I had the pleasure of visiting with my friend, Jack Hadley, recently at the Endodontic Opinion Leader’s Forum. Jack is a social media guru and owner of My Social Practice.
We got into a discussion of branding in the healthcare industry, specifically relating to clinical healthcare practices. Jack made the point that many practitioners waste a significant amount of money on fancy marketing campaigns that have very little return on investment. He claims that simple, inexpensive marketing gets better results and is kinder to the practice’s bottom line. For example, rather than having a professional marketing video created, we would get a better result from a simple iPhone video. The key is to speak from the heart with honesty and passion about your practice and services.
Jack’s thoughts resonated with me because I too feel that we often miss the boat regarding our brand.
I see a brand as a promise, and included in the brand are both clearly stated and subtler implied promises. I believe it is our ability to consistently deliver on both our brand’s stated and implied promises that determine the effectiveness of our brand. Unlike the manufacturing industry, we have no product to sell. Take, for example, the Nike swoosh. When I see the swoosh, it creates a mental image of athletic shoes that are reliably functional and consistently well made.
But what happens when someone sees my practice logo? Unfortunately, my logo has little to no effect on my target market and, frankly, the last thing I want my patients to think about when seeing my logo is a root canal. Endodontist’s do not sell root canals and restorative dentists do not sell fillings and crowns if they are smart. What we should sell is a positive experience based on honesty, trust, and compassion. I have stated before that our biggest disconnect occurs when we try to sell a patient a product when what they want is a positive experience. We do ourselves and our profession a great disservice when we overlook the patient’s experience and attempt to commoditize our service.
Furthermore, one of our greatest and most costly blind spots is assuming that we are delivering on the stated and implied promises within our brand. Unless we have created a practice culture conducive to meeting these promises, we are likely failing miserably and don’t even know it.
I believe that our culture is our brand. The patient experience is grounded in our culture. Unlike the Nike athletic shoe, which says nothing about Nike’s organizational culture, every one of our patients comes face-to-face with our practice culture when they enter our office. A positive practice culture is the framework that allows us to create systems that are patient-friendly and empowers staff to act spontaneously with the intent of creating the positive experience that patients value most.
A couple of years ago, I was conducting a leadership workshop for a major dental manufacturer’s sales managers. Almost all the attendees had previous experience calling on dental offices as sales reps. Out of curiosity, I asked how many of them have ever had the experience of walking into a new office, and upon entering the office, immediately sense there was conflict within. Every single attendee raised their hand. This is how powerful practice culture can be. Patients sense the culture, whether good or bad, even before they are greeted. Our culture permeates the atmosphere in our offices and patients feel it instantaneously.
Finally, I believe it is impossible to optimize the patient experience with a dysfunctional culture. We are both the creator and guardian of our practice culture, and unless we purposefully create a culture by design, we will continue to spend countless sums of money creating worthless brands that fail to serve our purpose.
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Dr. Joel Small and Dr. Edwin McDonald, the founders of Line of Sight Coaching, are dental practitioners, authors, speakers and Business Leadership Coaches who work with healthcare professionals to help them build more successful practices so they can live the balanced life they seek.
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