As the aesthetic marketplace becomes increasingly commoditized, there are a number of strategies to differentiate. One of the most important is branding your practice.
Branding is a term we hear frequently, but it is important to truly understand what it means to “brand” your practice. Brand is a word that is widely used but has many different interpretations. Think of your brand as your promise to your patients. Your brand is not only who you are and who you want to be, but perhaps most importantly, who you are perceived to be.
What Do You Want to Be Known For?
When establishing and building your brand, it is important to determine what you want to be known for. Do you want to be the premium provider in town with the highest prices? Do you want to be known primarily for injectables or as a one-stop shop that offers everything? Is your practice focused on minimally invasive procedures with subtle changes?
It's important to recognize that you cannot be all things to all people. Taking into account who your target audience is and who they want you to be is important when establishing your brand. Perhaps you are in an area with a number of practices that are competing on price alone. This may be your sign to be the premium provider with premium prices with a primary focus on quality and outcomes.
Board-certified dermatologist Rebecca Kazin, MD built her brand around injectable fillers when she was the Medical Director of the Johns Hopkins Cosmetic Center in Baltimore. “I had a real passion for providing my patients with a very natural looking result and I knew this passion would translate into happier patients who would then refer others. Now that I am the Associate Director of WIDLS Chevy Chase, I know my brand and what I want to be known for.” In her current role, Dr. Kazin strives to stay ahead of the curve regarding new filler techniques and has continued to build her brand as a local and national market leader with injectables.
Turn it Into a Logo
After you establish what you want your brand to be, establish a logo. While a logo is not your actual brand, it is a pillar of your brand and a visual representation of your brand. Your logo should communicate the message of what your practice is and should remain consistent to help your patients recognize you.
Although sometimes necessary, updating your logo is something you want to avoid if possible as it goes against one of the core reasons for having a logo. This is why it is ultra-important to spend time on the front end establishing your brand first and then establishing your logo to represent your brand. Think of your logo as “the face” of your practice and make sure it is both unique and relatable to your target audience.
Suneel Chilukuri, MD, founder of Refresh Dermatology in Houston, spent time developing his logo and realized the importance of a logo from the start. “My logo reflects my personal philosophy in medicine—partnering with the patient. The butterfly reflects the slow and steady transformation to a bespoke beauty I always strive to achieve with each person.” Upon closer inspection, you will note that the butterfly is actually comprised of two faces looking at each other, indicating partnership in attaining the patient's goal.
Sum it Up
A tagline is an important way to communicate and reinforce your brand. A tagline should always be memorable, concise, and meaningful. Impactful taglines are unique, fresh, and bold and should steer away from commonly used clichés like “best in class” and “customer-centric.” It is important for your tagline to communicate not only what you do, but how and why you do it as well.
Joel L. Cohen, MD, Director of AboutSkin Dermatology in Lone Tree and Greenwood Village, CO incorporates a tagline of “Understanding the Science and Beauty of Your Skin.” This tagline reinforces that his is a high quality, cutting edge medical dermatology practice of board-certified dermatologists. It also stresses that the practice takes the time to listen to and educate their patients.
Integration of your brand is of the utmost importance. Your brand should not only be integrated into your logo and tagline, but in everything you do. From how your staff answers your phones to their uniforms to all marketing templates and advertising, your brand should be reflected in all aspects of the practice. Everything associated with your practice, tangible or intangible, should have the look, feel and message of your brand.
Stick With It
Consistency is one of the most important factors when it comes to branding. Your brand should look the same everywhere, whether on social media, within your office decor, or on your internal/external marketing. If you are inconsistent with your branding, it is not only confusing to current and potential patients, it also relays the message that you have no brand at all.
New York City based dermatologist Gary Goldenberg, MD makes sure that his brand is subtle but consistent. “Our brand is represented the same way everywhere you look, down to the language we use and the colors we incorporate. When you see us on social media it has the same look and feel as when you walk into our practice. Our patients already feel a sense of familiarity, which is important to us. Whether it is our website, the bags we give to each of our patients, or how our staff answers our phones, we stress ‘Quiet Luxury' in the practice.”
Your staff plays an integral role in the communication and successful execution of your brand. As obvious as it may sound, make sure your staff knows exactly what your brand is and their role in executing it. Explain to them why your brand is what it is and why it is important that the brand is carried out. Have them write down what they perceive the brand to be and you may be somewhat surprised. When I ask staff members what the brand of the practice is, I usually either get a blank stare or an answer completely different from what the physician and/or practice manager has told me.
Another successful job of branding a practice is by Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, Founder and Director of Capital Laser and Skin Care. Dr. Tanzi has implemented a 360-degree approach to branding her practice and has built an extremely successful brand in a short time.
“I think of branding as an embodiment of my overall approach to a cosmetic patient. My goal is to enhance and maintain the skin's natural beauty so patients look and feel like themselves, only more refreshed and confident. We cater to people looking for a ‘less is more' approach to anti-aging, but who still want the best and most cutting-edge treatments available. So in creating the brand for Capital Laser & Skin Care, it had to be classic, timeless, elegant and appealing to both men and women,” Dr. Tanzi explains. “From the logo, to the website, to the office décor, everything feeds the ‘timeless elegance' atmosphere we are trying to project. All staff members know and support our brand professionally in their interactions with patients. The brand drives decision making on what procedures to add to the practice (we don't offer ‘trendy' procedures without good science to show efficacy). Marketing campaigns are also developed with the brand in mind to ensure we are promoting our expertise to the targeted patient population that is looking for a classic, natural-looking approach to aesthetic treatments. “
Send it Home
Recommendations for at-home care should reinforce your brand when the patient has left your office. Consider dispensed skin care products. Some practices choose lesser known, “unique” brands in order to differentiate themselves from the competition, even though they may not provide the best results. While these practices have the right idea, they end up hurting themselves in the end. It is important to use what is going to give your patient the best result, regardless of where it is sold, who else is using it or doing it, etc. A brand is not built with other brands; differentiation should be focused on patient experience and outcomes, not what products are used.
David Horvath, MD, President and Plastic Surgeon at Horvath Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery Center in Philadelphia followed a similar path as Dr. Kazin, moving from a well-known institution, in his case the Cleveland Clinic, to private practice. Dr. Horvath at first chose a private label skincare line because he, “wanted his patients to go home with his brand.”
Dr. Horvath explains that he realized, “My patients were not experiencing the same results and outcomes that they were with the other aspects of my practice. At first I didn't want to use the same products that were available from other professionals in my community but when we made the switch, there was an increase in patient satisfaction and repeat purchases. We quickly realized that our brand is defined by our service and outcomes, not the name of the brands we use.”
Make the Effort
The number of providers entering the aesthetic space continues to grow at a record place with no slowdown in sight. It is important to take action and differentiate yourself from your competition on a daily basis. Branding is one of the key pillars in differentiation. While you cannot develop, execute, and communicate your brand overnight, making a concerted effort to do so will pay dividends for the long-term growth and health of your practice.