Building Trust through Brand Consistency
As a doctor, you know that there is nothing more essential to the relationships between you and your patients than trust. This bond of trust is equally essential to your interests as a business owner, in terms of both retaining your current patients and attracting new patients. Developing this bond is an ongoing process that requires continual effort and investment on your part. At the core of this process is your ability to establish a strong, memorable, consistent brand.
In fact, brand consistency is the quickest and most reliable way to build trust among your patients, both current and prospective. Consistency brings clarity and builds recognition among consumers, which ultimately instills loyalty and trust.
While brand consistency may seem like a relatively straightforward concept, establishing and controlling this consistency involves more than simply placing your practice logo on all of your marketing materials. There is a reason that major corporations, from Disney to General Electric, invest so much of their budgets into developing, marketing, and ensuring the consistency of their brands across multiple media platforms. It's hard work, but it's ultimately essential to their growth of success.
Fortunately, you don't have to have a billion-dollar budget to establish a strong brand and make sure that it is represented consistently. You do, however, have to have a clear idea of your intended audience, your goals as a doctor and a business owner, and the overall message you want to convey.
When it comes to developing a consistent brand, there is no better place to start than with your Internet strategy. Many of these concepts can then be extended across all of your marketing materials, from print ads and business cards to television and radio commercials.
The Name of Your Practice
The name of your practice is the epitome of your brand. It should be concise, easy to remember, and represented consistently across the Internet in as many places as possible.
This means, first and foremost, that there should be no variations of your practice name in various locations. If you have settled on the name of your practice as "The Grand Canyon Medical Institute," it should be presented as such everywhere. Consumers should not encounter "The Grand Canyon Medical Institute" on your website, "Grand Canyon Medical Institute" on your Google+ business page, and "Grand Canyon Institute of Medicine" when they search for your practice in the Yellow Pages. Check all of the accounts associated with your practice and make sure that its name is presented absolutely identically in each one.
If the name of your practice is represented consistently across the Internet, it will stick in the minds of prospective patients. You can reinforce that name recognition even further by purchasing a domain name that includes it - preferably www.thegrandcanyonmedicalinstitute.com, if it's available - and by claiming "vanity" URLs at the major social media outlets. Vanity URLs are those that contain the name of your practice, making them easier to find, remember, and share. Best of all, setting up URLs such as these will make them seem more "official" and therefore more trustworthy, yet will cost you nothing:
Once you have made sure that the name of your practice is consistently represented across the Internet, you will want to make sure that it is also consistent in "real life" - that is, on your business cards, in your print ads and brochures, on your office sign, and so on.
A great logo is what separates mom-and-pop shops from truly professional businesses in the minds of many consumers. From McDonald's golden arches to Target's red bulls eye, the world's most famous and memorable logos are inseparable from their brands because they are simple yet unique, and unerringly appropriate.
They are also highly adaptable. They look great in any context, from a tiny newspaper ad to a neon sign on Times Square. Likewise, your logo should embody your brand and look great wherever it appears, including your website, your social media accounts, your business listings, and your other online advertising campaigns.
Again, it is very important that your logo be consistent, not only in terms of its design, but also its color scheme and proportions, wherever it appears. If you recently redesigned your logo, make sure that your old logo is not lingering on any of your online accounts. Nothing undermines consumer trust quite like the confusion created by dueling logos.
You can have the most memorable practice name and logo in the history of medicine, and it won't help your practice if your core message isn't clear. On the other hand, consumers inherently respond to core messages that are well-defined, accurate statements of what a business represents.
At this stage of your career, the chances are good that you have defined your core message. You've probably crystallized it in a mission statement for your practice. Whatever your core message, it should influence all of the content that is contained in your website and elsewhere on the Internet. Your tone, word choice, and even sentence structure should consistently support and reflect this message.
Consider the following passages, both of which would be appropriate to include in a website:
- At The Grand Canyon Medical Institute, our experienced, thoroughly trained and highly skilled physicians truly cater to our patients, meticulously tailoring their treatments to their unique needs and desires. We prize nothing above the comfort, safety, and overall satisfaction of our valued guests.
- At The Grand Canyon Medical Institute, we have the training, experience, and skill necessary to giving you the personalized results you are looking for. There is nothing more important to us than your comfort, safety, and satisfaction.
Both passages have similar meanings on the surface, but they convey distinctly different underlying messages. The first employs a more sophisticated tone and does not directly address the reader, reflecting a practice that is trying to define itself as elegant and professional. The second is equally professional, but it is also warmer and more conversational, lending itself more to an intimate, family-friendly practice.
In determining how your content should represent your practice, consider what makes your practice different from and more beneficial to prospective patients than others in your area. Is it the experience of your team? The friendliness of your office atmosphere? The sophistication of your technology? The fact that you truly care about your patients as individuals? Whatever it is, it should be reflected in your website and other marketing copy, and in all of your interactions with patients.
Remember, your core message does not end with a catchy slogan or a well-written "About Us" page in your website. Brand consistency means extending that message to all aspects of your practice, including how your office staff communicates with patients. If you are positioning your practice as one that is centered around the unique needs and goals of each individual patient, this philosophy should be apparent online, in emails and telephone correspondences, and in your office.
Typography is an essential component of your brand identity. The choices you make regarding how words are presented, from your practice name to your marketing and educational content, will have tremendous influence on whether consumers embrace your brand or continue their search for services elsewhere.
There is more to typography than simply font, although font is certainly an important starting point. Fonts can be divided into categories, each of which tends to affect consumers differently:
If you use multiple fonts in your website and other marketing materials, you will want to make sure that they complement each other and don't look cluttered. You will also want to be aware of the other, equally important elements of typography: spacing, casing, contrast, and overall legibility and readability. How you present your message to consumers plays an essential role in their engagement and in projecting the atmosphere and personality of your practice.
Once you have settled on these typographical elements, make sure that use them consistently in your website, social media accounts, and traditional forms of marketing.
Colors and Images
Your office colors should be reflected in all of your marketing, from your logo and the design of your website to your brochures and customizable social media accounts. This is particularly important to your online branding attempts, as many of your patients will view multiple sites affiliated with your practice. If your office is decorated in warm browns and yellows, then these colors should be integrated into your online brand image, as well.
Likewise, you will want to include high-quality photos of you and your team, as well as of your office, across the Internet. If you have a photo of which you are particularly proud, put it front and center on your website and your social media pages. The more often your patients encounter that picture on a variety of platforms, the more likely they are to trust that you are an actual person and professional who proudly stands by your work.
Ultimately, whether you handle your medical marketing strategy in-house or entrust them to a company such as ours, you must strive for brand consistency. It is essential to your interests as both a doctor and a business owner. By imposing consistency on your brand, you will:
- Inspire trust and confidence in your current and future patients
- Establish a clear philosophy for your team to follow
- Distinguish your practice from competing practices in your area
- Solidify your reputation as an authority and true professional in your field
- Retain more of your existing patients and bring in more new patients
While it may take time and effort, the dividends are substantial. When it comes to brand consistency, the adage "You get back what you put in" holds absolutely true.