It’s Time to Rethink Your Brand Strategy

This is the first of a four-part series, originally published on MillennialEYE.


Everywhere we go, we’re inundated by brands. With the rise of brands on social media, the prevalence of advertising, and the use of ads to monetize everything we see online, traditional marketing is nearly impossible to escape.

It’s estimated that 2.5 exabytes of information are created online every day (that’s the size of 250,000 Libraries of Congress). And because we’re attached to our smartphones at the hip, even our living rooms are becoming more like Times Square.

In an age where 89% of patients research their physicians online before scheduling an appointment or coming in for a visit, physicians need to take a hard strategic look at their brand and think about how they can stand out from the crowd. It’s time to re-think brand strategy.

But what’s the right approach to take? First, let’s look at some misconceptions about branding.

Your Logo is Not a Brand

The most common misconception when it comes to branding is that a brand is just a logo. When you think of some of the world’s most well-known brands, such as Apple, Nike, or McDonalds, what comes to mind? Their logos.

This is normal. It’s how the human brain works; 80% of all information we consume is processed visually, so when we bring a certain organization to mind, we often think of a symbol (ie, logo) first. For these companies, their symbols have become so inextricably linked with their brand that they’d be foolish to ditch that brand equity.

But that doesn’t mean a brand is a logo.

Some brands have great logos, like Nike or Apple, while some brand’s logos are in your face …

… and others are downright lazy:

Don’t get me wrong—a logo is a tremendously important aspect of your brand, but it’s not your entire brand.

So, What is a Brand?

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”

But I like to go a little further. I define a brand as “the sum total of every interaction, or ‘touchpoint’ people have with your business, regardless of their relationship with your business.”

By this definition, your logo is a part of your brand … as is your website, your name, your practice’s office, your staff, and even small factors such as the average time a patient has to wait before being seen for his or her appointment.

How you answer your phone? That is part of your brand. How your office looks? Also part of your brand. Your practice hasn’t tweeted in 9+ months? Guess what? That is part of your brand.

Good branding isn’t about what colors your logo uses or how flashy your website is; it starts with patient experience, or how people feel when they interact with your business.

It’s also important to note that good branding isn’t just for the benefit of your current patients. Under this definition of branding, your brand is affected by current patients, prospective patients, employees, vendors, and, yes, even complete outsiders. Portraying a consistent, reliable message to long-time patients and outsiders alike is an important part of good branding.

Whether you eat at McDonald’s daily or haven’t had fast food in 3 years, you have a relationship with the McDonald’s brand. And whether you have the newest iPhone 7 or use a prepaid Go Phone, you have a relationship with Apple, because you see the company in a certain way, regardless of whether you use its products or not. Big brands like McDonald’s and Apple understand this, and, as a physician, you should, too.

Why Practice Branding is Important

If we define your practice’s brand as the sum of all touchpoints that patients and potential patients have with you, a more comprehensive approach is necessary. In branding, the name of the game is consistency.

If you want patients to have a good experience with you, your message and experience must be unwaveringly consistent across all touchpoints. There are several steps to ensuring that your brand is exceeding patient expectations and delivering a consistent experience.

First, consider who you’re serving. If your practice focuses primarily on LASIK, you will likely want to focus your attention on a younger audience, most likely millennials. Consider their needs and desires when building your practice brand. What do they want a doctor’s office to look and feel like? How can you use technology to help them through the surgical process?

If your practice is catering toward older generations seeking refractive surgery, the same considerations apply. Will they place a premium on human interaction over the ease of technology? How can you train your office staff to educate patients on their procedure, the risks, surgical outcomes, and the like?

Building a premium lens practice? Plan accordingly so that your message, your materials, the education and rhetoric of your office staff, and everything in between conveys a consistent message. How do your office procedures and educational initiatives support patients so that they feel shepherded through the surgical process, rather than being left to fend for themselves?

