Originally Featured in Triangle Physician Magazine – February Issue
Branding 101: Image Is Everything
What comes to mind when you think of industry giants such as Walmart or Nike? You may positively associate Walmart with low prices or perhaps you’ve had a negative experience with long checkout lines. For Nike you may picture that famous swoosh logo or even be reminded of the infamous Tiger Woods debacle. For better or for worse both these brands elicit some type of emotional response when you hear their names.
The same goes for medical practices and even physicians themselves. When a patient hears your name what do you hope they say about you? More importantly, what are patients actually saying?
In its simplest form a brand is a set of promises to your customer (i.e. patients). It is a direct representation of your practice and who you are as a physician, and sets an expectation of your services (whether good or bad). The act of brand building refers to the deliberate and skillful effort to create a desired perception in the mind of the consumer. Building a brand for yourself and your practice helps differentiate you from your colleagues and answers the question “Why should I choose your practice?”
Your brand is made up of everything patients hear, see or experience in association with your practice. From your office decor to the look of your website, it’s all part of an equation patients subconsciously utilize to decipher who you are as a brand.
How to build your brand:
- Identify Your Claim to Fame: Start by identifying some of your practices best traits. It could be your depth of experience in the field, the technology you use, the fact that you offer evening and weekend appointments (convenience) or a combination of these differentiators. Most importantly, stay true to who you are. Don’t try and pretend to be something you are not. Consumers will quickly recognize this as false advertising and it will do more harm than good.
- Get an Outside Opinion: Look to outside sources to get additional opinions on the current reputation of your brand and how to improve upon it. Don’t be afraid to ask patients as they will feel valued for their input and in turn become invested in helping make your practice a success. Whether you hire a professional agency, coordinate a focus group, call on your patients, your colleagues or even your staff members, collecting other opinions besides your own will give you a better understanding of your brand.
- Choose a Target Demographic: Next research and decide what patient demographic you would like to attract. The messaging and imagery you use will vastly differ when creating a brand for an OB/GYN practice targeting reproductive age women versus a sports medicine physician working with young athletes.
- Keep it Consistent: Keeping your brand consistent will lead to faster and longer lasting brand awareness. From your website to your brochures and everything else you produce in the community, maintain a consistent message and image in order to have the greatest impact. (Remember that your logo is the foundation of your brand so be sure it’s the right representation of your practice. Don’t make the emotional decision to keep your logo if it truly does not serve your practice well.)
- Get the Word Out: One of the most effective ways to promote your brand is through your website design. It’s a vital opportunity to establish your brand and lead the conversation in terms of the message you want patients to hear. Your online presence should be the most prominent part of your marketing strategy. Other useful online tools in establishing your brand include social media outlets, e-newsletters, and blogs. (Tip: Connect your blog to your social media accounts (Facebook/Twitter) to send uniform updates from one location.)
- Be Patient: Even if you do everything right, market penetration does not happen overnight. It takes time to build a lasting brand. Resist the urge to constantly change your message just because it doesn’t elicit a response within the first month. As I stated earlier, consistency is the key to a long lasting brand.
Amanda Kanaan is a medical marketing specialist whose company, WhiteCoat Designs, provides Raleigh medical website design, SEO and online marketing along with print design, and branding and messaging services to local private practices and health care organizations. Email Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.whitecoat-designs.com.