Marketing to Doctors, Part 5: Measuring and Optimizing Results

Updated January 2023 with the latest statistics.

For others in the series click here.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Marketing to Doctors is Expensive. Blame big pharma. If you’re not doing everything you can to measure and optimize your ad-buy, you’re not doing enough.

Track Based on the Best Metric You Have

We’ve all heard the old chestnut about not knowing which half of your marketing spend is being wasted. In my experience, this grossly underestimates the percentage of wasted budget. In the absence of really rigorous analytics and optimization, it’s the 80-20 rule that applies: 20% of your work/budget is generating 80% of the marketing-driven revenue. The rest is mostly a waste.

You’ll notice I said, “revenue,” not “leads”. You can’t pay your staff or investors with “leads”. Generally, people prefer to be paid with money, so ideally, you’re optimizing your marketing spend based on revenue generation…. not clicks, page views, or inbound inquiries.

Want all the details on how to market to doctors?

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Marketing to Doctors: A How-To Guide for Marketing Executives of All Levels

It’s OK if you can’t track on revenue… yet.

The reality is that many companies don’t yet have the ability to track inbound inquiries all the way to the final sale. If that’s your organization, don’t beat yourself up about this. It’s a more common problem than the marketing conference circuit would have you believe. However, accurate tracking through the marketing and sales funnel is a critical piece of your marketing infrastructure. It allows for more productive marketing/sales conversations, better handoffs, and for marketing to speak more confidently about their contributions to the bottom line.

If you’re not there already you should immediately set your #1 goal this year to be:

“Track Marketing Efforts from Inquiry to Revenue.”

Figure out your best metric, then go one deeper. Repeat.

Unlike consumer-based marketing, or even marketing to SMBs, the vast majority of the population can’t buy your products. Consumers are vast and will eagerly click on anything. Doctors are rare… and will click very infrequently. This means that if you’re not careful, most of your budget will be spent talking to consumers who can’t buy your stuff.

What’s more, you may find that some kinds of doctors are very interested in getting more information or speaking to a sales rep… but rarely actually buy. This may be because of misaligned features, budgets, or branding… but you’ll never know if you don’t measure.

Without in-depth analysis and targeting, companies inevitably spend their money on reaching the wrong people with the wrong message.

Pro-Tip for AdWords

People searching for stuff with your keywords aren’t always searching for your stuff – even if your stuff can’t be used by anyone BUT doctors. If you can’t figure out a way to weed out random consumers, they will DESTROY your budget.

Be very wary of using “broad match” keywords and make a habit of looking at the “search terms” that are triggering your ads. If you haven’t previously optimized for this, you may find that you are horrified at the queries being used. Most campaigns will need extensive lists of negative keywords to avoid showing your ads to consumers.

Dig into your AdWords console and find out exactly what people are typing into Google to trigger your ads. You might be shocked.

Take a look at this basic tracking funnel. How far can you go?

  • Impressions, clicks, and page views: If you’re still rocking 90’s-era marketing metrics, stop everything else and figure out how you can find more meaningful numbers. Optimizing based on these unfiltered metrics is a sure-fire way to ensure that virtually all of your advertising and content will be directed at consumers instead of doctors.
  • Inquiries: Hopefully you can go beyond traffic metrics and at least gauge how many raw inquiries come into the funnel. These metrics haven’t been filtered for anything other than obvious spam. It’s a better metric than impressions, clicks, and page views, but often not by much.
  • Marketing Qualified Inquiries (MQIs): A marketing qualified inquiry is any inbound contact that belongs to someone (usually a physician) that can buy or influence the purchase of your product or service. To figure this out, you need to augment the incoming data to “unmask” who belongs to a given email address. Note that just because someone is a doctor, doesn’t mean that they are “qualified”.
  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): A marketing qualified lead is someone who is not just able to buy your product or service, it’s someone who has indicated some intentionality around being in the market for your category of product or service. This is defined differently at every organization but usually is based on a scoring system like “downloaded a bunch of eBooks” or “filled out the info on the pricing calculator”. At this point, there is usually some kind of “hand-off” to sales… but it’s important for marketing to keep nurturing these leads.
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): Again, this will vary according to the organization but usually means that a salesperson has had a conversation and believes that this is a viable lead. Sales will pursue to the next step.
  • Sales Qualified Opportunity (SQO): The next step in the sales process… usually, the sales team has assigned a predicted value for closing the sale as well as a guess as to what’s the likelihood of it closing.
  • Revenue: The sale finally closed. At this point, marketing really needs to know the estimated Lifetime Value (LV) of this new customer. In other words, how much marginal profit will the customer likely bring to the table over the lifetime of the relationship? Hopefully, you spent less on marketing and sales in developing this customer than they will bring to the table. At the end of the day, this is the only way you will know if your marketing spend was “effective”.

Don’t neglect the marketing-sales handoff!

Make sure that marketing and sales are in agreement on what happens with your leads. Effective sales/marketing coordination is a critical, and all too often ignored, part of the overall marketing cycle.

  • When does the handoff happen?
  • What does the handoff mean?
  • Who is responsible for the next activities?
  • Is marketing still involved after the handoff?
  • What happens if the prospect gets disqualified by sales?


How to Slice and Dice the Information

Ok, you’ve figured out how far in the funnel you can track. Hopefully, you can get at least to Marketing Qualified Inquiries. That way, you at least know that you’re reaching an audience who could buy your product or service if they want to.

The next step is organizing your marketing spend (in dollars, time, and other resources) in a way that you can make sense of. We recommend thinking about it in terms of Campaigns and Platforms.


A campaign is basically an idea, and asset, or a call-to-action. Examples include:

  • An eBook on the problem you solve
  • A webinar on problems faced by your audience
  • A specific direct call-to-action like “call us” or “get a demo”


A platform is the method that you reach your audience. Examples include:

  • Google AdWords
  • Organic Search
  • A Trade Show

You then create a matrix showing costs/results based on Campaign + Platform. Like:

  • “Get a Demo” promoted on AdWords
  • Webinar for Cardiologists promoted on LinkedIn
  • Solution 101 eBook promoted on Physicians Practice eBlast

Organizing your data in this way allows you to easily see what topics doctors are responding to and the platforms that are working for which messages. From here, you can do more nuanced and multi-touch analysis like understanding which campaigns are most effective at finding net new leads, which are better at pushing doctors through the funnel, and which bring in the “hottest” leads that will have an immediate impact on this quarter’s sales.

In our experience, leads that come through AdWords or similar “bottom-of-the-funnel” campaigns have the most immediate impact and are the easiest to track. However, they tend to be much more expensive in the long run compared to top-of-funnel leads, especially if you have an effective lead nurture and sales handoff program.

Sound like too much work?

Our agency provides start-to-finish content and lead generation for organizations trying to reach doctors and hospitals. We provide everything you need for a robust lead and content generation program:”

  • Develop Strategy
  • Write content like eBooks/white papers
  • Create direct sell campaigns
  • Build landing pages and banner ads
  • Plan and place ad buys
  • Install and monitor extensive analytics packages
  • Lead nurture to bring existing leads to sales ready status
  • Report, analyze, & optimize

Our core services cost between $10-25k / month plus media buys. We’re best suited to companies with complex products/service and/or average annual transaction values of $10k+ or more.

Set up a 20-minute call to learn more.

This is the final part of our multi-part series on marketing to doctors. Check out the other articles:

Why Marketing to Doctors is so Hard.

Messaging and Segmentation.

Content Marketing.

Distributing Your Message.

Or, download the entire Marketing to Doctors eBook

Rich Quarles

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