How Medical Practices Can Build their Presence and Grow Their Patient Base 

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Image by 123RF

By Andrew Witkin, CEO, StickerYou 

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No matter how good you are as a physician, chances are that you’re not an expert when it comes marketing. That’s because in the 20+ years that you spent in school (and that doesn’t even include residency), you probably didn’t take a single class on how to build your public brand. Now that you are making a living as a doctor, you probably wish that you had an easy way to get more patients in the door. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic button you can push, but there are a number of approaches that will help you leapfrog over the competition. And the good news is that they don’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. 

It all starts with building your brand. When most people hear that word, they think of a logo or a website. While those are important to have, they are really the physical manifestations of your brand, not the brand itself. Nor is a list of services that you provide, or your list of qualifications and experience, your brand. So, what is a brand? In simple terms it is everything that you represent, that you believe in, and that you want people to know about you. Just saying, “I’m an endocrinologist who went to med school at Michigan” doesn’t give prospective patients a reason to work with you. Instead, tell your story from a much bigger perspective. “I had bad headaches when I was a kid, and an endocrinologist figured out the problem and helped me get better. From that moment, I dedicated myself to be coming in endocrinologist so I could work with kids to help them feel well and live full lives.” That personal touch is everything. Remember that your resumé is not your brand! 

Once you have articulated your “secret sauce,” it’s time to start using that to your advantage as you grow your practice. The best place to start is your website, because more than 70% of people use the Internet when they look for a healthcare provider. If you have an old (or barely functional) site, you are going to create a bad impression no matter how good you are on the clinical side. You also want to make sure that you own all of your relevant digital properties, including a Google Business page, a Yelp page, and a LinkedIn page – and make sure that all of them are current. If you are affiliated with a hospital, make sure that your page on their website has all of your current information and isn’t just a list of random data. All of these channels are perfect places to share your brand beyond your qualifications and skills. 

As important as online marketing is, the physical world is just as relevant. That’s because medicine is a fundamentally human-centric profession, and doctors have connections with their patients that are unlike any other relationships in any other field. This creates incredible opportunities on the branding front, and medical practitioners need to capitalize on them. Not only is this important for building good relationships with existing patients, but it also gives doctors a way to encourage their biggest fans to get the word out to their friends and to the community. There’s no substitute for a referral from someone you trust. 

One of the best ways to do this is through branded gifts to patients. Something as simple as a water bottle with a logo on it can be given as a gift to encourage people to drink more water. But it also reinforces the doctor’s brand because their logo will be in full sight every time the patient takes a second. T-shirts, sweatshirts, and other apparel are also great ways to reinforce the brand of your medical practice. Keep in mind, the look and feel of these items has to be better than just the name of the practice in boring, white letters: this is where a great logo and design can make a real difference. 

Not everything you give out has to be expensive or over the top. This is where things like bumper stickers, decals, and other small items can make a significant impact when it comes to developing and promoting a visual brand. If you are a pediatrician, you know that kids love trinkets. Spending just a few dollars on a funny temporary tattoo or gag gift can really make a difference. If you tend to work with a lot of athletes, providing branded 1970s-style sweat bands could be a fun way to get your name (literally) top of mind. 

If all of this sounds a bit overwhelming, it shouldn’t. One of the major revolutions in creating SWAG over the last decade is that in most cases, minimum orders are no longer a factor. Back in the day, you may have had to order thousands of stickers for hundreds of branded pens, but advances in digital printing have made it possible to print any number of items, from one to one million. And the best part is that just about anything that you want to order can be done through a simple app or web-based interface in a matter of minutes, so you don’t need to spend days or weeks agonizing over what items to order and how to order them. 

There are obviously a lot more things that doctors can do to market themselves. Some hire a publicist to get themselves on local “best physicians” lists, while others spend heavily on search engine optimization so that they come to the top of the pile during web searches. But even if you don’t want to invest the time or money into these approaches, you can still use some basic branding techniques to articulate your story and tell it to the people who matter most. All it takes is a little imagination. 

Healthcare Business Today is a leading online publication that covers the business of healthcare. Our stories are written from those who are entrenched in this field and helping to shape the future of this industry. Healthcare Business Today offers readers access to fresh developments in health, medicine, science, and technology as well as the latest in patient news, with an emphasis on how these developments affect our lives.