Customers aren't drawn to your products and services- they're drawn to your brand. A strong brand is critical for a business's growth.
Welcome back to our blog series on the importance of branding in healthcare. In my last installment, I talked about how a strong brand builds trust – with peers and other players within the healthcare industry, and with patients and other consumers. Now, let’s look more closely at how a strong brand supports and facilitates your business development goals.
A strong brand stands out from the competition
Branding provides immunity in today’s challenging marketplace. And there are ample challenges for businesses:
- Increasing competition
- Increasing commoditization
- Significant merger and acquisition (M&A) activity
- Uncertainty regarding regulatory and government oversight
Healthcare companies have to win over more than doctors. You have to reach patients, other providers, and payers too. But the pressure to perform is not on your company, it’s on your brand. That’s because people don’t buy into your set of products or services. They buy into your brand promise and what that means to them - the security within the brand promise, and how your brand relates to their individual human journey.
Consumers may have more factual information at their fingertips than ever before, but their healthcare decision-making is heavily influenced by emotional and psychological factors. You cannot afford to overlook that, and branding is how you communicate intangibles.
Disruptive technology, substitute products or services, and global competition entering US markets are all forces that threaten to make your product or service a commodity. Branding offers an opportunity to provide consumers with a unique experience that can’t be replicated. Brands are one of the only business assets that provide long-term competitive differentiation.
And the stronger your brand, the less vulnerable you company will be to outside forces that aim to erode your loyal customer base.
Rise above the noise
Today’s consumers (whether B2B or B2C) are inundated with messages. According to the book, “The 24-Hour Customer,” people see more than 34 billion bits of information – the equivalent of two books – every day. No wonder expertly crafted messaging is no longer enough to break through the clutter and reach your target market. You cannot purchase people’s attention, you must earn it. Strong brands that resonate with people win the privilege to speak to consumers.
Simplify the decision-making process
In order to make healthcare decisions, consumers search for information they can use to analyze differences they perceive between competing brands. Brand awareness and brand knowledge play an important role here. Branding positions a company so they are relevant to a consumer in order to gain their attention.
A strong brand helps reduce financial pressure
National tax policies, the medical device tax, pressure to cut costs, and other factors are putting increased pressures on healthcare companies’ financials. According to Interbrand, a strong brand creates economic value by generating higher returns and growth, and by mitigating risk. A strong brand also provides “goodwill” - an intangible (yet significant) asset that can increase actual company value and market capitalization.
Security in uncertain times
Strong brands attract loyalty. The goodwill noted above offers a measure of predictability regarding consumer loyalty. This can strengthen planning and forecasting - as long as your company continues to earn that loyalty/goodwill by consistently delivering on your brand promise.
Loyalty also protects your company when the going gets tough – during a PR crisis, or when the economy gets shaky. Strong brands earn “benefit of the doubt,” whereas weaker brands that slip up are more likely to be called out. Loyalists will defend your brand even when you’re not there.
A strong brand makes your business an attractive partner
Mergers and acquisitions (M&As) and partnerships define today’s healthcare marketplace. More and more businesses are either joining forces with, or acquiring, other brands to strengthen their portfolio of products and broaden their capabilities and reach. But in order to attract M&As, you need a strong brand.
Lackluster (or overtly negative) branding signals your company has little to offer, as a target or as a potential buyer or partner. You may be saddled with worrisome baggage in the form of indifferent investors, disgruntled staff, or dissatisfied patients.
Instead, when your brand identity clearly communicates the strength of your company, other companies perceive your business as high-value. A strong brand is also a powerful negotiating tool because it cloaks your company in respectability and credibility.
The same holds true for non-traditional types of partnerships, such as health care systems and retail pharmacies collaborating to create retail clinics. When two strong brands come together in this way, both can benefit from broader outreach and cross-promotional opportunities.
So far in our series on branding in healthcare, we’ve explored the value brands create in terms of building trust and strengthening business development opportunities. But there is one more reason your business must have a strong brand: achieving patient satisfaction. In today’s marketplace, survival and growth are not about products and services. Your future depends on delivering an exceptional patient experience.
In my next article, I’ll discuss how branding affects that experience.