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Healthcare Branding Misconception: "The Community Already Knows Us!"

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Occasionally, I hear from a doctor or healthcare executive, “We don’t need a lot of marketing. Everyone in the community already knows us.”

To that, I have to say: “Are you sure?” Remember, you spend a lot of time with your own brand, and it’s easy to forget that very few people have even a fraction of the interaction you do. Healthcare branding is how top hospitals, groups, and practices stay top of mind to their key demographics—whether they need services now or not. 

And if you don't have some combination of direct response marketing and branding in your marketing strategy, you're missing out on the chance to engage your community over and over again.

Related: Healthcare Branding: Answering the All-Important “Why You” Question

Organizations can overestimate their influence in the community

Many healthcare organizations vastly overestimate brand awareness in their communities. Think "everyone already knows who you are?" Statistically, that's highly unlikely. 

Now, let's say you work for the only hospital in a small town. Community members may know your hospital exists. But are they able to recall your brand when asked about specific service lines or ambulatory care services? 

Brand recognition certainly matters. But brand recall—the ability to recall your name when asked about a specific service you offer—can provide leverage in your community. 

Other healthcare brands may be top of mind

Here's a great example of the importance of brand recall. My CEO, Stewart Gandolf, told me about a time he went to visit a client—one of the largest oncology practices in the country. On the way there, he conducted an admittedly (very) informal survey, asking people in the airport, in the taxi, and even at the grocery store on the way to the hotel: “If you had cancer, where would you go for treatment?”

Of about 15-20 locals, not a single one named this cancer center located in their own backyards. In fact, one of the people he surveyed worked at the bank right across the street from this cancer center. Most named nationally recognized organizations like MD Anderson. Once they were given the name of our client, many (though not all) recognized it, but few could recall it at top of mind.

Of course, this is only anecdotal evidence. The point is that people are bombarded with messaging about competitors, even those located outside of your community, every day. And these branding efforts could put competitors ahead, even in the minds of your own neighbors.

Why healthcare branding matters

Your perception of your brand is in front of you every single day. And no matter what, that means you have a biased view.

But let's say you do have high brand awareness in the community, and people would name your organization among their top choices for care right now. Does that mean you should stop promoting your brand? Absolutely not.

It’s the reason multi-billion-dollar companies continue to spend money on traditional media like billboard ads. Do you need a sign to remind you that McDonald's serves hamburgers? Probably not. But McDonald's will continue to funnel mass amounts of money into their billboards and other media to make sure Burger King doesn't become your fast food joint of choice.

More than this, they'll fine-tune their brand positioning with time to make sure ads address the needs of the consumer. And while healthcare may seem like several leaps away from a fast food branding strategy, the principles come from the same idea.

Healthcare branding best practices

Marketing 101 tells us it typically takes many touchpoints with a brand before someone will become a customer (or patient). Direct response marketing, which uses a call-to-action in prompting a direct response from the consumer, is of vital importance today, especially with the ever-increasing rise in healthcare digital marketing.

But branding strategies can incorporate some direct response strategies, while working hand-in-hand with other marketing efforts to increase the chances of reaching new patients at the right point in time.

When all roads lead to digital marketing, a fantastic branding strategy can reach patients via social media ads that drill down on branding while providing a call-to-action for the consumer.

What matters most is that your branding strategy is well-thought-out and based on data-driven marketing. The right healthcare marketing agency can help you bridge the gap between direct response marketing and healthcare branding.

If you’re ready to boost your brand and see results from your marketing, call me or my team at 800-656-0907 today.

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