We all know these aspects of running a practice are incredibly important, but it’s not often that we sit down and assess how we’re actually doing. It is advisable to conduct a practice audit at least once a year (or more frequently if you can handle it). Take a few hours to assess how your practice is measuring up against brand benchmarks you’ve set:

  • What are patients saying about your practice online?
  • What feedback has your staff been receiving?
  • Are there any points at which practice-patient communication breaks down?
  • What do patients not understand about your practice, their surgery, or ________________?
  • What are the most frequently asked questions your office staff has to answer about surgical procedures? About insurance? About appointments?

By collecting real data about your practice and the unique challenges it faces, you’ll be able to see how you’re measuring up to the goals you’ve set to convey a consistent message and a consistent experience.

Why Personal Branding is Important

Whether you’re the sole ophthalmologist at your own practice or one on a team of many, personal branding is another crucial factor that plays into practice branding. From day 1, you’re selling.

Too many people don’t realize the impact that their actions, words, and lifestyle have on the places they work and, in turn, live their everyday lives without thinking about how their actions reflect on the organizations they represent. The way you treat people (both in and out of your practice), how you communicate, the messages you tweet—all of these elements have an impact on how patients perceive you and, by extension, your practice. As they say, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This is especially true in personal and practice branding because you never know when someone is watching.

Remember how I said that you have a relationship with Apple, even if you don’t use Apple products? The same is true for your prospective patients: They have a relationship with your practice (via their thoughts, feelings, and perceptions), regardless of whether they’ve come in for surgery or not.

Just like that new iPhone 7 billboard hanging above the freeway is a touchpoint for Apple, you are a touchpoint for your practice. The people you come into contact with on a daily basis are interacting with your brand, although they may not know it! Even if you’re one of many ophthalmologists at a larger practice, you are still your own brand, and, as we learned before, every touchpoint matters.

A Final Note

Brands are incredibly comprehensive. They are composed of every interaction potential consumers have with their people, their products, and their message, and, in order to make the most impact, every piece of a brand has to function correctly. Take some time to evaluate and “audit” your brand, identifying strengths and areas for improvement.


Author’s Note: In the next issue, we’ll take branding a step further and explore design through the lens of patient experience. We’ll cover website design, messaging, the psychology of good design, and more.

The Designer Matters: A Guide to Choosing the Best Web Design Agency for Your Practice

The Designer Matters: A Guide to Choosing the Best Web Design Agency for Your Practice

When it comes to designing your ophthalmic practice website, you have a ton of options. Some people choose to design their website themselves, but for many, the complexity of designing the site and learning the technology required to make the website actually work is too much – they’d rather hire someone with design expertise to do it for them.

If that’s you, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

7 Signs It's Time for a New Practice Website

7 Signs It's Time for a New Practice Website

So, you’ve had an ophthalmic practice website for a few years, and for the longest time, it’s served your needs. But as technology (and the industry itself) keeps changing, you’re concerned that your practice website might not be up to the task anymore.

You think your website is find, but how can you know for sure? When is it time to invest in a new practice website? And what should you expect when you do so? 

6 Actionable SEO Tactics for Ophthalmologists and Practice Administrators

6 Actionable SEO Tactics for Ophthalmologists and Practice Administrators

Put simply, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website to be found in the search engines for relevant keyword searches. It’s not the mysterious black box many think it is – it’s really just following a set of guidelines so that search engines (and real people) can easily find your website and other relevant information when they perform a search online.

The Psychology of Why We Share Things Online

The Psychology of Why We Share Things Online

The Internet is inherently social – from Facebook posts and Tweetstorms to viral YouTube videos and those articles your mom keeps emailing you, we all love sharing.

But why do we share the content we discover, read, and watch online? What compels us to click that share button and spam all of our friends and co-workers with what we just found?

