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Brad Brenner

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Medical Marketing – Word Of Mouth vs Digital


medical marketing portland word of mouthPerhaps no other industry is more dependent on word-of-mouth marketing than the medical and healthcare industries. Whether you are an EMR company targeting large healthcare facilities, a small clinic working with parents or a research lab looking to connect with those that can use your breakthrough technologies, word of mouth continues to be one of the most reliable means of generating leads and closing the big deals.

Some speculate that this is due to the industry’s long history of shunning advertising in general. Until recently,  doctors were reluctant to overtly advertise their services. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that drug advertising in the U.S. was illegal.

But it only takes a short sit through an episode of Regis & Kelly to see that that has all changed.  Still, word-of-mouth and personal relationships continue in the medical community to play a significant role in generating leads and scoring new business.

This means that, despite the marketing industry’s excitement over the latest digital marketing tool of the hour, tried-and-true marketing tactics should still play a major role in most any medical marketing campaign. Do you participate in tradeshows and conferences? There are ways to maximize the effectiveness of your time at these types of events. What about sponsoring your own events? Open houses often create great word-of-mouth opportunities for clinics and doctors. BrenMed has found that for some of our clients, old-fashioned newsletters can get much more reaction (and visibility with target audiences) than RSS feeds and email campaigns. Mentions in the local press or national industry trade magazine are still the most effective means of elevating your visibility and securing you and your company’s reputation as experts in the field.

But this doesn’t mean that you should ignore digital marketing opportunities. In fact, if done properly, these tools can greatly assist your word-of-mouth marketing efforts. When you think of it, isn’t viral marketing – a term directly planted in the digital realm – simply word-of-mouth on steroids?

At the very least, it’s more critical than ever to have a website that is developed with SEO and smart marketing in mind. Studies show that while some may require a face-to-face connection to begin a medical-related relationship, these new connections almost always follow up the personal introduction with Internet-related research. You can easily lose a potential new customer if your company cannot be easily found with a simple Google search or if your website doesn’t reflect the original glowing word-of-mouth impression it was given.

Done correctly, digital tools can also play a critical assisting role in creating the word-of-mouth customer relationships that are so critical in the medical fields. Blogs allow potential new customers to eavesdrop on a prospect and provide them with a risk-free means of getting the information they need before proceeding with a sales call. Social networking sites allow anonymous sharing of sensitive medical information. Once a supportive relationship is created, the drop-in visitor is more willing to take things to the next step.

Word of mouth still rules the medical marketing field. There is nothing quite as effective at securing new customers than a good word from a friend or colleague. But rather than being viewed as mutally exclusive - digital marketing tactics should be employed as an adjunct to traditional campaigns. In today’s increasingly competitive markets, it’s the smart integration of traditional and digital tactics that results in a winning strategy.

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Brad Lee Brenner is a master blogger, radio host and founder of Brenner Associates, a public relations / communications firm headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Over the past thirty years, Brad has written hundreds of articles that have been published in trade journals, newspapers and online news sources. His focus of expertise includes technology, the medical industry and communications for the digital age.