How To Communicate Your Brand Without Saying a Word
You cannot get away from it. Everywhere we go, we are being marketed to. Now you may not even realize it, and you may not classify it as marketing, but there is a nonverbal communication that we all take in. The most well known example of this is the “Disney Experience”, you know that meticulous attention to detail that Disney employs to every aspect of their parks. I think they even pump smells into their theme parks aimed to soothe and relax their patrons. Every garbage can is strategically placed, based on market research, so as to not make someone walk a single step more than they are willing. The goal you ask...to keep trash off the ground and the park clean thereby enhancing the experience. This is the Gold Standard my friends, this is their brand! What is your brand and does your office atmosphere fall in line with it?
The Visual Journey
When it comes to our offices, I do not anticipate installing smell machines or mapping out every garbage cans exact location, but we have to consider the “Visual Journey” the patient takes. This unspoken experience can make or break your brand with the patient. Like it or not, if the visual journey falls short, it will throw a shadow on everything else you and your staff do. Let me show you some small changes you can make that will enhance this experience.
Disclaimer: I realize we are in the middle of a crazy pandemic. We need to survive, be safe and do whatever we can to stay open. The recommendations I’m suggesting are assuming COVID is a distant memory.
It All Starts At The Door
Let's start from the beginning. Tomorrow, go into the office and stand inside the entryway and take it all in. What do you see? Is it welcoming or closed off? I hate offices that are not open and the optical is closed off. Make sure you do not have “gates” or “barriers” that hinder the patient exploring your optical. People want to roam and shop. Remember that the optical is a retail setting and you need to think like a business owner, not a doctor. Think jewelry stores, Best Buy, or even Macy’s. They are open, welcoming, and are set up how patients are used to shopping for things they WANT to buy. You can be as medical as you want when treating and caring for your patients, but the moment they leave the exam room, they become customers and consumers and you are competing with every other retail experience they have had. Act accordingly.
Make a statement
Have you ever been to a dermatologist or plastic surgeon's office? They have waterfalls in the waiting room, treat you to bottled water, and have candies in bowls all over the waiting room. You may not go that far, but the point is to have something that makes a statement. Have something in your office that is memorable. I have a 12 x 8 ft fiesta orange wall as you walk into my office. My painter said if they did not need glasses coming in, the wall would be so bright that if they looked at it directly, they surely would then! If nothing else, they know what office they are in. Additionally, the orange theme is on my office logo, my dispensing tables, brochures, business cards, and frame boards. Synergy goes a long way in building a brand.
Next, is there a clear direction for where the patient should go and what they should do when they come in? I designed my office to have a circular flow. They enter, clearly see the front desk and check in. If they wait, they are facing the optical. It is well lit and entices them to try some frames on.
They then are brought back to the exam room and when I am done with care, I walk them to the optical where they can check out or look at glasses. Everyone must exit via the optical. At the very least they see a frame or two they may want to try, someone else enjoying trying on frames, or a patient picking up their new glasses. Try to create anticipation or excitement at being in that stage.
If you are big into VT or dry eye, does every patient walk by your therapy rooms or your state of the art Lipiflow equipment? When doing a workup, does the patient see the OCT or Topographer? If you are not exposing them to the things you do and what sets you apart as an eye doctor, who is going to? The answer is NOBODY. That’s on you!
In that same vein, what type of internal marketing are you employing? Tell the patients what you do and how you can help them. Whether it's multifocal contacts, pediatric exams, or myopia management, a patient should be able to walk in and know what you are about. Most patients enter an office and naturally veer to the right. It's just how we are wired. Jewelry stores put all the expensive jewelry on the right because of this. Make sure you put signage or a TV advertising your expertise on the right that hits them the moment they walk in. And remember, the best marketing is word of mouth so make sure your current patients know what you do, so they can tell their friends!
I briefly mentioned this earlier, but let me elaborate, make sure your message and brand is consistent (colors, content, info, etc). I see offices all the time that have TONS of PPO that just doesn't make sense. It's like, well, you got something for free and set it out in your office. I get it. We are not interior designers and this may be the last thing you want to deal with, but it matters. You aren't half a doctor are you? You practice to the fullest extent of your licensure, right? Why would you ignore half of your business? If you cannot do it: 1. Hire someone from the outside to help you. Talk to a local community college or university and see if a student will do it as part of their curriculum or relatively inexpensively. 2. Hire a staff member that will focus on the marketing and merchandising or at least has interest in it. I know we are usually too small to have that be the entire job, but if they like it and can do the job, that's a huge plus in their favor. All I am saying is make an effort to be better.
Lighting, Lighting, Lighting
The last thing I will say is one of the simplest ways to enhance your brand and that is to improve your office lighting! Yes, lighting. Natural daylight is the best option, especially for the optical, but if that cannot be done, make sure your office is well lit and the frames, waiting room, front desk, and any merchandise pops! A little lighting goes a long way. Also, make sure your chairs, furniture and tables are not from the 1970s. If this is the case, well, maybe some things are better left in the dark! You want to be consistent in your brand and make sure you’re sending the right message (a run down, old, and dark optical doesn’t automatically make you think of a modern, cutting edge, state-of-the-art VT clinic, see what I mean?).
There you have it. 6 easy ways to build your brand through the non-verbal “Visual Journey”. Next week I will talk about the things you and your staff MUST do to verbally build your brand.
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