There are many misconceptions about what branding is. Usually, the first thing that comes to mind is a name, a sign, a logo, or a design used in marketing materials.
What it is
Branding is actually much larger. One way to think about it is what the consumer’s reactions and perceptions are when they hear or think of your company. Obviously, we want a potential customer to have positive thoughts about your organization, so let’s start by thinking a bit about how a potential customer develops some sense of you.
Who is your target customer
Begin by thinking about who you envision your customer to be. What kinds of people might be interested in the services you are thinking of providing? Are you going for a particular demographic? A certain type of client? A certain age group?
Answers to those questions will start you sifting though what will be important to your ideal customer.
When potential customers first hear about you, what will they hear? Where you are located and how does that impress them? What do your former client or referring person think about you? What services are you providing? How does your building look? Maybe they will look at your website and read your bio and look at your picture. Do you look like the kind of person the customer, whom you hope becomes your client, can relate to? Does your bio fit with the needs your potential client is bringing in?
Eventually, the potential client may call. Then the impression is shaped by things more under your control–How is the first phone call handled? Who answers and how responsive, approachable, helpful is that person? Do you have hours that fit with the client’s needs? Are your fees and the way you handle insurance manageable? Do the services you are providing fit the perceived need?
And yet further on, the client comes in. How welcoming and comfortable is that experience? What is it like to sit in the waiting room? Is the therapist on time? Does the first session seem to be on target for addressing what the client was hoping for?
Clients derive much of their awareness about who you are and what you might do for them from referrers. Referrers are also doing their own evaluation in each interaction with you. They are forming an impression of who you are and what types of people might you be a good fit for. Again this boils down to many of the same things—your location, the services you provide, the type of person they perceive you to be, etc. But you have a bit of an advantage here in that you can be more intentional about how you approach potential referrers and the type of impression you want to make.
And yes, marketing materials
In short, your marketing materials, website, decorating, and furnishings should all support the branding you have been doing in other areas. The goal is to convey a consistent message to potential customers.
Some questions to consider
As you are thinking about the messages embedded in all points of contact with your public, consider these types of questions:
- How well does your branding connect with your target customer?
- Does your branding highlight any ways you may be distinct or unique from others in your community doing similar things?
- Does your branding highlight the values that you want your customers to see in your organization?
It is best if your branding has as much consistency as possible to strengthen your message on as many levels as possible.
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