Branding Your Practice
In this Pulse article we'll share the steps of branding your practice:
- Create name recognition
- Maintain a consistent image
- Provide memorable service
Branding is a powerful marketing tool. When you see the golden arches, McDonald's instantly comes to mind – that image is "branded" into the consciousness of consumers.
Associating an image with a business is just one level of branding. The goal of marketing goes beyond linking an image with a product: it encourages loyalty to the company the brand represents. Are your patients loyal to your brand?
Brand loyalty is critical because it helps ensure that customers will come back again and again, even though they have other choices. Customers are loyal to companies that offer differentiated products and exceptional service. They know they'll get something special – great service and a great product for the price. You can help achieve brand loyalty for your practice by executing these strategies:
Create name recognition — Lay the groundwork for a branding strategy by the way you communicate your name. Uniformity is essential. Consider how your name appears in print on everything from the signage of your building, to your letterhead, to your website. Assess how your employees refer to your practice. Perhaps the most important communication of your name is through phone interactions. Train your staff to answer the phone using your practice's full name at the beginning of every call. They should say, for example, "Neurological Associates, this is Elizabeth speaking, how may I help you?" Conclude the call with a consistent script as well (for example, "Thank you for choosing Neurological Associates for your medical care"). Require in-person and voice mail greetings to state your practice's name consistently (not "Neuro Associates" sometimes and "Neurology Associates" or "NA" at other times).
Maintain a consistent image — Establish an image for your practice that is consistent on all visual materials. Use logos, fonts, and colors consistently. Extend the image to your website and even to your staff uniforms. Regardless of the medium, your image should be consistent and professional.
Provide memorable service — Although your name and image are important, the patient's experience matters above all. To create brand loyalty – the patient who will continue to seek care from you and recommend you to others – you'll need to deliver the best customer service. Superior service starts with hiring the right staff: employees who understand the importance of excellent service and who deliver memorable service with energy and enthusiasm every day. It's important for staff to smile and conduct themselves courteously at all times in person and on the phone, to use patients' names when talking directly to them, to introduce themselves to patients, to make eye contact, and to keep patients informed about wait times. To further differentiate your practice, take the quality of service to the next level by providing patients with cloth robes during visits, soothing music, wireless Internet access, and a coffee bar in the reception area. Give patients a reason to seek care from you instead of your competition by offering distinctive, memorable service. Monitor the sources of your referrals and always send a personal "thank you" note to a patient who recommends you.
You're not in the business of selling burgers, like McDonald's, and you certainly don't have their supersized marketing budget. Nevertheless, creating a recognizable brand and building loyalty isn't just for big companies. Building a strong brand helps you succeed in today's competitive and challenging health care market.