Painting a Positive Picture
How to craft an effective brand for your private practice.
By Kim Stamp
In today’s competitive health care market, it is essential that your brand not only communicates who you are and what you value, but also elicits a response from those you are trying to reach. Often, when we think about branding, we think about logo development and collateral pieces to represent our company. Those things are certainly an important aspect of branding but if that’s where we stop, we’ve missed the bigger picture. Essentially, the branding process is about painting a positive picture that will stir an emotional response from your target market.
So, what exactly is a brand? According to Lois Geller in her article “Why a Brand Matters,” a brand is a promise that is conveyed through a “combination of logo, words, type font, design, colors, personality, price, service, etc.” (Forbes magazine, May 23, 2012). If you look at a significantly branded company, it’s fairly easy to discern what their promise is. Take Allstate Insurance, for example; their logo depicts hands that are ready to hold whatever is placed in them and their tagline reads “you’re in good hands.” The promise is obvious: We are here to take care of you and your property. As a way to broaden your perspective, take a moment to objectively evaluate the other physical therapy clinics in your area and see if you can identify what they are promising. Then take a look at your own practice and evaluate whether you are offering something unique to your community and whether you are clearly communicating what that is.
If you’re just getting started in private practice, you’ll want to take some time to articulate your values as a practitioner. Once you are clear about your practice values and what you are offering your community, you can start to develop the visual look and feel of your brand. A quality logo and persuasive tagline are vital to that process. Your logo should be unique but also relevant. It should convey both who you are and what you have to offer. Once you have your design, develop a few collateral pieces like business cards, brochures, rack cards, and thank you notes. As your business grows, you can add more pieces that can be utilized for marketing to patients and physicians. With your visual brand developed, it’s time to begin marketing to your surrounding area. As you begin to express your brand, I can’t stress enough the importance of being invested in your community. Whether you are participating in a health fair or providing support to a local race, people need to see your visual brand. In today’s social media age, an interactive website and a Facebook page are also essential to the branding experience.
While the process of crafting a brand is done primarily by the business owner, it is certainly not a one-dimensional endeavor. One of the main goals of branding is to inspire a sense of loyalty. If your overall brand is compelling and somewhat unique, you will have a better chance of eliciting the desired response (patients coming through the door). As mentioned, one of your initial steps needs to be figuring out what you value as a practitioner and how that will benefit prospective patients and referring physicians. To determine this, think about your treatment style and the style(s) of those in your clinic. Do you offer something unique in your community? How does your treatment style effectively assist patients in their healing process? How can your vision be communicated to local physicians? All of these questions are great to ponder as you are branding your practice.
You want your message to create a sense of loyalty not only in your patients but also in your referral sources. You absolutely want to instill in physicians the belief that you will take great care of their patients and that their patients will improve under your care. There are many ways to achieve this, but one of the most effective is to ask a patient who has improved to communicate to their doctor how much they appreciated their treatment. It can also be effective to schedule a lunch at a physician’s office and to send personal thank you cards when you receive a referral.
Communicating your brand to patients happens externally and internally. Once you have a patient scheduled for their evaluation, it is crucial that they have a memorable experience once they walk through the door. From the front office to the treatment room to the gym area, make sure that your message is communicated clearly. For instance, a cluttered and dusty waiting room communicates a lack of attention to detail. You want to make sure your message is comprehensive, consistent, and connected so that your brand—your promise—doesn’t get diluted. A comprehensive message fosters recognition and nurtures trust, which is exactly what you want from your patients! We often view branding and marketing as things we do outside of our clinics; however, internal marketing is very important.
Without a well-thought-out branding strategy, your practice will likely never reach its potential. Just remember, successful branding paints a positive picture that elicits a response from your target audience and inspires their loyalty, which is something we all desire.
Kim Stamp is the regional business manager for South Sound Physical & Hand Therapy in Olympia and Tacoma, and the president for the Washington State Physical Therapy Managers Association. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.