Branding your business – where to start and where to go

branding advice for doctors

Dr George Forgan-Smith is a GP and medical educator who has built a strong online following for his blog and webpage The Healthy Bear, which addresses health issues within the gay community. Here is his story of how he connected with his target group and built a successful business.


Hey guys, it’s Dr. George here. Today I wanted to talk very briefly about branding, what it means and how it’s worked for me. Here is a bit of a story. When I moved from Byron Bay to Melbourne, I arrived in a city where I had no patient base. For the average GP they will get some overflow patients, but there are some practice jobs when you need actually work to get patients. In particular, patients that you want to hang out with because, whilst I’m really good at pap smears, I’m not your guy for it. I’m really good at gay men’s health, HIV, and stuff like that.


The story behind The Healthy Bear

When I came to Melbourne I thought, “How the frick am I going to get a whole bunch of new patients?” I had to think about who do I identify with and who do I want to serve. In my case that was a community of men called bears, middle aged, overweight, hairy, gay men. I needed to create a brand around that. I created a blog and started creating resources for these people. What I’ve known about bears is there’s an immediate disconnect between the medical fraternity and the bear community. Doctors in the past have been previously treating them poorly. This was usually because they’re overweight, they’re at risk of diabetes, they may smoke, they may drink alcohol. Add on top of that a layer of homophobia and you have a group of people who hate going to see the doctor.



What I did was, I created a conduit between medicine and bears, with me in the middle. That lead to me filling my appointment books very rapidly. It enabled me to have a good, strong, reliable source of patients and income no matter where I went. This is why I teach branding. It is particularly helpful for registrars because if you have a group of people who will follow you anywhere you will have an income that will follow you anywhere as well.


How do you get started in branding?

The first thing to think about is congruency. You have to be congruent. If your brand says you love working with middle aged gay men, but when they arrive and find out that you’re a homophobic asshole, then you’re going to lead to the opposite of branding. You’re going to get an inadvertent advertising view and it’s all going to be negative.


How to brand

When establishing a brand, you need to stop and think who do you want to serve? What are your passions? Who do you care about the most and how would you like to help these people? For me, it was about gay health. How can I best offer gay health to gay men in a way that’s going to be accessible and easy for them? In my case, it was blogs and videos. Say, for example, you have a passion about polycystic ovarian disease. Then this is a group of patients who are very frustrated, who have multiple medical issues, and who have had experiences in the past with doctors that have usually been unsuccessful. We get to a certain point in polycystic ovarian disease and we sort of go, “I don’t freakin’ know’.


Where to target your branding

You could be the doctor that goes beyond “I don’t freakin know”. When you’ve decided on that group of people then the next point of call is to start thinking, “Well, what do they need? What do they want? What are they screaming for that they are not getting so far?” Whether it be resources, whether that be handouts, whether that be videos, you name it, this is where you go to town. You can do online research as well to look into a market if you’re not 100% sure about what they want. What I would recommend is going into Forums, also going into places like Yahoo answers as well as Quora. These are all places that people go to ask questions, where experts can come in and answer the question.
If you find that there are common themes within polycystic ovarian disease why don’t you start creating some answers? Whether that be a blog article, whether that be a video, whether that be a simple infographic that explains this stuff, and then give it to them. The key thing is at the very bottom make sure that you have someplace for them to come and talk with your. Whether that be a Facebook page, a LinkedIn page or your very own blog. Something I do recommend is you should have a blog. Have a home place where you can put all of your resources. A blog is a really, really great way to do this.


Why are you branding?

The key points of branding are it’s not all about you, it’s all about who you want to serve. Then you base your brand around how you’re best going to serve those people. My brand is basically that I am a gay, friendly doctor who’s non-judgmental no matter what happens. It has to be absolutely congruent from the answers you give, to the videos that you create, to the way that the person interacts with you online, to the way that the person meets you in real life. It doesn’t always work. For my example of rapid HIV testing, I honestly believed that I was going to be setting up a wonderful resource for gay men, and I did, I did create a wonderful resource for gay men.
However, inadvertently I also contracted a group of people who were very concerned about HIV after having seen sex workers. I’ve managed to make this into a subset of the brand but it wasn’t intentionally the brand that I went for. It’s just that that’s what happens with marketing: you can’t always guarantee this sort of stuff.


Workshop and Business for Doctors Conference 2017

This was a brief introduction to how I personally go about branding. I’m really looking forward to talking more about this and marketing. I will be talking about what I do online at the Business for Doctors Conference in 2017 and I would really love it if you are able to attend. It’s going to be a great opportunity for many, many great people to come and share what they’re doing online and in businesses as well. I think this is going to be a very interesting conference. I would love to catch up with you there. Have a great day and I hope you found this brief introduction a wonderful taster to some great things that are ahead. Have a great day. See you guys.