The June 2010 issue of Medical Marketing and Media (MMM) contains an article with a brief discussion on the role of direct mail vs. digital marketing – or, online vs. offline. The gist of the article seemed to be that while younger marketers tend to think any marketing that isn’t digital is passé and no longer works, the truth is, as it tends to be, not so cut-and-dried.

I happen to agree, especially in the medical device industry where many companies are just starting to stick their toes into the water of digital marketing. It’s true that B2B marketing as whole has trended sharply toward digital marketing. It’s cheaper, it’s faster, it’s easier to make changes what isn’t working and it gets results. Medical marketing is no different, and with many companies until recently having taken something of a wait and see approach to new digital trends, medical marketers now have the advantage of learning from the mistakes that others made before them.

We live in a marketing era that has a much sharper focus on relationship, partnership, problem solving and education. This can be easier to do with social media and online content delivery. So called “interruption marketing” is not as powerful as it once was. But the truth is that there is still a place for direct marketing (and offline advertising). Digital marketing is much more effective when it’s paired with the physical world. Many customers still see direct mail as more professional than email. Different audiences respond to different marketing channels and marketing campaigns are the strongest when they incorporate all the channels open to them.

An online white paper connected to a new product launch can be promoted via a direct mail, discussed on a company blog, broadcast via Twitter, touched on in a relevant LinkedIn group, touted in online and offline advertising and sent out in a press release. At a trade show, sales teams have physical copies of white papers and case studies with information at the end of these documents encouraging readers to visit online content libraries for more information. Offline journal articles or ads send interested prospects to a company website to acquire more detailed information via a blog and content library containing product specs and literature.

These examples just touch the tip of the iceberg. I work with medical companies every day who are doing all this and more, pushing the envelope of communication with their customers and prospects. I also work with many companies who are just beginning to navigate the waters of Web 2.0. Which ever category you fit into, how are you integrating your marketing between the direct and the digital? What’s working? What isn’t? What are your experiences and thoughts about digital and direct marketing as it relates to medical marketing?

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