Abstract: Strengthening your brand involves: identifying waht sets you apart, communicating your expertise, delivering what you promised, training staff about the physician's mission and establishing a good reputation.
One of the most memorable passages in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet begins, “What’s in a name?” Well, when it comes to physicians who are looking to add to their retention rate, the answer to that question can be the difference between success or failure.
As the popularity of medical aesthetic procedures continues to grow, and with organizations such as The American Society of Plastic Surgery increasing their efforts to send a strong message to members about how important it is in this day and age to get involved in cosmetic medicine, the need to brand yourself has become paramount.
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“Branding encapsulates every detail of a practice, including the tidiness of the office, the way the phones are answered, how staff members are dressed, the level of privacy offered, as well as advertisements, the logo, brochures and the Web site. The bread and butter of branding, however, starts with the staff members and how they represent you,” says Daphne Christensen, business development coordinator for Koch Facial Plastic Surgery in Des Moines, Iowa. “After all, branding quite literally means ‘apart from the competition.’ ”
What sets you apart?
When looking to establish branding guidelines, the first step should always be in identifying what sets you apart from your competition. This is key in being able to find your niche for branding in a particular market.“You and your personal brand become one and the same. As such, it is important to expand your knowledge base and become an expert in a field,” says Jennifer Linder, MD, a dermatologist and Mohs skin cancer surgeon in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Use that expertise to write relevant articles for your community and offer educational events. Perform professional treatments on your staff members and key opinion leaders so they can recommend your services with confidence. Before building your knowledge base in a particular area, do your homework. Find out what skin conditions are most common or of the greatest concern in your community.”
In 2001, Renato Saltz, MD, decided to leave his job as an academic plastic surgeon, where he spent 10 years teaching residents at The University of Utah in Salt Lake City, to open up Saltz Plastic Surgery in the same town. His academic years helped him establish credibility, but he still needed to build up his practice. “You need to build your practice on a good reputation and on your solid training. Be available to discuss concerns with patients. Make your patients’ consultations a big issue and spend time with them going over the things that qualify you as better than the guy next door,” Saltz says. “Board certification, I think, is key … be sure your current patients—or patients seeing you for the first time—understand the meaning of being board-certified in plastic surgery, and why it’s so important to go through the training and to comply with all the requirements of your board.”
Communication is key
When you are branding yourself, your success depends on effectively communicating how your expertise benefits others, finding ways to share it with relevant groups and networking a great deal. “One of the things I would emphasize—and it’s something I’ve done and not for marketing purposes—is to get involved with the community,” Saltz says. “Many of my colleagues are involved in different ways. It’s amazing, not only how it’s rewarding personally, but how it comes back. It’s a way to say thanks to a community that has supported your practice.”
To succeed in branding, you must understandthe needs and wants of your clients and prospects.A good brand will:
- Confirm your credibility
- Deliver your message clearly
- Motivate the buyer
- Solidify patient loyalty
“For your personal brand, you have to set what your brand standards will be and stick with them. This includes everything from what colors you use to your communication style,” says Linder. “As you build your knowledge base, it is important to stay within your expertise. Constant changes in the areas in which you claim to be an expert—offering only the hottest new trends—lessens confidence among your patients, lowering your retention rate.”
Another valuable tip is to continue to market to your current patients because they already like and trust you. Listen carefully to their desires, understand your existing patient population, and get a sense of what procedures would best serve them. “I think setting up a medical spa connected to my aesthetic surgery practice has helped to increase the flow, to bring in patients who would go to other known plastic surgeons,” says Saltz. “They come into the spa and eventually become surgical patients.”
Tried and true
In most cases, a brand represents a promise about the results you will deliver, but that doesn’t mean you need to go to extreme measures or always offer the newest treatments to get the job done. “Brenton Koch, MD, is a strong advocate for tried-and-true procedures and treatments, and has truly built his reputation around a no-gimmicks philosophy,” Christensen says. “He takes great care to examine the quality of claims made for new procedures or products related to his specialty so that he can identify the most effective options for our patients. This approach has served them very well. Our goal is to be the ultimate resource for products and procedures that have been demonstrated to be effective, safe and the best choices for the particular situation.”
Saltz also frowns upon a new trend that has seen many physicians offering “great deals” and “unbelievable sales.”
“I’m a little against the discounting mentality, which is now a big deal because we’re in the middle of this financial turmoil, and it has affected plastic surgery tremendously,” Saltz says. “I don’t think that’s how you build your practice, and it’s certainly not the way you’re going to attract more patients.”
A well-versed team
The entire staff is involved in branding, and that’s why it’s important that there is proper communication among all parties, or it could lead to problems. “Invest in education for the practice so the team is well-versed on all skin conditions and their treatments,” Linder says. “With an increased level of education, your staff members will be able to make more specific, customized treatment plans, ensuring that your patients receive a high level of care, and that they perceive a higher value for your services. This improves patient outcomes and satisfaction and will increase referrals.”
Saltz adds, “Be sure your office is aware of what you do and knows about your training and your mission. Very often, you’re going to have great doctors who are well-trained, but the staff is not aware of what they do or their training, and is not able to share that with prospective clients.”
Reputation = brand
Once you do establish a reputation, it will put your patients more at ease and create a better relationship from the get-go. “Patients will come into your practice with a higher level of confidence and trust,” Linder says. “Although it is critical that a patient develop a sense of trust in you through your ongoing clinical relationship, the process begins with how well you establish your brand.”
Remember, without proper branding, you let others define who you are and what you offer. Take the right steps, establish your brand and protect it.