Working as an independent physician has several advantages. Perhaps paramount is the freedom to build a practice on your own terms. On the flip side, the lack of the infrastructure and systems that an established, recognized brand provides can feel overwhelming at times. That can make it hard to build your physician brand. Many physicians are frustrated by the need to work both on and in their businesses simultaneously. However, building your brand is important for the long-term success of every independent physician. The following five tips will help you define, build, and personify a brand that’s not only relatable, but also authentic to everything you stand for as a doctor.
1. Define what you stand for.
One of the biggest mistakes doctor’s make when they embark on building their physician brand is getting started before they understand what their brand should be. If you can’t succinctly define what makes you unique and special, how can you expect your current and potential patients to?
Defining your brand takes careful thought over time. The good news is there’s no one right answer. And, there’s no better time to start than now! Look at your calendar and carve out a few private, consecutive hours one day in the next week. Think about what makes you, you. Think about why you decided to become a doctor. What motivates you to practice medicine every day? What do you love most about your work?
When you sit down for the meeting, write a list of three to five words that define you as a doctor. There is no right answer. You may choose words like ‘trustworthy’, ‘reliable’, ‘innovative’, ‘research-focused’, or ‘charitable’, among others.
Next, make a list of three to five words that define your practice and everyone who works in it. You should be a bit idealistic here. Ultimately, if a current employee, system, or process doesn’t live up to your ideal expectations, it should be dealt with accordingly. Once again, these words should be authentic to you, but may include things like Welcoming, Convenient, State-of-the-Art, etc.
2. Seek feedback on your brand words.
Once you’ve settled on your lists of brand words, you should have between six and ten words to help you build your physician brand. The next step is to find out how current perception aligns with your goals. Don’t share your words with anyone… yet. First, make a list of about 25 people from whom you’ll solicit feedback. You want to get an idea of what your brand perception is currently. That way, you’ll know how much work you have to do to get to where you want to go.
You should ask for feedback from people in five groups: Existing patients, New patients, Partners (like pharmacists, lab associates, or drug reps), Employees, and Colleagues (physician friends and those close to you, like a spouse or sibling).
Identify five to seven people in each group and send them an email similar to the one that follows:
Thank you for [personal line appropriate to their relationship with you; e.g. Thank you for your six years of patronage. It is a privilege serving as your physician.]. As I’m sure you’re aware, it’s critically important for independent physicians in today’s marketplace to have well-defined brands. That’s why I am currently undergoing an audit of my own branding.
I’m asking a handful of trusted partners [replace “partners” with appropriate word for each group] to answer the three questions below. If you can please respond to this email by [date] with your responses, I would greatly appreciate it.
1. What three adjectives would you use to best describe me?
2. What three words would you use to best describe my practice?
3. If you were going to recommend my practice to a friend, what would you say to him or her?
Thank you in advance for your thoughtful responses. I look forward to [appropriate closing for each person].
3. Evaluate how your list compares to the feedback you receive.
Create a spreadsheet with individual tabs for each of the three questions above. Log responses as you receive them. You should start to see patterns emerge. Hopefully, the words match at least some of the target brand words you identified. If not, consider revising your lists… or make a plan to help shift perception to get closer to the words you decided to go with. Ultimately, the choice of how you build your physician brand is up to you.
Once you’ve received feedback from all parties, carefully study the spreadsheet. It’s possible that you may refine your lists after seeing the feedback. Aim for two final lists of three words each: Three for yourself, and three for your practice. These six words will become the guiding principles for your personal brand — the lens through which every branding decision will be made going forward.
4. Set goals and boundaries.
Have you identified your six brand words? Congratulations! That’s a major step toward building a relatable, lasting personal brand. Next, it’s time to set goals and boundaries.
Goals refer to the outcomes you want to achieve from your personal brand. They may include things like increasing the amount of referrals your practice receives by 20% in 12 months, or increasing the conversions of traffic to appointments on your website by 15%. If you’re unsure of your branding goals, ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish by establishing my personal brand?” The answers will help guide your goal-setting process.
The next step is setting clear boundaries. Some think that being “relatable” means you have to share your entire life on Instagram or other social sites every day. Others take a no-social-media-ever approach to their practices. For many, the right answer is somewhere between the two extremes.
As an independent physician, you are your brand. Prospective patients will want to get to know you and your team before making their decision. That’s why setting boundaries is an important step in defining your personal brand. While having a great website is non-negotiable, everything beyond that is up to you. Having an online presence for your practice is important. The choice of how much you share on personal pages is up to you. Your brand words will help guide your decisions as you set these boundaries.
5. Begin creating content.
When you build your physician brand, content is key! Thought-leadership content positions you as an expert in your field and will attract new clients. Think about it: If you were looking for a new service provider, would you choose one with a one-page website, or one with a robust blog filled with tips who regularly appears on TV shows and podcasts? Likely the latter… which is exactly what your prospective patients will think!
Use your brand words to define the kind of content you want to create. As a general rule, a mix of videos and articles is a great place to start. You can publish the content on your own site (as a blog), via a newsletter, on social sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, or on third-party websites, like partners’ blogs or media sites.
Not sure where to begin? Make a list of 50 questions your patients ask you on a regular basis. Your list may include things like, “How can I decrease my risk for heart disease?” or “How much exercise do I really need each week?” Answer each question, either in a two-to-three minute video or an article of 500-800 words. When you answer all 50 questions, you’ll have an entire year’s worth of weekly content!
The great thing about content is that you can repurpose it. For example, if you record a three-minute video talking about the dangers of vaping, you can transcribe the video and turn it into an article — or, offer it as a guest post on another site’s blog.
You’re already an expert in your field. The challenge is in helping the world discover how incredible you really are. Armed with your brand words and content strategy, you’ll be unstoppable in your quest to build a memorable, relatable brand.