How Does Branding Benefit Your Practice?

The Importance of Branding and Differentiation for Healthcare Practices

What is branding and why do you need it?

It’s a question practitioners ask all the time. So let’s begin by defining what it is. At the most fundamental level, branding feeds our basic human need to distinguish one thing from another. At the business and consumer level, branding is the process of creating
a unique image using a consistent theme to establish a differentiated presence that attracts and retains customers in your marketplace.
You may not think of your practice as a “business” but the simple fact is, healthcare practices are businesses, too. You have employees, payroll, overhead and competition just like every other small business. And, like every other small business, you need to set yourself apart, or differentiate yourself from all the competing practitioners in your community.

How does branding benefit your practice?

Your brand identifies you as the solution to the consumer’s healthcare problem. Your brand sets you apart from competition. Your brand helps you attract patients, referral relationships, revenue and income. Your brand builds stability and trust over time. Branding benefits your practice most when you understand what’s truly different about your practice, not just from your own perspective – but from your patients’ perspectives. Think about what sets you apart from direct competitors in your market area. What will it take to get you noticed in your unique geographic marketplace and in the virtual online community – by the kinds of patients you really want? Good branding gives potential patients and referral sources good reasons to choose you rather than your competitors.

What constitutes a brand?

Though a brand may seem simple on its surface, it’s really communications shorthand for the many factors that differentiate one healthcare practice from another, including:

  • Services or programs offered
  • Experience of practitioner(s)
  • Bedside manner (personality)
  • Size of practice
  • Age of practice
  • Location of practice
  • Capabilities of practice
  • Reputation in the community at large
  • Reputation among patients and referral sources
  • Credentials. including special or advanced training
  • Atmosphere (friendly, helpful, clinical, casual, formal)
  • Technology (high-tech, low-tech, no-tech)
  • Leading-edge procedures
  • Accessibility
  • Innovation
  • Outcomes

Those are some of the considerations that help build a brand. Those factors will also influence the overall look and feel
of everything you do – from your business card and letterhead to your website and social media accounts. Choice of
colors, images, type fonts, messaging and layout are other factors that identify your brand.

How do potential new patients
and referrers see you?

There has never been a time like this in history where potential patients and professional referral sources (your consumers) could scrutinize your practice so closely and so quickly. And there has never been a time when your practice success relied so heavily on patient perceptions of you and the results of their Internet searches, online reviews and social media interactions.

Healthcare practitioners are well-advised to look at their practices through the patients’ eyes and consider what’s most important to them. This may well be very different from what’s most important to you. For example, you may think that your fellowship training or some piece of new technology is important, but a potential patient is more likely to think that your bedside manner or keeping on-time appointments is more important. Your brand must address what’s most important to them, not you.

How can you stand out in a positive way?

With so much at stake, including your online reputation and the future of your practice, it is critical that you stand out in a positive way from your competitors. You must distinguish yourself to be noticed. The way you do that is through branding. Your brand should help you:

1. UNDERSTAND WHO REALLY ARE. Literally speaking, you know who you are. But who are you in the context
of your market, your community and your competitors? What makes you different? What helps you stand out? Is it a procedure no one else in your area performs? A patient-focused style of care? Better credentials? Higher patient satisfaction? Better outcomes? Whatever it is, it should be part of your brand. If you can build a 10-words-or-less tagline or slogan around it, all the better.

2. ESTABLISH A UNIQUE LOOK AND FEEL. Everything you do – from your practice letterhead and business cards to your patient education materials, collateral and website – should have the same look and feel. They should have the same logo, colors, images, fonts and styles. Every communication should have, in addition to a unique look and feel, consistent messaging that reflects the vision and mission of your practice.

3. USE THE VOICE OF THE “PATIENT”. Help patients (your customers) relate to you more readily by speaking their language instead of formal clinical-ese. If you hand out printed patient information or care instructions, make sure they are written in simple language that a fifth or sixth grader can understand (current AMA recommendation based on actual US healthcare literacy). You want patients to “get it” and they won’t if it’s presented in the voice of the doctor, dentist or clinician.

4. MATCH YOUR INTERNAL BRAND WITH YOUR EXTERNAL BRAND. Ensure that your staff is bought in and aligned
around your brand. Your external branding won’t mean much if your staff delivers an unsatisfactory patient experience-the core of your internal brand. Once your external branding is established, train your staff to “talk the talk, and walk the walk” and your internal branding will follow.

5. STAY CONSISTENT Don’t ever change the look and feel of your marketing materials or your messaging on a whim. The longer you remain consistent with your branding, the stronger your brand will become and the more identifiable your practice will be in your community.

By making each of these part of your brand, you will stand out in a positive way among patients and referring colleagues. You will give potential patients and referral sources good reasons to choose you and remember you rather than your competitors.

The bottom line

Branding and differentiation in a healthcare practice go beyond the colors you choose or the look and feel of your website. Branding requires introspection, analysis and understanding of what’s important to your patients. If you don’t have the necessary time or resources to analyze your practice and develop your own brand, consider working with an objective third party – an experienced branding and marketing partner.

If you have questions about branding your practice, call Practice Builders at 800.679.1200 for more information or advice.

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