Before becoming a physical therapist, I remember working for a few PT practices that had “marketing personnel” on staff. I remember thinking, what a waste. For crying out loud, take care of your patients and people will continue to come to the clinic. Simple as that…I thought.
How funny it is that perceptions change over the years, especially when enlightened by a bit of real world experience, and in my case, the study of marketing in business school.
Physical therapy, like any business, is not a simple as “do a good job, and people will come.” The inverse can actually be true however, whereby you can actually NOT do a good job, and people will STILL come, if the right experience and/or image is crafted, making the services look desirable (even if they aren’t all that good).
Now, there are definitely problems inherent with bad services that only look good, and I would never suggest that this is a route to take, especially in the practice of healthcare. I only bring it up to illustrate the power of crafting an image, as it is the image the precedes, and hence, creates [much of] the reality of the experience.
The practice of physical therapy, whether in your small independent clinic or your burgeoning multi-site practice, needs a good image to attract customers. In marketing, “image” is somewhat synonomous with “branding,” and without getting too technical in this short post, it is the “brand image” that is responsible for your customer (i.e., patient) volume, or lack thereof.
A “brand” is nothing more than a promise. A promise of something good, or something desirable. In physical therapy branding, your promise may be of rehabilitation, or improved function. For the boutique PT practice, it may be a personalized, comfortable medical experience.
Many things can be done to craft a brand in healthcare, including (but absolutely not limited to) the development of an appropriate corporate message and brandmark. Deeper though, and more relevant, is the actual “promise” that you are selling when you ask patients to come back to see you again or when you solicit referrals from your peers. The promise that the experience will be desirable to those that use your services, and consistent from visit to visit – that’s what fills healthcare practices.
Here is a link to a great post from Bnet.com on the topic of branding, which includes a list of the “five things every manager needs to know about branding strategy.” It’s a great post, and well worth the read.
And branding, that’s even worse. It doesn’t help that the name conjures up images of branding cattle, or somebody being branded a criminal. How about that, branding has a branding problem. Ironic, isn’t it?
If you don’t get the irony, you really need to read this.
Here’s how it works. Your company and its products and services have associated attributes that affect customer buying decisions, employee morale, and investor confidence. They also affect your company’s market share, profit margins, and bottom line.
Branding strategy enables your company to measure and change the perception and affect of those attributes. It’s really important. No kidding.