Branding your business is significantly more important today than in the past. Your brand differentiates you; it speaks to your culture and tells everyone who you are. Knowing what your brand is and emulating it in all communications and actions can inspire, motivate and provide direction. Your brand is a connection, it is your promise.
Marketing is everything you do to promote the business. It is your message. A logo, website and Facebook page are marketing materials that are a small part of projecting your brand image to existing and potential clients. It is important to understand that your marketing materials do not create your brand, but they should certainly project it!
A strong brand radiates a powerful image. When you think of well-known companies, what does their brand mean to you? Consider companies such as Starbucks or BMW or Hilton. Pick one and take a moment to think about the images it evokes in your mind. Do you feel their brand represents high quality, good value, convenience, social awareness, or does something else come to mind?
Now stop to consider WHY you had this response? Are your feelings about this company based on their marketing materials (television commercials, print ads, websites, etc.) or are they based on your own experience? Generally speaking, advertising may initially cause you to have an expectation of a business, but it is through your own experience and those of your circle of friends that you develop well-defined brand image.
The same is true of your veterinary hospital. Your clients' perception of your "brand" is based on their own experiences at your hospital. You may believe that you practice the highest quality veterinary care, but do your clients' experiences support this perception? Is your desired identity actually the one that is being perceived by your clients or even by your staff? What does your brand say about your culture?
Here is an exercise for you. Ask everyone on your leadership team to come up with five words that best represent your hospital. Are these words consistent with what you want your hospital to be? Next, perform the same exercise with your staff. Is there a consistent perception throughout the staff as to what your hospital represents? Is this perception consistent with what the leadership team/owners of the business want it to be? Finally, reach out to clients through a survey, a focus group or some other type of client feedback system and ask them these same questions.
If your leadership team is not on the same page as the owner then you need to work on developing a clearer vision of what you want your hospital to be and how you want it to be perceived. If your leaders and your staff are not on the same page, work on your messaging and training to ensure that your staff reflects the values of your hospital brand. If your leadership and staff are on the same page, but your clients are not, that means that the delivery of service is not done in a manner that is consistent with the values of the company. More staff training is needed to make sure the client experience is consistent with these company values. With a strong brand, employees understand what role they play in delivering care and service to clients. This helps ensure that clients are always satisfied with their experiences at your hospital.
Remember, your brand is not defined by your logo or your website. While these advertising materials may get someone in the door, it is the client experience that will ultimately define your brand. Make sure that you are listening to your clients and staff so that the brand image of your hospital will be consistent with what you intended it to be.