Your Practice's Digital Brand: What Is It?

August 25, 2011

Your reputation is ... your brand. They are inseparable. Your brand is everything that a patient experiences during the long process of interacting with you.

Ever wonder why people are willing to pay over $100 for a Montblanc when a pen for less than 1/100th that cost will do the job just as well? Why they insist on driving a BMW when a contemporary Chevy or Ford has the same performance and comfort? Why some people will only use an HP, or Mac, or other computer, when we can go online right now and purchase a computer with similar specs for half the cost of those? You can continue this list of examples ad infinitum.

The answer, of course, is that customers choose these items based on the brand that has been built for them.

Brands are painstakingly, carefully, strategically constructed. They don’t just happen. The effort to build a brand - for beverages, clothing, automobiles, computers, or anything else that has essentially become a commodity - is invested in order to make that brand the product of choice in a field of commodities.

So, what does that have to do with medicine? Two things:

The first is to recognize that medicine - both doctors and hospitals - are becoming (if they are not already) “commoditized.” Think about it. If we’re being honest, unless we are practicing at one of the branded health systems in this country (Mayo, Johns Hopkins, etc.), our patients can receive similar care at many similar facilities, by similarly-trained physicians and nurses. They can even receive that care overseas.

One result of this commoditization is that patients are directed toward physicians and hospitals - not based necessarily on their training, skills, or merits - but by insurance program limits and by reputation. Let’s focus on this latter factor: your reputation.

Your reputation is ... your brand. They are inseparable. Your brand is everything that a patient experiences during the long process of interacting with you. That includes:

• How easy or difficult it is to get through to someone to schedule their clinic visit
• The overall attitude of that person, and all others that the patient will interact with in your office and clinic. ALL others.
• YOUR affect and manner when interacting with the patient when they do get to meet you
• Your follow up and ease with which your patients can re-connect with you once they leave your clinic

Last - but by no means least - is your “footprint” in the digital world.

In case you haven’t heard about it, there are digital social networks out there – Facebook comes to mind. Your patients live in that digital world. They spend hours every day in that digital world. Research has determined that the majority of people on these social networks consider recommendations from online “friends” to have the same veracity as friends sitting face-to-face with them.

Your patients likely searched you name online before they ever made it to your clinic.

Word of mouth has gone digital.

Like it or not, your reputation - your brand - in this digital world is determined by how you appear in a simple inquiry on a search engine: how you appear to potential patients on Google.

That usually makes physicians uncomfortable.

We know how to control our reputations in the operating room, in the doctor’s lounge, at our medical societies, at our national meetings.

Most of us don’t have a clue how to control our online reputations.

Here’s the bad news: Nobody controls their online reputations. Nobody. We ALL live in a digital glass bowl now.

Here’s the good news: We can all influence our online footprint. We can all contribute to our digital brand.

We can do this by controlling at least a portion of our online presence. We can contribute to the content that exists in that digital world
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So here is the takeaway: If you are a physician practicing now, it is time for you to have an online presence.

Your brand exists in the digital world now.

Like it or not. With or without you.  Better WITH You

It is in your best interest, and the best interest of your patients, for you to influence that digital brand. It is time to participate in building your digital brand.

The next several articles here will provide some cogent reasons to build your digital brand, a proven way to build trust with your patient community, and finally, a step-by-step guide for building your digital brand.

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