Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Physical Therapist's Brand Promise

Do we have one?

While I may be paraphrasing, here are some of the responses in no particular order:

  • We listen.
  • We start with you.
  • Move. Improve. Achieve.
  • Movement.
  • (Mine was) - Feel awesome!
  • Physical restoration.

About the brand promise: A Brand Promise is VERY different from the brand itself. The brand promise is the resultant of the brand experience. While the brand is more of a construct of the imagination; the brand promise is how a consumer feels about the brand service or product experience. In essence, "Did they do what they said they would do for me?"

As a principle, the more we deliver on the brand promise, the stronger our brand image and thus the stronger our brand positioning in the marketplace. On the theoretical level, our brand promise is the promised action/result of our brand identity. The brand image is the summative reception the consumer has of our brand. Brand promise links the brand identity to the brand image; the closer they are and the stronger they are linked, the stronger the brand equity itself.

So then, my thoughts went to, "What can we ACTUALLY deliver?"
  • We can certainly deliver on "we listen."
  • "Movement." Can we deliver on this? I feel many times we fail. What is perhaps worse, sometimes our consumers doesn't even care about movement. They have other things in mind.
  • My lofty idea of "Feel Awesome!" ... it definitely has its constraints, no doubt.
  • Physical restoration we can definitely deliver on. But, we also can deliver on much more!
  • "We start with you" resonates with "we listen." And, I like them both! VERY savvy in the world of customer service.
  • I like "Move. Improve. Achieve." It's more of a slogan than a brand promise, however.

It's really tough coming up with a solid brand promise. It's even more tough when a profession's brand identity is so scattered. It is paramountly worse when our brand image is more scattered than our identity!

In our current market environment, "We listen." is a very powerful statement. This can sustain and even improve our market position during this time when healthcare exists as an economic wobble-shuffle. It is actually one of the most attractive brand promises to the end-user and direct consumer. The 3rd party payer would love it too if listening meant more "favorable" utilization rates -- to which, I believe there is certainly some evidence in it.

There was another offering I was saving until now, "We get to the root of the problem." This is another power statement since many healthcare consumers are seriously fed up with duct tape approaches. They want providers to address the source issues behind their health concerns. 

As for my pipe dream idea of "Feel awesome!" This requires we have a generally standard approach as PTs in customer service, professional branding, and our commitment to best outcomes -- making our consumers feel better by doing it faster and making it last longer than any other competing options out there.

And, to be clear, it's not other PT options -- I'm referring to any other option outside of PT because our unified position and focused range of approach procures a strong confidence interval in customer experience at the emotional, intellectual, and physical levels -- on the outcome measure THEY (the consumers) care about. That's why I like the idea of "feeling" as a base for a brand promise; so very many consumer choices are based on feeling, not reasoning.

The problem is every clinic does business differently; we are losing the power of differentiation this way. Not differentiating amongst ourselves, differentiating ourselves from others. The truth is, we are TOO scattered within ourselves. It's like saying one mechanic could be way different from another mechanic the same way PTs are different.

I ask you, do you look forward to seeing your mechanic? NO! And, we don't want people to reluctantly and latently come to us in their times of need. We want them to look forward to seeing their PT -- that they can't wait because its the best choice for their health they could ever make!

So I ask, am I wrong to say that we, as Physical Therapists, want to be the 1st choice provider for musculoskeletal health? For the outpatient segment, I think this rings very true. Part of the reason I posed the original question was to delineate the hard fact that inpatient vs. outpatient PTs offer very different brand promises. Without segmentation here, we will never present a strong brand... not per setting and not as a whole. Therefore, it makes sense taking charge of the segment we have the most control over: Outpatient Private Practice.

In strategic marketing, the task is all about surveying the market environment for opportunities and threats. Our opportunities as outpatient/private practice PTs is through the roof! In healthcare's state of wobble, the threats really are more internal than external; our infighting hurts more than other people encroaching on our "turf."

