What do we mean by ‘brand’? In its essence, a brand is a promise made to people who don’t know you and who don’t know what you do about who you are and what you do, a promise that says it is worth their while to come to you. But here’s something you might not have known: you can know something about people you don’t know, based on people you’ve already served in the past.
Whether you’re a business person in business, or a doctor in practice, from whence comes your business, or where do your patients learn about you? This is what you need to know in order to build your brand and business/practice through marketing.
You may get important business from fans of yours, people you delighted in the past who love to share your abilities with others. If so, the question to ask is, who is talking about you, and where are they talking about you? I’ve built my entire business from such referrals, from patients and speaking clients and students who found value in my work and happily shared that value. I’ve also sent customers and patients to others, because they were talented in their work or had systems that were a delight to deal with.
You may get your customers and patients as a result of your reputation in a particular community in which you participate or to which you belong. The question is, what are you known for, and in which communities are you known for it? I belong to and participate in communities of doctors, of writers, of speakers and coaches, and my reputation is that of a relationship problem solver and persuasion idea generator. This reputation has brought many to my door over the years, and I’ve actively cultivated relationships that grew from my reputation. It seems to me that if someone comes to you because of your reputation, keeping your branding promise will lead to them talking about your reputation to others. One of my favorite endorsement letters included this sentence: “I received many positive comments from our members about my having the good sense to hire you for our conference.”
You may get referrals because of classes you teach and training programs you deliver. How did the people who attended find out about you? What take aways do you give them? What opportunities to you create for followup and post-service contact? As a faculty member for the Institute for Management Studies, and as adjunct faculty at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, I am given rooms filled with interested parties. I always make sure to let the people in these rooms know that I’m interested in their referrals and recommendations, and I do it as a matter of course. You should too! Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are valuable resources for following up with people, but you have to ask people to connect with you through these systems or they probably won’t. Even asking, the return rate is pretty small. Still, over time, it all adds up to something worth the while.
Or you may get business because you’ve been around a long time. People are familiar with your name and/0r you’ve had multiple successes with some specific condition or type of audience. One of the advantages of being in business for a long time is that people come to know you are there, and when they look for someone that does what you do, that knowledge guides them.
Now, if you’re in a natural medicine practice, there’s one last possibility. It is entirely possible that your new patients have already been to everybody else, and they’ve come to you as a last resort. But the question to answer continues to be this: How do they find you?
Here is where branding proves it’s value. Because the fact is, somehow, any growth in your business likely comes from contact with your brand and marketing. A great brand reinforces all the referral sources (hey, that rhymes! YAY!) And another fact is, if you have a positive brand, and are effective in marketing your practice or business, this increases the comfort your existing patients and clients have in making referrals to you. That enhances your reputation further. And in the case of patients looking for help, people on the edge of giving up will be more likely to find you.
We’ll continue this next week. In the meantime, if you have questions, comments or experiences to share about your own branding and marketing efforts, please do leave them below.