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Your medical practice strategy is incomplete without a strong Brand Identity firmly in place.

This article provides you an 8-step guide for creating a compelling brand identity that gives you a powerful, hard-to-copy strategic advantage over your industry peers.

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Presupposing that your medical practice already has its basic brand collateral developed (logos, fonts, letterhead, business cards etc), the very first step for your medical practice marketing strategy is to create a powerful and compelling brand identity.

A brand identity is a strategic tool that is step #1 of our 5-point medical practice marketing strategy guide. You use this tool to attract, delight and create undying loyalty with your patient base, your patients to be, and your staff. A powerful and compelling brand identity, if put together and executed properly, will play a significant role in delivering the following:


  • A growing patient base
  • Significantly enhanced (and positive) word-of-mouth referrals
  • Increased likelihood that patients purchase elective services (if you offer them)
  • A more deeply engaged and loyal staff (which cuts turnover costs and allows you to attract better talent)
  • Increased efficiencies throughout your practice (which further cuts costs and adds to the bottom line)
  • Dramatically increased goodwill in your community
  • Enhanced PR opportunities
  • Vast oceans of new growth potential
  • Far better results with your digital marketing activities
  • Significantly increased revenues and enhanced overall bottom line

All of the above points will create significant, extremely hard-to-copy strategic advantages over your industry peers (when we use the term “industry peers”, we really mean your competition).

This 8-step guide will provide you structure, insights and know-how for creating your practice’s brand identity as a part of your overall medical practice marketing strategy.

Ready. Set. Go.

Your Brand Identity Manifesto

To start our how-to guide, we are going to show you how to put together a Brand Identity Manifesto. This is an 8-step process that will provide you a structured and highly effective go-to document to reference for all of your internal and external communications activities. Through the lens of your brand narrative manifesto, your marketing and communications activities will be far more effective at delighting and keeping your existing patients loyal to your medical practice, winning new patients to join the experience and attracting top talent to join your staff.

The 8-steps that we present in creating your brand identity manifesto may at times seem redundant. This is by design. Why? Because we want to approach the creation of your highly compelling brand identity through different angles to ensure that your end result is rock solid in its proposition and promise.

Now, before we begin with your 8-step guide, we need to preface what you are about to receive with the following important points:

  • The Problem, Your Opportunity, Your Results
  • Where the Vibrational Meets the Concrete
  • Two Critical Ground Rules for Ultimate Success 

The Problem - Your Opportunity - Results

The Problem

Very few medical practices, possibly including your own, understand the importance that a powerful brand identity plays in your overall medical practice strategy. After all, you are not in the business of understanding the intricacies of marketing and branding. You are in the business of providing outstanding healthcare.

The above said, if you do not have an overall medical practice marketing strategy, you’re not achieving your true performance potential.

Your Opportunity

Again, very few medical practices understand that a powerful brand identity is the cornerstone of all marketing and communications activities. This means that you have a significant opportunity to create a superior marketing position over your competition.

Your Results?

Again, Arrow Northwest has worked with a wide variety of medical practices over the years. With this experience, we can tell you that if your medical practice has a powerful and compelling brand identity firmly in place, and one that is communicated consistently over time, you will ultimately benefit from the results indicated above.

If you are trying to grow your practice and create a more advantageous position than your industry peers, you need a powerful and compelling brand identity.

Or, if you are a more mature practice and simply want to maintain a manageable patient base, while maximizing revenues and ensuring loyalty to protect your position from more hungry competitors, you need a powerful and compelling brand identity.

Finally, all of the above points ensure that a moderate investment in marketing activities, which includes the communication of your brand identity, will ensure an enviably positive return on your investment. On a side note, if you are wondering how much your practice could invest in marketing activities, under a variety of scenarios, check out our article, Medical Practice Marketing: Why? How Much? Your Results?

Where the Concrete Meets the Vibrational

Before presenting our 8-step guide for how to create a powerful brand identity for your medical practice, we want to make clear that there are two aspects for you to keep in mind: The Concrete and the Vibrational. 

The Concrete

The Concrete refers to being grounded in the conventional, the essential and the measurable. You need to have concrete service offerings, concrete benefits and be available in concrete ways. It is all about demonstrating that a practical exchange of healthcare services will yield demonstrable results and a more-than-acceptable standard of care for your patients.

