You Are Your Brand
When you walk into a Starbucks you know what to expect. Tile floors, green aprons, white cups, free washrooms, easy music, roasted bean aroma, consistent fonts and mediocre coffee. It is the same everywhere you go. Without knowing their corporate strategy, you can be pretty certain that fries and fountain drinks will not be part of the Starbucks offering anytime soon. How do you know this? Easy, it is simply not ‘on-brand.’ You know what to expect from the Starbucks brand without evening knowing their strategy. Could your patients say the same about you?
We spend so much time learning the art and practice of our profoundly impactful medicine that menial decisions such as branding can feel like an interruption to our mission of reaching and helping more people. The reality is, our respective brands are indeed a significant obstacle to new patient acquisition. Before you spend another second or dollar tackling websites, social media and other marketing initiatives, you need to make sure your brand is in check.
3 Words or Less
Let’s first make sure we are all on the same page. Your brand is the 3-dimensional definition of your business. It is the look and feel of your professional (and sometimes personal) presence. Your brand is most definitely not your list of services or the population that you treat and it is more encompassing than simply your font or logo. You brand requires thought and strategy and when successfully deployed, you should be able to define it in 3 words or less.
The first person to ever ask me to define my brand was a publicist. She was pitching me for some media opportunities and wanted a succinct sense of who I would be on camera. My response went on for over a minute. She smiled politely and told me to call her back in a week, “I need your brand in 3 words or less.”
Soul searching, mentor meetings and time set aside to refine my brand guidelines resulted in a two word definition; “Colourful & Qualified.” These two words reflected my personality, my tone, my fonts, my website design, my twitter posts, my patient handouts and the clothes I put on in the morning. Most importantly they capture who I am as an ND. I like to have fun with my patients, but I am 100% on point and confidant when I need to communicate a plan or strategy to my clients. Now, no matter what decision I am making for my business, I ask myself, is this __________ (logo, blog post, media appearance, font) conveying my brand? Is it colourful, is it qualified?
Collectively, we grapple for business advice, best practices and the latest social media trend to help tell the world about what we do. Unless you have developed your brand guidelines, stop it. Stop putting yourself out there until people know what they can expect from you and the experience you are selling. If your logo is outdated, your writing riddled with errors, your headshot, a cropped and poorly pixelated photo from your cousin’s wedding, you have got to shut that down. When it comes to your brand, something is not better than nothing. Defining and developing your brand should be creative and fun. It is the foundation to establishing your professional presence and most importantly, it is the gateway to attracting more ideal patients and helping more people.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to create your own brand guidelines:
- With the aim of defining your brand in 3 words or less, create a list of the key elements of your personality that enable your success in life, practice, etc… (Confidence, sense of humour and so on…)
- Look at your 3-favoutrite brands. What attracts you to their look, feel and culture?
- If you have never done it or haven’t done it for a while, redefine or build a visual logo. Check out services like 99designs.com or fiverr.com, online crowd sourcing sites where you can inexpensively hire designers to create a visual presence for you. Unless you are a graphic artist, do not attempt to save money by doing this yourself.
- Further refine your visual presence by setting your primary fonts and colours. These are fonts that you use on everything. All handouts, emails, postcards, business cards, waiting room signs should use your defined fonts. Always.
- Audit your office space. Is the experience of your patients aligned to your brand? If your brand is defined as “simple and effective,” you need to de-clutter your waiting room.
- Build brand guidelines. It is a good start if you can define your brand guidelines for yourself, but the ultimate goal is to share your brand with the world. Create a brand guideline sheet that lists the fonts, colour and tone of your brand. When you are speaking and engaging with the community, ask that your brand guidelines be respected in all promotional material.
- Build your brand with your patients in mind. When you know who you want to attract, you will have an easier time defining the look and feel that will inspire your audience.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of establishing a consistent and professional look and feel. Consumers are savvy folks. Your branding matters whether you want it to or not.
Meghan Walker is a Canadian Naturopathic Doctor and the CEO of Bright Almond, she a passionate promoter of the profession and its capacity to transform people’s lives.