Branding, where do you need to think about it as an Independent hearing healthcare Professional?
I think that the role of the hearing healthcare provider has become inextricably tied to the instruments they provide. I think that as we move forward this is a problematic situation particularly for Independent hearing healthcare professionals. It allows us very little differentiation other than price and we all know that price differentiation is a race to the bottom.
So what do we as a profession need to do to overcome this possibly fatal situation? We need to differentiate by other means. We need to carefully consider our target market and our own individual brand.
But first, what is a brand? The immediate answer that comes to mind is a logo colour scheme and tagline. But brand has evolved far beyond those simplistic terms. A more accepted definition is
“Brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, when taken together, account for a customer’s decision to choose one product or service, hopefully yours, over another. If the customer is not paying a premium or they are not deciding to do business with you, then that customer does not value your brand.”
I wrote an article about branding recently for Audio Infos where I put forward the argument for my understanding of branding. In essence I hold two beliefs:
- Your brand is set by your Patients
- You can affect the terms of reference for your brand
So if both of these concepts are accepted as true, where and how can you affect the terms of reference of your brand?
At Every Possible Customer Touch Point
So where are these touch points and what do you need to think about? These touch points can be divided into the ones we know about and the ones we don’t. Let me explain, if you quickly think about touch points in our business you can identify many
- In your marketing
On the phone
- In your reception
- At the fitting
- During the follow up
- In any letter or mailing
However you also need to consider the person who looked at the front of your shop, the word of mouth passed from one to the other, the person who viewed your website. When you think about it there is many places that you need to consider.
So that clarifies the where, the strategy and how you implement should be considered next. So what is the strategy, how will your brand differentiate itself? If you are indeed an Independent hearing healthcare professional you are in fact in an ideal place to set your brand.
I hear on a regular basis that Independents feel seriously under pressure by national chains. I understand why you feel that way, I don’t understand why you can’t see that you have an advantage.
You are the local authority in your area, you are the local down home family business in your territory. Because of your small size and your independence you are lithe and adaptable. Nationals have more money but they focus on national advertising.
They always do because that is where they need to focus. The professional in that National outlet is working under a structure set by their head office with tools provided by that head office. Their mailing is impersonal and normally done centrally, their customer relations are structured and the terms are again set centrally.
You on the other hand are a small local business who can be pro-active, not re-active. You can and should be advertising in your local media, you can and should be strongly targeting local search traffic. In all of these endeavours you can and should be leveraging that you are a small local business. In the community for the community.
Put this concept to one side for a minute, we will use it later. Where else can you differentiate, you can do so in your testing procedure and you probably should. However that is easily copied so therefore is a weaker differentiation strategy. Where you can differentiate, where you can really shape the terms of your brand is in service and Patient experience.
That is the clear strategy you need to follow, to supply a Patient experience that is second to none, to supply a Patient experience that amazes your Patient, to supply a Patient experience that your Patient speaks of with awe. Engage your Patients, make them feel at home, make them feel like one of the family, make them feel cared for, make them feel special, simply make them feel like it would be silly to go any where else.
Align that with your down home local family business and you have a winner, you have a key differentiator. You have a brand that will secure your sustainability, your future as a business. Stop whining and get on with it.