The power of a brand: 6 things you should do to build your healthcare brand
How can developing your practice's brand help you to grow your healthcare business? Guest author Helena Leslie of Handsome Ground Studio explains how to build your brand so you can stand out to patients for all the right reasons.
The healthcare market is fiercely competitive. Patients have far greater choice in where they seek treatment, and with this increased choice comes a new level of patient discernment.
Patients are savvy consumers with high expectations when it comes to engaging with healthcare providers. No longer is it okay to simply be discoverable online. Patients are looking to be engaged in a healthcare journey that is consistent and compelling.
In this context, having a strong brand is imperative for practices looking to elevate their position in a crowded market. Your brand will become an active business asset, helping you to communicate all the value behind your years of training, experience, and expertise. After all, you have a reputation online whether you cultivate it or not. You might as well take some control over how you are perceived by others.
So what is a brand identity?
A brand identity includes things like your logos, typography (fonts), brand colours, illustrations, your photography and messaging. All of these elements are used across print and digital collateral (packaging, stationery, website, social media) to complement and reinforce the existing reputation of your brand.
Once you have developed a strong brand identity for your practice, you will have a set of rules (or visual language) in the form of a brand style guide which will make it easy to implement a consistent look and feel for your ongoing marketing, interior practice design, patient educational materials, website etc. You will be able to create messaging and visuals that are consistent across every touchpoint and feel confident they are based on a consistent brand identity.
Why should you care about building a brand?
Investing in your practice brand affects every corner of your practice, especially your bottom line. A powerful brand identity will:
provide a consistent way to engage with patients
elevate your services and set you apart from your competition
build an emotional connection with your patients based on shared values
shortcut your patients’ decision-making processes
offer a consistent experience through every touchpoint, growing loyalty for your practice
elevate your relationships with patients through human connection and going beyond a financial exchange
attract new patients, associates, staff, and referral partners by capitalising on your market visibility and reputation
increase your perceived and actual business value.
How do you go about building a successful brand identity for your practice?
Developing a compelling visual identity that people trust and connect with requires much more than just picking a logo. Before you can begin to look at visually representing your services in any impactful way, you need to do your research to understand who your patients are and what they care about.
Creating a successful brand identity for your healthcare practice needs to take into account the following 6 key elements:
1Research - applying research data to inform your design decisions
Successful healthcare branding is built on effective brand strategy. This means conducting research around your patients, referral networks, employees and health partners to uncover your core values as an individual or organisation, and to understand what your patients’ value.
This process doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be as simple as answering some key questions about your demographic, surveying team members or patients for their feedback, and delving into the reasons why you do what you do.
Once you have a deeper understanding of your mission and values—and how they align with your patients’ values—you can start to clarify and articulate how these values intersect and begin to explore how they could be expressed in your brand.
2Brand naming – using your name or deciding on a name for your practice
If you are a sole practitioner, you may not think of your personal name as a ‘brand name’. However, more than likely, you’ll be working with your name as the starting point for your brand logo, which means you’ll need to be consistent with it.
This might sound obvious, but consistently using your name in all contexts will help you to be more discoverable on search engines and through referral networks. This applies to your social media handles, domain name, research papers, website citations, and anywhere else.
So, if you’re Dr Samantha Doe across research papers & academia and then use @drsamdoe for social media or www.drsamdoe.com for your website, it is going to be more difficult for people to find you. That friction is going to negatively impact the brand you are trying to establish.
For groups and organisations, the same rules apply. Be consistent.
And for those with plans for expansion, developing a strategic brand name that factors in future growth can be invaluable. For example, if you plan to open more practice locations down the track, or if you’re not sure whether you’ll be staying in one place over the coming years, future-proof your brand name from the beginning by choosing a name that is not tied to one specific location (eg. Vision Eye Care vs. Kiama Eye Care).
3Brand positioning – elevating your services, attributes, and values to meet your patients’ needs
Put simply, brand positioning is the process of positioning your brand in the mind of your customers or patients. Brand positioning allows you to differentiate yourself from your competitors. This process of differentiation can help to increase your brand awareness and communicate your value to patients.
The extent to which your brand is perceived as favourable, different, and credible in your patients’ minds comes down to how it is positioned. A strong brand position can be achieved through the consistent visual expression of your brand (your logo, print & digital collateral, the design of your practice rooms, etc), by using consistent messaging, by maintaining strong values, and through the consistent delivery of your products services.
Try to discover your point of difference (or your competitive edge) in relation to other providers in your field, and think about how you could position your brand to capitalise on that difference. By elevating the differentiating characteristics of your services, they will be easier for others to recognise, and that will make it easier for your patients and referral network to send more patients your way.
4Brand experience – communicating your brand through everyday interactions
If a patient’s journey begins long before they walk through your practice doors, your branding journey begins long before you start designing your website. A brand experience begins by discovering your brand values and purpose.
This experience then needs to be embodied through your organisation’s culture, strategy, design, marketing, as well as the digital and in-person experience. What your brand promises must translate to how it is delivered. Creating a cohesive experience for your patients will strengthen the human connection between you and them.
Building a dynamic and comprehensive brand experience that anticipates and understands people’s healthcare needs is a recipe for ongoing patient loyalty.
Planning out the different ways your patients will experience your brand will help you to optimise the brand experience for your patients. For example, if you improve your patient’s online experience with a new user-friendly website and online booking system, how can these positive experiences be reflected to the patient when they visit you in person? Could your patient registration process be simplified or digitised? Could you offer valuable patient education or an introductory video that patients can share with family and friends?
5Brand identity – the visual elements and your messaging working together to form your brand
Here comes the creative part! Whether you are an individual or an organisation, your brand needs a recognisable and compelling way to communicate its value.
A cohesive brand identity is made up of brand logos, colours, fonts, photography, illustrations, videos, tone of voice (both written and spoken words). All of these factors work together to form your entire brand expression.
The consistency of that brand expression will be what makes or breaks the trust and professionalism you are trying to develop. Once you have developed your brand identity, pulling this all together into a Brand Style Guide will help you remain consistent.
6Brand activation – joining these elements together, in practice, every day
The last aspect of developing an effective brand strategy is to think about how you will ‘live and breathe’ your brand values every day. Consistency is everything here.
A consistent approach to how your brand is ‘active’ in the world will help patients know what to expect, and it will build trust in the level of care they can expect from you.
For example, your reception team may be a patient’s first human interaction with your brand. If your practice takes a bright, bubbly approach to its branding, then your patients will no doubt expect a bubbly, energetic tone when they reach out to reception to book in with you. If they are met with an overly serious or stiff tone that’s inconsistent with your brand identity, that lack of consistency could cost you in patient trust and might impact your ongoing bookings and referrals.
As a healthcare professional, practice owner, or provider, you want to cultivate positive relationships. From attracting new patients to nurturing loyalty among your team, a well-developed brand can go a long way to helping you achieve your business goals.
The process of developing a unique brand doesn’t need to be complicated. By approaching these six key areas and asking the right questions, you’ll be able to come up with a plan based on a solid brand strategy.
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