In the healthcare industry, developing a strong brand will put you ahead of the vast majority of your competition.
Branding in healthcare. It's a subject so critical- and so timely- we're devoting a series of blog articles to exploring the why and how behind building a strong brand for your healthcare business.
In my last article, I noted there are five ways strong brands become winners in the healthcare industry. To reiterate, they:
- Establish trust and confidence
- Gain a sharper competitive edge
- Become relevant resources for patients
- Are able to mitigate financial pressures
- Can adroitly navigate potential mergers or acquisitions
I also noted that a mere 20% of hospitals incorporate branding into their strategic thinking and marketing. So not only is having a strong brand vital to your future success, it's also an easy way to step out ahead of 80% of your competitors. This is true across the entire healthcare industry, not only for hospitals.
Your brand is a promise.
It instantly tells people what they can expect from your company and your products or services. Like all promises, your brand is built on trust.
Trust is the foundation of virtually every type of decision and transaction within the healthcare industry. Branding affects your company's relationship - and your ability to build trust - with every industry segment.
Known brands reduce perceived risk
People choose brand names because they believe that brand is trustworthy. Known brands with a proven track record provide reassurance and comfort. Branding is so powerful that consumers are willing to pay more for trusted names than lesser-known brands - even when the products are virtually identical.
Shopping data collected on OTC Pain Relievers underscores this phenomenon, attributing 24% of aspirin sales by volume, and 59% by expenditure, to Bayer. Even when generic alternatives are available at significantly lower cost, people choose the Bayer-branded aspirin. What drives that consumer preference? Brand. Bayer's brand has earned preferred status. And that increased consumer confidence makes the product "worth" the higher price.
Trust is critical in healthcare
Branding is important in all industries. But it plays an especially important role in healthcare, where purchase decisions have greater implications than, say, the restaurant industry. Healthcare decisions are highly personal. They impact our lives on a greater scale, one that ranges from basic quality of life to, literally, life-or-death.
Before a consumer decides to let a doctor implant a medical device in their body, they need to trust that it will be safe. A doctor isn't going to use a medical device or drug they're not confident in, either. Companies earn trust by delivering on their brand promise and by continuously building relationships.
Branding also builds trust beyond products and services. Patients have every expectation that their personal and health data will be fully secure and protected. But they worry - justifiably, given the realities of today's global technology. Healthcare companies that adopt the most advanced data protection measures are protecting their brand as well as their data.
Brand-conscious healthcare companies promote their proactive measures. By telling this story publicly, your company proves you're doing everything you can. That builds trust.
Trust boosts employee morale
Attracting and keeping top talent is crucial in healthcare. High turnover is not only bad for a company's finances, it erodes staff morale - and patient confidence. That negatively affects day-to-day performance and your bottom line. If your employees don't believe in your brand, they're more likely to spread negative word-of-mouth.
A strong brand with a compelling mission provides meaning and purpose for employees. That inspires greater engagement and dedication to the work at hand, and boosts job satisfaction. Strong branding identifies companies that are considered the best places to work - a significant advantage when it comes to recruiting and hiring.
Trust supports marketing to medical professionals
Just as patients now have the ability to make their own healthcare choices, physicians can also choose where to send their patients and which products or services to recommend. This has profound implications for healthcare companies that have traditionally marketed their products directly to physicians.
The MM&M/Ogilvy CommonHealth Healthcare Marketers Trend Report for 2013 found that marketing directors allocated around 75% of their total budget to healthcare professionals and 25% to the consumer space. But healthcare companies must adapt to a changing environment. Deploying an army of reps doesn't work well anymore because marketing communication is no longer limited to one-on-one meetings with physicians. Instead, brands must be able to speak for themselves.
Today, physicians can be reached through a variety of touch points, including multiple digital channels. The challenge for healthcare companies is to develop an overarching brand strategy to guide all communications. This maximizes brand equity, aids brand awareness and recognition, and establishes the brand as the superior choice.
In addition, companies need to create positive brand experiences for nurse practitioners and physician assistants who interact closely with patients and play a crucial role in patient education, product adoption, and medication adherence.
These same arguments hold true for medical device manufacturing reps and other vendors who sell to healthcare providers, whether that be hospitals, clinics, or individual practices. Branding affects each provider's perception of your company. With healthcare reform, the process of purchasing medical devices within hospitals has become increasingly sophisticated. The decision-making process is longer and more complex.
The result is that companies must first earn a spot within the decision set. A strong brand strategy that communicates value and is easy to recall is key to securing a place in this coveted selection set.
Trust relieves payer pressure
Healthcare companies are also adjusting to a new reality in which bargaining power has shifted to the payer. Payers now play a key role in the commercialization process, making them an important stakeholder to please. And healthcare reform has made convincing payers to provide coverage and reimbursement a bigger priority than in the past.
Healthcare companies will have to step up their game, because the onus is on them to demonstrate value. Branding influences perception. A brand with the right value proposition can "prove" the true value of its product or service to patients in the mind of the payer.
But there are other reasons to step up your branding game. In my next article, I'll zero in on the business development benefits - sharpening your competitive edge, reducing the pressures of uncertain financial times, and achieving a desirable position in today's milieu of mergers and acquisitions.