View All Blog Posts

Rural Marketing: Two Major Challenges

In this week’s episode, Jenny chats with Hedy & Hopp’s own Director of Activation, Lindsey Brown to talk about rural marketing. They discuss the unique challenges and opportunities that working with regional hospital systems or payors in rural communities present:

Challenge 1: Channel

Lindsey states that access to channels may differ from marketing in urban areas. Rural areas may have more limited or no access to things like fiber internet, cable TV, and even billboards and signage. However, that doesn’t mean rural areas are disconnected, the opportunities to connect are just through different channels:

  • Traditional channels are critical, but don’t forget streaming services, video platforms like YouTube, and social media.
  • Beyond digital, in rural areas, you’ll find that partnerships with local entities like high schools and local businesses play a powerful role in building reputation for your brand

Challenge 2: Content

The second challenge Lindsey brings up is that the framing of content looks a little bit different in rural areas. Rather than focusing on messaging like “24/7” or “Get Seen Today,” which may not be feasible in rural areas, rural audiences may respond better to practical messaging that promotes convenience, scheduling ahead, or social determinate of health topics like transportation or cost.

Finally, Jenny and Lindsey offer a few areas to research if you are marketing in a rural community:

  • Social Media – in rural areas social can drive higher conversion rates as people tend to be more connected on social media than urban areas
  • Programmatic – in rural areas, a tight, conversion-focused message may go further than general brand awareness for programmatic
  • Key Events – partnerships with companies, events, and even signage can all be great opportunities to build brand awareness and reputation
  • Paid Search – don’t underestimate the power of conversion-focused, bottom of funnel paid search tactics

Connect with Jenny:


Jenny: [00:00:00] Hi friends. Welcome to today’s episode of “We Are, Marketing Happy,” a healthcare marketing podcast. I am super excited to be here with you today. My name is Jenny Bristow. I am the CEO and founder at Hedy and Hopp. We are a full service, fully healthcare marketing agency. And I have with me today, our Director of Activation, Lindsey Brown.

Lindsey: Hi, Jenny. Hi, everyone. Great to be back. 

Jenny: So, Lindsey, our team has been so busy. You and your team have been so busy developing media strategies and marketing strategies to be able to activate on behalf of our clients. And, quite a few of them have at least part or all of their audiences in rural locations.

So, we started talking about rural marketing because it’s very different, right, than how you would approach a heavily populated metropolitan area. And I loved it, whenever we were talking, you really broke down rural [00:01:00] marketing as far as two major challenges, the channel and the content. So tell me about that.

Lindsey: Yeah, absolutely. So, it has been an honor to really dig into sort of a new audience set for us at Hedy and Hopp, or at least in my career. A lot of times in my previous life, you know, I’ve been working really with hospital systems that are in very densely populated areas and their audiences are usually, you know, in that general vicinity.

So it’s been really great to learn more about the rural communities, how best to reach those potential new patients for some of these regional hospital systems and payers that really reached that rural community. And so one of the key challenges that we really uncovered quickly is how are we going to reach this audience just based on the limitations in wireless access? Even though a vast majority, so we’re looking at 95, 99 percent of those in a rural community do have access to internet.

The kind of internet access that you have may not [00:02:00] be as robust or as powerful as you might be able to get in the city. Things like fiber are not available in those rural communities, by and large. Other things like television, so most of these communities don’t have cable. So cable television is not an area where we really can explore. 

Same with billboards. In a smaller area, there’s fewer opportunities to have your message in a billboard because you have much fewer literal billboards or even digital billboards available to you and gas stations and things to that effect. So, these kinds of things really are areas of, I guess, limitation, but then opportunity to really think about marketing and reaching these folks in a different way than we’re kind of used to doing in more densely populated areas.

So, thinking about local communities. So, something that has been really impactful for a couple of our current clients is really partnering with local schools, even the high school where, you know, football or other sporting events are really big. And having your name associated with that local community can be really impactful as a nice reinforcement, but even [00:03:00] some kind of partnership with local businesses or other places that can have flyers or other kinds of like partnership abilities with those local areas can be really impactful again to just build awareness, name recognition, make sure that folks know about your capabilities and your services and how they can access them, which really comes to like the 2nd point, right? The content.

