There seems to be an assumption at a lot of rural hospitals that there isn’t much need to think about awareness. After all, if you are the only hospital in town, everyone must know about you, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, and that kind of thinking leads hospital administrators to miss out on huge opportunities to increase market share and build trust in their communities.
Although people may be aware that your hospital exists, do they know what you do? Do they know the important medical services your provide? Do they know about the compassion your medical staff brings to the job every day? Do they understand your hospital’s role in the community?
Hospital administrators need to be able to answer all of those questions in the affirmative. In business marketing, it is well known that exposure = awareness = sales. It’s no different for rural hospitals. Exposure in your local community means more awareness of your hospital’s services and values, which translates into new patients and less out migration.
SRJ has worked with rural hospitals for nearly 30 years to develop cost-effective marketing strategies that increase awareness and position healthcare facilities as community leaders. Here are a few things that can help increase awareness of your hospital or clinic.
Work with community leaders
Rural hospitals play a special role in the communities they serve. They are an important resource for wellness services and information about important health-related issues. They have a responsibility to be visible community leaders. Developing productive relationships with other community organizations and community leaders is an important way to both promote your hospital’s brand and to build trust.
Hospitals SRJ works with have found success organizing and sponsoring events in partnership with other local medical services, schools, volunteer organizations and local businesses. Think about what events your hospital will host and brainstorm ways your team can participate in the community throughout the year.
Bringing teams together helps build trust and pool resources to better serve the community. Doing so is an important way for hospitals to reach a broader audience and to build a positive reputation in their towns and counties.
Engage your audience
Marketing really just means telling your story. Doing that requires a number of tools and some persistence. Regularly engaging the community by sharing useful information and news about the hospital is an important way to keep patients and community leaders informed.
A successful marketing strategy means leveraging public relations materials such as press releases, advertisements in the local paper, direct mail and newsletters. Designing these with your community and your message in mind and communicating that is a proactive way to keep people informed about what you have to offer the community you serve.
Good marketing makes sure you remain top of mind when members of your community need your services.
Digital marketing is essential in the 21st century
Does a hospital really need a Facebook account? YES!
Studies show that more and more people are looking for information about their health and about medical services in their region online. Social media is a powerful platform to engage your community directly. You can use it to provide updates about services at your hospital, announce events, or thank staff and volunteers for their services. The possibilities are endless!
And while it may seem time-consuming, working on your digital strategy is absolutely essential if you want to compete with the big hospitals in the city.
Develop a marketing strategy
I have worked with dozens of hospitals, and I’ve seen a lot of wasteful marketing strategies. Actually, it’s probably not fair to even call them strategies. Too many hospital teams treat marketing and communications as a side project that can be picked up one month, forgotten about the next, or delegated to someone who has no interest or time to do it right.
With limited resources, small hospitals need to focus on the right audience by figuring out exactly who they need to reach in their communities and how to do it on a lean budget. This is especially important for small hospitals in small towns. Inconsistency is destructive to awareness.
Developing a plan and following it each week of each month and setting goals and targets along the way will make it easier to execute your marketing strategy. Instead of scrambling at the last minute to get something done, you will have concrete deadlines and materials ready to use. This will help you save money in the long run and lower the burden on your staff.
Ready for a new approach?
If you are struggling to increase awareness or simply don’t have the time or resources to do it effectively, call SRJ Marketing Communications to learn how a new approach to marketing can benefit you and your team. SRJ works with rural hospital teams to develop cost-effective strategies that use that right tools to reach your local community. For a free consultation, please call 214-528-5775.