Healthy debate exists about which is the better brand. Is it Coke or Pepsi? Apple or Microsoft? The Yankees or the Red Sox? If you are a fan of any of the aforementioned brands, chances are, you feel strongly about it. That is what brand loyalty is all about. In this post, we’ll discuss key steps to building loyalty to a healthcare brand.
THE HONEST TRUTH
First, make sure your products and services provide the value your patients need and want. No amount of effort or money will garner brand loyalty if your brand does not live up to its promises. It’s important that your entire staff knows and is on board with your organization’s mission and walks the talk. For example, if you promise compassion, your front desk and back office staff should be just as compassionate as your clinicians. Once you feel confident that your brand is aligned with patients’ values, meet them where they are on their journey with your brand by creating messaging specifically for each step.
JOURNEY STEP: AWARENESS
Introduce yourself. If you are new to the area, your audience needs to know who you are and what you offer. At this point in the journey, consider more traditional ways of getting the word out such as television, radio and billboard ads, press releases and media attention. You may also want to experiment with Google and Facebook advertising.
Reintroduce yourself. If you aren’t new to the area, and you still need to build awareness, be sure to address the barriers that may have prevented your audience from acting on your previous initiatives. Do you have a difficult-to-find location? Make sure your ads indicate landmarks or other easy ways to identify your location. Do they know how to contact you for more information? Include easy ways to contact you such as an easy-to-remember/spell URL and phone numbers in your messaging.
Assess your message. Include at least one question on your new patient paperwork about how your patients discovered you. Track the answers and analyze the results over a set period of time (i.e. monthly, quarterly, annually), depending on your preferences. What seems to be working best? Is there anything that gets no response? How can you improve the messaging for your audience?
JOURNEY STEP: VETTING
Offer more in-depth information. Once they are aware of your organization, your potential customers will likely conduct some research to comparison shop. For this step, you will need to provide pertinent information on your website, brochures, postcards and email marketing. Minimize patient run-around by using specific calls-to-action and the contact information of a staff member who can and will help direct patients to the answers they seek.
Make it obvious that you are their best choice. This step is your opportunity to legitimize and elevate your organization in the eyes of potential patients. To come up with messaging for this step, put yourself in the patients’ shoes. If you needed care for yourself or your family, what kind of things would influence your opinion of the organization? What do you do that differentiates you from other healthcare organizations? Conduct surveys and/or research about patient preferences and make sure your promotional materials address these desires.
JOURNEY STEP: ENGAGEMENT
Put your best foot forward. In this step, you personally meet patients. To initiate a positive experience, be sure everyone is on-task. Have policies and procedures in place that streamline office visits and provide staff with a few extra minutes to ensure pleasant patient visits.
Share your social side. Tell your patients by way of posters, flyers, brochures, appointment cards and word-of-mouth about ways to connect with you in a deeper, more meaningful way. Invite them to join you on social media and in person at group exercise classes, health/nutrition classes, advocacy and support groups along with any other events for which your organization is a sponsor or participant.
JOURNEY STEP: RECOMMENDING
Prepare to perpetuate. After you have engaged your patients, you can perpetuate the cycle by getting recommendations from your current patients to bring new patients into the journey.
Get referrals. Offer incentives such as umbrellas, t-shirts and moleskine notebooks for new patient referrals.
Obtain testimonials and reviews. Comment cards to obtain reviews at the time of service are typically well-received, getting up to 80 and 90 percent completion rates.
Time it right. Ideally, at check-out, your staff will ask patients how their visit was and if they’d be willing to leave a quick two-minute review right now on a comment card, tablet or computer. If the patient appears to be in a rush, irritable or in pain, do not ask. The key to recommendations is to make it easy and never be pushy. If they had a great visit, they are likely to be willing to share it.
KEEP ON KEEPING ON
Some patients will race through the steps, and others will be slower to develop relationships that result in brand loyalty. Take nothing for granted, keep finding out what your patients value and make those preferences your priority. What is your organization doing to nurture relationships and drive loyalty? Reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter to share.