Are You Doing These 3 Things to Build Your Brand? - E5
Last week we discussed the non-verbal ways you can build your brand. This included internal marketing, decor, lighting, having a statement piece, and synergy of your office. I like to think of this as the appetizer to the main course. It definitely sets the tone and gets the patient excited about the experience, but if the main dish disappoints, it's unlikely that they will return for merely an appetizer. Let me outline the 3 key ways you and your staff can build your brand.
The Doctor’s Personal Brand
To begin, regardless of what you think, the patients are coming into your office because of YOU. They can get an exam anywhere: Walmart, Costco, SVS, Lenscrafters, but they spend more and come to your office because of YOU. As a result, you need to build your personal brand. The most important aspect of this is finding a way to make sure the patient likes you. I know it sounds simple, but every time you enter the exam room you better be “on”. They see you once a year and if you have an off day, who knows if they are coming back.
I have found that time and communication are the two simplest ways to accomplish this goal. We all know we can get in, be thorough, and get what we need in 5 minutes or less. That's how I operated initially. My thought was the patient does not want their time wasted. However; the more feedback I received, I realized the quick and efficient nature of my exams was so contrary to what any patient had ever experienced in an eyecare setting, it devalued my exam. In order to adapt, I had my technicians do 2 things. 1. They ask if there is anything the patient wants to discuss with the doctor. I make sure to address this immediately, regardless of where it will fall in the exam. It helps build a rapport and they already know they were heard. And 2. I ask the ocular, medical, and family history questions. It helps set the tone, and I can easily ask those while still moving forward with the exam. I always end by asking the patient if they have any more questions.
The next thing to do in order to build your personal brand is being active in the community. This means schools, PCP offices, the chamber of commerce, or community foundations they may have. I work in Allendale, MI and I was a graduate of Allendale High school. I know all the teachers, coaches and administrators. I try to give back as much as I can, as I feel I would not be where I am today without their influence. If they have a career day or a student in need, they know to give me a call and I will take care of it. It has been great to build my brand, but honestly I would do it regardless. I would approach these situations by merely letting all of these people know if you ever need anything, I am here to help. Be sincere and do not overtly push your office and you will be better for it.
The last aspect of building your personal brand that I am going to touch on is giving back, with a purpose. You are not a piggy bank with endless funds, time, or resources, so do not think I am saying that, but you can run promotions or events that help the community and help youf office. For example, I ran a promotion in the past called A’s Pays. Any student could bring in their report card in and for every A (3 or 1 for lower levels) their name was entered in a raffle. At the end of the semester I worked with the principals and school newspaper and made a big deal and gave away some ipads. That resonated with students, staff, and parents. Now if you are starting out, make sure to target your ideal patients (elementary students and middle school in my case). We do tons of events for this demographic because they are the ones I am trying to attract. So cater your promotions to the people you are trying to build your office base with.
The Doctors Expertise
The next area you need to focus on is how you are perceived as a doctor. As I alluded to above, people can get exams anywhere. They come to you because they recognize the value and skill. People may want cheap glasses, but nobody wants the perceived “cheap” exam. Do not let them down. Make sure you explain everything you are checking in the exam.I always address cataract, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Additionally, I ask them if they have ever been told they have an eye disease. Regardless if it is legitimate or not, you want to address it. The other guy did, and if you do not, you “missed” it. Make sense?
Make sure you talk to them about their glasses. I firmly believe the doctor should know more about optics, lens materials, and glasses than their opticians. If you are starting a practice, you better learn (ask me how if you do not know) because you are the one that is supposed to have all the answers. If you speak about what the patient needs, it has a great amount of influence coming from you as the doctor and provides synergy when your optician reiterates the same thing. I am not big on “prescribing” AR or anything like that, but I definitely let the patient know what they are losing by skipping my suggested upgrades.
If you have a passion, such as dry eye, myopia management, ocular disease, etc., plant the seed for these specialties in your office. They may not have any need for it now, but if/when they do you need to be the one they go to for answers. If you do not promote what you do, nobody else will either. The last thing I will address in regards to your expertise is contacts. We all know that patient that is still wearing biomedics 55 or acuvue 2 lenses. There are so many better options. I definitely make sure the patients are aware they exist, but I never FORCE them to change, especially if they are new. If you make the change, regardless of reason, all they know is they were fine until they saw the new guy and he switched what was working. Do not leave yourself vulnerable to this when you are building your patient base. Now if you try something new, say a multifocal, if it does not work after a 1 week trial, go back to what was working and let the patient know you always get the newest and most cutting edge technologies. You want them to at least know what's out there and will always give them the option to try new lenses.
The Staff: Have Them Promote Your Brand
We have all heard it before. The patient in your chair did not mind (may have actually liked) their previous doctor, but they could not stand the staff. My heart drops every time I hear this. Do you know how much I care about my patients or how hard I work to keep them coming back? I am sure you all feel the same way. To think your staff has that kind of influence is crazy! I make a point in every office meeting to let my staff know, that will NEVER happen here. Do not get me wrong though, if a patient is over the line or too demanding, I will have my staff’s back and if there is a high touch patient or just a really needy one, I make sure they just send them to me. I will handle them.
That being said the things your staff can do to promote your brand are as follows: know the mission statement and carry it out in all they do. My mission statement may sound corny, but we are there to make the patient happy. We do this with amazing care, quality, and timeliness. IF we do this the patients will keep coming back. I make sure they know this is what we do and I give them the power to do it. Forget policy and procedure, my staff has the power to do what we have to to win them over and we will sort through the details later. Without the power to take care of the situation, your staff will be much less effective.
Next, remember the internal marketing I spoke about last week? It is my belief the goal of this marketing is to elicit questions and give you an opportunity to promote your products, specialties, expertise. I know you get this. Does your staff? They had better, otherwise, opportunities will be missed and your credibility is thrown into question. This all takes time and effort. Invest in your staff's knowledge and education. If they feel like part of the machine, rather than merely a cog in it, their performance will be that much better.
Speaking of investing in your staff. Do you give them glasses, sunglasses, multiple pairs? Do they have access to the same therapies as your patients? This is a win-win. You can compensate your staff with business expenses, get them excited and invested in what you do, and create a personal story to share when speaking with patients. Do not be cheap, hook your staff up and they will be your best marketing material inside and outside your office.
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