Yes…It is Possible for Doctor Marketing to Ignite Word-of-Mouth Advertising

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

crowd and word of mouthAlmost everyone with experience in physician marketing recognizes that word-of-mouth (WOM) advertising is (a) highly desirable, but (b) not an easy thing to inspire. After all, it’s far easier and more reliable to purchase time or space in the media and create a medical practice advertisement.

In contrast, WOM is far less tangible. Although it’s an appealing concept and there’s little cost, WOM often seems vague. You never know who’s going to say-what-to-whom. It’s a form of doctor advertising that’s elusive and unpredictable. There’s no controlling the message or the circulation, and what’s worse, sometimes word-of-mouth can be “negative.”

Actually, it is possible—more so than you may think—for doctor marketing to control, direct and track word-of-mouth advertising. We’ve written previously about WOM. Today’s additional post in this series takes a page from the world of brand-name products, and the professional group, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).

Although most doctor marketing and physician advertising does not operate on the same level as national brands (such as General Mills, AT&T, Burger King), healthcare marketing can draw on WOMMA’s list of five core elements to inspire, monitor and direct word-of-mouth.

They teach, “all word of mouth marketing techniques are based on the concepts of customer satisfaction, two-way dialog, and transparent communications.” The basic elements are:

  • Educating people about your products and services: Beyond their own immediate needs, most patients don’t know about all the other services of a medical practice.
  • Identifying people most likely to share their opinions: It is possible to identify individuals who are most likely to spread the word and make WOM recommendations.
  • Providing tools that make it easier to share information: What resources do you provide to patients for education as well as talking about and recommending the provider practice?
  • Studying how, where and when opinions are being shared: It’s not always easy to discover this information, but it’s vital to ask every new patient about how they learned about the practice and what motivated them to call for an appointment.
  • Listening and responding to supporters, detractors and neutrals: There are no “throw away” comments that can be ignored or forgotten. Ask for input and ideas from patients; be sensitive to comments and open to new ideas.

You can click through here for previous articles in this series including A Word About Word-of-Mouth Advertising: How to Dispel Old School Misconceptions and How to Trigger Word of Mouth Advertising and Physician Practice Referrals.

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.



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