In addition, there needs to be a concrete dedication to providing a safe and impeccably clean environment.

There also needs to be the element of being highly professional and competent.  

While this all seems obvious, where it concerns you brand identity, you need to make sure that you have verbiage that reflects the concrete element. Providing the concrete element will also give you additional legitimacy where it regards the Vibrational, which we will talk about now.

The Vibrational

Whereas the Concrete is all about the black and white, the Vibrational refers to the feeling that you want both your existing and prospective patients to associate with your brand. The Vibrational goes far more deeply than simply using words, images, stories and associations to portray your brand. Vibrational goes to the very core of your practice’s identity and the “vibe” you give off that can either attract (or repel) your patients.

For example, have you ever had an interaction with a person or a business that has an “it” factor? It is more than likely that you have! As such, you understand that in these rare occurrences you simply pick something up that feels good about this person or business. They feel nourishing on multiple levels. You want to know more. It is almost as if they take the very best aspects that you hope to see in yourself and reflect them back to you. It is an artform in that it is abstract, yet it has measurable results.

In order for your practice to portray the vibrational element, you need to have a very clear understanding of your actual identity as an organization. Your brand identity is how you and your staff continuously internalize what your identity is. When this is done effectively, your patients will pick up that "something special" because it is internalized within the collective mindset of your organization.

Put them both together and…

When you combine both the Concrete and the Vibrational aspects of your messaging in a structured and uniform manner, your organizational body will represent this identity in a uniform, effective and compelling way. This will augment your communications activities because it will reinforce the real, and not the manufactured. This will give you a distinct “it” factor over your industry peers because it is extremely hard-to-copy when done effectively. You will simply feel healthy, and indeed nourishing, to your patients, patients-to-be and staff. Since you are a healthcare organization, and where it regards your medical practice marketing strategy, could you think of a better market position to have?

Effectively combining the Concrete and Vibrational into your brand identity manifesto, authentically and on a continuous basis,New call-to-action you will ensure a far more compelling and engaging multi-way interaction with your patients, patients-to-be, doctors and staff. This is the true sweet spot you want to find.

As an added educational resource, we have produced an eBook that will give you step-by-step instructions for how to build the foundational structure of an immensely powerful brand identity for your practice. It is called, Brand Juggernaut: A How-to Guide For Creating a World-class Brand IdentityThis eBook can be an additional primer for helping you to most effectively implement the following 8-step process to creating the brand narrative for your medical practice. 

Of course, if you simply do not have the time to get into the depths for how to create a world-class brand identity, and just want some helpful tips for what you can integrate now, then continue reading.

Two Critical Ground Rules For Success

#1: 100% Authenticity

For you to be successful with creating your brand identity, especially using our 8-step guide, you must follow the 100% Authenticity ground rule.

Our world today is literally filled with marketing messaging that reinforces superficial ideals about what we need to be “happy”. It is mostly focused on instant gratification and only targets our perceived base needs.

But if you ask yourself what really makes you happy, we would venture a well-educated guess that at the top of your list would be strong, meaningful and authentic connections with others. Since most organizations do not place a premium on this, your medical practice is presented with a powerful opportunity.

We are very receptive to people, places and things that reflect our deeply desired need for authentic interaction. Since most people gravitate towards the authentic, simply because it feels so nourishing and refreshing given the oft superficial state of marketing that floods the airwaves now-a-days, your medical practice will be delivering something that is greatly desired. You’ll not only get people’s attention, but if you consistently deliver 100% authenticity not only within your messaging, but within your organizational body as a whole, you’ll win the unending loyalty of your patients, as well as their highly positive word-of-mouth referrals. This equates to improved revenues and ultimately increased profit margins.

Keep in mind that the 100% authenticity ground rule is a powerful form of magic. It must be handled with great care. Most of us humans are very capable of intuiting BS coming our way and can be very cynical towards organizations that appear to be authentic, but aren’t in reality. If you haphazardly enter this fray without a deep commitment to authenticity’s virtues, and then continuously intertwine these virtues within the fabric of your organizational DNA, you’ll do far more harm than good to your medical practice. On the flipside, if you and your practice’s staff can feel the authenticity within the practice, you’re on the right path. This can be ascertained through multilevel surveys.

