Refresh and Recreate Your Brand for the New Year!
By Manuel Collazo, MBA
Branding is the cornerstone of small business marketing, but can easily be overlooked amongst the long list of daily tasks involved in running a business.
When physical therapists launch a private practice, marketing is typically near the end of the priority list. Consider the lack of clarity around what branding actually is and the difficulty in measuring its short term impact, and it’s easy to understand the temptation to neglect it while you address more pressing business concerns.
Marketers would argue that investing in your brand, defining it, and promoting it are crucial elements of your practice’s long-term success. Marketing and sales is not why most get into the business of being a therapist and it’s unlikely that “Branding Your Business” was a required class in your graduate program. While these are valid points, if you run a private practice and want it to be a profitable business so you can continue to provide valuable services to your patients then some easy to implement branding considerations and tips will be a great benefit! And there’s no better time to launch new marketing strategies than the new year!
Simply defined, branding is all the things you do to develop an image of your practice. It is the ongoing process of creating an impact and impression of your business in the minds of others. Many people immediately think a logo or even tagline are the same as a brand. These are important branding elements but your practice’s brand is more complex and goes beyond its visual identity. Brands consist of what your practice says, what your values are, and how you communicate those values with your clients and the public. Your brand creates perceptions and feelings evoked when your client base thinks about your business. Branding elements can include personality, reputation, client experiences and expectations, and promises made or implied. Most importantly, purposeful branding is an effective way to increase new clients and referrals for your practice!
Now that you have a definition and framework for thinking about your brand, here are a few tips every therapist can use to help brand and grow their private practice:
LEGITIMIZE YOUR PRACTICE WITH A NAME.
This seems like an obvious step but it is a very important step in determining your brand. Many therapists seem to use their name or family name in their practice — this works as long as you treat it as your brand name (e.g., “Bob Wiley, LCSW” or “Sarah Jones Physical Therapy”).
If you are comfortable with the vision for your practice, know your service offerings, or have a clearly identified target market then creating a brand name that aligns with one or all of these brand elements is a great decision. Whatever name you decide on, make sure you consider your digital marketing efforts (website, social media, email communications, etc.) and incorporate keywords that your ideal clientele might search for when looking for your services. Lastly, make sure you utilize an integrated approach to your marketing and use your practice name consistently in your outreach efforts.
DEVELOP YOUR VISUAL IDENTITY – LOGO AND BRAND BRIEF
Now the fun part — designing your logo and choosing your color palette. Here’s where your brand comes to life! Your logo is the most visible, recognizable representation of your brand and should be easily identifiable as an extension of your brand personality. Your brand brief includes your color palette, fonts, and potentially some key messaging.
Whether it’s your logo, stationery (does anyone use stationery these days?) business cards, or your website, your brand’s visual identity should reflect your business personality and purpose.
Without completing the previous steps first, it would be challenging to know what these various intangibles are and how they might affect your brand’s visual look.
It’s also a good idea to enlist the services of a design professional. A professional can help do more than just design the specific visual elements of your brand: they can also coordinate your brand’s color palette and develop the visual language required for your brand guidelines or style guide, enabling you to be consistent in your brand messaging across all marketing and communication channels.
DEFINE YOUR IDEAL CLIENT AND MAKE THEM THE FOCUS OF YOUR BRAND.
You are not in business to help everyone. This is a tough realization, but true nonetheless. Your practice will be much more successful if you focus on your ideal client. You can determine your ideal client profile using a variety of criteria. The more specific you are, the more efficient your marketing efforts will be.
A helpful exercise can be to write a brief narrative describing your ideal client — think of them as a friend and somebody you want to work with. Keep this person in mind with every decision you make about branding your practice. Rely on your training and education to guide this process; remember why you’re in business and this will help you define your brand and attract the clientele you want. Few practice owners have the luxury of only working with their ideal clients, at least initially, but over time by focusing on your “why.” (Why you’re a therapist and why clients seek you out and not another therapist) will help you clarify your brand and find your niche.
CREATE A DIGITAL PRESENCE FOR YOUR PRACTICE – THINK DIGITAL FIRST!
Digital marketing is dynamic and complex but critical for promoting your brand. You have to be where your clients and potential clients are and that is on the web and on their phones. It’s a good idea to have a separate business website for your practice. If you haven’t done so already, check to make sure your desired domain name is available by checking www.name.com.
Whether you’re creating your own website or refreshing with a new brand identity, there are several user-friendly tools. You do not have to be web-savvy to create a compelling, eye-catching website but freelance resources in this field are abundant today so a little research should yield a qualified partner.
Your website is the foundation for your online brand; once established and you’re comfortable it represents your brand well you should move on to social media and establishing your brand presence on the appropriate channels. Understanding your ideal client is critical so you can identify the appropriate channels to maximize engagement — Facebook and Twitter are the typical and generally have the biggest audiences; however if your clientele tends to be professional then utilizing LinkedIn for brand marketing would be ideal. All of these tools are super easy to use today, with free tutorials and step-by-step guides for small business owners — there’s nothing to be afraid of, if you’re lacking the confidence to go it alone then tap the nearest teenager and they will likely be able to help!
INTEGRATE YOUR BRAND INTO YOUR BUSINESS
The brand development process doesn’t end once you’ve created a logo or launched a website. Integrating your brand into your business is the critical next step and what you’ll do moving forward. Integration means consistent messaging (e.g., are you using a tagline or intro text that outlines your speciality in every communication?) and consistent messaging leads to brand recognition which drives business growth. Consumers do business with people and businesses they trust — people trust brands they recognize.
Brand integration means reflecting your brand in all aspects of your business — talk the talk and walk the walk! Your online presence, your customer service, staff communications, invoicing, email correspondence — everything must reflect your brand visually and in the tone of your communications. Your staff is the second most important representation of your brand and plays an integral role in your brand marketing. Brand training to help every member of your team understand the importance of branding and the personality of your brand will help ensure your client experience is consistent and on brand.
When done correctly branding can increase referrals and retention in addition to new client traffic. Regardless of your practice size; having an identifiable and recognizable brand will ensure you stand out in your field. You’ll be found online more easily, and can become known as the go-to therapist in your specialty. The easier it is to find you, the more people you can help — isn’t this the reason you’re in practice?
Manuel Collazo, MBA, is the VP of strategic marketing & business development at Association Headquarters. He has more than 25 years of experience helping organizations create impactful brands and marketing strategies.