

When a smoker has an immediate pain, like a health scare that creates a visceral fear, or a worried child, they quit much more easily.

So, an effective commercial message would identify with their current pain, NOT to simply tell them they’ll be better after visiting you.

When someone identifies with a pain you’re feeling right now, your brain lights up and says “hey, pay attention to this, this could be important..”

4. You’re appealing to logic, rather than emotion

While most people like to think they make smart, logic-based decisions, the truth is, all humans make decisions with emotion first. Our emotions compel us to a choice, then we find data to back that up.

Yet most commercials operate on the assumption that people make decisions logically. 

For example, consider a patient who is deciding between two surgeons to perform a procedure. The patient is presented with two pitches:

Surgeon B might describe the patient's worries and fears, how they were able to ease those concerns and support them through the procedure, perhaps even the grateful smile and relief on that patient's face when they saw the successful outcome. 

The emotional appeal of the second surgeon, who spoke directly to the patient's concerns and was able to connect with the patient on a personal level, is more likely to be chosen than the first surgeon with the logical explanation.

If you try to logically explain why you’re better, or why someone should use you, you’re talking to the wrong part of the brain. Emotional is what makes them believe, so target it.

Why do practices continue to run ads with mistakes like these?

There's really only one of three reasons why you have a message like this:

  1. The company who created the commercial doesn’t know better.
  2. The company DOES know better, but didn’t do anything about it.
  3. The company knows better, and told you, but YOU didn’t do anything about it. Sort of like a non-compliant patient. (We typically aren’t going to work with companies like this)

If you think you fall into slots 1 or 2, you’re probably ready for a change. Consider learning more about TrackableMed’s fast, proven direct to patient advertising approach, which can help you get results in a matter of weeks — without those high costs for media or creative production. 

Final word of warning: Media companies will take your money to run whatever you want to, so if you’re hoping that your radio ad sales rep will point this out….you’ll be waiting for a long time.

Let’s remedy this together.