When your customers are physicians, bombarded round the clock with all manner of data and promotion, one fundamental line of thinking can be groundbreaking. What is the motivational style of your target provider type? And how does it signal what they need most out of a product? In our omnichannel era, motivational segmenting can nurture sustained customer preference, delivering communications that speak to an individual customer’s source of drive. Surgeons, for example, stand out not only for their station in the flow of patient care but for their unique sources of motivation, which tend to distinguish them from other HCPs. 

Surgeons’ engagement with the patient is often comparatively impersonal. They’ll have some conversations leading up to and following the procedure, but it’s typically another HCP who’s spending extensive one-on-one time with the patient, getting to know them. Most HCPs depend on patient compliance and must wait extended periods of time to see the benefits of their diagnosis and decisions come to fruition. By contrast, a surgeon is brought in to fix a highly defined problem, and they derive their satisfaction almost immediately after doing so. As professionals, surgeons are taught to exude confidence first and foremost.

These unique characteristics of surgeons can have definitional impact on a brand strategy. Marketing a new surgical product frequently hits a wall: a surgeon’s professional confidence can make it hard to push them to concede that, in the past, they’d been performing surgeries with less surety than they could have been. It’s a bit of a psychological puzzle, and behavioral science can help identify the optimal approach through it. 

Let’s start with the basics: Surgeons are conscientious, well organized, and decisive, committed to defusing emergencies. As such, they seek tools that help them perform optimally. It’s nearly impossible for them to concede doubt, given what’s at stake in so many surgeries. In other words, their greatest strength—commitment to certainty—is often their weakness. 

Therefore, it’s important to make asking for help a confidence booster rather than an admission of doubt. We need a relevant motivational approach and a way in. We need to ask ourselves questions like, what would make a brand fuel a surgeon’s ego, heighten their confidence? What makes a surgeon choose a brand? In general, there are three different bases for brand choice:

  • Intrinsic: Does the brand make me feel good about who I am?
  • Instrumental: Does the brand help me perform on an optimal level?
  • Interpersonal: Does the brand improve my standing with others and with my community?

Understanding surgeons’ need to be viewed as confident, competent performers, in many cases, a brand’s value to a surgeon must be instrumental. And the product, as an instrument, should be positioned as something that enhances their own mastery. Flipping the framing from what can be avoided to what could be gained can make it easy for surgeons to see that the brand would help them do what they do best even better.

Certainly, surgeons’ motivational styles manifest differently across surgical sub-specialties. That’s why, in designing a brand’s approach, the unique motivational tendencies and psychological demands of your target segment can be instructive. It’s pivotal to keep that top of mind, because we’re often prone to think of surgery much as surgeons do: certain, rigid, almost sacrosanct. But no matter the rigor and precision that define a specialty, its practitioners are always human beings, driven by their own unique set of hopes, motivations, and goals. 

About the Author:

Maria has built and led teams to win and service businesses in the healthcare, pharmaceuticals, entertainment, personal care, kids/teens, and packaged goods segments as well as global corporate 100 brands.
She practices the art and science of active discovery, creating a unique narrative identified from the core of the brand and the journey of the customer. Placing insights in the context of larger marketing truths, she never overlooks the details on brands, respects people’s voice and context, and taps the collective brains on her accounts.
Maria has worked life-changing brands like Keytruda and Gardasil across nearly every therapeutic category.