The Practice Growth Podcast is an educational resource for doctors, dentists, and other healthcare providers about how to market and manage a thriving healthcare practice.
In Episode 6, host Lisa Christy is joined by Norm Schrager, PatientPop senior content manager. The pair discusses the importance of a strong healthcare practice brand. Click below to listen.
Find new episodes of The Practice Growth Podcast every other week on the PatientPop blog, or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
Lisa Christy: Several years ago, two university professors published a study that showed children just three and four years old could identify a brand using only a logo. Nearly all of the children surveyed recognized one logo in particular, the McDonald’s golden arches. Yes, kids who couldn’t read could request their parents steer the minivan toward Mickey D’s rather than Burger King or Wendy’s.
Even if you don’t have a marketing or advertising background, you likely know that a strong brand can help distinguish one company from its competitors — and not just among young children.
Yet many healthcare providers do not take the time to develop a brand for their private practices. Could failing to develop a brand hurt new patient acquisition? How do you go about developing a brand for a practice that’s already up and running? We’ll answer these questions and more in today’s podcast.
Hello, and welcome to the Practice Growth Podcast, the doctor’s resource for marketing and managing a thriving healthcare practice. I’m Lisa Christy. Joining me today is Norm Schrager, Senior Content Manager at PatientPop. I’m very excited to speak with Norm on this topic because he has extensive experience with branding initiatives at healthcare companies.
Not only did he recently help to evolve the PatientPop brand, he actually did the same when he was at athenahealth, as well. So Norm, let’s actually start our conversation there. Can you tell me about the recent PatientPop rebrand?
Norm Schrager: The recent PatientPop rebrand is more of an evolution of what PatientPop is all about. When I joined the company late last year, there was definitely an established PatientPop brand, and it was clear that PatientPop is a practice growth platform. The way we evolve a brand anywhere, any business needs to do it about every three or four years to make sure that they’re staying relevant to what they’re doing, and accurate to what they’re doing.
Companies evolve all the time, their products evolve all the time, but making sure to connect with their audience and their prospective audience as best as possible. That’s what the redesign of PatientPop was about, making sure that we were establishing firm ideas as to what we do, and how we help healthcare providers, and being extremely clear and well defined about what our solution does.
And that redesign is quite literally what it sounds like. It’s not just putting words to the page, it also has to do with colors, and backgrounds, and what your website look like. All along the way, it needs to accurately convey who you are, and why you’re top of mind, and the right choice for a particular audience, and that’s what the redesign here was all about.
And I think you can ask that question of content people at just about any company, and the answer should be just about the same.
Lisa: Right. So, you know I have a background in marketing and advertising in content, and even to me, when I hear the word branding, I think about these huge companies. You know, Nike, Target, Coca-Cola. So, how does the idea of branding apply to a small healthcare practice? A small- or medium-sized healthcare practice?
Norm: The reason is because a small- or medium sized healthcare practice is a business. I think any healthcare provider managing their own practice would agree they need to stay competitive in their market or lead their market, and they need to maintain that competitive edge. Whether it’s within their geographic area, their specialty, or both.
And the Targets and Nikes of the world are doing exactly the same thing, just on a larger scale. It may come down to accurately conveying who you are as a practice, and what your services are, and why you are best in as quick and as engaging a way as possible. Target is doing the same thing. But it is a necessity, in terms of business success, regardless of the size of your business or, in this particular instance, the fact that it’s in the healthcare category.
And this is exactly what we do at PatientPop, and why we want to focus so much on just doing one thing, and that’s the thing we do well, which is healthcare.
Lisa: Sure. So, if we’re talking about a small healthcare practice, a lot of them offer pretty similar services. So say I have a dentist here, and then I have a dentist two miles down the road. We probably have the same services, we might have the same number of staff, our offices might look kind of similar, but branding could help the office down the road stand out from your office. So, you want to get that recognition out there.
Norm: Absolutely. And that practice can choose to do whatever they feel is their advantage. What do they do better? What is their patient experience like that a competitor down the street with maybe the same number of providers can’t do? And it can come down to anything, and each practice needs to identify what that is. It could be the experience they get in the waiting room. It could be the ease with which they can communicate with doctors post-visit. It could be any number of things that that particular practice, looking at it from a business point of view, “What do I deliver to patients that my competitor doesn’t?” And that becomes your branding and your market.
Norm: Or part of your branding.
Lisa: Sure, sure. So, what are all the aspects of a brand? You know, is it colors? Is it a tagline? Is it a cute mascot that has a tooth for a dentist? What are the different pieces and parts that go into a brand?
Norm: If your audience sees it, or hears it, or feels it, it’s your brand. It is visual motifs, visual themes, or small visual icons. It could be the name of your practice, or the way that the name is displayed. It can be the way that you describe your practice, what they call advertising and marketing the elevator pitch. “Tell me what’s different about you in 30 seconds. What can I expect?” It could be the way that you’re greeted in the waiting room. It could be the way that the practice communicates with you afterward. It could be any number of things.
Knowing your competition, of course, is part of it. But in the branding of your practice, be true to what your experience is — the experience that you give to patients — and be ready to convey in a way that shows you would be their choice.
