Is the Doctor In?

May 12, 2010
Tracy Donohue

Originally Published

Originally Published NO May 2010

Americans spend billions of dollars each year trying to stay or get healthy. The diet, health, nutritional supplement, pharmaceutical, and medical industries all play a part in today's health market. Nutritional and vitamin supplements are intended as preventive measures, while doctors are involved in diagnostic and treatment measures when there is an existing illness.

It seems that an overall comprehensive approach, combining preventive care with the treatment of illness or symptoms, would create optimum healthcare for today's health-conscious consumer. This balance would include a combination of traditional and alternative medicine, with the patient's best interest and health in mind.

The good news for nutritional supplement companies is that more people are becoming comfortable with alternative medicine and recognizing the need for preventive medicine. Consumers do not need a doctor's prescription to buy supplements, and nutritional companies have the freedom to market directly to consumers, making it easy for Americans to create this balance all on their own.

There are other positive signs for supplement companies. Physician practices all over the United States are beginning to see the benefits of nutritional supplements, and are bridging the gap between conventional and alternative medicine when treating patients. These practices are recommending vitamins, nutritional supplements, and alternative methods-not to take the place of other medicine, but to be used in conjunction with traditional medicine for a whole health regimen.

Supplement companies typically sell products directly to consumers through stores or online, but there is a shift taking place. Many supplement companies are looking to break into the healthcare providers market, especially private-practice physicians. It is the ultimate endorsement for a nutritional supplement company to have its product line recommended to patients by physicians. Direct-to-physician marketing is a smart, proactive approach that is paving the way to the doorsteps of private practices, chiropractors, and pain-management clinics, nationwide. It puts nutritional products directly in the hands and minds of the physician, creating a relationship with doctors as well as product awareness.

Marketing directly to doctors' offices and healthcare providers requires a different approach in copy and packaging, but ultimately, the message is the same. The target audience is physicians at their practice addresses. There are a number of lists on the market that reach healthcare professionals and doctors. The American Medical Association (AMA) and the Little Blue Book are two premier lists in this marketplace. The AMA list includes all physicians in the United States (active and retired), while the Little Blue Book lists active practicing doctors nationwide.

Marketing directly to pharmacies and pharmacists is another approach for the nutritional supplement marketer to consider. Independently owned pharmacies would be a key target audience when breaking into this market. The Little Blue Book makes the names of more than 67,000 pharmacies available.

Having nutritional products recommended by a healthcare professional is truly the ultimate endorsement for any nutritional supplement brand. Nutritional companies want to break the barrier with the medical market and bridge the gap between traditional and alternative medicine. With healthcare costs so high, healthcare is quickly becoming a consumer-driven model. Many Americans seek out physicians that look at healthcare comprehensively and are not afraid to recommend alternative measures. Nutritional companies do have an audience in the medical market that should be penetrated and considered a major part of future marketing initiatives and growth.

Tracy Donohue is vice president of new business at Macromark Inc., a list- and database-marketing company specializing in the health market. She can be reached at tracyd@macromark.com.