Branding a new medical practice is an important first step in ensuring customer loyalty, patient satisfaction, and positive word of mouth referrals. A strong brand can help patients easily identify you and your practice as the “go-to” for exceptional care. You want to make sure that prospective patients think about your practice first and form a positive association.
Not only is branding a great way for patients to recognize your practice instantly, but it helps "set the tone" for their experience from start to finish:
- What kind of practice are you?
- What are your values?
- What makes you different from other practices in your market?
- Why do patients come to you? What do you offer to patients that they can't find anywhere else?
Properly implemented, a strong brand helps answer these questions and create an atmosphere where both patient satisfaction and patient retention improve.
In this article, we will review some tips for branding along with tools that are available to help you get started on creating your own brand as a new medical practice.
Challenges When Starting a New Medical Practice
Starting a new medical practice is hard.
Aside from developing a business plan, finding office space, and financing the venture, you also need to think about items that may be less “tangible”, but no less important: your goals. Your marketing plan. Your company culture.
Spending time to think through your practice’s brand doesn’t make any of these tasks easier per se, but it can help clarify and refine your thinking. Branding may not take any of these to-do items off your plate, but a strong brand can help guide you in your decision-making. It can even help you focus your time and attention: when you know a certain activity or initiative doesn’t resonate with your brand, you can easily say no and move on to other things.
What is a Brand?
Many people think that a brand is just a logo, but that's not the case.
We define a brand as the sum of all touchpoint that patients have with your practice.
Brand touchpoints come in a variety of shapes and sizes. It’s more than just your logo: it’s the things like your location. The look and feel of your office. The attire of your staff. The artwork that’s hanging on the walls. How many rings it takes for someone to answer the phone.
That’s why branding is so important: branding is a sum of all touchpoint, that, taken together, add up to the experience that patients have at your practice. Branding is how you set yourself apart from everyone else in the marketplace - and get noticed for all the right reasons.
The first challenge in branding is defining what you want from your brand. This may seem simple enough, but it's not always as easy as just saying "I want people to like my practice.”
- What do you want people to think of when they think of your practice?
- Do you want your practice to focus on professionalism and expertise above all else, or on creating a warm, welcoming environment for patients?
- How will you interact with patients?
Branding starts there, but it doesn’t end there.
Want Patient Loyalty? Start with Brand Awareness
Building a brand is one thing, but building brand awareness is another.
Building a brand may help you attract patients, but building brand awareness (and loyalty) is what keeps them coming back for more. Brand loyalty, once established, can also turn your patients into ambassadors for your brand bye referring their friends and family. Once you have developed a strong brand that patients love, they will be more likely to share it with their friends and family.
Building patient loyalty is what allows you to build your practice. Patients become less prone to switch doctors, and they'll continue recommending you if they like the experience that you provided. And more often than not, the experience begins with your brand.
Jeff Bezos says that your brand “is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
So if your brand is what people think about when they think about you, your brand only exists in the minds of your patients.
That’s what sets a strong brand apart. It’s not just a logo or pretty colors on a website. Logos exist everywhere, but the main question to ask is this: how do people feel when they think about your brand?
Important Branding Attributes to Consider
If a brand is the sum of all touchpoints people have with your practice, there are obviously many items to consider. These include tangible things, like:
- The look and feel of your practice, from the waiting room to exam rooms, etc.
- The artwork on your walls
- What type of music is playing when people walk in
- How patients can schedule an appointment (email, phone, only with a referral, etc)
However, branding also includes the intangible, such as:
- How do you want patients to feel at your practice?
- What is your brand’s personality?
- What is your brand voice like? Professional? Playful?
- Are you the type of practice that people come to solve their problem and provide treatment only? Or do you focus on education and prevention?
- Are you holistic in your approach, or do you only specialize in one area?
How to Build Brand Awareness
Building brand awareness doesn't happen overnight. If you want patients to recognize and understand what makes your practice unique, you’ll need to work hard to build brand awareness.
The first step in any branding campaign is making your practice visible. A new medical practice's best bet is to invest time and money into creating a professional, user-friendly website that clearly defines the services offered by the company. The more information you can offer potential patients about what they will receive from your service, the more informed they will be.
Think of your website as the “business card” for your practice. It needs to contain information about your services, ways to get in touch, information about your doctors and staff, and clear calls-to-action that make it obvious to the patient what they’re supposed to do next.
A great website not only conveys information, but inspires patients to take action. Therefore, your website is the most integral piece of your brand online.
While your practice website is the first place many patients often look for information about your business, many new practices have a problem: lack of visibility.
That's where advertising comes into play.
At the end of the day, your website is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to building brand awareness. You need a comprehensive marketing plan that includes both traditional offline advertisements and internet-based campaigns like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-Per-Click ads, and social media.
Think of paid advertising on Google or social media as “going to the traffic store.” With your advertising, you are literally buying someone’s attention for a brief period of time. If you can tell a compelling story (read: with a strong, well-defined brand), you can convert that attention into revenue and grow your brand.
Your practice's marketing efforts should be tailored to your audience, so it's important that you research which forms of advertising might resonate with those who live near or visit where you work.
For many practices, social media is a great source of traffic. What’s more, if your practice has a strong social media presence and you deliver a great experience to patients, social media is a natural place for patients to turn to share their experience. This can help you build an even stronger brand and make your marketing easier.
Aside from organic marketing, Facebook and other social platforms also offer an excellent avenue for reaching new patients through sponsored posts and advertisements. These should definitely play into your thinking when you develop a marketing plan.
Local Events & Sponsorships
Building relationships with other business owners in your area is very important, both for community building and for your brand.
Sponsorships are a great way to connect with your community. Sponsoring an event like a local marathon can get you in front of thousands of people relatively inexpensively. Sponsoring local events can also help build lots of goodwill in your community.
Another thing to consider is involving your staff in community service, whether through sponsorship or donating your time or money. This can be another great way to build goodwill in your community while simultaneously building awareness about your brand.
Want Strong Brand Loyalty? Focus on the Patient.
Here’s a hard truth: in the story of your practice, you aren’t the hero. Your patient is.
One of the very best ways to build a positive, strong brand that will endure the test of time and keep patients coming back for more? Make everything about the patient.
Brand awareness is one thing, but brand loyalty is what keeps a practice going. Becoming the “go-to” place for patients – the practice that they will never leave, no matter what – is the key to building a thriving practice.
You need to be the place that patients return to time and time again. You need to be the place that patients tell their friends and family about, because you provide such a great experience. That’s the way to build brand loyalty.
Putting It All Together: Improving Your Practice Brand
Now that you know what a brand is and how to create one for your medical practice, it's time to put it all into practice.
One of the best places to start is with your existing patient base, however small. Send an anonymous survey to your patients asking them to describe your practice from their experience. What do they think of you? How would they describe their experience? Would they refer a friend? Why or why not?
Having these insights will help you transform ideas and assumptions about your brand into tangible steps you can take to improve and attract more patients to your practice.
By establishing your identity and clearly communicating who you are and what makes you different, you’ll be able to build a brand presence that reflects your values and goals, resonates with patients, and attracts more people to your practice as you grow and build a healthcare brand that will last for years to come.
Building a brand is not easy, but it’s worth the investment. A strong healthcare branding strategy can help you grow your practice faster and attract more patients. If you need help building a stellar brand or marketing plan for your medical practice, contact us today. We work with practices of all shapes and sizes to develop effective branding and marketing efforts that generate leads and help practices grow in no time.