Lisa: You brought up an interesting point there, Norm, about audience. You know, I think sometimes when people are developing their brand, they have this idea of, “Oh, I want these colors. I want to convey this kind of feeling when you visit my website, or you visit my healthcare practice, or find me on social media. But how important is it to kind of think about your audience? To gather insights from your audience when developing a brand?
Norm: Yeah, I think it’s a basic tenet for any time that you’re putting yourself out there. The great thing about it is anything you need to know about your audience, or a perspective group of patients, you’ve already got an audience at your practice. Request feedback, talk to them. Ask them what they like about their experience. What would they like to see improved? What works for them? What keeps them coming back? And that helps you understand a little more about who you are, and what you’re doing well, and that is reflected in your brand. Or you should ensure that it’s reflected in your brand.
If you get a lot of feedback that talks about how warm and welcoming your practice is, make sure that’s on your practice website, make sure that’s part of your messaging. Make sure you’re including photographs of your front desk staff on your Facebook profile. These are ways to convey things you already know about yourself because your current audience told you.
Lisa: That’s great. As you mentioned earlier, that’s kind of an ever-evolving process. That’s not I find that out once and then just run with it. You keep collecting that feedback, so you know what’s going well not only at your practice, but so that you can keep evolving your brand over time.
Norm: Exactly like I had mentioned when you asked about why rebranding PatientPop. Because it all evolves. We’re all trying to meet our customer or our patient’s needs in an ongoing sense. So, we change — we being PatientPop, in this case — we change as our customers and our providers needs change, and providers can definitely respond to patients’ needs as they evolve, as well, and they have been and they continue to.
Lisa: Great. So, how does a healthcare provider go about developing a brand? For example, how does PatientPop help its customers get to the heart of what their brand is?
Norm: The first thing you can do is ask yourself a lot of questions. Almost a self-audit, and that can be “What am I about? What is the experience as a provider that I give when folks come in? Do I get right to the details? Do we do small talk?” What do you like to do in your practice in the exam room? What do you like your waiting room to convey? What do you think the definition of your practice would be? And this is something that big brands do. Define yourself. We’re earthy, we’re welcoming, we’re solid, we’re … and you could go on and on. So audit, for lack of a better word, what you’re currently putting out there in the market in terms of what prospective patients and current patients are seeing.
Then make sure that if you are branding or even rebranding yourself, that what’s going out there — and I may have said this before, is accurate to the experience that folks will get with you. It is relevant for what patients needs are, and it’s true to you, is it true to what you feel like as a provider, and what you convey to your patients, and what your practice feels like. If the difference between you and the competitor down the street isn’t clearly apparent now, then this exercise can can get you there.
Lisa: Great. So, almost give yourself the journalist treatment. Ask yourself all kinds of questions, every simple question, every complicated question.
Norm: Do the who, what, where, when, why? Let’s start there. Although, the why is always to deliver great care to patients. That much we know, so investigate the others. Look around your practice, talk to your patients. Get a feel for what the outside world coming in thinks of you. That in all likelihood is probably your brand.
Lisa: Great. So, I am curious about branding mistakes. What missteps do people make when they are branding their business or their healthcare practice? And how do they go about correcting those missteps?
Norm: Not getting enough feedback.You know the old saying of focus group of one. You don’t wanna just simply refer to your partner, office manager, practice manager, or one patient who tells you what you want to hear. Make sure that you are establishing or re-establishing your brand by way of talking to folks and getting feedback. Get enough of it so that you get a pretty good range of what it means to be your practice.
What it means to be you, and what are the winning things you can convey to help bring in new patients and help grow your practice? The other is probably not being true in what you’re conveying, and I’m putting a question mark out there because that only lasts one time. It’s the old I saw a trailer for really great movie and the trailer misrepresents the film. They get all the business the first weekend, but there’s no follow through.
You wanna make sure that you as a provider and your practice are living up to whatever’s being promised in your “brand promise.” Whatever you’re putting out there to your prospective audience needs to be followed through once they get to your practice. So, if you’ve defined yourself in a particular way, and you’ve represented your practice in certain ways online, there must be an expectation that patients will experience that when they get to your practice.
You could look at Google reviews as an example. If you’ve got 200 reviews with an average star rating of 4.7, there’s a pretty good chance that patients are going to walk in your door expecting that type of quality experience. That star rating is as much a part of your branding as anything right now. You may not have started there, but you’ve amassed that reputation, and need to be able to follow through on it.
Lisa: Sure. So, my last question for you today, Norm. I think that a lot of healthcare providers have so much going on when they open up their own healthcare practice that branding probably isn’t top of mind. In some cases it might, be but it’s usually not. So, hypothetically, let’s say I am a healthcare provider and I’ve been in business for, five years, six years, and didn’t really establish a brand for myself. What do I do now? How do I get started now?
Norm: Keep it simple. Keep to the basics. As I mentioned, do a healthy audit of who you are, who your practice is, or what your practice is, and why you already have such a healthy patient base for so many years. Whether it’s opening a new location, expanding your practice, or you just want to go through the exercise to make sure that you are evolving with your audience.
Just reviewing what makes your practice different than the others, why you’ve been able to deliver a high-quality experience that gets people coming back, helps with your patient retention. I think that will get you to your brand.
Lisa: Oh, that’s great. Norm, thank you so much for taking this time. I found our conversation very enlightening, and I hope that you have as well, audience.