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This week I’m attending a professional conference in Orlando, FL hosted by the American Physical Therapy Association’s Private Practice Section.  I’ll be speaking on Saturday about the importance of “branding” to the future of direct access physical therapy, and on that theme will be posting a bit about branding this week on The Healthcare Entrepreneur.

Branding is of huge importance in all of healthcare; not just physical therapy.  Branding is of significance to healthcare for the same reason that it is in consumer goods and retail – intense competition and a changing landscape require that we crystallize our messages to consumers so that they will best know how, where, and when to use our services.

At its core, a brand is a promise; a promise of something that will be delivered by your practice.  A promise of quality, a promise of an experience, a promise of an outcome.  Just as you use brands to help you make decisions about which detergent or soda pop to buy, our patients rely on our brands to help them determine where and who to go to for their healthcare services.

You don’t have a brand you say?  Wrong.  You always have a brand – you just might not have created it deliberately.  There is nothing that says a brand has to cost a dime, that it has to be strategically developed, or that you even have to know what it is.  If you have customers (i.e., patients), you have a brand; a promise of the experience that will be received when interacting with you, your practice, and your staff.

Do you typically run 20 minutes behind schedule for patient care?  If so, that’s part of your brand – it’s what your patients will expect even after one behind-schedule experience in your practice.  Is your practice warm and inviting?  If so, you can bet your patients will understand this as well.  These elements, while having nothing to do with a logo, brandmark, or marketing plan, have everything to do with the promise you are making to your patients.

When thinking about your practice’s brand, take steps to “promise” a deliberate experience; one that you would prefer yourself.  This is the type of promise that is made through actions, which speak ever so louder than a crafty logo or brandmark can ever do.