In the old days of healthcare, who needed a brand? People came to you because you were there, not because they deliberately chose you over some alternative.
The healthcare marketplace used to be a pretty simple affair. If you were a physician, you were one of an elite few in town. Maybe the only one. Everyone knew who you were. If your facility was a hospital, people didn't even need to know its formal name. Whenever they had an emergency or required surgery, they simply went to "the hospital."
Boy, are those days gone.
The modern-day healthcare marketplace is fiercely competitive. You may think you're doing everything you can to sharpen your edge:
- Investing heavily in advertising
- Expanding your menu of products, professional and support services
- Expanding, upgrading, or adding new facilities
- Adopting the latest technologies to improve efficiencies and appeal to tech-savvy stakeholders
But are you investing in brand-building? It's estimated that more than 80% of American hospitals ignore this critical marketing opportunity. And it's not only hospitals that are dropping the ball. It doesn't matter how much you have to offer prospective patients, employees, or partners if no one knows who you are.
The decision to deliberately address your branding puts you ahead of 4 out of 5 of your competitors. The more you work it, the farther you rise in brand visibility and credibility.
What's in a brand?
Branding should not be confused with marketing, advertising, or public relations. Those are ways of communicating your brand. To communicate your brand, you must first build it. A brand is a recognizable identity that has a personality, values, and traits. Like goodwill, your brand is an active business asset. It provides differentiation, shareholder value, and longevity.
Good brands are:
A brand is not your logo or some slogan, although both of these can help make your brand instantly recognizable.
With a strong brand, you have greater control over your business future. It's easier to achieve alignment and support among medical and non-medical staff. You can communicate consistently with all your audiences. And you can develop brand-relevant, multi-channel marketing.
Strong brands win because they are "experiential," cultivating the confidence and trust that inspire loyalty. In turn, brand commitment gives your healthcare business a sturdier, more predictable financial foundation, and it reinforces the quality of your brand. It's an upward spiral.
Effective branding transforms healthcare businesses into winners in 5 ways.
1. A strong brand sharpens your competitive edge
It does that by establishing an emotional bond with your customers, be they individual patients, providers, or payers. Beyond your products or services, it's your company's reputation, your promise.
A strong brand is instantly recognizable, and it resonates with people. That lifts your message above the "white noise" created by billions of information bits we're assaulted with every day. You've earned the right to be heard.
The more powerful your brand, the easier it is for consumers to choose you. And the less vulnerable your healthcare business will be to outside forces that aim to erode your loyal customer base.
2. A strong brand builds trust
Nowhere is trust more vital than in healthcare. Both consumers and medical professionals perceive strong brands as less risky and a better value. A strong brand boosts bargaining power with payers. And it inspires pride among employees, reducing turnover and making it easier to attract top talent.
3. A strong brand speaks directly to patients
In a content-driven world where patients are empowered decision-makers, strong brands position themselves as resources, not merely providers of services or products. That builds consumer trust and confidence.
4. A strong brand relieves financial pressure
Changing tax policies, healthcare reform uncertainty, and the need to cut costs make these uncertain financial times for healthcare companies. A strong brand mitigates these risks with goodwill that boosts customer loyalty and actual company value.
5. A strong brand mitigates M&A pressures, too
With all the benefits that accrue from establishing a strong brand, healthcare companies that wish to remain independent can protect themselves from unwanted overtures or takeovers. For healthcare companies that wish to acquire or merge with another entity, a strong brand boosts negotiating power.
YOU NEED A BRAND STRATEGY
Why? Let's recap:
- To set your company apart from the competition
- To prevent your product or service from becoming a commodity
- To maximize your brand's relevance in the hearts and minds of stakeholders
- To create trust
- To build loyalty
- To enhance employee morale
- To expand market share
- To increase shareholder value
All of these are perfectly valid reasons for strong branding can be summed up in one word: Survival. Growth. Profitability. OK, that's three words.
Creating a strong healthcare brand is so important, the theme of the 2015 Southwind Institute conference was Branding Your Value. The event focused on how to grow your hospital in today's consumer-centric marketplace. Two of the key takeaways:
- Branding isn't about crafting a catchier name or designing a new logo, it's about proving your value.
- Patients are consumers, and their entire experience should reflect that.
There is nothing accidental about strong branding. Nor can you rely on anecdotal "data" to craft your brand strategy. Some of the marketing clues you need lie within -- who you are as a healthcare business. How do you want to be perceived? Other clues lie within your stakeholders. Only by knowing who they are as consumers can you market your brand effectively.
Building a strong brand will help you succeed for the long-term. Are you ready to grow your business, and become one of the 20% savvy enough to develop and exemplify your brand to one and all?