Branding your medical practice takes more than a logo and a website. It is everything that your customers and potential customers (i.e., patients, caregivers, and referral sources) experience with you that ultimately drives them to continue to do business with you. You must consider every touchpoint when embarking on branding.
Branding Your Medical Practice 101: Perception is Everything
What comes to mind when you think of industry giants such as Target, Nike, or Starbucks? You may positively associate Target with low prices or perhaps negatively with long check-out lines. When you think of Nike, did you see the Nike swoosh in your head? Or were you reminded of Tiger Woods and his famous Sunday red? Did you associate Starbucks with drive-through flavored coffee? Or do you have negative connotations about high pricing? For better or worse, brands elicit some sort of emotional response when you hear or see their names or logos. That should happen when the name of your practice is printed or announced. What feeling do you want someone to get when they see or hear the name of your practice? More importantly, what are patients saying about your practice when they see or hear its name? When you successfully brand your practice, you create a desired perception in the mind of the end user.
Your brand sets the expectations (positive or negative) of what a patient’s experience will be like. When you successfully brand your practice, you create a desired perception in the mind of the end user. Ultimately, you are answering the question “Why should I choose your practice?” Building a brand takes deliberate and skilled effort. You don’t necessarily need the budget of a major company, but you do need to be strategic and dedicated to the effort.
Answer these 6 Questions to Start Branding Your Medical Practice
Successful branding takes consistency, time, and patience. You should have solid knowledge about what your practice offers, how you are perceived, how you would like to be perceived, and whether you have the people and processes in place to provide the experience you want your patients to have. Before you embark on any branding or marketing efforts you should ask and answer the following questions:
1. Can we define/describe our customers (patients)?
The one-size-fits-all notion of providing healthcare is obsolete. The practice that continually assesses and plans for changing population needs will be the most successful. Furthermore, it is no longer just about age, sex, and ethnicity. Understanding your unique audience allows you to be targeted and, ultimately, more cost-effective with your business planning and marketing efforts.
2. What do our customers want?
In today’s healthcare marketplace, it is more important than ever to have a clear understanding of not only who your target audience is but also what they’re after. People no longer have the time or the energy to waste searching for medical providers, and they certainly do not want to go to multiple providers if they don’t have to. Convenience—both in finding you and in scheduling—is the top priority. You should have a good handle on what it is that your specific patients are looking for. Are they looking for innovations and efficiency? Is it evening or weekend appointments? Is it more female providers? Do they want the ability to schedule an appointment or pay online? Know what your target audience wants and appeal specifically to their needs.
3. What do our customers think of us?
Do you an idea of how your existing patients perceive you? Are you consistently asking them, in multiple formats? Do you offer patients and caregivers paper and online surveys? Are you asking them for their opinions in person through small focus groups? Or just when they’re at the desk checking out or during the appointment? Is someone on your team tasked with checking review sites?
Perceptions are strong and perceptions continually change. That is why the customer survey is one of your most powerful branding tools. The results tell you what you are doing right and provide real-time information regarding issues and concerns that need to be addressed. If you cannot answer the question “What do our customers think of us?,” stop any and all marketing efforts and invest your time and effort in this area.
4. What is the patient experience like?
Do you know what it is like to go from start to finish when experiencing an appointment with your practice? Have you ever attempted to book an online appointment or call in to your practice on the phone? Do you know what it is like to park at your facility or physically wait in your reception area? Conducting a Mystery Patient Evaluation can provide invaluable and impartial information. The results are invaluable when determining if branding is consistent from an experience perspective.
5. Are our employees aligned with our brand?
You can’t put icing on a loaf of bread and call it cake. The same goes for branding. If you roll out a beautiful new logo and tagline; put the effort into redesigning the website, and add new features such as online appointment scheduling and bill pay, but your team members aren’t on board with providing an improved experience from the minute your customer interacts with you, you’ve wasted your time and money. Involving team members in the branding effort is imperative. Your team must have the tools and processes in place to carry out a customer-first effort. Consistent branded experiences occur when all team members fully understand and are supported in their role as a brand ambassadors.
6. What differentiates our practice from others?
Here again, you must do your research. Do you understand what is being offered by your competitors? Do you know what is needed by the community you serve? You can differentiate your practice when you can deliver on a service or amenity that is so memorable that patients will tell their friends and family members how great or different it is.
Branding Your Medical Practice: Planning and Consistency Lead to Success
Building the brand for your practice should reflect on your answers to the questions just discussed. Everything that you do, whether it is in your business planning, marketing efforts or team building should be reflected in how you define your brand. Excellent branding can be felt in the patient experience and seen throughout all your materials and touchpoints. You should have a written plan and a budget. Having a written plan not only provides a roadmap and timeline for identified tactics but also provides an avenue for measuring results. Planning improves consistency. Consistency leads to positive impact and a quicker road to long-lasting brand awareness.
Ready to take the next step?
Do you want to embark on a Branding Campaign but don’t know where to begin? We can help you with an initial consultation and recommendations.
To read the full article visit the Professional Association of Healthcare Office Management website HERE
Sources (Excerpted from an article previously published in Nov/Dec 2019 issue of PAHCOM Journal)
- American Journal of Public Policy and Marketing
- 2018 Blackbook, A Division of Blackbook Market Research
- 2018 State of the Connected Patient Report
- 2018 Customer Experience Trends in Healthcare Report