These are interesting and challenging times in healthcare — and healthcare marketing.
In the midst of all these changes, some things remain the same. You still have to maintain profitability for your practice. At its most basic, this means keeping a high flow of patients through the lobby. To do that, you and your physicians are establishing and nurturing relationships with referring physicians, insurance companies and government regulators — not to mention patients — all at the same time. It’s a juggling act that never ends.
Now more than ever, you’re having to look at everything under the Return-on-Investment microscope. Branding and marketing are no different. With careful planning and execution, a branding and marketing program can positively affect the bottom line.
Government regulations and the Affordable Care Act are
changing the playing field
Conversion to Electronic Medical Records and “meaningful use” requirements of technology costs money and time, and the impact on operations can be upsetting to staff. Streamlining appointments and billing through patient portals and communicating service capabilities on easy-to-maintain websites are more important than ever before. The Affordable Care Act is creating massive changes. In the midst of all this change, are you able to instill trust in patients and referrers? It’s more critical than ever that your practice do just that — and intentional branding and marketing can help.
As patients have to make more healthcare decisions, some will undoubtedly become overwhelmed by information and choices. The easier we as communicators make it for them to navigate the emerging healthcare landscape, the more loyalty they will show during and after this seismic shift to more consumer-driven healthcare. As marketers, we need to:
- Keep actionable and essential information at the forefront.
- Track feedback and ongoing support to show success, not just to demonstrate regulatory compliance, but, more importantly to your patients.
- Coordination of care is crucial – no one product or service you’re providing is an island.
- If you’re good and your metrics are high, promote that heavily.
The term “brand” is thrown around a lot these days, but what
exactly is a brand?
A strong brand will exhibit three “D’s”:
It is Deliverable:
Your practice delivers on the claim every time your patient does business with you. In the eyes of your patients and referral partners, your brand is a promise fulfilled, a warranty for outstanding care — now and in the future.
It is Distinctive:
Your practice’s brand and brand message sets you apart from the competition. It takes more than pure “delivery” to be distinctive. Your brand must leverage distinctions that make patients and referring physicians prefer you over your competition. You must clearly communicate your brand in a distinctive and memorable fashion to be effective.
It is Desirable:
Your practice’s brand is the one that your patients prefer and demand. It is compelling, moving your target patient to action. Your practice must continuously enhance and leverage your desirable brand truths.
An effectively developed brand is not just a logo, a slogan, a spokesperson or a consistent and persistent use of these things. Likewise, it is not purely the use of a variety of tactics such as advertising, web marketing, public relations and social media.
What does a strong brand do for your practice? It facilitates easier recognition and loyalty from your patients, who will want to maintain a long-lasting relationship with your physicians and your practice. It’s a brand they remember and respect.
A strong brand also will improve employee loyalty and recruiting efforts and offer a clear vision to not just group leadership, but to all members of the team.
Branding supports independence and builds loyalty with all audiences:
- Patients/consumers – shows care and concern outside the exam room
- Referring physicians
- Employers who self-insure their workforce
- Hospitals that may co-market partner specialty practices.
Creating a Brand Image: The Big Picture
Root issue: the market is unaware of what makes your practice different.
Link your brand to compelling assets and capabilities:
- Board certification
- IT prowess – patient portal, EHR, etc.
- Care integration
- Other things your practice does well
Reach out to the community by offering things such as:
- Screening services
- Risk self-assessments
- Informational materials.
- Educational presentations
Reach out to referring physicians:
- Again, educate and promote
- Allocating budget, resources and physician time.
What’s the Process of Brand Development?
We view brand development as a discovery process that identifies a brand’s deliverable claims of distinction. The act of branding is utilizing marketing and communications tactics in a compelling manner to take these distinctions to market.
Brand development is a business process that is carefully planned, strategically focused, and integrated throughout your operation. It will establish the direction, leadership, clarity of purpose, inspiration and energy for your most important asset: your name and reputation.
The key to a productive brand development program begins with gaining an understanding of the target patient audiences, those who ultimately make the decision to choose your group.
As experts in your specialty, you may be too close to your business and interests to achieve enough objectivity to speak to potential clients in terms that will resonate with them. You know who you are, what you’re best at doing, and with whom you should be working, but are you speaking to these patients in terms of true benefits in their eyes?
We can help.
Our approach involves gathering information from patients, management and practice managers about your services, what they are intended to accomplish, and the current perception of your practice. From there, we develop positioning, key messages and a marketing plan to communicate your service and practice to the marketplace efficiently and with the most impact.
How We Can Help
- Visual Identity
- Key Messages and Positioning Study
- Patient Communications
- PR and Promotions
- Social Media
Opus 59 Creative Group specializes in strategic marketing and branding, website development, graphic design, public relations and social media for healthcare organizations.
With some clients, like OrthoCarolina, we bring our skills and experience and work as an extension of their internal marketing team. With others without marketing staff such as Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, we act as their on-call marketing department, providing comprehensive marketing strategy and support.
It all starts with a conversation. Call us. We’ll come see you. We can face these challenges together.