#2: Include Your Patients and Staff in the Process

For the following 8-step process, it is imperative that you get your patients and staff involved. After all, you might have some notions about how you want to proceed through these steps in creating your brand narrative, but unless you cross-reference these notions with the people who make or break your practice, you’ll be shooting in the dark and maybe hitting targets you’d prefer to stay away from. 

In addition, your patients and staff will also provide you with a wealth of new ideas, as well as enlighten you as to the cultural and historical assets that your medical practice already has that you may have been unaware of in the first place (and can thus better utilize to your advantage). 

Finally, getting patients and staff involved in this process is not only fun and empowering, but it provides your mission-critical assets (your patients and staff) with a sense of ownership in the process, as well as feeling invested as owners of your medical practice’s brand overall. This heightens loyalty, as well as their propensity to consume, embrace and share your marketing messaging over time. This will also win you new patients and create extremely hard-to-copy strategic advantages over your industry peers. 

Now, without further ado, let's get to your 8-step guide.

The 8-Steps to Creating Your Medical Practice’s Powerful Brand Identity

Step 1: Clearly Define What Makes Your Practice Amazing

Have you ever really thought about what makes your medical practice amazing? Seriously. Can you name the main 3-5 key areas where you excel?

Would your employees be able to name the same areas as you? Would they be able to feel it? After all, every person on your staff has the potential to be a highly effective brand ambassador.

If you are not able to give definitive answers to the above, then the critically important aspect of what makes your practice amazing is anything but clear. This is a fundamental disadvantage

In addition, whether you like it or not, in the information-knowledge age, the knowledge-based worker requires intrinsic motivation to give you their best performance. In order to reach peak performance in this area, they need to be motivated more deeply than simply receiving financial incentives. This is where the harmonious blend of Concrete and Vibrational brand identity elements, as well as the two Ground Rules come into play.

To help you “get” why this is critically important, we have provided one of the most popular and most watched videos of all time from Ted Talks. It is an amazingly insightful video about motivating your staff by Dan Pink.

 

With the above as a primer, it is now time to clearly map out what makes your medical practice amazing.

Exercise

In keeping with the two Ground Rules, try to put your mind into what makes your practice "amazing" through the lens of both the Concrete and the Vibrational. Then come up with a list of bullet points outlining how you believe your medical practice is amazing.

Step 2: Define Your “Why” / What You Stand For / Sense of Purpose

People truly love engaging stories. People also love to hear compelling reasons for why others do what they do, whether in their professional or personal pursuits. If you want to go deeper still, people are also inspired by mission-driven organizations that stand for something more than simply profit. 

So, have you ever thought about why your medical practice does what it does, what it stands for, or what its sense of purpose is?

If so, is this clearly, concisely and consistently reinforced by word and action?

Would your employees be able to clearly tell others about your medical practice’s "why" / what it stands for / sense of purpose? And would they be able to feel it as legitimate, inspiring and motivating?

Would your patients?

If your medical practice does not have a clear idea of its "why" / what it stands for / sense of purpose, then figuring these aspects out are the critical next step in creating branding and marketing messaging that not only inspires your existing patients and your soon-to-be patients, but your staff as well (reference Dan Pink's video above about employee motivation).

Remember, most people gravitate towards the inspiring and the nourishing because it feels good and reflects our deeper natures as human beings. People want to be loyal to these kinds of organizations. So, give them what they want! Figure out your inspired sense of "why" / what you stand for / your sense of purpose.

If you would like to discover more about the importance of “why”, watch this video featuring world-renown Simon Sinek's ideas on the importance of "why" you do what you do.
 

Exercise

After reading the above, and watching the accompanying video presentation from Simon Sinek, it is time for you to ascertain your real sense of why / what you stand for / your sense of purpose. For this step, we recommend putting a little more weight on the Vibrational, as this is where you get to inspire people (and make it more than just about the profit motive).

Step 3: Define your strengths

Now that you’ve defined what makes your medical practice amazing, as well as its why / what it stands for / sense of purpose, it is time to bring the aspirational down to the concrete. It is time to ascertain your medical practice’s strengths.

In every business, one of the principle things to ascertain at the very beginning, and then reinforce through concrete words and actions over time, are your strengths as an organization. This would start first with the strengths of the doctors, and then be reflected through your staff, as well as the operational strengths of your practice as a whole.

