Professional Branding Up Close & Personal: Advice for the Private Practice

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For a professional in private practice, the notion of marketing and branding is unfamiliar territory. This is in a similar situation as within any small entrepreneurial company. Yet, this is truly a fundamental aspect of any business. To develop a following requires a brand, and it doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, dentist, an accountant, or an attorney. Your personal “brand” is what comes to mind when your “clients” are deciding whether to see you for the first or not.

Now is the time to get real. Branding is about image and perception. Do not claim to not understand the social networks. Muck right in, however with a special eye to product awareness. Hear yourself scream out, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Trends, here I come.

In principal, a brand is a promise of something that will be delivered by you and your practice. This promise comes in a form of quality, an experience, as well as with a certain expectation in mind. Brands that stand for something connect with customers.

Just as you use brands personify your position, status, and identity when you make decisions about which detergent or automobile to buy so do your clients. Give them something to rely on, something they can sink their teeth into, something which enhances their identity with a positive vibe.

Your credentials have much to do with your image in the consumer’s mind, so does your office ambiance and the courtesy (or lack of) offered the minute your staff greet the patient/client at the front desk. You may also be the doctor with bad breath or architect who is frequently late for appointments.

Conceptual Personal Branding

Branding is similar to the development of our own personal traits. Our looks, the clothes we wear, our personality, achievements, contacts, experiences and anything else that adds to, or even detracts from, our appeal to others encompasses our own “personal brand.”

When branding your own private practice, you have the ability to carefully create a brand position that will appeal to your market and make your profession more successful through broader, or in some cases, very specific appeal. However, brand development requires time, energy, as well as a reasonable budget.

Personal brand positioning is the activity of creating an identity with a distinctive value in the target customer’s mind. For instance, when we think of an accomplished defense attorney, the first ones that spring to mind are those who have a reputation for having a high rate of litigation success – or cardiologists who are identified as utterly competent in curing most heart diseases and extending their patients’ life span. Essentially that is the position they occupy in your mind whenever you think of them.

Package Yourself As “The” Entity

A sound marketing and branding plan can help make your clients/patients feel confident about your practice. In addition, a sound sustained campaign will help get new ones grow your practice. Doing so requires the following action plan which will help build your name in a professional and unique way that enhances your recognition, trust and confidence in you as a physician, attorney, architect or other licensed professional.

There are several benefits to creating an effective personal brand. These include:

Enhance Your Competitive Edge
By building a strong personal brand you are creating a sense of individuality and “distinctiveness” in the marketplace so that your clients are able to easily differentiate your practice from your competitors.

Make The Big Leap
Your professional brand becomes your authentic personal identity. The goal of personal branding is to create and portray a consistent image of which you are as a person and what you stand for. It’s a reflection of you which includes your values, opinions, and beliefs that are determined by what you say do, and how you do it.

Create Awareness
Due to the plethora of similar products and services offered in the marketplace, consumers are now placing more emphasis on brand differentiation when it comes to distinguishing comparable products and services. As a services professional, you have the ability to take control of your identity and influence the perception others will have about you and the services you offer.

Create The Buzz
Effortless business growth can be achieved by exploiting word-of-mouth advertising through clients/patients, as well as various networks that the buzz spreads through. The latter will be produced when your personal brand will connect you with your spheres of influence who will send you referrals and give you testimonials.

The idea is to give people a reason to talk about you in a flattering way which is considered customer-to-customer selling. Your personal brand should be communicated consistently through many channels which will begin to generate the hype and create excitement for your practice.

A case in point: A dentist in an affluent suburb of Montreal has distinguished himself and his practice from other dental offices in the area by having instilled a mission statement that he and his staff abide by vigorously. This includes guests welcomed in a friendly and state-of-the-art facility with a Zen ambiance to guarantee that each patient visit to the office is both relaxing and enjoyable with the most extraordinary care in the dental field.

The attractive Website even includes a 360 degree tour of the premises which is quite impressive. The dentist is renowned for perpetually honing his skills through continuing education and latest techniques, as well as for his high level of patient satisfaction. As a result, it is believed that the majority of new patients come through word-of-mouth.

Generate Profitability In less Time
A highly regarded personal brand offers the advantage of attracting clients/patients in a timely and effortless manner. You will be able to position yourself in the mind of your typical client or patient as the expert of choice. In doing so, you begin to dominate your local market and command higher fees which, consequently, translate to less work and more money – work smarter as opposed to harder.

Establish Celebrity Status
Gain name recognition in your area of expertise in your “customer’s” mind. By making a lasting impression you will be well rewarded for your distinctiveness. Trust, respect, and admiration will follow and you will be perceived as an expert the more visible you are to your target audience. As a result, your brand will propel you to the top in your domain.

A specialist physician who has succeeded in becoming a celebrity in his own right is, undoubtedly, the well publicized American Plastic Surgeon Dr. Robert M. Rey. His media appearances, starring role in the reality show Dr. 90210, his public relations savvy, VIP patient testimonials, as well as his exceptionally resourceful Website all speak volumes of his strong personal brand – the ultimate self promoter.

Create & Sustain Brand Online

Begin by crafting a marketing, advertising and publicity campaign that focuses on helping you achieve your vision. Your consistent message should include your credentials, areas of specialization, as well as the ambiance and experience you desire to achieve for each and every client/patient. It is important to note that your local professional practice code of ethics in advertising may have some restrictions in place with regards to the content of your marketing and PR campaign.

The following greatly enhances your personal brand through the image you want to portray.

  1. Marketing Collateral
    Design an attractive yet professional looking logo and develop graphic standards for fonts and branding colors. Design consistent and matching corporate material which comprises your business card, letterhead, envelope, signage, brochures, note pads, newsletters, etc.
  2. Waiting Room Ambiance
    First impressions count and so does comfort and the entire “customer” experience. Avoid being frugal with your image and invest in designing your office and the waiting room in particular to higher standards. This area speaks volumes of you and this includes clean premises.
  3. Website & Social Networking
    Your Website is essentially your online office and marketing presentation. It too conveys a strong message about your brand image. Make certain it is done professionally, free of any clutter, and include the right amount of information and make it effortless to navigate.
  4. As for social networking profiles such as LinkedIn, have a presence, don’t mix any personal information or photos and keep them current.

  5. Trained & Courteous Staff
    Branding goes beyond design, it also applies to your support staff. Since it’s a given that your clients/patients are the lifeblood of your practice, it’s not enough to simply take care of them with expert care and advice but also through excellent and courteous office and billing support. You and your staff are part of your brand, therefore choose them carefully, train them as often as possible and keep them motivated to excel.

Be Multidimensional

You’ve spent years studying to earn your credentials whilst you learned about your specialization. Once you’re ready to apply the knowledge as a self-employed professional, you discover that growing your practice requires you to compete with other offices to get new clients/patients and referrals.

Just as you are prepared to serve them you also have the extra burden of having to deal with self branding and marketing issues – as any competent sole proprietorship should. A sound marketing and branding plan can help you grow your practice by attracting, as well as retaining clients/patients by making them feel confident about you.

Personal brand positioning should convey to your audience about your unique/distinctive advantages over the competition, and while you are serving them, you are keeping your promise of delivering constantly across all points of contact. That’s how trustworthy brands are built.

Your views are welcome.

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