Branding Your Clinic Makes Sense
When I started my first marketing agency, one of my core mantras was, “Branding is for billionaires.” I would tell my clients that they ought to bypass branding opportunities in favor of direct-response, transactional marketing tactics. The concept was sound: If the tactic or advertisement we were considering didn’t drive patients into their office immediately, they should take a pass. I’d cite campaigns of huge corporations like Nike and McDonalds by explaining that they’ve spent billions of branding dollars to ensure you’d recognize their swoosh and golden arches, respectively.
But there was a flaw in this hard-fast opinion that branding wasn’t for my clients. The problem was that I didn’t truly understand what branding was or how to use branding exercises appropriately, even for small naturopathic clinics and solo practitioners.
What Definition of “Branding” Should You Use?
The best definition of branding for naturopathic physicians has nothing to do with their name, logo, or color scheme. There are certainly some ancillary benefits from perfecting your design elements, but they don’t make up the core of what a brand means to a naturopath physician. Instead, his or her brand should define exactly how their service offerings are perfectly aligned with the needs of their patients. Below we’ll look at a clinic that has done a great job with their brand profile.
One exercise I use with my clients to kickstart a brand discussion is to ask, “How can my services benefit my ideal patient?” This question forces us to consider 2 aspects of the practice: 1) What do I do well and why do my patients care? and 2) Who are my ideal patients and why?
A naturopathic practice with a limited geographic area from which to pull new patients needs to constantly reevaluate their service offerings and the changing demographics of their patient base, else they risk losing brand alignment.
Why is Branding So Important?
Before jumping into the elements of the perfect brand, let’s quickly address why branding for your clinic is so important. I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews on this topic and the overwhelming consensus is that branding is boring. I understand the sentiment. After all, the concept of branding is ambiguous, the strategies are loosely constructed, and it isn’t crystal clear why a great brand leads to marketing success.
Branding for naturopathic physicians is important because it allows them to create a filter through which all business decisions are examined. Maybe you’re considering opening a few appointment slots in the evening. Perhaps you’re looking at moving your office 20 minutes closer to a major metropolitan area. Or you’re thinking about running an ad in the local newspaper. Before making business decisions like these, ask yourself if the intended outcome is in sync with the brand you’ve created. As an extremely basic example, a doctor who focuses her practice on servicing college students would be better off moving her office closer to campus rather than the suburbs. Have you ever made a marketing or business decision and realized later that you should’ve known better? A well-defined brand might have helped you avoid the stress and heartache.
Emphasize the Benefits
I recommend conducting a “features and benefits analysis,” which is a sales exercise designed to identify the “what” and “why” of your service offerings. In their marketing, many NDs focus on specific treatment methods and the latest therapy they’ve been certified to practice. Instead, I recommend focusing your efforts on exactly what your patient will get out of it.
Certainly, you’ll need to be able to explain the details of a treatment method; however, the “features” won’t matter without personalizing and tailoring the “benefits” to your patient. Sound like common sense? Look at your website and see how much of your content focuses on the ideal end result for your patients rather than the names and descriptions of your treatments.
Need some inspiration? To date, my favorite “benefits” page is found on Resilience Naturopathic’s website (www.resiliencenaturopathic.com). The doctors in this practice offer “Holistic, Integrated Mental, Behavioral, and Neurological Health Care.” Their treatment methods are, “Homeopathy, Nutrition, Hormones, and Genomic Medicine.” But it’s the list of benefits that resonates with potential patients: “Have Stable Moods Without Side Effects,” “Regain Focus and Control,” and “Avoid, Reduce or Eliminate Meds.” Every good marketing and sales trainer will tell you to “sell the dream.” The same concept applies to your brand.
Identifying Your Ideal Patients
Once you’ve conducted the features and benefits analysis, identifying your ideal patients is rather simple. If you’ve done it well (and it can take some assistance from a marketing professional), the benefits you’ve uncovered often describe the personal motivations of your ideal patients.
Let’s use the first example from Resilience Naturopathic’s page linked above. It states that with Resilience Naturopathic, patients can “Have Stable Moods Without Side Effects.” One of the chief concerns they hear from new patients is that side effects from the patient’s medication are worse than the symptoms being treated. This is a well-defined benefit that also describes a common motivation expressed by their patients.
Practical Next Steps
Follow these step-by-step instructions to get a headstart on defining your brand. This concept is one of the hardest to grasp in the marketing world, but it’s a crucial piece of an effective and efficient marketing strategy.
- Define your company profile
- What is the fundamental purpose behind my business that inspires me to do what I do?
- What is the simplest message or idea that I want to instill in my patient’s mind? (Industry examples: “We are a gentle dentist,” “We are a trustworthy roofer,” or “We sell cars for less.”)
- What is my unique story and how can I relate it to my patients?
- Conduct a features and benefits analysis
- List out all the services, treatment methods, modalities, technologies, techniques, therapies, and resources you offer
- Go down the list one-by-one and consider how you would answer a patient who asked, “What’s in it for me?” What is the ideal outcome of that treatment?
- Ensure that each of the services and their benefits are in sync with your company profile
- Identify your ideal patients
- Examine the benefits and ideal outcomes of your services and match them to a patient’s need or desire
- Ask your current patients what brought them to you and what made them stay
- Ensure that the demographics of your ideal patients match the demographics of your surrounding community
- Set a quarterly reminder to complete this process again. Your services and ideal patients will change constantly. Don’t become complacent!
This process can be difficult and time consuming, which is why many naturopathic physicians avoid it altogether. When done well, a properly defined brand will ensure your marketing tactics are deployed effectively, saving you from unnecessary stress and wasted time. In upcoming articles we’ll discuss how to audit your current marketing and advertising tactics using your recently defined brand. See you then!
Image Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_melpomen’>melpomen / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Todd Bosteder, owner of Nontoxic Marketing for Naturopaths, has worked to grow local businesses for over a decade. Thanks to his wife’s insistence, he has learned the benefits of holistic healthcare firsthand and is now passionate about giving the natural wellness industry the tools and platform it needs to grow. From brand development to website design and social media marketing, Todd has the experience to help naturopathic physicians establish and grow their practices.