Traditional Marketing for Integrative Medicine Still Effective

By Glenn Sabin
I write a lot about growing integrative health business with digital marketing and social media.  My focus is often aimed at developing content strategy to engage customers (patients) by providing useful information, creating trust, increasing web traffic and establishing thought leadership. 

Over two decades ago, my career started in traditional publishing where I spent most of my time managing a media and marketing firm in the Washington D.C. area.  Those early days were steeped in more traditional forms of communication—i.e., print magazines, physical conferences—and  marketing programs primarily rooted in old-school “interruptive” advertising, like print, radio, television, promotional collateral and direct mail.

My business experience was firmly entrenched in these more traditional approaches to marketing and advertising long before I started making declarations like “integrative medicine is a story, not an advertisement” By and large, these efforts were successful as the plethora of digital opportunities we have today were nonexistent, or, at best, in their nascent stage.  Not surprisingly, I used the most modern media and advertising tools available at the time.

Today I am here to tell you these more “traditional” forms of marketing and advertising are alive and well, and still quite useful  as part of  your business development marketing mix.

According to The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, nearly 80 percent of Internet users go online for answers to health questions.

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Social media now plays a significant role in consumer health education. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute (HRI) reports that “one-third of consumers now use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and online forums for health-related matters, including seeking medical information, tracking and sharing symptoms, and broadcasting how they feel about doctors, drugs, treatments, medical devices and health plans.”

While there’s no denying the Internet’s huge impact on just about everything—including the continued ascent of evidence-based integrative health—the following facts should not be overlooked when considering an overarching marketing approach to increasing clinic utilization and the sale of natural products and services.

Jason Skinner recently contributed a post in My Health Career Executive called 5 Reasons to Avoid the Siren’s Song of an All-Digital Strategy (the site has since shut down, so links have been removed from this post).  Therein Skinner points out that according to a 2012 study conducted by The Direct Marketing Association, direct mail is 10 to 20 times more effective than email marketing.  Furthermore, Skinner points to additional company research, suggesting that healthcare consumers prefer print over web (nearly 2 to 1) and over email newsletters (2.5 to 1).  In the same piece, Skinner highlights his firm’s findings on a chart titled Debunking the Myth of Digital ROI to illustrate the economic effectiveness of direct mail over digital channels.

For those in the integrative health space, it’s imperative to learn about and employ effective content creation, digital marketing and social media strategy.  It is also important to understand the continued effectiveness of more traditional forms of marketing and communications including targeted direct mail, print, referrals and experiential (educational outreach) programs.   Building patient volume requires an array of effective, sustainable marketing tactics that combine for a winning strategy.

About FON

FON is a leading integrative health and medicine business development and strategy consulting firm. FON specializes in custom solutions for growing patient volume, developing programs, and increasing product sales. Our practical business models are driven by innovative marketing, clear messaging, and customer engagement via branded storytelling.

Contact us today to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your business development or personal brand needs.

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Author: Glenn Sabin
FON’s founder, Glenn Sabin, is a nationally recognized thought leader with a reputation for successfully positioning integrative health organizations for sustainable growth. Combining media, marketing and business development expertise with an extensive professional and personal integrative health and medicine narrative, Glenn is deeply passionate about advancing the field as the new standard of care—accessible to all.
Read Glenn’s story.


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