THE PERCENTAGE OF WOMEN in the medical field continues to rise dramatically, requiring that medical meeting planners change their marketing tactics to appeal to this new and increasingly influential audience.

The traditional messages to reach high-powered male doctors might not be as effective with their female counterparts. Women, like men, want to know the key features and benefits of your meeting, but they also want to know the specifics, the deeper context, and the potential impact of what you propose. Three key points might help guide your marketing efforts to reach this group.

Women Are People-Powered

Traditionally, we market meetings according to the facts and features of what we have to offer, such as CME credits and networking opportunities. But women seek more.

“Women look at the next level — how these features can impact people, because they truly believe that people are the most important element of any event,” says Martha Barletta, author of the newly published book Marketing to Women. A 1995 survey conducted by Grey Advertising revealed that the majority of women wished to leave the world a better place. Men, in contrast, preferred to leave a mark on the world. It's a subtle — but important — difference. You need to create an emotional appeal to women, showing your program will improve the lives of their patients. Remind women why they got into medicine in the first place, rather than focusing on the “factual” benefits of your meeting.

Barletta advises clients to use images of people in marketing materials for women — but using images of “fantasy” or “perfect” people will backfire. Women need to be able to relate to the people in the advertisements, so use images with which women can identify.

Highlight the Human Element

Women do their homework before making purchasing decisions. This takes time, but marketers can take steps to shorten the interest-to-purchase timeframe. “Include information about the unique features of your program, and don't be afraid to compare it directly to other programs — in a professional, balanced manner,” says Barletta. Highlight the human elements that differentiate your program, such as research showing improvement in patient outcomes. “Extensive information, including balanced competitor comparisons, will actually help hasten the purchase decision because you are helping her satisfy her need for due diligence. Don't just tell her why your program has what she seeks. Show her that your program is the perfect answer to her problem.”

This may require a two-phased approach. For example, design a direct-mail piece, newsletter article, or brochure with core facts and people-focused messages and images. Then direct your reader to a Web site where she can research as many details as she needs.

Networking: A Waste of Time?

This may come as a surprise to many marketers: Despite women's deep concern for the human element of what they wish to learn, they do not necessarily want to use program time for networking or socializing.

“Women are focused on the task at hand, the work,” says Barletta. “Using a business meeting to extract favors from ‘friends’ makes women uncomfortable, so networking doesn't hold the same appeal as it does for men. So, too, many golf outings or social hours built into your program can actually irritate women or discourage them from selecting it. They feel it is an outright waste of their time.” Balance traditional networking opportunities with discussions or roundtable luncheons.

The place to emphasize people is in the content. Don't just talk about research outcomes and diagnostic updates. Include the human face of medicine and you may have a winner with women doctors.

Jennifer Goodwin is president of The Goodwin Group, a global medical communications consulting agency. Contact her at