I have talked a lot about the necessity for branding and differentiation, but how can you actually do it? Your first step is to develop a positioning statement (also known as Unique Selling Proposition or Unique Value Proposition). Simply put, your positioning is: “the position in the mind of the potential new patient or even a current patient that your practice occupies.”

In other words, what is the one thing you want patients to remember about you if they remember only one thing? We have to focus very tightly because prospective patients are exposed to at least 3,000 commercial messages a day. With so much clutter in the marketplace, you’ll have to give up trying to be everything to everybody, and instead, focus on becoming very special to somebody.

Some famous positioning examples include:

  • Rock Tape™ Go stronger, longer
  • Nurofen™ Fast relief when you need it most
  • Nike™ Just do it

How to position your practice in the marketplace

Your positioning is the unique competitive advantage that influences your desired audience to see you as their best choice. Before you come up with your own positioning statement, you need to know some ground rules.

Whatever you come up with, your positioning must be:

  • True (if you say you’re experienced, you’d better be experienced)
  • Differentiating (not saying the same thing everyone else says)
  • Memorable (you are competing with 3,000 messages a day)
  • Compelling to your intended target audience (don’t look too expensive when dealing with lower-income patients, for example)

To come up with your positioning statement, decide what you would say to prospective patients who ask, “Why you?” Why should they come to you? How do you present yourself as different, better, and desirable from any other health practitioner they could call today? Why you?

If you can’t answer, you’re in trouble. Your practice is probably hidden in that forest of look-alike healthcare practices if you haven’t thought too much about it or you can’t easily verbalise “Why you?” If you feel stuck, try asking yourself the question another way. “What do we do, and who are we for?”

Brainstorm a variety of answers. As you do this, beware of your own biases. While you may be very proud of your advanced education and technology, patients may be far more interested in how gentle, friendly, or affordable you are. And of course, chances are that some of your competitors may already be mumbling something about gentle, for example, so if you go that route, you’ll need to find a unique way to say it and then prove your claim to the oh-so-sceptical public. Remember that your positioning will not be identical to your headline and slogan, though these may well be derived from the positioning.

Defining and delivering on “Why you?”

Once you nail your positioning, you’ll need to deliver on it practice-wide, not just in your marketing communications. Remember, your brand is the sum total of experiences patients have with your practice, which is larger than your positioning statement alone. Put another way, your positioning is a logical argument for your practice, while your brand is the larger emotional response and image you are working to establish.

Everything must tie together, from how your phone is answered, how long patients wait, and your choice of uniforms, to your technology, your manner, your location (signage, building, entrance, furniture, colours of the walls), which services you promote, and much more. If you decide you want to be the “leading-edge practitioner in town,” you can’t limp along with a 1970’s look-alike office.

Here are some critical brand-building points to consider:

Start with the patient’s value system. Practitioner’s (the seller) are likely to think in terms of equipment (technical sophistication, hardware) or clinical quality (skill level, training, peer reputation). But the public (the buyer) values service (access, amenities, ease of scheduling) and value-added items (product or service differentiation).

Effective branding communicates to the tastes, attitudes, and sensibilities of the buyer, not the seller. And the wants and needs of the buyer (patient) are mainly rooted in results: reduced pain, effective treatments, improved posture and perhaps confidence in greater health. Think benefits.

Identify a value-added edge over the competition. What is highly unique about your practice that delivers value to the patient over and above whatever else is available in the marketplace? Whatever issue you choose to compete upon, it needs to be the one thing that best characterises the experience, and has to be the centrepiece for everything you do and say about the practice.

Be willing to offend someone. By definition, your positioning must be unique; therefore, you cannot be everything to everyone. The challenge will be to appeal to many while recognising that your positioning cannot be universal. Being everything to everyone is not unique, and that’s the same as vanilla.

Guard your brand zealously within your office. Once you’ve created your brand, you should beware of the trap of carrying the message banner for others.

Deliver a consistent patient experience. People prefer consistent quality to nasty surprises, and a brand isn’t really a brand if the practice doesn’t deliver a consistent, high-quality experience. Remember, just a few negative experiences can blow your brand credibility and betray the trust you’ve worked so hard to build.

Deliver consistent branded communications. In addition to delivering consistent in-office experiences, you must effectively communicate your brand message at every marketing opportunity. This means your Facebook Business page, website, brochures, etc.

To summarise, when you create a powerful healthcare practice brand, you’ll attract the patients, cases, and referrals that you want. Deliver your branding message consistently, and your reward will be consistent profit growth.