What your GP can teach you about marketing

Posted on: 2013-11-22 in How To

Smarter content marketing: A collaborative effort by the digital lead generation team at TopLine Communications.

When was the last time your GP rang to check how you were feeling? To see if you needed a check-up? To ask if you had a temperature or a headache today? Or to find out if you wanted to come in for an appointment? It’s never happened to me.

Yet when I do wake up feeling rough, or when I fall over and break something, I go straight to my doctor. She’s never phoned me to sell me her services, yet I go straight to see her.

So why is that? Why doesn’t she have to come to me?

That’s because my doctor has authority. She has a medical degree and is registered with the General Medical Council. This is all she needs to prove that she is qualified to diagnose and treat my ailment – to solve the problem that I have. It’s easy for her to sell to me. She makes me aware of her presence and then she sits back and waits. And the patients come flooding in – in fact, when I need an appointment it sometimes takes me weeks to get one.

Yet as businesses, why is it such a battle to win customers, or to bring in sales? Why can’t we be like doctors? Why do we have to make cold calls? Why do we have to pound the pavements looking for clients? Why is sales sometimes so hard?

In this post I’m going to show you how your business can adopt your GP’s approach to marketing. How you can make yourself and your people so well known in your market that customers will come to you naturally. And I’m going to teach you how to do that through content marketing.

Content marketing

Content marketing is the art of communicating with buyers without actively selling to them. It’s the process of building your profile, and becoming a trusted and recognised authority in your industry. Instead of advertising and pushing your products or services aggressively at people, you are delivering information that helps your buyer understand the problem that they are facing in more depth.

And if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, valuable information to buyers, they will learn to trust us, engage with us, like us, remember us and then come to us when they need our help. Imagine that: what if your customers looked forward to receiving your marketing? What would that do for your business?

What is content?

The first step is to define what we mean by content. Content can be everything from an article published in in a newspaper, to a blog post on your website, a white paper, an ebook, a newsletter, a presentation, or a video explaining a concept.

Sadly, the vast majority of content goes unread, unabsorbed or unremembered. In fact, the majority of content on the web is just digital compost.

So how do you make your content stand out? How can you develop content that will make people stop, think and act?

You might not have spent seven years in medical school, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply a bit of science to your content. Luckily, there’s a huge body of academic research on influence and persuasion that will help you capture the attention of your target audience, build your own authority in their eyes and encourage them to notice you, engage with you, and give you their all important contact details. I’m going to present five principles borrowed from science, that you can use in your content strategy. These can filter through to your entire marketing strategy as well.


Ever felt under pressure to buy something before it’s too late? While businesses need your custom they often try to make it seem like you need them. If a product appears to be scarce, then we are more likely to want it for fear of missing out.

Take for instance the students a group of psychologists offered cookies to. They could have one from a full jar and one from a jar that was nearly empty. Even though both cookies were identical, those from the second jar were said to be more desirable, delicious and thought more expensive than the first.

How can you apply the principle of scarcity to your content strategy? Why not suggest there’s limited room at your event? Or offer an ebook for download for a limited time?

Social validation

Ever taken part in a Mexican wave? Or chosen the restaurant with the longest queue? We often look to other people to guide us, and we usually do this automatically and unconsciously.

One memorable example of an infomercial which boosted its sales by changing the familiar call-to-action line ‘Operators are waiting, please call now’ to ‘If operators are busy, please call again’.

How can you use social validation to give your content a boost? Install social sharing buttons.


People are more likely to take the advice or follow the orders of a perceived authority figure, a theory that was tested by The Sun Newspaper earlier this year when one of their journalists donned a high-vis jacket (the ultimate symbol of authority in Britain) and wandered around the streets of London asking people to move over or walk on the other side of the road – he found a surprising level of compliance.

Likewise, when I ran David Cameron’s content marketing strategy we spent months in Downing Street planning which authority figures we would target..….not true but how much did I go up in your estimation in the last three seconds?

So how can you use the principle of authority? Got a white paper to write? Why not ask an academic or an analyst to put their name to it? Running a blog? Pay a high profile journalist to produce a guest post or interview some industry authority figures for a post.

This also comes back to building your own authority (which you can only build through official qualifications or great PR) to make it easier for your prospects to buy from you than your competitor.

Third party endorsement

In one study, participants were asked to imagine themselves in the role of senior editor for a book publisher, looking at dealing with an experienced author. They were asked to read excerpts from a request for a large book advance. One group read excerpts by the author, the other read excerpts by his agent. Participants rated the author more favourably on nearly every scale – especially likeability – where his agent talked him up (even though his agent would have clearly had a vested interest in the author’s being seen favourably).

What does this mean for your marketing strategy? Use third parties. And there are two category of third party that get it every time – the media, and your customers.


Did you know that if you sent Christmas cards to a bunch of complete strangers you would likely get around 20% in return? This can be explained by the principle of reciprocity: our human inclination to want to give back when something is received. 

And how do you use the principle of reciprocity to drive your content marketing strategy? You give something useful away (like a useful blog post), before asking for something in return.



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About this blog

The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog was founded by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, who runs video production and corporate animation agency TopLine Film and digital PR and SEO agency  TopLine Comms. The B2B PR Blog takes contributions from sensible industry folk with something interesting to say.


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