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Medical Practice Branding

How do you brand a medical practice?

Let’s start with the definition of a brand. That word brand (or branding) is a bit of a worn-out cliché. Often, when people talk about branding something, they’re really talking about splashing a brand name everywhere.

That can work as long as you spend gobs of money on advertising media (billboards, television commercials, sport stadium displays, bus boards, etc.). But especially for medical practices, that’s throwing away good money.

For example, a billboard on a popularly driven freeway in a medium-sized city usually costs in the range of $5,000 to $10,000 per month. One billboard. One month.

Think for a moment about the strongest brands. How many billboards or TV commercials or radio ads do you come across for Starbucks coffee? For Netflix? The Mayo Clinic? Answer: Rarely to never. That’s because each has a long-established reputation based on strategic differentiation that’s very difficult if not impossible to mimic.

Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate

The best brands evoke indelible one-word meanings in the public mind: overnight for FedEx, prestige for Rolex watches, techno-cool for Apple computers and phones.

Sometimes businesses need look only for clever ways to express their differentiators. Avis car rental, for example saw a complete turnaround in revenues with an advertising campaign with the slogan: “We’re number two. We try harder.” All they were saying is that their brand was customer service.
Almost any brand can be reinforced by a memorable way of saying it. However, strong, lasting brands are built on what you do, not just what you say. Strategic brands are actionable.

Let culture be your guide

The strongest brands come from inherent traits of an organization’s culture. These are not brand distinctions but one-off brand differentiators. Every business has a unique personality stemming from a solitary culture. A brand built on your practice’s culture cannot be imitated.

Fact is, every consumer really wants only one question answered: What’s in it for me?

It’s a fair question. The most successful sellers of products and services (watches, computers and – yes – healthcare providers) are those who give the most satisfying answers to the WIIFM question.

In the outdoor retailer category, Recreational Equipment, Inc., comes to mind. Their customers can return any purchase any time for a refund or exchange. Differentiator? REI wants your satisfaction no matter the cost.

Healthcare brands built on actionable differentiators

The most effective branding originates from organization’s principles and inner workings.

  • Mayo Clinic offers same-day appointments.
  • The Surgery Center of Oklahoma – a multi-specialty facility owned by 40 surgeons and anesthesiologists – publishes on its website the prices for 194 procedures, from Achilles heel repair to treatment of trigger finger.
  • Kaiser Permanente is known for its long traditions of innovations, a pioneer in the HMO concept as well as in healthcare IT, having been the first to develop the most expensive yet comprehensive patient portal well ahead of other healthcare organizations.

Yes, some of these are big names. But even solo-physician practices have brands, frequently hidden from even themselves. Many have strong brands and don’t know it.

Our MedMarketLink program includes an initial site visit to each client’s location and an exhaustive evaluation of what makes that organization tick. The result is an in-depth report on competitive threats and corresponding strategic opportunities for each provider group to stand apart from the pack.

Here are a few differentiators we’ve helped identify and/or develop for clients

  • A big city’s only female physician in a traditionally all-male specialty.
  • Exemplary willingness to go the extra mile by offering evening and Saturday clinic hours.
  • Exceptional responsiveness by promising to answer any online question from any visitor to a practice’s website (not just patients) within one business day.
  • Treatment exclusivity – e.g., an orthopedic practice that can do total hip replacements as outpatient surgery in as little as four hours.
  • Facility exclusivity – e.g., the only practice in town with a full-time, dedicated CyberKnife radio surgery center.

Once a strategically competitive brand is uncovered, the next step is implementing it into tangible products. This includes refining or devising a new practice logo and graphic standards, from signature colors and logo design to typography and graphic design. These are then applied to everything from print products – including business cards, letterhead, envelopes or a brochure – to signage and embroidered clinic apparel.

Branding under the MedMarketLink program

Our branding services, BrandMine, are a core component of our MedMarketLink program, the only healthcare marketing program with a new patient growth guarantee.

Interested in building a cohesive brand? We’re here to help.
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