Social Media for Ophthalmologists: 4 Strategies to Attract New Patients

The first thing ophthalmologists need to know about social media is that it’s not just social.  The fact is that the majority of users on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter go to those sites to find information about businesses and the products and services they offer. For example, 73% of the 1.13 billion active daily users of Facebook go there “for professional purposes,” and 63% of Twitter users say they use that platform to find news and events outside of the social arena.

Marketers for businesses as diverse as manufacturing, software as a service (SaaS), consulting — and medical — are increasingly embracing social media to grow their companies. For example, 66% of marketers in a recent survey from Hubspot saw a substantial increase in leads for their businesses by spending as little as 6 hours a week on social media, and 90% say using social media has increased exposure and visibility for their businesses. 

Get our Free eBook: How to Monitor Social Media in 10 Minutes a Day

The question, then, is not whether using social media can grow a business, but rather how best to do it.

How One Pediatrician Found New Patients on Social Media

When pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert launched a Facebook page and Twitter account, her intention was simply to share relevant health information to help the existing patients in her Kansas City, MO practice.  She quickly learned that her social media posts provided an ancillary benefit: new patients.

Today, posting blogs on subjects like HPV prevention and the role of vaccinations, Dr. Burgert has garnered some 8,000 Twitter followers and more than 1,400 “likes” for her practice’s Facebook page.  As she explains:

“I use social media to share health information.  My goal is help our kids in Kansas City make good health decisions. As a consequence to that, I think that patients and families in our community are very interested in what we do here, and we certainly get new patients to our practice because of our social media efforts.”
— Dr. Natasha Burgert

How Ophthalmologists Can Attract New Patients with Social Media

Although every practice is different, there are some common sense rules of engagement which will help all medical practices attract new patients.  Here are 4 strategies to attract new patients for your ophthalmology practice:

1. Have clearly articulated goals

You have to begin by deciding what you want to achieve with social media.  Do you want to attract new patients, or is your goal strictly educational? If you do want to target patients, who are you going after? Is your sweet spot the LASIK market, or are cataract and refractive surgeries your bread and butter?

Your goals will dictate the kinds of content you post and the nature of any calls to action within those posts.

2. Keep your content current and relevant

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You need to assume a patient-centric point of view in the content you post. What are your current patients’ major concerns and questions?  If you don’t know, you should take the time to ask them, and post blogs on those topics on social media.

You can also use social media tools, like Facebook’s Audience Insights to identify the most frequently asked questions by any target audience.  You can answer those questions to establish authority, and provide links to your website. 

Finally, it’s a good idea to stay on top of the latest developments in ophthalmology by scanning press releases of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and other industry publications if you don't already.

3. Keep your posts positive and professional

Don’t make the mistake of being overly colloquial or chummy – prospective patients want to have confidence in your abilities. There’s nothing wrong with being occasionally lighthearted, but in general, you should maintain a professional tone and a relentlessly positive attitude.

Seeking to educate patients and provide tremendous value is the name of the game. It’s ok if you do so in an informal manner (nobody likes a boring person), but remember, you have your professional reputation to think about, and patients are placing extreme trust in you as their surgeon…so make sure your practice’s social media stays positive and professional, just like you. 

4. Be responsive

Visitors to social media sites use those platforms to initiate conversations.  That means the content you post will generate questions and, at times, complaints. In fact, nearly 72% of patients who complain on Twitter expect a response from the company within an hour!

Be sure to visit your social media pages daily. When patients or prospective patients ask questions, answer them, quickly, succinctly and authoritatively.  When they complain, take their concerns seriously and address them professionally.

What’s Next?

Identifying and attracting new patients are critical to the success of your ophthalmic practice. 

Social media offer the opportunity to find and influence those new patients as you demonstrate your competence and authority.  By articulating your key goals, educating with relevant content and being responsive to questions and concerns, you can build trust in your abilities and gain immeasurably in new and loyal patients.

 

Need help? Get our eBook, How to Monitor Social Media in 10 Minutes a Day for free!