So then. What do we talk about it? You know, we can’t necessarily go to market with the same kind of messaging. Like, book your appointment now, we can see you in 24 hours. Like, that kind of stuff probably doesn’t really work in these communities because they may need more time to figure out transportation, to figure out who’s going to cover for them while they’re out, whether they’re, you know, they’re working and they don’t have as many folks to back them up or, you know, they’re owning their own business.

So they can’t get away. So, things more about convenience scheduling ahead of time so you can plan for that time out. And things like how to, you know, reach the hospital. What kinds of transportation, bus lines, [00:04:00] or other modes of transportation are available. That will drop you right at the front door.

So some of these more practical messages might actually resonate more with these communities where it’s the practical things that are actually limiting them from accessing your services. 

Jenny: Absolutely. And I know one of the things that we always talk about with our clients as we’re developing messaging and communication strategies is that social determinants of health, right?

Is there certain levels of poverty or income limitations within the regions we’re talking to? And that can happen in both, clearly, highly urban areas as well as rural, but often if we’re looking at like some of our clients, historically, if we’re looking at super large rural areas, oftentimes there’s also a pretty large percentage of the population that does have some sort of social determinants of health that’s going to impact their ability to access care. So figuring that out upfront and having them be part of the core messaging is super important to make sure that your services are accessed. 

Lindsey: Absolutely, and that you’re showing up to them in the right way. Because again, if your message is all about, [00:05:00] I’m going to use the 24 hour example again.

If your message is all about that is not going to resonate with a rural community. Someone that just, you know, doesn’t have that kind of flexibility in their time. So making sure that message again resonates with what they’re living with day to day. Ways to you know, expand upon how you’re active in that community again, through those partnerships and things like that really help to, let those potential new patients or those potential new customers really see you as part of the community and not just some big company that’s way out here. They don’t know what I’m dealing with. They don’t understand who I am and who we are here in this town that can really help kind of bridge some of those gaps and make those connections.

Jenny: Yeah. And I think what’s interesting, I loved watching this. Some of the campaigns that you put into market middle of middle beginning of last year did still, even in rural markets still included things like streaming services, so putting ads on Netflix and Hulu. So just because people are in rural areas does not mean, you know, I grew up in a rural area.

My parents live in a very rural area. I guarantee you, they still have all of those same services. So [00:06:00] I guess, Making sure that you don’t, you know, view those people as, Oh, they only have, you know, satellite TV, and they only have landlines or dial up internet. You know, you just can’t go into it. You need to actually get the data because each rural area really can have its own sort of you know, personality as far as how tech savvy they may or may not be.

Lindsey: Yeah, and a lot of those Internet service providers really offer the correct speed that you need to run things like Netflix, but they may not have the correct speed to run things like, you know, gaming. So there are avenues, like connected TV is a perfect example of where you can reach this audience because they will be watching those services.

Generally, that’s where the population is moving. You may not be able to get them through cable. You can get them through connected. Another way to think about that too, is in YouTube. So this is a highly, this YouTube is a highly used channel among this population. Really all social media is really highly used around this population.

So those are channels where you can really make some impact. And again, start to build some engagement and build some [00:07:00] reputation based on the content that you’re sharing, ensuring that it is localized, ensuring that it does feel authentic. And like you’re coming from that kind of a place will be really important there.

But those are huge channels for this audience as well. So do not discount those digital mediums at all. 

Jenny: Okay. I’m going to totally put you on the spot here. Okay. So you’re so good at on the spot questions. I’m excited to ask this. If I were a marketing manager at a regional or a, you know, rural oriented provider or payer, and I was thinking about what my media plan should look like for the next six months, let’s say I have a kind of limited budget and I perhaps haven’t tested very many interesting tactics, but maybe I’ve like only really done radio and billboards so far. If you had to provide a couple of recommendations of platforms, just to dig into, to learn more and research more around, not that you’re saying this is what you want to do.