Defining your strengths is not only for your medical practice marketing strategy, but also for reinforcing a powerful sense of collective organizational self that can be reflected consistently throughout time, with words and actions, of the medical care your practice provides your patients. This augments your organizational culture of excellence, and thus creates an organizational DNA that exudes competence, consistency and safety for your patients, patients-to-be and staff. These are powerful strategic advantages that are extremely hard to copy by your less focused industry peers. 

Exercise

Come up with a list of simple bullet points that define your medical practice's strengths.

Step 4: Define what makes you different

Have you ever thought about what makes your medical practice different? It may shock you to learn that very few medical practices have a precise understanding of what makes them different compared to other practices. Remember, if you want to distinguish your practice, you to not only need know what makes you strong, but what makes you different (and by extension better) than your industry peers.

Exercise

Come up with a list of simple bullet points that define what makes you different.

Step 5: Defining Adjectives of Your Practice at the Concrete Level 

Now that you've read through the above four steps and done their exercises, which will probably include brief sentences, it is now time to come up with a simple list of descriptive adjectives, or even metaphors, that encapsulate the above at the Concrete level.

In other words, what is it about your practice that excels in a structural and practical way? Or what is it about your practice that would exude competence?

Once you have dialed into this particular lens through which you want your patients, patients-to-be and staff to associate with your practice at the Concrete level, you're ready to come up with a list of descriptive adjectives. A simple example might include the following:

  • Skilled
  • On-time
  • Precise
  • Knowledgeable
  • Expert
  • Efficient
  • Effective
  • Professional
  • Safe

Once you have your list of descriptive adjectives or metaphors that encapsulate your medical practice on the Concrete level, you will be able to use these words consistently, over time, to build the strength of your brand identity.

Exercise

Come up with a list of simple bullet points, using descriptive adjectives that describe your medical practice on the Concrete level. 

Step 6: Defining Adjectives of Your Practice at the Vibrational Level 

Just as we did with Step 5, we now need to do with Step 6, but through the lens of the Vibrational. In other words, how does your medical practice want to make people feel? Or what powerful emotions and feelings do you want your patients, patients-to-be and staff to associate with your medical practice?

With the above in mind, it is now time for you to come up with a list descriptive adjectives or metaphors that are based in the emotional, feeling vibration. Remember, your list is designed to elicit the feelings that you want your patients, patients-to-be and staff to associate with your medical practice, so the 100% Authenticity ground rule is in full effect here.

Simple words that could be used to elicit an emotive association with your practice could be: 

  • Friendly
  • Caring
  • Warm
  • Empathetic
  • Kind
  • Generous
  • Helpful
  • Intuitive 

Once you have your list of descriptive adjectives or metaphors that encapsulate your medical practice on the Vibrational level, you will be able to use these words consistently over time to build the strength of your brand identity.

Exercise

Come up with a list of simple bullet points, using descriptive adjectives and/or strings of two to three words, that describe what makes your medical practice amazing on the Vibrational level. Make sure to place your focus on creating the experience you want your patients to feel when interfacing with your practice.

Step 7: The Use of Symbols, or the Symbolic

At this point in the process, you will have better clarified your medical practice's brand narrative in both word and text. The next step is to come up with a list of symbols, visuals and stories that portray and reinforce steps 1-6 above.

Symbols are amazingly powerful. The Nike swoosh is known the world over. The Christian cross is so simple, yet has so much associated with it that it strains the mind. You can also attach words to your symbols that you can integrate into your brand identity for much deeper impact.

Let’s use our company, Arrow Northwest, as an example of the effective use of symbols, or the symbolic.

  • “Arrow” is a symbol that is associated with being fast, dynamic, graceful, targeted and precisely aimed.
  • “Northwest” is symbolic of being refreshing, pioneering, innovative, open-minded, vibrant and alive. It is an abstract essence that cannot be put into words, but you know and love it when you experience it. It is a feeling that you can literally feel within your body. 

As you can see, the words that we associate with our symbol ("Arrow") can be used to associate with our business as a marketing agency (fast, dynamic, graceful, targeted and precisely aimed). In addition, "Northwest" is symbolic of other associations we want people to have with our agency (refreshing, pioneering, innovative, open-minded, vibrant, alive etc.).

If the name of your practice is such that you cannot conjure compelling symbols or the symbolic, then get creative and think of ways to integrate these elements into your brand identity overall.

