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Guide to healthcare branding

By: Kaz Weida

As patients become more knowledgeable about their own health thanks to the internet and modern medicine, they're also becoming more savvy healthcare consumers. This evolution means branding in healthcare marketing is taking center stage. A healthcare brand’s digital presence and online reputation are quickly displacing word-of-mouth and local referrals. In fact, research shows that 84% of patients trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations.

However, healthcare branding isn’t really about a catchy tagline or a well-designed logo. Medical branding is increasingly a product of how your healthcare organization is perceived in the marketplace and the foothold it has among respected professionals. Whether you invest in cultivating a brand identity or not, your healthcare brand is based on the trust it invokes among patients, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare experts. Here’s why that industry reputation matters and what you can do to develop a better healthcare branding strategy.

Why healthcare branding matters

There are lots of reasons to be intentional about developing your healthcare brand. Below are several that highlight the critical role of branding in healthcare marketing and how it plays into our perceptions about whether a provider is trustworthy, professional, and competent.

Branding in healthcare marketing has changed

The rise of technology in our lives means society is constantly evolving, and the healthcare industry is no exception. The Affordable Care Act has created online healthcare marketplaces that put the consumer front and center. Gone is a healthcare landscape shaped primarily by the limitations of insurance providers and employers. It has been replaced by an online environment where healthcare consumers have a wealth of knowledge and patient reviews at their fingertips.

The healthcare marketing space is highly competitive

A radical shift has taken place in the health industry that has moved the focus from treatment of disease to prevention and testing. This trend opens up many new avenues of healthcare services for both patients and providers. Competition in the healthcare space is fierce, with a growing emphasis on patient satisfaction and health brands that sell directly to consumers rather than through providers. This evolution in care means medical branding needs to catch up, especially in digital marketplaces.

Patients have more choices in the health industry

While location and insurance providers used to shape a vast majority of healthcare decisions, consumers now have more options. This means that catering to the customer and paying attention to the reputation of your health brand is an integral part of any healthcare marketing strategy. Research shows consumers are increasingly weighing the delicate balance between cost and provider reputation versus simply accepting whatever provider is closest and in-network.

Medical branding is about establishing trust

Perhaps more than any other industry, healthcare organizations build value into their brands by establishing trust and practicing transparency. This can be communicated not only through being transparent about the costs associated with care but also via healthcare marketing and branding. Each and every piece of a branding strategy, from the professionalism of marketing assets to the way your organization supports patients on social media, can contribute to this perception of public trust. 

6 steps to better healthcare branding

Looking to create a more confident and consistent healthcare brand strategy? Following these steps can set you on the right path to building a healthcare brand that fosters patient trust and inspires confidence.

Study the healthcare marketing competition

To better position your healthcare brand in the marketplace, it makes sense to study the competition. Take in the healthcare industry landscape and study what successful health brands do to differentiate themselves. Note whether they pursue marketing strategies like patient loyalty programs, community service campaigns, and partnerships with other providers.

Some companies that are household names like CVS or Cigna have a different patient base, so study medical professionals and practices that offer the same services or products. Read reviews and check out social media platforms to glean insights about how they’re connecting with healthcare consumers. Look for ways in which you might leverage technology, including apps and telemedicine, to capitalize on market insights and better meet patient needs.

Articulate your healthcare brand story

Your healthcare brand is more than whatever logo or tagline makes it to your website or on pamphlets. A brand identity is the story patients and providers tell about you whether they’re at a private practice, at local hospitals, or online. If you haven’t been intentional about creating a healthcare brand story, chances are consumers have already begun to shape one for you. Look online and take stock of your brand identity and identify what you’d like to change.

You can take control of the narrative by deciding what your healthcare brand story is and how to articulate it. Focus not only on the elements of your visual identity that define your brand identity but also how the content you share communicates what matters to you. Stories are about creating connections with your audience, so carefully consider where your brand storytelling takes place. Even baby boomers, who are the most likely demographic to consume healthcare services, report their lives are shaped by daily social media use.

Develop a healthcare brand strategy

Your healthcare branding strategy should be one that helps you stand out in a competitive marketplace. To cut through the noise in the industry’s busy marketplace, it’s essential to hone your healthcare marketing message. That means considering every element of what you do, from patient outreach to patient follow-up, and asking yourself one very critical question. Does this marketing effectively communicate our healthcare brand and identity?

Because trust and professionalism are crucial to success in the healthcare industry, it’s also important that your marketing assets are consistent and high quality. Lackluster design and sloppy content on your website or social media channels could create the impression the medical services you offer are equally haphazard. Lucidpress can help with brand templates that make it easy for hospitals, clinics, and medical practices to design professional-looking branded content. 

Lean into your health expertise

It used to be that medical practices and hospitals acquired patients as a matter of practicality either because of insurance coverage or a location that was convenient. Increasingly, patients look for healthcare providers that are best in class, even if it means they have to travel a little farther or pay a little more. Take, for instance, the success of the Mayo Clinic in capitalizing on its reputation for excellence and using that to catapult its online presence through expert content.

Lean into what you do best and let the professionals in your practice shine. Look for ways to feature educational content, engaging videos, and interviews on your website or social media. Consider partnering with other high-profile, reliable publications. Getting featured in medical journals and magazines produces an enticing bonus because it creates backlinks to your website and can be a boon for your online search ratings.

Focus on the patient journey

Shaping your healthcare branding around the patient experience can be a powerful way to communicate priorities and market your practice. Focusing on the patient journey starts with prospective patients and encompasses every step of their healthcare decisions. Making the patient experience a touchstone of your healthcare branding strategy means listening carefully and committing to putting healthcare consumer needs first.

Consider how your healthcare brand handles not only the services or products you provide but also how you conduct outreach to prospective patients and follow up with current ones. Every step of that journey is an opportunity to provide a personalized touch and a seamless experience from the moment they stumble across you online to the time they spend healing at home. Your healthcare brand has the chance to build a world-class reputation that speaks not only to the quality of the services you provide but the medical professionals you employ. 

Every member of your organization is a brand ambassador

High-profile stakeholders like board members or prominent physicians may be the public face of your healthcare marketing campaign. But every employee from the social media manager to the clinic receptionist and even former patients are potential ambassadors for your healthcare brand. 

Whether these team members connect with patients online or in person, they are your brand’s most powerful advocates. It’s helpful if they walk the talk and are on the same page when it comes to your brand story and marketing strategy. And it’s imperative everyone in your organization understands that every interaction during the patient journey has the potential to make or break your brand reputation.

The current healthcare landscape may be competitive, but within all that bustle and noise is an opportunity to empower patients and create better-informed healthcare consumers. Building a dynamic, thoughtful digital healthcare brand can capitalize on that unique opportunity and establish stronger connections of trust and transparency between healthcare providers, healthcare consumers, and the communities they serve.

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Kaz Weida

Kaz Weida is a freelance journalist and photographer who is passionate about crafting content that helps entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes tackle challenges. When not at her keyboard, Kaz can be found in the kitchen indulging in a little craft cocktail inspiration.

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