Everyone should do but like here’s the areas you should research to see if it matches your demographic. What are like the four to six ones that you prioritize? If it [00:08:00] is, if it’s performance oriented. So if their main goal is to drive signups or new patients. 

Lindsey: So again, I’m going to, I’m going to talk about social media.

So I feel like social media is one place where you are going to get a big bang for your buck there. It’s not always seen as the most conversion driven tactic, but that I think is not the case when we get into the rural communities. Again, if we’re talking about folks that are engaged with each other in social media, this is an area where you need to explore, especially if you’ve only been doing a couple of broadcast mediums like radio or billboards, where you’re probably not getting a ton of reach, which means your opportunity to kind of see results from those tactics are going to be pretty small.

Doing something really simple, like social media, where you can really easily pivot and start to learn a little bit more about your audience. I would actually spend some time on the social media platforms. Like, look at Instagram, look at Facebook, look at TikTok, look at all of those platforms just to see what are some of the key businesses in those areas.

What are they doing? How are they [00:09:00] reaching those particular communities? Do a little bit of competitive Intel, maybe not with a good direct competitor to you, but like, For others in that area, how are they speaking to those folks? And then, you know, what are they using? So social media, I’m going to say is going to be really important.

I also don’t want people to discount like the need for programmatic or some kind of programmatic advertising again. Not always the best conversion driver, but that’s where that message is going to be really important. So if you make sure that message is direct about either booking an appointment or booking a consultation, that you have a variety of appointments available, something very quick.

Likely, you’re going to see better conversions than you would if you just kind of did general brand awareness that didn’t really have a call to action. So programmatic, don’t discount it. Make sure your message is really tight and has a purpose. And then the last thing I’ll say is, you know, do some due diligence and looking around over the next 6 months on what those what, like, key events are happening.

Where are some areas where your brand could actually show up? What are there any partners? You can look at partnering with or, you know. Companies, you can [00:10:00] look at partnering with to kind of co brand, maybe a message or something that could be distributed at that event or help with signage something like that.

The next 6 months are going to be tough for every single advertiser, whether you’re in a rural community or an urban community. I don’t know if, you know, but we’re in an election year. So, you know, some of those paid opportunities are going to be limited. So you have to be a little bit more creative about what partnerships or other things you can use that don’t require a physical ad space, for example to kind of think outside the box there. 

Jenny: Yeah. What about paid search? Is that a bottom of the funnel, like always on thing in your mind? 

Lindsey: Of course, of course. I don’t know why I forget about that channel.

Cause it’s probably the most important channel, but absolutely your paid search is going to do wonders for you. You have a lot of capabilities in terms of the type of messaging that you can execute. You can test different things, especially if you’re making a switch from branding to more convenience messaging, something like that.

Really easy way to test that out. And it could be a really low spend. So really nice economical choice as well to kind of get those [00:11:00] appointments moving in.

Jenny:  I love it. Well, Lindsey, this was extremely helpful and fun to talk about. If you are a rural marketer and you’re trying to figure out where in the world you should focus, give us a call.

We’d love to chat and share some more ideas offline about some things that have worked for our clients over the past few years. Things changed so fast. So that what worked six years ago, isn’t what’s going to work now. So we’re happy to share and brainstorm a little bit specifically for your organization, but as always, thank you so much for tuning into this week’s episode of “We Are, Marketing Happy.”

We will see you next week.



About the Author

The Hedy & Hopp digital production team is the glue that keeps all activation work running. From auditing websites and tagging, to content strategy and CRM implementation, our digital production unicorns ensure the tiniest detail is reviewed and accurate before it gets to our clients. Their determination in finding solutions for any challenge makes this team marketing happy.

More from this author
Next Blog Post

Using CRO to Optimize Paid Media Performance

In this week’s episode, Jenny discusses conversion rate optimization (CRO) for paid media. CRO may…