This summer, we’ve spent a lot of time nurturing relationships with our existing clients as well as getting to know some new ones. One topic that continues to come up in one way or another is the differences between branding, marketing and advertising. 

When you factor in that each of these exists in the digital space and offline, it can easily become confusing. We’re often asked questions like “aren’t marketing and advertising the same thing?” or “I’m a doctor…does branding really matter?”

So, let’s break it down. 

Think of medical marketing, branding and advertising as a three-legged stool. Each leg is essential, but they work together to serve a larger purpose. In their simplest form: 

Your brand is the personality of your practice.

Marketing is how you communicate your brand.

Advertising is paid marketing.


We know what you’re thinking. You’re not a retail business, so does branding really matter? Absolutely! Your brand identity is how your audience perceives you. 

For physicians, branding is two-fold. First, there’s the brand of your practice as a whole. Then, your personal brand as a doctor. For a single physician private practice, the two may be synonymous. But for a multi-physician group practice or larger healthcare organization like a hospital or primary care network, these two brands should be unique yet complementary and cohesive with one another. 

Beyond defining the basics like your mission, vision, value proposition and the services that you offer, the best way to hone in on your brand identity is to think of it as personality. Ask yourself, “If my brand was a person…”:

  • What five adjectives would you use to describe their personality?
  • What clothes do they wear? Formal? Casual?
  • How do they speak and carry themselves?

Once you create an inventory of your brand’s attributes and traits, you can develop a voice and tone based on these traits that will serve as the foundation for your entire medical marketing strategy. 

Medical Marketing

Building a strong medical marketing strategy is key to running a successful practice. It is essential to retaining current patients, attracting new patients and building a network of referring physicians. 
A well-planned digital healthcare marketing strategy should include: 

  • Actionable, measurable goals
  • Budget, including how much you will spend on digital advertising
  • Consistent branding that complements and supports your traditional marketing efforts
  • Evaluation of the online patient experience to identify strengths and weaknesses
    • How does your website look from a desktop? Mobile device?
    • How quickly does your website load?
    • Is your website HIPAA and ADA compliant?
    • Is it easy to navigate?
    • Is your contact information clearly visible?
    • Is there a clear call to action?
    • Does it provide the information your existing and potential patients would be looking for?
    • Can patients schedule appointments, access forms or communicate with their provider online?
  • Plan for how to drive traffic to your website
    • Optimize for search engines (SEO)
    • Leverage social media
    • Claim online review profiles
  • Procedure for addressing online patient reviews
  • Defined metrics to analyze the effectiveness of your strategy


With the ever-evolving digital landscape, simply having a website is not enough. Advertising, or paid marketing, is essential in order to stand out in today’s competitive healthcare market. The beauty of advertising online is that the results are generally easier to measure than traditional means of advertising like billboards, print ads, or television/radio ads. 
There are a number of ways that you can do this: 

  • Search engine marketing (SEM) with a targeted pay-per-click campaign; These are listings that you see on the top, bottom and sides of the search results when entering a keyword or phrase into a search engine.
  • Display advertising can be in the form of banners, landing pages or pop-ups. These do not show up in search results but are commonly found on websites and blogs.
  • Social media marketing through paid ads, promoted posts or sponsored stories are a great way to increase your reach and engagement in order to ultimately drive more traffic to your website.
  • Native advertising with a sponsored post on another popular website, such as your local or regional newspaper, can be a less intrusive way to advertise online. Since it includes a link back to your website, this is also a great way to improve your SEO.
  • Retargeting is a type of online advertising that uses cookie-based technology to serve ads to those that have already visited your website but maybe didn’t take action. For example, maybe they landed on your website after clicking a link on Facebook to read your blog about different birth control methods but never filled out the form to request an appointment. Through retargeting, they’ll be served an ad later while they are surfing the web or scrolling through social media. 

There are so many facets of branding, medical marketing and online advertising that it would be impossible to thoroughly explain them in a single blog post. But, we hope this helped provide some clarity as to how the three of them are interconnected and can be used to help increase your patient retention, attract new patients and build referrals.

Developing a healthcare marketing strategy, monitoring its effectiveness and keeping with best practices and algorithm changes is a full-time job. And as a physician, your time is limited. That’s where we come in. 

TargetMarket provides prescribed medical marketing solutions to help doctors spend more time with patients and less time worrying about how to grow their practice. Get in touch today to request a free consultation.

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