Would you rather spend your time in surgery, or marketing your practice? Does a brand really add value to your practice? Do you want to have a brand but don’t know where to start or who to trust? To many plastic surgeons, marketing appears to cost too much money and take time away from surgery. The truth is that a strategic, well thought out brand will ease your load and give you back time in the operating room. Smartly invest in a branding strategy, and you will see an excellent return. Through working with plastic surgeons throughout the U.S. over the past ten years I have identified some basic principles that will help you create a successful brand for your practice. I am going to share with you a process to create that brand.
Medical branding strategies need to be different from other fields, such as retail or industry. Surgeons want to keep their marketing respectful and genuine. For that reason, some non-traditional marketing tools are the most effective and we will discuss some of these later in this blog. But it’s important to start with the right building blocks so you don’t have to start over and over again. It’s important to get certain key elements right the first time so your brand starts out the strongest it can be.
FIVE Steps to Building a Brand
You already have a brand whether you have purposely set out to establish one or not. With a little thought and planning, that brand can make building your practice easier. Here are five simple steps to follow to build your brand.
Step One: Define who you are and what you value. You (or you and the help of a professional marketing company) must decide how you want your brand’s identity to be perceived, before communicating it. Write a brand positioning statement that expresses how you want customers (patients) to see your brand. Think of this statement as the foundation upon which you will build your look and feel. For example: Paul Vanek, a board certified plastic surgeon, uses his training and experience to help people set realistic appearance goals and how to meet them. Dr. Vanek specializes in surgical and cosmetic procedures for the body, breasts, and face. Paul Vanek Plastic Surgery can help you “Celebrate Your Beauty”.
Step Two: Analyze your current situation. Before you start making any changes, take a look at how your brand is currently perceived. Who are your patients and competitors? Knowing which internal and external factors that affect others’ perception of your practice will help you to understand the context in which your brand will stand. Then, think about how you want your practice to be perceived in that context. Use your imagination to visualize exactly how you want to be viewed by your target audience.
Talk to your patients about their needs and perceptions. Think about what makes you and your practice unique. Then, clarify your brand concept for yourself and your staff. Always be aware of others’ perceptions of you, and think of ways to state clearly what sets you high above the rest. “Know the consumer” is a basic principle of brand management.
Step Three: Identify all your patient touch points. How do your patients experience your brand? All the steps that a potential or current patient sees, feels and touches along the way are touch points. Build a touch point map by making a list: the sign on your building, your brochure, a patient’s take-home folder after a consultation, your website, the way your receptionist answers the phone, your business card, etc. Then, prioritize them. Which touch points are most important? Which ones have real relevance to your patients’ decision making? Remember that, in the patients mind, it’s all about them. As you well know, a patient won’t book surgery with someone they don’t trust. So put more emphasis on touch points that help build a trusting relationship, followed by the ones that position you as the highly skilled physician and staff that your patients want.
Step Four: Communicate your brand identity internally and externally using professionally designed marketing materials that reflect your values and speaks to your potential patient. Everything about your practice should have an incredible look and feel that have emotional impact, and are contagious to your potential patients. Help them to believe in you by reinforcing your promise of excellence at each key touch point. Consistently reinforce your message — your goal is to have each touch point reinforce your brand promise.
Have a professional design your business card, practice brochure and website. Offer public patient educational services such as seminars, and make an educational system such as the Revenez program available in your office.
A total branding package is inclusive of every detail in your practice. By consistently printing your practice logo and tag line, and using your selected color palette and unique message on everything that your patients see, a strong brand will emerge. Carefully consider each piece of print collateral that your office uses. Every piece contributes to the image you want to exude. Start with your prioritized list and build your brand over time and as your budget permits.
Your brand is not just built by your printed materials but also by personal encounters. Each of your service encounters need to exceed the expectations of your patients; this builds brand equity. Create positive patient experiences and outcomes that result in referrals for your practice. Establish loyal patients by creating meaningful associations with them. Word of mouth, or relationship marketing, is one of the best ways to get referrals for your practice. Create awareness amongst your staff members about the brand identity you are striving to achieve. Remember that your staff is often the first contact your patients have with your practice. Educate personnel about proper handling of your brand and empower them to present a consistent message to everyone who calls or visits your practice.
Step Five: Assess your progress every couple of months, modify it and refocus if need be. Branding is the process of creating distinctive and lasting perceptions in the minds of your patients. A brand gives you a persistent, unique business personality. Check to be sure that everything about your practice–your print and web-based marketing materials, your staff customer service practices, and your own interactions with patients–works in harmony to support your brand.
Ask others. Get feedback. Decide which attributes of your brand you want to keep and which are not working the way you’d like them to. Simply surveying your patients is an excellent way to assess how well you are meeting their needs. Take time to listen to your patients and what kinds of information they need. Then use your experience and market feedback to focus on what makes you unique. Tailor your practice to these needs and make each contact with them an intimate, personal experience. Remember that going from your current brand to your optimal brand could take time, and don’t get discouraged.
Wishing you a week full of profitable work, joy, and laughter,
President, Creative Director
Candace Crowe Design
Educating Patients. Marketing You.
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