3 Reasons Branding Is Critical to the Success of Your Healthcare Organization

One of the most defining trends in healthcare is the rise of healthcare consumerism, or patients “shopping” online to conduct research and compare practices and services before choosing a provider.

A significant amount of research has been done to understand this dramatic change in the patient (buyer) journey. A few of the more compelling findings include:

  • 7% of Google’s daily searches are health-related – that’s over a billion searches per day
  • 81% of consumers are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience
  • 43% of Millennials, 44% of Gen Xers, and 20% of Boomers are likely to switch practices in the next three years

Responding to Healthcare Consumerism

Healthcare practices, service lines and centers of excellence intent on thriving and remaining relevant in our culture of consumerism must rise to the challenge by paying careful attention to their brand. Taking a passive approach to marketing your brand in a consumer-driven information era is like sabotaging the pituitary gland of your business — you may not die right away, but you certainly won’t grow. In short, the ultimate competitive advantage for healthcare organizations, seeking to become a preferred provider, is to continuously monitor the health of their brand.

“The healthcare industry of old is evaporating, making way for a marketplace that looks more like retail. That represents a challenge, but also an opportunity, because providers who concoct an appropriate branding strategy are poised to capture a larger share of the market.”
~ Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor of Healthcare Finance

Defining the Modern Brand

What exactly do we mean by brand? In the not-too-distant past, branding was viewed as the visual cues that made your organization recognizable to consumers, such as the color scheme, logo, fonts and images used in various communication pieces. These days, the term branding comes closer to its original Wild West meaning in that it’s about leaving an indelible mark seared upon the minds of the consumer. Today, your brand encompasses not only the look of your organization, but its voice and personality. It also includes the way your organization makes people feel each time they interact with it, a.k.a. the customer experience.

“Brands are essentially patterns of familiarity, meaning, fondness, and reassurance that exist in the minds of people. Their value comes from your ability to charge a premium for your service and/or bring in more customers by making it easier for people to decide to buy your product (and perhaps keep buying).” ~ Tom Goodwin, Co-Founder of Management Consulting Firm, ALL WE HAVE IS NOW

1. Your Brand Is the Fuel Propelling Your Organization Towards Goal Achievement

Think about the most basic goals you have for your healthcare organization. Typically, these goals include increasing patient volume, becoming a preferred provider, and retaining current patients (reducing churn). Every last single one of these goals is dependent upon your brand. Beyond serving as your organization’s identity, your brand has several functions, a few of which we will define and pair with the aforementioned organizational goals.

  • Brand Awareness – This is how well-known your organization is to consumers or patients. After all, they can’t choose you (patient volume) or recommend you (preferred provider) if they are unaware of your practice or the services you offer.
  • Brand Equity — This is the commercial value your organization has based on your patients’ recognition and perceptions of your brand. Brand equity is also defined by how well your patients trust your organization (reducing churn).
  • Brand Loyalty — This is a measurement of the strength of emotion people feel toward your brand. Do they feel strongly that you uphold your promises (preferred provider) and would they remain in your care if they had the opportunity to go elsewhere (reduce churn).

“Branding and marketing aren’t just sales support – they are the tactical execution of the greater vision of your organization.” ~ Matt Klein, VP of Account Service,Nichols Brand Storiescare

2. Your Brand Is the Magnet That Draws Patients and Fosters Connection

Healthcare consumerism requires private practices and healthcare systems to engage future patients and their families (influencers and decision-makers) long before they ever need medical services.

When people regularly encounter and become familiar with your brand through thoughtfully crafted and targeted communications, they begin to recognize and associate your brand with an idea of what your brand promises. This is how they form a connection to your brand.

The Art of Connecting on an Emotional Level

If you have built a strong brand with a clear competitive advantage that differentiates it from other available options, the connection people feel to your brand will be equally strong. However, if you do not actively manage your brand and the experience patients and their families are having with your practice, then the connection people feel will be weak at best, or negative at worst.

The Research on Emotional Buy-In

Recent research shows that 64 percent of women and 68 percent of men report feeling an emotional connection to brands. Harvard professor, Gerald Zaltman, believes this number is significantly higher than consumers are aware of. His studies found that 95 percent of the purchasing decisions people make are determined by their emotions. Inc. Editor, Logan Chierotti, states, “Emotion is what really drives purchasing behaviors, and also, decision making in general. Humans are driven by feelings. So if you want the consumer to remember your product or brand, they must be engaged and impassioned by the interaction with your company.”

3. Your Brand Is the Star Performer That Transforms Patients Into Fans

When you make a focused effort to strengthen your brand, one of the primary benefits is that it helps you turn patients into evangelists for your organization. Each health system and private practice has a unique persona, and it is your brand that provides the connection point upon which you will build a relationship with customers. More importantly, customers who enjoy the relationship they have with your organization will feel confident recommending your services to friends and family.

The Power of Brand Advocacy

Inspiring patients to share your brand with others is a type of marketing known as brand advocacy and it is a worthy investment. Here are just a few of the vital reasons it’s important to use your brand to build fans:

  • 650% — the average ROI generated for every dollar invested in influencer and advocacy marketing
  • 54% — typical increase in marketing effectiveness that word-of-mouth (advocacy) produces
  • 20-50% — of all purchasing decisions are driven by peer-to-peer marketing
  • 92% — of people trust word-of-mouth recommendations, making it the most trust-rich form of advertising

We Build Strong Healthcare Brands

At Nichols Brand Stories, we believe great healthcare brands are built step-by-step as practices follow a proven approach that ties marketing performance to organizational goals. Let us put our experience in creating compelling personalized patient marketing to work for you. To get started, or simply to have a conversation about how to strengthen your brand, please reach out to me at MKlein@WeTellYourStory.com.