I keep asking myself:
  • What can we unify with?
  • What is the single most common service experience we deliver on CONSISTENTLY?

I don't have all the answers. I certainly have some ideas. The thing is, it requires some strong direction to pursue. They revolve around a united, signature experience in our outpatient private practice segment. It finds a linchpin in a commitment to getting people better, faster, and keeping them healthy for life. The strategy holds on the minimization of cost burdens and the elevation of economic welfare for all of our stakeholders in concert. Sure, it may hurt in the short term. But, I can promise you if history and business research holds any water, it will absolutely pay off in the long run.

Not not all will agree on the ideas. In fact, I'm certain that what I share us offensive to some. I sense this is the case because most of the legitimate business solutions to stamping a collective brand promise centralizes on something that we as PTs apparently avoid with all our might...


We hate unity. We may say we like it, but look at our actions! We trump our diversity, our specializations, and our uniqueness as our individual core competencies. While that certainly is valuable at a clinical level, it is NOT at an industry level. It doesn't help our profession at large when consumers can't have a common image in mind when they hear the words "Physical Therapist." 

A few weeks back there was talk about establishing brand pillars - and - I LOVE this idea!

While it's all brainstorming at this point, I encourage you to focus your thoughts on the following:
  • What can ALL outpatient PTs promise and deliver on consistently?
  • What can we make a signature moment for private practice PTs as an industry?
  • What brand promise is most valuable to the consumer?
  • And, what promises are most valuable to the consumer of tomorrow?
I feel strongly that the intersection of those four questions will summit a brand promise that will shine powerfully in the healthcare market of the future. It starts here. And, there will be many revisions in the future -- that's the business of marketing! And so, I'll be doing lots of mental grinding on this one for a while. I hope you'll join me in the task.

Talk soon! Safe travels to CSM! I wish I could be there with you, so tweet a bunch!

Warm Regards,

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Five Tactics for Reputation Management

Since I've been on a roll talking about some of the less known things about me, I found it hard to depart from this (kind of) lifestyle take on marketing.

Reputation Management is a small segment, a subspecialty really, that I've gotten to know better over the years as a consultant. Just like preventing fires, it's easier to clean up the brush before the fire starts than to put it out once it's ablaze. I never thought I'd be one who would be interested in helping people dig their way out of trouble. However, I've found out that I'm pretty good at it - and - it's actually quite fun! It's a challenge, and, it's a worthwhile pursuit to help those who have made some truly honest mistakes.

Here are Five Tactics for Reputation Management.

1. Dig down deep.
Prevention is a big word. Sadly, most people don't know how to truly approach it. Simply managing risk factors and identifying clusters of interest will not actually prevent fires. However, identifying old tinder which could easily conflagrate with the tiniest and most insignificant spark? Now you're being proactive about prevention.

When I say "Dig down deep," I mean you need to dig down deep into your own past and reputation. This is typically a humbling and rather uncomfortable exercise. As your platform expands, whatever is in your past, you need to begin acknowledging it (especially while your platform is small) or at the very least, have a series of responses prepared should the pieces fall into play against you. Remember, it is YOUR past. You might as well own it.

2. Always have an exit.
Other than not screwing up in the first place, it is a good habit to lay down exit plans and embed them into your daily interactions. While it may sound like a politician's speech work, it is important that you leave yourself some wiggle room to walk your mistakes backwards as you elaborate on what your intent was while addressing how poorly you expressed it. This gives you a way of graciously bowing out of an unfavorable positions while acknowledging the fact you were called out.

3. Double check your double check.
Check what you're about to do/say yourself, then have someone else check you, and do that yet once more. Having sounding boards is a very important thing in reputation management. This tactic saves you from making easy and simple mistakes; it's a low hanging fruit to pick to prevent something terribly rotten to be inadvertently presented. Oh! It's actually quite helpful if the sounding board and the sounding board's sounding board tend to hold opposing views. This will help screen out a broader spectrum of potential hazards. 

