Lately we've been increasingly aware of the growing importance of word of mouth (WOM) advertising in physician practice marketing and medical marketing in general. WOM can be either positive (resulting in a patient referral and new business), or it can be negative (resulting in, well, nothing).
Having experienced both edges of that sword, we all know that, either way, word of mouth is highly effective. For purposes of this discussion, we're (mainly) talking about the positive variety. And here's why (and how) word of mouth needs to be a regular line item in your marketing plan.
The reason that word of mouth advertising is increasingly important in doctor marketing is because patients are increasingly proactive about their healthcare.
Individually, and sometimes collectively, patients have a stronger voice in the health and medical choices for themselves and their family. What's more, the one-to-one WOM references of a patient are, more than ever, being amplified in social media comments via Facebook, Twitter and others.
The primary challenge is what to do to inspire word of mouth advertising. What ignites word of mouth comments? It simply does not happen spontaneously. People need a reason to talk about you, your staff, the service they received and/or the overall patient experience.
Here are some of the facets of motivation that can inspire positive word of mouth.
The first step is to understand a patient or customer's motivation for making referral. Medical practices, hospitals and other healthcare providers will find insight to motivation in the world of small business. Here are a few of the 10 reasons why people will talk about your business as Jim Connolly lists them in his respected UK blog. He writes:
People spread the word about you because:
Some of the impetus for word of mouth is similar in Entrepreneur's list of WOM "trigger" activities. Here are a few notes:
Budget to deliver the experience that will trigger word-of-mouth. Although word of mouth is (mostly) free, some activities that inspire WOM may need a budget in time and/or dollars.
The bottom line: Positive Word of Mouth advertising and patient referrals—where satisfied customers tell others how and why they like a business, product, service or medical provider experience—is inspired when expectations are exceeded. The "ordinary and every day" patient experience is certainly nothing to talk about and is quickly forgotten.
It is deliberate and planned actions that exceed a patient's expectations, make a positive impression and inspire word of mouth. When the individual is motivated to share their experience, they put their own reputation on the line in making a referral or recommendation to family, friends, colleagues, and even casual social media connections. It can't be ordinary.
There's more about Dispelling Old School Misconceptions and word of mouth advertising on our blog. And in this article from our free reference library about shaping successful relationships and increasing referrals.