Mistaken beliefs about driving patient leads: does traditional healthcare brand awareness marketing still work? 

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October 3, 2020

In today’s increasingly competitive healthcare environment, healthcare brand awareness has to bring in new business. 

So how can you cultivate your hospital’s image in a digital world that makes it so easy for happy and unhappy customers to influence your brand reputation? It’s clear that traditional “healthcare brand awareness” (think logos, brochures, and event sponsorships) is no longer enough. Today, your brand is something you’ll have to work with your customers, employees, and community to build.

This isn’t new. Reputations have always been built on what others are saying, right? But branding today is about increasing your “mindshare” among your potential customers. It’s ultimately about the way you respond to an ongoing conversation about your hospital — a conversation that’s happening with or without you.

The Case Against Branding

Healthcare brand awareness creates visibility, sure. It can even help create demand. But does it drive sales?

Sales consultant Trey Morris says branding usually involves “Photoshop, buzzwords, and smoke and mirrors,” meaning it’s often little more than a pretty logo, an ad on the side of a bus, or an unengaging Twitter account. It all adds up to a bunch of vague promises.

So why should healthcare professionals listen to a “sales consultant?” Because he’s right. Since we do so much of today’s branding via social media, let’s hear from Olivier Blanchard, an author and brand management consultant:

“I think that a lot of people were sold on the … ‘content is king’ theory of (social branding). That all you had to do was put out content that cost a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing creative, and that it would be as effective as advertising or email marketing. Unfortunately, that’s just not how it works … You’re supposed to be driving business, not ‘likes.’”

Healthcare brand awareness is about commanding attention. It’s about drawing favorable attention to your hospital’s services. But in a day and age when everyone’s attention span is measured in seconds (or less), it’s also a good idea to focus on building relationships built around customer behaviors.

And it’s a good time to talk about “lead generation” the same way other businesses approach it — from a customer-centric approach that looks at the buyer’s journey (in this case the hospital patient’s journey) and purchasing pathways.

The Push for Accountability and Healthcare Brand Awareness

Branding has its place in your sales and marketing mix, but accountability is paramount. “Accountability” is more than the latest buzzword in hospital and health system marketing: it is an imperative.

You have to tie your marketing efforts to specific performance metrics. This is something that traditional brand awareness marketing (and its cousin, public relations), failed to do.

Like any other department, today’s marketing teams have to deliver measurable results.

Branding and public relations have been divorced from performance data and the tools needed to measure marketing for too long. Since the contributions of all healthcare marketing tactics can be quantified using today’s digital marketing techniques, it’s time to make your brand awareness and public outreach campaigns accountable.

A Targeted Approach to Healthcare Brand Awareness

Branding lets people know you exist. But people who need your hospital’s services don’t always think, “I need a hospital.” They think, “I need an emergency cardiac care for chest pains” or, “I need an experienced partner to help me plan my pregnancy.” The message you tailor for each of these groups of target audiences will be different.

Refining a message and delivering it to a receptive audience at the right time will bring you results every time.

Understanding Lifetime Value

I mentioned above that you must couple today’s branding needs with relationship-building and an understanding of customer behavior. This behavior is different for a patient who is just getting to know you than it is for a patient who has been coming for appointments for ten years or more.

As a person’s trust in your brand builds, you want to help them discover additional services. You educate them; you provide value. You make them want to come back.

This is where the “lifetime value” of a customer or patient comes in. Although branding will play a role in bringing new people through your front door, focusing on client development and customer retention will prove to be much more valuable in the long term.

This can be done via easily quantifiable lead generation tactics, from properly segmented email newsletters (again, targeting a receptive audience at the right time), to properly crafting social media advertising campaigns focused on specific people and specific desired outcomes.

How will your marketing tactics change? Here’s one example: Instead of half-hearted, unengaging social media posts, you might create informative, “live-streamed” videos via Facebook or Twitch.tv, building an audience organically while also driving targeted visitors via optimized advertising.

Your consistent branding will continue to inform these tactics to create lifelong, engaged patient relationships. But the messages themselves (and the audiences they target) will have to be pinpoint-precise. And the results will have to be carefully monitored and tied to specific outcomes. That’s how you will refine and improve — an ongoing process that doesn’t end when the quarter or the fiscal year is over.

Bringing Branding and Lead Gen Together

Unlike branding, lead generation identifies who your prospects are, quickly and measurably. While brand awareness strategies reinforce your hospital’s reputation and image, lead generation strategies offer specific solutions to specific problems faced by real people.

Your hospital’s reputation will absolutely influence these peoples' decision to come to you or a competing provider. Without positive brand awareness, a lead generation’s campaign success will be limited.

To integrate branding and lead generation effectively, you’ll need to understand your market and your competitors. You’ll need to conduct detailed customer research, learn how they evaluate the options available to them, and find out what makes other healthcare providers attractive to them as they’re making their decision.

As I stated, accountability is key. This means having clear goals for both lead generation and brand awareness. Make sure you have the appropriate budgets to make your goals attainable. And make sure results are measured, so you always know what is and isn’t working.

Bizzuka Can Help

Healthcare providers both large and small invest a great deal of time and resources in creating and refining the story behind their brand. Even when they have their own marketing and design teams (or work alongside branding and PR agencies), marketing tasks often fall into the laps of already-overworked administration teams.

For these folks, posting on Twitter, writing a new blog post, or setting up and optimizing an AdWords campaign are often pretty low on their list of priorities. The result is inconsistent messaging and little impact on sales.

Bizzuka can help your healthcare organization build a memorable, impactful brand identity, and couple it with effective digital marketing that will drive new business. We can take the workload off your internal resources by helping you craft, refine, and broadcast your messages to new and existing patients.

You don’t need branding campaigns without digital marketing, and you don’t need to hinder digital marketing with inadequate branding. At the end of the day, what you need most is margin increase on profitable service lines. That’s how Bizzuka can help.