Brand recognition is a long-standing hallmark of effective marketing. It’s also one of the few strategies of traditional advertising that’s retained its necessity throughout the digital revolution. The fact is, branding is inherent to doing business—no matter where that business exists. After all, how can you compete with similar businesses if nobody knows who you are? Building a brand online for your hearing practice is a function of delivering quality service in-person, and excellent value and connection online.
Your brand is the way your business is perceived by current and potential patients. Ideally, you want your brand to have an aesthetic and a reputation that communicates your level of service and ability to help patients achieve the results they’re hoping for. These are the initial steps of creating a brand, or business image, and is an area where seeking the opinions of others (professionals or not) can be of real help. After all, magenta and teal might speak “soft and friendly” to you, but end up speaking “1987” to ten of your friends and colleagues. Luckily, rebranding to have a look and feel that represents your current practice is easy and not uncommon.
The main goal of branding your hearing practice is to create a legion of patients who are eager to recommend your services to friends and acquaintances, and who don’t bat an eye at offers from local competitors. Market research continues to reveal that having strong “brand loyalty” from customers outweighs even heavily discounted offers by competitors.
In this new era of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids becoming widely available, building brand awareness for your practice is critical. Your brand is how you convey the type and level of service you provide, as well as the trusted products you offer. Surveys show that hearing aid consumers are indeed very interested in professional care when it comes to their hearing aids, and OTC aids without hearing services dramatically lose their perceived value. When it comes to products and services that people rely on, it turns out that quality and trustworthiness still matter. This is where branding becomes paramount.
So how do you create a brand that people know and trust? For decades, brands have relied solely on their personal appeal to compete for buyers in a saturated market, focusing heavily on how their products or services will make customers feel. This is the Psychology of Marketing 101, and is based on what advertisers refer to as the Emotional Selling Proposition (ESP). The ESP is what large and successful companies (think Nike and Coca-Cola) have used in their ad campaigns to create a strong psychological bond between customers and their brand— resulting in millions of immovable brand loyalists for their products.
While the explosion of the Internet Age didn’t diminish the importance of branding, it certainly evolved the way businesses now build their brands. The multitude of online mediums (websites, social media profiles, review sites, etc) has provided more avenues than ever before for customers to interact with businesses in a personal way. The Emotional Selling Proposition thus evolved into an Experience Selling Proposition (XSP), where brand loyalty is now established through individual customer experiences with a business. The Internet has made customer relations (and the quality of services and products) more visible, with related reviews and comments being forever accessible online. Luckily, this is true for the positive reviews as much as it is for the negative ones.
Building your brand isn’t only happening online, of course. Every new patient you see is a potential brand-loyalist who could help spread awareness of your practice. Traditional branding strategies like visual print ads, mailers, and broadcast media are also helpful (albeit more expensive than digital options). But not building your brand online is a big mistake. We’ve made the case multiple times (see here, here, and here) for how many potential patients are online looking for local services like yours. Ignoring the online platform to boost your brand’s visibility— and eventual familiarity—would be a huge missed opportunity.
If you’re staring at this opportunity with a sense of overwhelm, don’t worry: creating brand awareness online doesn’t have to mean that you spend hours on the web each day. You can cultivate those valuable positive customer experiences through simple means. In our view, the best way is through excellent written content—something you can create on any day, at any time, and then post to your website and elsewhere online.
Providing useful and informative content about hearing-related topics instantly provides value to your potential patients perusing the Internet. Producing this kind of content also serves to establish you as an authority, or expert, in your field, and even boosts your online visibility (by enhancing your SEO rankings—something we talk more about here).
The most important thing to remember about creating content in an effort to build brand awareness online is that your content should create a sense of connection with your audience. As a hearing professional, you have intimate knowledge of what it’s like to live with hearing loss and other hearing problems. That, combined with your specialized understanding of how to overcome those problems, has the potential to gain the attention of many prospective patients who are desperately looking for answers online. Delivering those answers in a way that captures the nuances of their situation is an easy way to both provide a valuable content experience and indirectly market your services.
To expand your brand’s presence online, you should publish the content you create on your website, and then work to post it elsewhere online. Sure, promoting your blogs or articles on any social media platforms you have is great. But even better is to submit those articles to other websites and publications as a guest writer or blogger. The benefit of guest posting is twofold: the short writer bio (typically at the bottom of guest articles) is free marketing for you to an audience beyond your current reach, and a link to your website in that short bio helps to boost your ranking in online search results (your SEO ranking), making it easier for people to find your website online.
The digital sphere is full of instant results, and digital marketing is no exception. Running an online ad campaign gives you immediate data about the success of your efforts. Branding, however, is one of the long-term, big-picture marketing tools, and building your brand online is subject to the same rule. However, given the much wider reach the Internet gives your business, it’s likely that you can build your brand much faster online (and much cheaper) than you could do with traditional routes alone.
There’s no denying the potential that the digital realm has for your practice—be it for creating a strong following of loyalists to your practice, or for converting website visitors into patients tomorrow. What you begin today can reap you benefits sooner than you might expect, and when done well, can create a supportive base to keep your practice successful for the many years to come.