Branding Your Practice
Take your practice to the next level: Make it a brand -- using these tips.
By Bob Levoy, O.D.
Your brand represents the feelings that you and your practice evoke in the minds of patients, colleagues, physicians and other potential referral sources. It's what you stand for: The expertise, quality of care, service, integrity and professionalism that others associate with you. Moreover, it offers you one of the most powerful ways to differentiate your practice and to stand out from the crowd.
Why get branded?
People buy branded consumer products from computers to cars, expecting a level of quality, service, reliability and satisfaction. If these products meet consumers' needs, then they buy again. That's "brand loyalty." If the brand doesn't live up to expectations, buyers simply go elsewhere.
A practice brand works the same way. Every minute of every day, it broadcasts information about who you are, what you and your staff do, and how you do it. If your brand is sending out the right messages about what people can expect when they're in your office, then they will travel further, wait longer, pay more, make more referrals and remain more loyal.
Action step: "Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your colleagues," says author/ speaker Tom Peters. "What have you done lately, this week, to make yourself stand out? What would your colleagues or your patients say is your greatest and clearest strength?
"Ask yourself: What do I do that I am most proud of? If you're going to be a brand, you've got to become relentlessly focused on what you do that adds value, that you're proud of, and most important, that you can shamelessly take credit for."
ILLUSTRATION BY BOB KAYGANICH
Keep these in mind
Here are some hard-learned lessons about building a brand:
► The power behind a brand name that patients insist on is undeniable. And it all begins with a promise: to deliver a level of quality and service. If all goes well, then it becomes a set of expectations. As you fulfill those expectations again and again, a reputation develops.
► Brands take time to develop. You can't rush the process with rampant self promotion.
► Brands demand consistency. "If your receptionist is rude," say consultants Olivia and Kerry Straine, "if your office manager is unhelpful when a patient needs financing, if your policies are always changing, then the negative impact on your brand can destroy the clinical standards of excellence you have worked so hard to achieve."
► If your brand includes "excellence," make sure that it's reflected in the quality of everything about your office. Otherwise, you're sending mixed messages.
► The "right way" to go about building a strong, personal brand is to make sure your brand resonates and is relevant in the most distinctive way possible for those patients with whom you want to build strong, long-term relationships.
► Branding always works. It either attracts patients or it drives them away. There's no middle ground.
Action step: Schedule a staff meeting to discuss what it is exactly that you want your patients to think and feel as the result of every interaction they have with your practice. It will put everyone, as they say, on the same page.
DR. LEVOY'S NEWEST BOOK, "201 SECRETS OF A HIGH PERFORMANCE OPTOMETRIC PRACTICE" WAS PUBLISHED BY BUTTERWORTH-HEINEMANN. YOU CAN REACH HIM BY E-MAIL AT B.LEVOY@ATT.NET.