When you went to medical school, you probably never imagined that you'd have to attract "customers" and market yourself as a brand.
Instead, you likely subscribed to the Field of Dreams approach to business. Build it, and they will come. All you had to do was apply yourself to your studies, survive med school, create your practice, and the patients would be flocking to your doorstep.
But then you opened your practice and realized that being listed on the health insurance companies' rosters wasn't sufficient. Your practice isn't growing at the rate you had hoped, and you're beginning to realize that you aren't just a doctor, but a marketer, and a personal brand in your own right.
Why Branding Is Important for Doctors and Solo Practitioners
Establishing and upholding your brand is important for several reasons:
- It differentiates you from the other hundreds or thousands of doctors in your area.
- It gives you the confidence to share what it is you do for people, when you're in a social setting.
- It creates an emotional connection between you and your patients.
- It helps the people you meet become your ambassadors, referring their network to you.
- It builds your reputation (and reputation is everything).
Personal Branding for Doctors: How to Brand Your Practice in 6 Easy Steps
Now that you understand the importance of having a personal brand, how do you actually create one? While there are steps you can take to create the brand, the first (and most important) is to know who you are and why you do what you do, and who it is that you help. Everything else will stem from this.
1. Know Yourself
Why did you become a doctor? It certainly wasn't because it was a quick path to wealth and fame. You worked hard and put in many a late night (and early morning) to get where you are today. Understanding your driving force will help you communicate and connect better with potential and existing patients.
2. Know Your Audience
It's important in every industry to understand and communicate who you work with, but possibly even more so in the medical field. If you are a pediatrician, you will have a different audience than if you are a plastic surgeon.
If you are a gynecologist, let's just say that you won't be targeting men. When you market yourself in any way, especially in face to face interactions, you'll want to lead with who it is you help.
3. Develop Your Voice
This may be the easiest step of all... and the hardest. You already have a voice. You've had one since you were a little kid running around with a plastic stethoscope. You still use it when you talk to family and friends.
Unfortunately, you've suppressed that voice in your conversations with patients and potential patients. Why? Because you want to come across as professional, knowledgeable, and as someone who garners respect.
Put yourself in the patient's shoes for a moment. Many are anxious at best, terrified at worst, and they don't want to talk to a textbook. They want to speak to a human being who can empathize with them and support them in whatever they are going through.
Being educated doesn't have to equate to being robotic. Find your natural, conversational tone, and allow it to shine through.
4. Create Your Value Proposition (What Makes You Different)
You are just one tiny voice amidst thousands. So what makes you different?
What is it about you or your practice that sets you apart from others in your field, and how will that affect your potential patients? Are you a marathon runner with personal experience in getting your body into optimal shape?
"Do you have a sense of humor that puts your patients at ease? Is your waiting room state of the art with personal entertainment systems so everyone isn't forced to watch soap operas?"
Even better, do you instruct your office staff to schedule appointments far enough apart that patients spend little to no time in your waiting room? These are the things that will set you apart from your competition and have new patients knocking down your door.
5. Uphold your Brand
Now that you've put all of this effort into establishing your brand... make sure you stay true to it. Word of mouth travels fast.
With websites like Healthgrades.com and ratemds.com, patients do their due diligence before visiting a doctor. Your reviews speak for you and if they aren't good, you'll never have the opportunity to prove them wrong.
6. Have an Amazing Business Card
You may think that as a doctor, you don't need to network. If you'd like to grow your practice and thrive as a medical practitioner, you'll need to abandon that way of thinking.
You'll need to be out in the community with your 30 second "commercial" in mind, and business card at the ready. While the commercial will break the ice and create the connection with potential patients (or ambassadors of your brand), the business card is the tangible piece they will take away from your meeting.
This business card needs to be beautiful, professional, and most importantly... memorable. A unique design on quality cardstock will ensure that your card doesn't end up in the discard pile.
Working as a doctor does not make you exempt from the world of business and marketing. By creating a solid brand and upholding that brand, you will have a constant stream of new patients, and a stable of happy existing patients singing your praises.