Healthcare communications: Traditional marketing and digital marketing

Updated: May 11



healthcare communication marketing

Traditional marketing and digital marketing for medical devices are two parts of the same whole. They both work to promote medical devices, communicating effectively with health care professionals (HCPs) and patients.

Historically, most medical device marketing has been traditional, based on building relationships through sales representatives, but since the Covid-19 pandemic, that has needed to change. Sales reps have not been able to go into hospitals to meet HCPs in person. Live events were halted completely for a while, so medical device companies had to look for other ways to market their devices.


Enter digital marketing. The new way to reach your audience without having to leave the office.

So, what is the difference between the two? And is one better than the other? We’re going to delve into what separates the two and how you can utilise them both in healthcare communications.


What is traditional medical device marketing?


Traditional marketing encompasses any marketing activities that aren’t online. This includes any physical sales aids, brochures, adverts in journals or live event stands. Word of mouth and sales representatives even count as traditional marketing.


Traditional marketing is all about brand credibility and forging personal connections.


What are the advantages of traditional marketing?


Traditional marketing, especially conferences and face to face meetings, allow sales representatives to understand their customer more precisely, allowing them to adapt their approach depending on the customer. This means that reps can also get an idea of how interested potential customers are and whether they will convert. The results of this type of marketing can be more immediate than digital marketing.


Alongside this, traditional marketing also helps to build credibility for your business. Professionally designed and printed ads, sales brochures, and event stands all require expertise to create, seeing these pieces of physical evidence will give potential customers the impression that your company is well established, and therefore they are left feeling more able to trust your company.


On top of that, these types of materials only have to be created once and can be used repeatedly until they are no longer relevant either because of a change in messaging or the publication of new data. As an example, the same brochure can be handed out time and time again, so once it is designed and completed, it is finished and you have something that can be used for several months. On the other hand, digital activities like social media need to be regularly updated with new content, almost daily.


What are the disadvantages of traditional marketing


The main disadvantage of traditional marketing for healthcare communications is that it is not as measurable as digital marketing. There is no way to directly track the success of materials such as brochures and therefore it is hard to decipher how well it has worked for bringing in customers and whether it is worth your investment in the future.


Equally, the lack of ability to track this information and lack of quantifiable evidence means that you are less able to improve on campaigns. For instance, with social media you can see which of your posts are performing the best, you can tell what your audience enjoys seeing and then you can do more of that in the future and see your results get better and better. Unless you get feedback directly from the customer, you can’t do this for physical materials.


As well as the lack of tracking, it is difficult to be reactive when it comes to traditional marketing. Although they will last for a long time so are worth the effort, traditional marketing materials take time and there are costs each time something needs to be reprinted. For instance, if there is new data that you want to include in your materials, you will not be able to publish it straight away, instead, you have to wait until the brochure is complete and then wait again for the right event to be able to hand it out. In this time, you might miss valuable opportunities.


What is digital marketing for medical devices?


Medical device marketing is different to marketing in other industries as it is subject to regulations and for a long time, traditional marketing was massively favoured. Not many companies were capitalising on the opportunity that digital marketing presents, but things are starting to change.

digital marketing

Digital marketing, also known as internet marketing, includes any activity that takes place online. This includes search engine optimisation (SEO), social media, email marketing, paid advertising, online videos, and digital sales aids.


It is considered to be the new frontier of marketing and new information and research is emerging everyday about best practices and trends.


What are the advantages of digital marketing?


One of the main benefits of digital marketing is the ability to closely target specific segments of your audience based on factors such as intent and location. As a result of this, marketers can tailor the content they show to their audience so that they will see content that will be most effective for getting them to convert.

reporting for marketers

Marketers can also report in detail on their activities. They can use analytics to gain actionable insights that will improve their campaigns and therefore improve their outcomes. For instance, if a website is not bringing in as many leads as expected, marketers can look at the data and trouble shoot. The data unravels the mystery, revealing how the website can be improved to bring in more leads.


As well as this, digital marketing campaigns can continue to bring in leads long after they are launched. For example, optimising your website for search engines will continue to work in the background, even when you are not dedicating time and effort to it. So, the benefits of digital marketing are long lasting.


What are the disadvantages of digital marketing?


Digital marketing is not necessarily a quick win. For instance, many experts say that it takes 7 months from when you start optimising your website for search engines to start seeing the results.


Furthermore, social media and email campaigns may not convert straight away, and customers may have to be exposed to your content a few times before taking any action, but the effects build up over time and are long lasting, meaning that after a while, your digital marketing campaigns will be running in the background like a well-oiled machine and bring in a stream of leads for you.


One of the criticisms of digital marketing is that the connection between the customer and the brand is lost. There is a belief that you cannot replicate the connection from face-to-face, and whilst this is true to an extent, studies have shown that customer are still able to feel connected to a brand online. Our guide on digital marketing for medical devices delves into how companies can achieve this.


Which one do you need?


Neither digital nor traditional marketing is the better option for medical device companies because operating both simultaneously is the best option. It allows companies to cover both bases, targeting potential customers wherever they may be. This is known as multichannel marketing. It blends tactics to create a comprehensive marketing strategy.


In order to create the widest-reaching marketing strategy, elements of both types of marketing will be beneficial, because digital marketing and traditional marketing actually complement each other. In fact, the issues that both types of marketing create can usually be solved by the other.


For instance, if exciting new data is published it may take a few weeks to be able to design and print new brochures that are updated with the new data, but with digital marketing, you can start promoting it immediately. You can begin to build up a buzz straight away, that you can consolidate in your physical materials.


Conversely, whilst digital marketing may be criticised for lacking personal connection, it can be utilised to publicise sales reps and build them up an online following. Reps can use social media to network and build up leads. They can plant the seeds of connection with their potential customer and maybe get to know them better so that in person meetings are more productive and the personal connection is deepened for better outcomes.


Utilising both digital and traditional marketing will also allow your company to build up brand recognition. In today’s world, your audience needs to see your company around 15 times before they remember it and are able to recognise it. By having clear branding that is uniform across multiple different channels, you increase your chances of being seen and therefore being remembered by your potential customer.


As you can see, digital marketing and traditional marketing are each one part of a whole. Alone they are can both be effective, but multichannel marketing increases your chances of success. Together, digital and traditional marketing will create a well-rounded and reactive marketing strategy.


About Podymos Podymos is a dedicated medical device marketing agency. We are passionate about sharing relevant knowledge to expand our clients’ capabilities. If you would like to find out more about what we do, you can visit our services page, or get in contact with us.



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