Exercise

Come up with a list of symbols, or things that are symbolic, that you think best represent your medical practice. 

Step 8: Creating Your Brand Identity Manifesto

After you’ve completed the exercises in steps 1-7, you are ready to create a clear and concise Brand Identity Manifesto.

Your Brand Identity Manifesto condenses all of the information in steps 1-7 into a 3-part document that should be no more than 1-2 pages in length. This will be your go-to document for consistently reinforcing your internal communications and your external marketing messaging for maximum brand-build. 

Your Brand Identity Manifesto is also malleable. So, if/when your stories, cultural and historical assets deepen, you will be able to integrate these into your Brand Identity Manifesto for added depth and overall strength. 

The 3-parts of your Brand Identity Manifesto should be structured in the following manner:

A brief overview of your medical practice (and what makes it amazing)

This part is designed to be a brief summation of your medical practice and what makes it amazing, which you put together in Step 1.

You also want to integrate your list of strengths, as well as key aspects to what makes you different (Steps 3-4).  

Your Why / What You Stand For / Your Sense of Purpose
For this part, you will basically plug in what you wrote down in Step 2, while at the same time making sure to pepper in at least a few of the descriptive adjectives that you wrote down in Steps 5-6.

Remember, this part is a description detailing your aspirational reason for being. The overall context would by its nature reflect what makes your medical practice amazing in Part 1.

Bullets: List of Descriptive Adjectives and Symbols

In this part you simply list the descriptive adjectives (Concrete and Vibrational) that you created in Steps 5-6, as well as the symbols conjured in Step 7. No more no less. You will pepper in the words and symbols on this list consistently in your internal communications and external marketing activities to reinforce your brand identity.

After you have finished putting together your Brand Identity Manifesto, remember to vet it through your patients and staff (Ground Rule #2). Getting these folks involved in the process is not only fun and empowering, but provides your mission-critical assets (your patients and staff) with a sense of ownership in the process, as well as a feeling of being invested as an owner in your medical practice’s overall brand. This heightens loyalty, the propensity to consume and share your marketing messaging over time, win you new patients and create extremely hard-to-copy strategic advantages over competing medical practices. 

After you have done your due diligence by running your Brand Identity Manifesto by your patients and staff, simply make any final adjustments and you are finished!

Again, your Brand Identity Manifesto will be your go-to document for consistently reinforcing your internal communications and your external marketing messaging. It will also play a key role in your overall medical practice marketing strategy.

Conclusion

Remember, people love organizations that stand for something. It gives the appearance of depth, seriousness and legitimacy, which are amazingly powerful assets to have in a sea of sameness. This not only provides endless narrative and messaging potential for your medical practice marketing strategy, but ultimately produces superior and sustained financial returns.

Also remember that the vast majority of medical practices out there have brands that are uncompelling. This could very well include your own. Uncompelling brands have a negative impact on overall financial performance. Since most medical practices are for-profit enterprises, and financial performance is the ultimate focus, it makes sense for medical practices to place a premium on brand identity as a key part of their overall organizational strategy.

Because so many medical practices have lackluster brands, you have a fantastic opportunity to give your practice a powerful strategic advantage over your less savvy industry peers.

If you decide to take advantage of this opportunity with full vigor, your practice will be the beneficiary of the following:

  • A growing patient base
  • Significantly enhanced (and positive) word-of-mouth referrals
  • Increased likelihood that patients purchase elective services (if you offer them)
  • A more deeply engaged and loyal staff (which cuts turnover costs and allows you to attract better talent)
  • Increased efficiencies throughout your practice (which further cuts costs and adds to the bottom line)
  • Dramatically increased goodwill in your community
  • Enhanced PR opportunities
  • Vast oceans of new growth potential
  • Far better results with your digital marketing activities
  • Significantly increased revenues and overall bottom line

If you decide to take up the worthy endeavor of creating a powerful brand identity as a part of your medical practice marketing strategy, you need to commit to two ground rules:

  1. 100% authenticity
  2. Include your patients and staff in vetting your brand messaging to ensure you hit the nail on the head.

If you can commit to these two simple ground rules, our 8-step Guide will deliver your medical practice an amazing brand identity (through your Brand Identity Manifesto) that will outperform your industry peers and ultimately deliver sustained, superior financial returns.

With that said, good luck and have fun!

 

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