Issue: May 2006
May 01, 2006
3 min read

Target markets based on clinical challenges make marketing easy

One way it helps: The practice can refine its messages and then be selective about where they’ve communicated.

Issue: May 2006
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Marketing your Practice [logo]
by Eric N. Berkowitz, PhD
SPECIAL TO Orthopedics Today

Part four of the Orthopedics Today “Marketing your Practice” series looked at basic ways of selecting target markets as part of developing a marketing strategy. This month, how seeking certain types of patients can help.

Since such approaches to target marketing can raise ethical concerns for some, we address them in a separate article.

To hone in on an appropriate target market, orthopedic practices can choose any number of tactics. One that some find effective is limiting the types of clinical challenges the practice takes on, such as deciding to see only those patients with low back problems.

Here are two examples of targeted orthopedic marketing programs built on the basis of the type of patients the groups wanted to attract.

Consider an orthopedic group in the greater Atlanta area that specializes in pediatric orthopedics. If they were to develop a target market definition, it might look something like this: “Parents with incomes of $60,000 and up, in white-collar positions, with insurance, who live in the greater Atlanta metro area in zip codes 30342 near Buckhead in Atlanta, 30329 near Emory University, 30319 and the like.”

Such a highly specific market definition would definitely increase the practice’s ability to do targeted marketing. It might at some point decide, for example, to purchase metro edition advertising in the Atlanta Constitution that targets just these particular areas and minimizes coverage beyond the group’s target market.

An orthopedic group in Brookline and Waltham, Mass., uses a similar approach to target female athletes. Boston Sports Medicine for Women is an affiliate of Pro Sports Orthopedics, one of the region’s better-known orthopedic practices, and of New England Baptist Hospital, one of the best hospitals.

In targeting the female athlete, the practice decided to cater to several of these patients’ needs by offering them more than just orthopedics and rehabilitation.

As its Website shows, the group offers nutrition, sports psychology, massage therapy, and personal training services, (

The advantage in having a target market? Their message becomes highly refined. They can advertise in very defined publications that appeal to women and the service mix can be tailored clinically to this population.

How do you define your practice’s target market?

Target marketing can raise ethical concerns

by Eric N. Berkowitz, PhD
SPECIAL TO Orthopedics Today

When the issue of target marketing arises comes up in health care, it is important to address the ethical or moral component that is an obvious concern of many practitioners.

Does deciding upon a target market imply denying care to those who need it? Some who take more literally the motto, "No patient in need being refused care," may think it does.

Specification of a target market, by itself, does not imply denying care. In reality, physicians have taken an oath to treat those who need their services.

The issue of specifying a target market speaks more to ensuring the efficient use of resources by a practice or a program to meet that need, whatever it may be.

Having a succinct marketing strategy forces the orthopedic group to decide on exactly whom it is trying to reach in terms of patients and referral sources, and to uncover their needs. That's a good thing, actually. First of all, having a "targeted marketing" mentality just makes good business sense. It results in an office filled with the types of patients and cases the partners have pre-determined are desirable from the standpoint of clinical challenge, revenue potential or both.

It also means physicians on staff are making the best use of their time and expertise.

The right needs

In essence, targeted marketing makes orthopedic practices be selective about who they attract, but it also enables them to truly help those who need their particular services most.

Another benefit: This approach helps groups better target their promotional and marketing efforts right at the patients and referral sources they want to treat, which is essential. Because what undoubtedly turns off many physicians to this concept of medical practice marketing is what is seen in most metro markets today in terms of health care advertising by hospitals: large catchy advertisements on billboards by the highways or on transit boards on the sides of buses.

From a marketing strategy perspective, the question that must be asked about such campaigns is: Who are these advertisements dollars trying to reach?

The question comes down to whether it is wasted coverage or not. Practices, of course, need to remember that advertising is not marketing.

But, when an orthopedic practice knows in great detail who its target market is and customizes its marketing programs accordingly, the partners can rest assured they are not wasting coverage nor are they committing any ethical errors.

Editor's note: Whenever there are ethical issues related to a topic being covered in the Orthopedics Today "Marketing your Practice" series, such as there typically are with advertising, we plan to address them in the main story or a sidebar article. We welcome your insights for possible inclusion in future articles. Send them in an e-mail to Susan Rapp at