IT’S ALL IN THE BRAND

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When you think of brands, you might think of your favorite shoe company, the chips you eat or the airline you fly. But as business professionals, we have a brand and branding needs that can’t be ignored. The first step is overcoming the fear of branding or the belief that a medical or eyecare practice doesn’t need to have a brand. A brand is the essential underpinning to the practice marketing strategy.

Typically, the practice brand begins with the “brand” of the founder and is defined accordingly. The brand is something your patients feel, hear or see when they visit the practice and interact with the doctors and staff. It should emanate from the practice mission and vision statement and define the business. Don’t have one of these yet, or need a refresh? Start by listening to your patients—what are they saying? Perhaps you’ve already been “branded” and now you just have to find out how your patients see you and run with it?

What sets your practice apart? Do you have a specialty? This is your unique value proposition. It’s okay to be bold and innovative, but always be authentic. Along the same lines, there should be an obvious connection between the brand and what drives your practice. (For example, don’t brand yourself as a high-end optical boutique if you don’t have 50% or more of your inventory in this category.)

Write down what the brand means to you, but more importantly, live it. Every brochure or handout, lens cleaner and cleaning cloth, eyeglasses case, merchandise bag or direct ship order has your logo and practice website. Nothing goes in the patient’s hands without your brand on it. Engage your staff, both with the creation of the brand and also with branded uniforms and business cards.

Develop a “voice” for the business via a strong digital presence, including your website and social media. Patients are using the internet to find eye doctors now more than ever. Web traffic to ThinkAboutYourEyes.com has nearly doubled this year. Do you have a listing? Make it easy for patients to find you and get to know your brand.

As advocates for vision health, we can be focused on the medical side of the business. But as businesspeople, we need to take tactics such as branding seriously. The brand should be what helps bond the patients to your practice and encourages a long-term, loyal relationship.

Ann Hoscheit, OD, FAAO, FAARM, is a consultant with EyeBridge Consulting Associates and provides patient care at Cherryville EyeCare, Cherryville, NC. She is among the more than 20,000 optometrists listed on the Think About Your Eyes online locator. First Vision Media Group is a media partner of Think About Your Eyes.

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