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,

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