Building A Stronger Medical Practice Marketing Playbook
As physician practice leaders and their medical practice marketing teams take stock of a year unlike any other they’ve likely experienced, one key takeaway should be that building brand resilience is paramount to long-term medical practice success. Brands, the biggest and most important asset that practices possess, have experienced unparalleled stress this past year.
This stress is not only due to COVID-19 changing patient attitudes and behaviors. Prospective patients are watching everything your organization does, with the expectations that your healthcare brand will have an impact beyond the confines of your category. Given this, your medical practice marketing requires expanding your traditional playbook – in a marketplace that is anything but ordinary.
Rethinking The Playbook
Today’s modern consumer expects you to take a different approach to your medical practice marketing. Starting with taking a different approach to your brand. Consumers expect brands to be more transparent, authentic, present and help make the world (at least in some small way) a better place.
Accenture Strategy’s Global Consumer Pulse Survey 2019 revealed that 65 percent of consumers want businesses to take a stand on issues that are close to their heart. That number rises to 74 percent for 18- to 39-year-olds. Similarly, 60 percent of consumers find it critical that a brand demonstrates its values with authenticity in everything it does.
Understanding where your medical practice brand stands and equipping it with the right brand building strategy elements – as a prelude to brand marketing strategy – creates a sense of security when unknown forces like COVID-19 and the new “not soon to be normal again” are at play.
A Comprehensive Set Of Medical Practice Marketing Plays
Leading medical practice marketing teams need to embrace a 360-degree definition of their brand — as the sum of every patient experience with their medical practice. These marketing leaders understand that every action they take, inside and out, is their brand.
These actions should revolve around an idea that unifies the entire brand spectrum – which we refer to as the Big Energizing Idea (and which you can read about here in this other blog post). It’s the central idea, derived from purpose, that guides how the brand comes to life, internally and externally. It inspires everything the brand does, inside and out. Important is that consumers may not see this idea directly. For example, while Nike lives by the belief, “Everyone is an athlete,” consumers hear “Just Do It.”
The 360 Degree Medical Practice Marketing Experience
Leading With Purpose
Purpose acts as the guidepost for aligning strategic decisions and actions for long-term success. Every business, including medical practices and physician practices, operates with some kind of purpose. True purpose champions deploy purpose as a guide for all decision-making across every area of the business. Their purpose is the central organizing idea that drives everything they do to create value – from customer service to marketing campaigns and social media programs, to personnel, social and environmental impact, profits and beyond.
David Boynton, CEO of The Body Shop, advises leaders would be wise to dig deeper into their organization and purpose, and to attend to it on a daily basis. “Raise the stakes when you come to work every day,” Boynton advised. “Keep testing yourself on purpose.” We know, from the Annual CEO Purpose Report, that regardless of where they fall on the Purpose Spectrum, most CEOs (80% of the 700 surveyed) believe that it’s essential for businesses to put more focus into long-term value creation.
Internal Brand Culture
The full potential of branding to drive growth is only realized when your brand is clearly defined, understood and embraced by everyone who works for your organization. Just as culture isn’t the sole responsibility of HR, brand management is not the sole responsibility of marketing.
It’s critical to have complete alignment on your strategic brand ideas with your entire executive team, as your brand is one of the most powerful drivers for customer engagement and performance across all areas of your business. Brand-led business requires the whole organization to be led from the very top to deliver consistently – through words, actions and behaviors – against brand promises. Here’s an infographic with these central branding strategy ideas:
Leveraging Your Design Assets In Your Medical Practice Marketing
Multiple studies reinforce the power of sustained and consistent use of highly distinctive brand assets. What’s so powerful about this idea is that the building of brand assets is available to all marketing teams and all companies regardless of size. For medical practice marketing teams, it’s a matter of deliberately and carefully managing over time, while ensuring optimization to work seamlessly across the digital landscape.
Symbolism triggers emotion and decisions by our fast, intuitive brain. Strong brands understand the symbolic meaning in everything: product design, packaging, logos, fonts, tone of voice and music. All of these strategic branding elements use instinctively understood colors, shapes and images to evoke particular emotions. Together, this symbolism constitutes a brand mnemonic – and a secret language for talking directly to consumers’ decision-drivers.
For branding inspiration, do you recognize the symbols below? Even without the brand names, they evoke powerful associations.
Coherence Across Touch Points
Aligning look, message and emotion across every different touchpoint is a significant challenge for brands that live across an increasing number of media channels. However, achieving and maintaining brand alignment delivers returns not only in enhanced attraction, but in maximized value for smaller medical practice marketing budgets. Particularly when marketing budgets are being challenged from the likes of COVID-19, you want to ensure coherence across every aspect of your brand building strategy.
Digital Expectations & Experience
The mass migration to digital – and the emergence of the ‘new digital wellness consumer’ – is one of the most well-documented fall-outs resulting from COVID-19. It’s a trend that is not only predicted to endure, but to permanently alter the future healthcare landscape. The new digital consumer is embracing more digital services, adopting different modes of communication and forming online communities. And what’s more, they don’t plan on giving these behaviors up.
In this new world a brand’s digital capabilities can no longer be viewed as a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘non-negotiable’, as consumers increasingly align themselves with products and services they are confident will be able to serve their needs from anywhere. A strong omnichannel experience, which enables customer engagement with services either in person, digitally or via a mix of both, is key. And, when done effectively can help medical practice keep patients within the brand ecosystem, despite changes in circumstance or lifestyle.
