You run a brand (or three). Brands have stories. What is your story?
Let’s start by breaking down what a brand story is. It is more than the just the content or a narrative that you create. It extends beyond your website copy or the text in that shiny brochure you just had printed. It is not a story you make up with completely fictional interpretations, feelings, or facts to sell something.
Simply put, your story is everything. It is the sign outside your practice, the warm smile of the front desk person, the design of your waiting room and operatories, the casualness of the doctor, and even the color of the walls. Everything conveys a message. A toxic workplace culture will end up telling a story that you do not want to be told.
The lack of a story makes your practices another commodity. It could be switched out with another and few would notice. It does not garner patient loyalty. Instead, it makes it a dirty 7-letter word: generic. A good story will increase loyalty and drive growth.
“The best brands are built on great stories.” – Ian Rowden, former Chief Marketing Officer of Virgin Group
Apple is perhaps the best example of brand storytelling. Steve Jobs was a master storyteller, which is why every Apple product launch was met with such great fanfare. Their products are not particularly any better (editor’s note: author uses Apple products exclusively), however, Steve Jobs was a master at telling you why you needed that Apple product on its release date. He would convince thousands to sleep in lines outside of their stores to get it on that very day, when lines would be much more tolerable just a few days later. The story continues in his memorys.
Starbucks is another excellent example of a company using a story to grow its brand. People will drive past competitors — who may have better coffee — for their cup of Starbucks. They will happily fork over three times as much as they would down the street. Starbucks strives to be the “third place” in your life outside of work and home. This is all done by design, not on accident. People respond well to their story. Need proof? Look at how much people talk when they make the slightest change. Remember the logo change?
Telling Your Brand Story
If you do not have a brand story already written, your first inclination may be to tell one that helps you stand out and get noticed. That is not necessary. Your practices are professional organizations and people expect you to be practical.
It is sometimes hard to tell your own brand story. It may be so hard, in fact, that you retain an outside firm to prod your business and write the story for you. There is nothing wrong with this as we tend to see ourselves differently than others see us. We, as humans, are often more critical of ourselves than others are of us.
What if I told you that it is not really you that writes your brand story, but it is your patients? The story actually begins when a patient first hears your name, visits your website, checks out your professional bio or interacts with your practice on social media. What they are interpreting is your brand story. These are all signals to patients as to what they can expect from your brand.
Your story needs to match reality, so that all of those signals are properly interpreted. Most of the time, the best marketing isn’t happening when you fire up a Google AdWords campaign, but instead when your patient tells their friend about how your dental services impacted their life.
You must closely examine your brand’s mission and vision. You should evaluate your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and emotional selling points, as well as the culture of your brand. You also need to determine how you wish to be perceived by existing and new patients alike and adjust accordingly. Such adjustments, however, do not become part of your story until you actually make them.
Doing this will enable you to effectively craft your brand identity and shape the perceptions that will reflect it.
It is not much different than dating. When you start dating someone, you ask them a lot of questions so that you can get to know them. Hopefully, they will be asking you an equal number of questions.
Think of brand storytelling the same as writing a dating profile. It should be honest, but also carefully crafted to cast you in the best light. It may seem odd to think of dating this way, however, you are essentially selling yourself to someone. Your brand needs a compelling dating profile to woo that potential patient who is also texting your competitor.