4. Own it, and quick!
Feigning innocence or even worse, ignorance can be terrible. If called out, at the very least own the fact you were called out. You don't have to own the implied or alleged guilt or responsibility, but, you can't just sit there pretending no one saw the other guy point the finger at you.

Express strong intentions of delving into the matter and give a time frame for expected response. By the way, deleting posts on social media, only make you look worse -- completely guilty in fact. The truth is that we're in a social framework where nothing should be hidden, good or bad. If you have anything to hide, then you are guilty. So, if your reputation is in question, go ahead and own the fact someone is questioning you. Be empathetic and understanding to their feelings, promise an action plan and response time, and be sure you carry it out!

5. Apologize with your actions.
So the ugliest aspect of reputation management is when you, the "royal" you, are busted. If caught, when caught... don't just issue some canned statement like, "We regret that so-and-so and our organization blah blah blah."

It is beyond critical to be truly intentional, genuine, and severely humble in making up for your wrong doing in manners which are meaningful to the party you've wronged. Be sure your actions can be clearly seen. Social responsibility is seen as a most favorable activity for even the most small-hearted-grinches out there. Making your apology public, highly visible, and perceptively sincere is a very smart, long term investment... not to mention, the right thing to do!

Some Closing Thoughts
Reputations can be sullied for many reasons. Sometimes they are attacked. Othertimes, they are self destructed. Mistakes are frequently made -- sometimes out of ignorance, sometimes out of passion, sometimes out of misinformation, sometimes out of pride, and sometimes by accident. An important theme throughout Reputation Management is public perception; no matter what happened behind closed doors, the fact that the cat is out of the bag means you must now treat it like royalty. Once it's appeased, you can put the issue behind you while preparing a response for the inevitable flare up.

Good luck out there! Remember, preparation will always trump repair!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What's In A Name?

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet"
-  Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

There's a lot of value that goes into a name. The principles at work behind the value of a name are very much the same as that in branding. (For more on this, take a look at this post: Building Your Personal Brand)

As such, in preparation for this last term and my current MBA candidacy, I'm shifting how I present my name in certain venues to more accurately reflect the direction I'm taking through the completion of this MBA in Marketing. More specifically, I've changed only my email "send as" as well as my Twitter name display (which is my primary social media outlet) to say this:

Ben Fung  DPT/MBA(c)

Why the funny format? That's all Twitter would let me fit! Why no more "Dr."??? Simple. Most of what I currently do now has more to do with business consulting than front-line clinical applications. Does this mean I'm turning my back on the clinical world of physical therapy and healthcare at large? NO WAY!

During a luncheon conversation with a long time colleague, we were talking about the process of becoming a physical therapist. Primarily, we were talking about how the mindset and training creates an outlook that never leaves you. I'll never stop being a physical therapist. I can still remember the near heart attack I had one day in a checkout line when an elderly man took a bad step backwards. I lunged forwards to guard him! 

See, it's not that I'm abandoning anything. It is simply that the way I'm choosing to embody the physical therapist identity is as one who empowers others through business solutions. Through this direction, I hope that my expertise in marketing, operations, reputation management, and optimizing the clinical lense through consumer perspectives will supercharge a new generation toward success.

So what's coming down the line?
  1. I'm preparing a webinar via the Private Practice Section of the APTA.
  2. I've been gathering together content to wrap up into a monster of a marketing course.
  3. As many of you know, I've finished writing my book and am progressing through the various steps of publication.
  4. I will be enviously following your Tweets during CSM 2015.
  5. I hope to resume my involvement in speaking engagements later this year.
  6. I aim to increase my outreach and platform diversity (more coming soon).
  7. I am planning on finally introducing collaboratives posts on this blog. Interested in sharing your voice? Let me know!