To stand out to potential patients, you must develop a strong brand. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting lost in the sea of healthcare businesses.
Strong brands create winners. But the reverse is also true. Without a strong brand, your healthcare business is likely to become a big loser. In a marketplace this competitive and volatile, it does not pay to ignore the value of strong branding. In previous blogs, I’ve explored why branding matters, how strong brands build trust, and how they support and facilitate business development efforts. But there’s more.
Strong brands win because they communicate effectively.
Every brand has a voice. Is yours human or corporate? Your brand has to be consistent across platforms and audiences, but it should be nimble enough to speak to patients as well as professional. This means producing the right marketing content and delivering it at the right time, to the right people, with the right tone and style.
Patients are empowered decision-makers. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 72% of internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year. Patients are also asking their doctors for specific brand name products. Furthermore, patients want to find the best healthcare at the best price.
Paul H. Keckley, PhD, Executive Director at the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, wrote in a Health Care Reform Memo about the importance of branding in healthcare: “Consumers have more skin in the game now than ever before. They’re able to compare prices and outcomes for simple medical treatments. And they can access their own medical records to compare their signs, symptoms, risk factors, and co-morbidities to clinical algorithms and better understand where to get the appropriate care, and how much that care will cost.”
As a healthcare company, you need to provide patients with all the information they’re looking for about your products and services.
A strong brand boosts patient satisfaction.
Deliberately and actively managing your brand must become part of your overall marketing strategy. That includes publicizing independent, third-party verification of your brand’s promise -- patient satisfaction scores, quality scores, online reviews, testimonials, etc. Without readily-available information and confirmation, prospective patients won’t have the knowledge or confidence to choose you. They will choose a competitor instead.
Doing nothing isn’t a viable option, even though 80% of hospitals are ignoring opportunities to buff up their brand. Lack of visibility and well-publicized “positives” can easily be mistaken for a lack of consumer enthusiasm about your brand.
On the other hand, effective communication is a classic win-win. Patients win because they get the information they want and need, in ways that are both appealing and useful to them. They feel connected to the brand. Brands win because patients who feel connected choose them and develop a sense of loyalty over time.
But it takes more than “comfortable” communication to win over patients.
Strong brands communicate safety and security.
Effectively communicating online and through other content establishes your brand as a valuable resource. Prospective patients or partners can make better decisions because they are better informed. But emotional and psychological factors also affect buying decisions. Especially in healthcare. Strong brands win because they establish themselves as the safe, secure choice.
Of course patients expect products and procedures or other services to be safe and effective. But what they’re really worried about is the safety and effectiveness of your technology.
These days everyone is hyper-sensitive about risks surrounding their personal identities. Healthcare consumers are equally worried – or perhaps more so -- about maintaining the privacy of their personal medical information. And for good reason. Healthcare companies are no less vulnerable to hacks and ransomware invasions than financial institutions or those in other industries.
In fact, healthcare ranks in the top 4 when it comes to the world’s most frequent ransomware victims. That dubious “honor” puts healthcare on a par with retailers, behind only business and professional services and government. Strong brands understand this concern and take proactive steps to allay fear. They adopt the latest technology to protect patient information as well as their company’s own proprietary data. And they are always on the lookout for new technology that can strengthen their systems even further.
But, even that’s not enough.
You must overtly market the security of your brand.
It’s not enough to educate consumers and promote your products and services with well-targeted, well-placed content. Providers, payers, and other healthcare entities that collect patient data must proactively promote their data security and other patient protection measures.
Strong brands communicate the work they are doing to keep data safe and secure. Your “publics” may or may not know that your healthcare business is required to meet HIPAA or upcoming GDPR regulations. But they are worried nonetheless. If you fail them, you may never regain their confidence or trust, no matter how “well” you communicate otherwise.
Smart use of technology can also boost a sagging brand. For example, the US Veterans’ Health Administration – a healthcare provider with perhaps the worst possible brand reputation – is taking steps to augment their system with “health IT.” They hope that by implementing easily accessible, informative technology tools, they will be able to serve patients better, faster, and more effectively. And they hope that the result will be a brand reboot.
Pulling it all together
Ultimately strong brands win in healthcare because they create a sense of convergence. A comprehensive appeal that speaks to their various audiences in timely, relevant ways, backed up by the ability to consistently meet the expectations contained in their brand promise.
It all comes together to establish trust -- the foundation of any strong, lasting relationship. For your healthcare business, the rewards are a sharper competitive edge, greater business development opportunities, and a loyal following that ensures a thriving future.