How to Capitalize on Word-of-Mouth Marketing in the 21st Century

Updated on December 2, 2010
Barbara O’Connell

Imagine a world where you have no marketing expense because your patients do all your marketing for you.  It sounds far-fetched, but new trends can actually put you a little closer to such a reality.

You already know word-of-mouth marketing is essential in gaining consumer trust, especially in health care.  But how do you gain that trust in the most cost-effective and fastest way?  The Internet.

Like almost everything else, word of mouth marketing is moving online.  That’s because the Internet is a valuable tool that enables you to quickly build and spread word-of-mouth marketing.  It is efficient, fast and inexpensive and it’s where most of your customers are. According to the Pew Research Center, 80% of Americans are on the Internet and 80% of those people turn to the Internet to obtain health information including finding health providers.

Therefore, it is essential for your health care organization to give patients a forum to share their good word-of-mouth recommendations for you.  By simply having reviews out there for people to find, you’re beginning an effective online testimonial marketing campaign.  Doing doesn’t just generate valuable recommendations.  A health care provider that actively recruits patient reviews and engages in a dialogue with patients is really telling consumers a few things:

1. They’re good and they know it
2. They’re trustworthy
3. They care about what we think
4. They want to be even better

Kim Smith, administrative manager of Western Wayne Family Health Centers in Michigan, says incorporating patient reviews in a marketing campaign as well as operations improvement programs benefits her clinics immensely. “Patient reviews provide a snapshot of how the clinic is operating on any given day,” says Smith.  She adds, “The reviews the patient provides [online] serve as a free advertisement for the clinic. When the patient is satisfied with the service they receive they will tell anyone who will listen in writing or by word of mouth, which is a great marketing tool.”  Western Wayne Family Health Centers uses for its testimonial marketing campaign.

How to start an effective testimonial marketing campaign

It isn’t enough to promote a few positive comments from patients on your website or in advertisements.  What people really want to see is unbiased feedback from people who really don’t care if you increase your market share.  They actually want to see some negative reviews because they validate the positive ones.  That’s why consumer ratings websites are gaining popularity.  People now expect to see feedback on anything and everything they purchase from cell phones to hotels — and that trend is moving into health care.

Here are a few steps you can take now to implement an effective online testimonial marketing campaign:

1.      Find a third-party ratings website you’re comfortable with, one that ranks well in search engines, allows you to post marketing information and most importantly, allows you to respond to comments.  Ideally, the ratings website should also be willing to partner with you to provide advanced support or resources to help you in your campaign development and promotion.

2.      Encourage patient and visitor participation.  Ask patients to submit a review during your discharge process.  Post links to your ratings on your website.  The more reviews you have, the more statistically relevant and meaningful they will be to consumers as well as to your administrators as they make improvements.

3.      Respond to all comments.  This is important because it sends a message to reviewers and to prospective patients who read the reviews.  It says that you care about what your patients think, that you want to provide the best care and service, and that you are listening to and taking action with patients’ feedback.  This is the part that sets you miles apart from your competitors.

Barbara O’Connell is COO of, LLC and a health care marketer who regularly blogs at   Contact Barbara via her company website at .

Throughout the year, our writers feature fresh, in-depth, and relevant information for our audience of 40,000+ healthcare leaders and professionals. As a healthcare business publication, we cover and cherish our relationship with the entire health care industry including administrators, nurses, physicians, physical therapists, pharmacists, and more. We cover a broad spectrum from hospitals to medical offices to outpatient services to eye surgery centers to university settings. We focus on rehabilitation, nursing homes, home care, hospice as well as men’s health, women’s heath, and pediatrics.

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