Many of the choices we make as consumers are based on successful branding. In most cases, we tend to go with brands we find familiar or that we associate with quality.
When people hear the word "branding," the first thing that usually comes to mind is a company logo or advertising materials. But it's much more than that. Your brand defines your practice as a whole. "Branding isn't just commissioning ads," Dr. Zach Landman says in a blog post on DoctorBase. "Branding is the association that's attached to a practice and its practitioners."
In a related article, Amanda Kanaan, a medical marketing specialist who owns WhiteCoat Designs, a firm that provides design and branding services to healthcare organizations in Raleigh, says 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," she says.
So, how do you go about building a brand for your practice or changing your image if you're not happy with your current brand? Here are five strategies from the experts:
1. Identify your claim to fame
"Start by identifying some of your practices best traits," says Kanaan. "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." Kanaan advises that if you try and pretend to be something you're not, it will do more harm than good.
2. Focus on patient experience
"At the end of the day, branding comes down to [patient] experience," Landman says. "What will patients expect when they walk into a waiting room? What will they walk away with? Investing time and effort into ensuring a good experience can go a long way into coalescing a good brand."
3. Engage employees
"Once the desired brand identity has been established, physicians must ensure that brand is reinforced by all members of the practice," Lin Grensing-Pophal says in an article in Medical Economics. "Every employee who interacts with patients has an impact. Even those employees who don't interact directly with patients interact with friends, family and community members."
Grensing-Pophal says employee attitude is also key. "If potential patients call and are greeted with someone with an annoyed tone of voice and a big sigh, it doesn't send a strong brand-reinforcing message," she says.
4. Be consistent
"Keeping your brand consistent will lead to faster and longer-lasting brand awareness," says Kanaan. "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."
5. Exhibit your brand
"If you have a website, take an objective look at it," Sue Jacque, an executive etiquette, professionalism and corporate civility consultant, says in an article in Physicians Practice. "Is there a way to add your updated brand message? What about your business cards? You could even have signage made for your office to set the tone. But more important than any of those tactics, find ways to share your message through your words, attitude and behavior. Because no matter what you display externally, it's who you are internally that is your real brand."