Relationship Marketing through a Strong Brand
The second Tuesday of each month, practice managers and industry service providers gather for an educational Nashville Medical Group Management Association (NMGMA) meeting at Saint Thomas West Hospital.
In March, David Coppock, regional vice president with Professional Office Services (POS), discussed building patient relationships through a strong practice brand. While practices need an effective brand to set them apart, he specified a brand is not simply a logo, font or color.
Today, the focus is on relationship marketing, Coppock said, noting the brand is actually the last piece of the process. "Relationship marketing is not a campaign ... it's a strategy," he continued.
It's not enough to simply complete a service transaction. Instead, Coppock said relationship marketing is the brand's ability to create an emotional connection. "Healthcare is personal, and it's emotional," he pointed out. When a practice creates two-way communication and puts the patient's needs at the center, then that relationship fosters loyalty, long-term engagement, a channel to proactively manage care, and a strong referral source. Coppock referenced information from Salesforce that showed over 50 percent of an experience is based on emotions. "Without that personal, emotional experience, the customer will go to a competitor," he stated.
While patient engagement, experience and satisfaction seem similar, they are actually different. Engagement, explained Coppock, is proactive in nature and taken with the patient. Satisfaction is all about the outcome. Patient experience is a cumulative measure. Using the Beryl Institute definition, Coppock said patient experience is "the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization's culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care."
The patient experience, Coppock added, is the brand battlefield. "In the world we live in today, we're all one post away from a negative review and losing a patient," he said. "For every negative experience," he continued, "10-15 people are going to be told about it or see it."
He added, "Your online reputation lives anywhere a patient can leave a rating." And, he noted, those ratings matter:
- 82 percent of patients use online reviews to view or post comments and ratings of physicians,
- 75 percent of patients use online reviews as a first step in choosing a provider, and
- 50 percent of patients would go out of network to see a physician with positive reviews.
"A brand is perception," he said. "It's that emotional connection. It's what patients say about your practice, how they feel about it, how you and the staff feel about it."
Coppock suggested six steps to establishing or improving practice branding:
- Discover your brand: Coppock said the brand starts from the top down and suggested practice leaders walk through the door as if they were a new patient to check out signage, patient forms, and interactions. Do signs and forms look alike? Do they make sense?
- Research the marketplace: Where does your practice fit in the space? Do a bit of light research on the competition. What's similar or different to you, and what do you do that's different?
- Position your brand: What is your point of distinction? Are you the market leader in an area? Be specific - 'all of our providers are board certified' rather than 'we have the best providers.'
- Develop your brand story: "The personality of your brand is determined in large measure by the words you use and the sentences you write," explained Coppock. What are three words that describe your brand or practice? Then use those words consistently to tell your story in a variety of places, including the website, You Tube, blogs, texts and collateral materials. Know your audience and how they like to receive information. Generational differences require varied communications.
- Create your brand identity: This is the part where you think about font, color, taglines and a visual identity guide. And then use it consistently. "If you're going to go to the trouble of creating a brand, use it on everything," Coppock said.
- Activate your brand: "It's not a 'one and done' approach," Coppock said of marketing. "How many times do you have to tell someone before a message gets through? Seven. Seven times before your message sinks in," he stressed. Be committed to your brand and make sure everyone on the team 'walks the talk.'
Finally, Coppock encouraged practices to do a brand audit every three years. He suggested laying all materials out on a conference table to look for anything that doesn't adhere to your visual guide. He also said the audit should include taking a fresh look at the practice from the customer viewpoint and surveying patients to find out about their experiences. The most important step is to take that information, make a plan and put it into action.
Mark Your Calendar
NMGMA Spring Social will be held in lieu of a regular April meeting. The networking event is set for Tuesday, April 30 from 4-7 pm at KraftCPAs. Non-member practice administrators interested in attending should contact NMGMA President Jimmie Holland, firstname.lastname@example.org, to RSVP.