Website As Home Base For Your Medical Practice Marketing
We know from our extensive work with medical practices and physician practices that their websites tend to be the “home base” for their brand marketing efforts. It’s a home base that they also have total control over. Because prospective patients continue to first look to answer their questions or first search providers online, it’s important to optimize your web presence to ensure prospective patients are able to find you and get the information they need.
Following this, here are ten tactics to ensure you’re winning your fair share of online searches.
Not only do you need to have a website, you also need to make sure it’s mobile-friendly. One that is easy to navigate on a phone or tablet – as patient searches continue to trend to mobile phones and tablets. If not, it’s time to consider getting a responsive, mobile-friendly site. Important to note, the upcoming May 2021 Google Algorithm update will negatively impact sites that are not mobile-first.
2. SEO Best Practices
In order to improve your website ranking and search results, you need to follow the best practices of search engine optimization. At the same time that you add and update marketing content to keep it fresh, weed out things like low-quality or duplicate content, and avoid using spam tactics like keyword stuffing and link scheming. A good SEO strategy should focus on quality content, your local listings, and other more technical optimization.
3. Brand Content Marketing
Your medical practice should be creating strategic keyword-based brand content to attract patient searches for your specific procedures and services. Producing a steady stream of patient-focused content should be part of your SEO plan as content is an important factor in search engine ranking. It shows that you are an expert in your field, which improves your chances of ranking for relevant patient searches. You can create custom content to inform patients about your practice, qualifications, procedures, and services. Basically, whatever information they need and want to know.
4. Claim Local Listings
Once a patient has decided to schedule an appointment with your medical practice, he or she will need to know where to find you. This is where local listings come in. If you claim and verify your local listings in search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, these search engines will display that information when patients in your area search for you. If your listing doesn’t show up, or your listing information is incorrect, your new patients may have a hard time finding you and get frustrated.
5. Optimize Local Listings
Once your listing is claimed and verified, provide as much information as possible to make your listing stand out and improve your chances of showing up in search results. Add photos of your practice, fill out hours and specialties, and add a short description about your practice. The more information you can give, the better. Google My Business is also constantly rolling out features like user-submitted Q&A functionality, so make sure you stay on top of the latest online listing features so that you can be prepared.
6. Bolster Your Healthcare Blog
Hopefully, you’ve already started one. Your healthcare blog is a great democratizer – giving you a tremendous opportunity to have your brand voice heard and for you to be seen when patient searches are focused on looking for a provider. Key to a successful healthcare blog is providing value to prospective patients in a voice that is uniquely yours. Through your brand content marketing, you can share health tips relevant to your services and procedures, talk about innovations, give injury prevention tips, or any other relevant topics your patients would be interested in.
7. Update Your Website
Patients should always be able to get the latest information about your practice. If your website has a content management system, it should be relatively easy to make updates to your content. But you also need to keep your site up to speed with the latest technology. If your site is very old, it may not be up to date with all of the latest security and functionality standards. This can create frustration or distrust among your patients.
8. Leverage Patient Testimonials
User-generated content and word-of-mouth are two powerful methods to build credibility, reputation and trust. Which means patient testimonials are a valuable addition to a visitor’s website experience. Testimonials not only show the success stories of patients under your medical practice’s care, but signal your organization’s transparency, which can be reassuring to prospective new patients. You can make it easy for patients to submit testimonials via a form on your website.
9. Using Healthcare Social Media Marketing
Social media offers unparalleled reach to connect with patients and relevant influencers. Facebook and Twitter are great for engaging with patients by sharing blog articles, and posting health tips, announcements about events and relevant news related to your medical practice. LinkedIn is ideal for reaching fellow healthcare practitioners and other professionals. You don’t have to be on every social media platform available–just make sure that you are able to keep up and post regularly to the networks you do decide to participate in. Develop a social media plan to align your team around strategic goals, determine the role social media will play and determining your social media approach.
10. Establish Your Reputation Online
Patients trust the opinions of other patients more than they do traditional paid advertising. As such, healthcare review sites like HealthGrades and RateMDs are becoming increasingly popular. New patients will often look at those reviews when researching to find a new doctor. Online reviews are even becoming more prevalent in search results, and may also factor into your medical practice search ranking.
Rounding Out Your Medical Practice Marketing
Of course, many other traditional brand marketing strategies are available to medical practice marketing teams. And these are typically included as part of a more comprehensive marketing program, e.g. email marketing, direct mail, email or print newsletters, print and broadcast advertising, press releases, paid search campaigns, appointment reminders, etc. These other brand marketing efforts will likely help you get in front of prospective patients who may not have heard of you through online searches or word-of-mouth.
The Power of A Complete Brand Experience
The marketplace in general is incredibly crowded. In the best of circumstances, it’s tough for a brand to rise above the noise and generate customer engagement.
Your medical practice brand can be most influential when it looks, speaks and acts as one – as a 360-degree experience. Because the more unified your medical practice brand, the more potent it becomes and the more it can move patients and your business forward. At Trajectory, we accomplish this for clients by crafting brand purpose and story, and then aligning culture, strategy, design, communication and digital experience – so everything works together to connect and build value.
Since 1999, our New Jersey marketing agency Trajectory has worked with clients across the United States to help unlock the potential for health and wellness brands to leave their mark on the world. Reach out to us for a no-obligation consultation.