Multichannel Marketing: Using Marketing Strategies to Build an Effective Patient Recruitment Plan

Today, people consume media in many different ways, so it is vital to be in as many places as possible in order to reach potential patients. Multichannel marketing means communicating with people using a combination of direct and indirect marketing strategies and giving them a way to respond based on their own choices. Multichannel marketing is important because it makes your messaging more accessible for your target demographics. Simply put, your strategic communication must appear where the patients are. While diversifying recruitment efforts is important, multichannel marketing includes other distinctions that make it a bit more complex than just changing up the different ways in which you recruit.

Direct Marketing

Direct marketing is a more traditional advertising strategy. It is defined as a strategy whose goal is to elicit an action in response to your initial communication. Examples of these responses include patients calling the site to learn more about a clinical trial, visiting the research site’s website, or even visiting the site in person. When considering direct marketing, the patients’ point of view must be taken into account. Using clear calls to action (“click to learn more”, “visit our website”, “call a coordinator to get enrolled”) and simple progressive steps toward that action are critical in direct marketing. Examples of direct marketing channels include, but certainly are not limited to: TV, direct mail, newspapers, and catalogs. As with everything, direct marketing has its positives and its negatives. Direct marketing is a great tactic because it is straightforward; the results are easily tracked and measurable. Another benefit of direct marketing is that it can quickly generate leads for your clinical trials. It can be an effective way to generate leads and enroll patients in a timely manner. The main negative to direct marketing is that it’s generally more expensive than indirect marketing. Typically, direct marketing requires media and ad buys (paid social media ads, radio and tv spots, print publication space) so the cost can be significant depending on budgetary constraints.


Indirect Marketing

Indirect marketing is the more nuanced of the two marketing strategies. As an abstract concept, indirect marketing has an abstract goal as a result. In our context, indirect marketing can be described as a strategy with the goal of building brand awareness and trust among your community of patients. Awareness and trust are valuable assets when it comes to clinical trials, but they are not a result that can be easily quantified. It’s safe to say that the general public has a certain skepticism when it comes to clinical trials, especially in participating with experimental drugs; building that awareness and trust with your community is imperative. Any time you have good communication with a patient, you are establishing or building trust and awareness for your site. Indirect marketing is important because that trust that you are building can lead to measurable actions being taken by patients. Examples of indirect marketing channels include: sponsorships, blog posts, social media pages, word-of-mouth, and online reviews. Staff interaction with new and pre-existing patients is also an easily executed form of indirect marketing. A positive experience between staff and patients may lead to increased referrals for your trials. Direct marketing is also possible within indirect marketing. It is likely and even encouraged that you have calls to action on your social media pages, for example. One advantage of indirect marketing is that it is a cost-efficient solution to reaching more potential patients. Another positive of indirect marketing is that it builds lasting success and consistency from the patients.  The biggest negative of indirect marketing is that it is not easy to measure. The work you put into indirect marketing can be difficult to explain because the results are not as quantifiable. Another con is that it takes patience and consistency. You can’t expect one social media post or one blog post to make much difference, and a constant voice in messaging is required. Creating and maintaining social media pages, training staff appropriately, and writing blog posts are cheap in dollars, but a consistent effort is necessary if you want to build trust.



Both direct and indirect marketing can and should be used together as multichannel marketing to reach the patients that you want participating in your trials. They complement each other, so a healthy mixture of elements from each are ideal in patient recruitment marketing. While there are many different options to choose from, you should think of using channels together in a cohesive marketing plan. Nowadays, traditional advertising channels like radio, TV and print are often paired with digitally-based advertising like a website or social media. Patient recruiters should choose their advertising channels depending on an overall budget and the patient demographic.