Branding might not seem as important for physicians as it does for other types of professionals and businesses. However, in this changing medical landscape, physicians need to treat their practices more as businesses, and personal branding is a part of that.
In this case, branding isn’t necessarily about logos and taglines. Simply put, a physician’s brand is essentially equal to his or her reputation. What patients think about you, how well-known you are in your community, your online presence–that is your brand.
More and more patients are turning to online sources to find a physician. They may look at your website, but they are also likely consulting online reviews and listings as well. Branding is more important than ever if you want to attract the attention of these patients, whether you are just starting out or are already an established physician.
What Is Your Brand?
Cultivating your brand is all about setting yourself apart from other physicians. In an interview with Forbes, branding expert Mark W. Schaefer explains that physicians can create their brands by helping and building trust with patients, rather than trying to “sell” themselves. Physicians should do what comes naturally to them: helping, serving, and educating patients. Cultivating your brand shouldn’t feel forced, or people will notice. Do what you love to do, and use that to build your audience.
Branding yourself sounds like a daunting task, but it’s really all about taking what you do best and amplifying it. You know yourself better than anyone else. You know your strengths as a physician, and how you can best help patients. This is your brand, and this is how you set yourself apart from others.
Your brand is also made up of the patient experience. When patients make an appointment with you, what can they expect? If a patient were to look you up online prior to setting an appointment, what would that patient see? It’s about putting the patient at ease and gaining trust. This even extends to your office staff. If patients have a bad experience with your office staff, that affects their opinion of your brand, as well. Patients expect a consistent experience throughout the treatment process.
Your communication skills, or “bedside manner,” also contribute to your brand. If you look at physician reviews online, you’ll notice that aside from the treatment itself, the most common thing that patients discuss is how the doctor interacted with them. Openness, honesty, and a friendly demeanor are often lauded as positive traits in a physician, while physicians that seem closed-off, rushed, and cold often get negative scores. This can ultimately make or break your brand. Even if you are the very best at what you do, potential new patients may pass you over if you are known for having a poor attitude.
Once you have a good sense of what your brand should be, you need to make sure you are establishing that public persona to truly make it your brand.
How to Establish Your Brand
Medical News Today recently did a series on personal branding for physicians. One of the biggest takeaways from this series is remembering that every interaction with a patient is an opportunity to establish and grow your brand.
This goes beyond just the interactions patients have with you in your office–it also extends to your online presence. Even if you aren’t actually interacting with patients, your website and online reviews are helping patients to form opinions about your brand before they ever meet you.
For this reason, consistency is an important part of building your brand. You need to meet patients’ expectations to keep up your good reputation. If you promise a certain experience to your patients, you need to deliver on that promise. Consistency helps you build trust with your patients, which ultimately helps you build your brand. Every type of communication, from in-office visits, to interactions with your staff, to the experience on your website, should serve the brand you have chosen for yourself. If you create a consistently great experience for patients, you are already well on your way to establishing and growing your brand.
Ultimately, branding isn’t about outwardly “selling” yourself to patients. If you focus on taking care of your patients, and communicating clearly, your reputation will do the selling for you. Building a brand sounds difficult, but while it does take work, it’s ultimately about doing what you do best.
Want more practice marketing tips? View our 50 Ways to Market Your Practice guide!