Building a small yet strong brand

The most effective way for a smaller clinic to differentiate itself is by offering something that their larger competitors cannot or will not be able to duplicate. For example, you can never go wrong by delivering a five-star service, creating a unique product offering, or packaging highly customised treatments.

For a solo clinic, building customer loyalty and a growing referral base cannot be created by advertising and marketing alone. Rather, this develops gradually over time and most often emerges from offering a high quality product and/or service and giving good value for money. Good value is also not synonymous with discounts, deals, or low prices. If you make it easy for your customers to book an appointment, buy a product or schedule a treatment, and maintain high customer satisfaction, the good will you are building will serve you well in the long term. Happy and vocal customers are what will ultimately enhance your brand by carrying your key messages throughout the community. In this way, you can encourage and reward enthusiastic brand ambassadors among your own clientele.

This does not mean that you do not need a memorable and recognisable brand name and an aesthetically appealing logo. These are essential components of building your clinic’s reputation and should share the same look and feel for a seamless image. Be careful not to overspend on these branding elements by getting sold on an extensive branding package that is a major investment. Setting up these basic branding elements for a single clinic should be simplified and cost-effective. It is wise to enlist the services of one firm that knows your business, or two at the most. By retaining several different marketing companies at the same time, there is no guarantee that they will work as a team or to your best advantage. Duplication of efforts and a clashing of styles is a likely occurrence in this situation. For example, you may choose to work with one web marketing company, and enlist the services of a public relations firm because these are separate and distinct functions so there is less of a chance of overlapping.

My best advice for small service businesses is to be wary of big, glitzy branding firms that try to repackage your local clinic into the mold of a global brand. They tend to be out of touch with the needs of your business and may not be accustomed to working within a limited budget. As a small business, you must keep an eye towards the bottom line and continually evaluate the results of your branding and marketing programme. In the era of Google analytics, be careful not to get caught up in just the numbers. Many marketing practices, particularly PR and social media, cannot be measured purely by the click.

Finally, the best return on investment for clinic marketing is undoubtedly online, starting with a robust website, web marketing in the form of optimisation and paid advertising, a blog and integrated social media platforms.