A distinctive brand can bring in new patients and give you and your staff a positive feeling about your practice

When you think about branding, you probably conjure up images of Nike, Rolex, Lexus, your favorite kind of cereal, or a particular automobile company. Our memory banks have been imprinted with thousands of advertisements for companies and products. But services can have brands, too.

Thomas Fiala, MD, FRCSC, FACS, Altamonte Springs, Fla, wanted potential patients to view him not only as a good plastic surgeon, but also as a surgeon with high aesthetic taste. He wanted his identity to portray a pleasing sense of style. To achieve this, Fiala recognized that branding was a crucial element of his marketing and patient-education strategy.

A Brand Is a Promise

At the most basic level, a brand is a promise that assures people that you know your target market better than anyone else does, and that you can best meet the individual needs of the customers in that market—in this case, potential patients. A brand is designed to connect to your patients by evoking immediate expectations about the purpose and quality of your service. One positive experience will keep patients coming back to you for more service, and your brand will make clear what products and services you offer.

The specific tools you use to promote your practice—brochures, newspaper or magazine ads, or your Web site—must be focused and consistent. Your patients should be able to pick up any one of your marketing materials and clearly recognize that it is from your practice. Fiala delivered his brand identity through multiple media: educational CDs, brochure folders, and his Web site.

A Consistent Image

By having all of his marketing materials convey an image of art and beauty, Fiala has a brand that stays in the minds of his target audience. I have heard several people say after looking at his practice materials, “Wow! He must be a great plastic surgeon,” even though they have never met him.

Whether you are branding a plastic surgery practice, a medical spa, or another aesthetic service, you will want to consider these key points:

• What is important to your patients? Find out using research such as face-to-face interviews, questionnaires, and suggestion boxes.

• Judge the effectiveness of your brand in terms of how your patients perceive it, not how it appears to you. Can they state clearly why they were attracted to your practice?

• What channels will you use to communicate your brand?

• Can your employees articulate your brand over the phone and in conversations with their friends? Can they state clearly what sets your practice above the rest?

• Make brand development one of your long-term goals. Continually look for new and more effective ways to streng-then your brand.

Enjoy It!

Branding is fun. Sometimes I like to compare developing a new brand to buying a new wardrobe, one you feel great in and one that gives you confidence. It should invite the comment, “You look great today!” A good brand boosts your employees’ morale and is attractive to your patients.

The number of physicians who perform plastic surgery is growing daily. Putting some time and thought into your brand is well worth your time and investment. n

Candace Crowe is the president of Candace Crowe Design in Orlando, Fla, a firm dedicated to designing promotional materials for the plastic surgery industry. She can be reached at (407) 384-7676 or [email protected].