Your brand is an experience. It’s who you are as a company and what you promise to everyone you interact with, including your customers, investors, and internal teams. In the highly competitive healthcare market, a strong brand can lay the foundation for long-term growth that’s capable of withstanding harsh headwinds.
Brand building is both art and science. While strong brands have an emotional element — think about your favorite athletic gear and how it motivates you to work out — they also need to function as differentiators, especially in the extremely narrow healthcare B2B space. As we’ve said before, branding and rebranding can be your company’s greatest marketing challenge.
Ultimately, strengthening your brand requires monetary investment as well as an investment in the time it takes to patiently build up equity. Remember that successful brands rarely emerge overnight.
What is brand equity?
Just like a financial portfolio, healthcare brands can only build equity over time. And your brand equity is the sum total of your value in the market as determined by the market. In other words, your brand doesn’t have value just because you say it does. The market decides. When you meet the needs of your customers, they keep coming back. When you offer them a positive experience, they recommend you to others, and your business grows.
Consider the basics of building brand equity:
1. Your products and services: It seems obvious, but your products and services must align with market needs. Here, equity is built by anticipating problems, solving problems with your products and services, and making life better or easier for your customers.
2. Your customer experience: Ensure every touchpoint creates a relationship with the customer from initial contact to onboarding to long-term support. Here, you can build equity by personalizing the interactions your prospects or customers have with your brand. For example, do your customers have to recite their contact information and their history with your company every time they call with a question? Look for opportunities to establish a seamless, personal relationship with each customer.
3. Your response to the market: Focus groups and surveys are among the best ways to capture sentiment among your target audiences. Ask them how they feel about your brand or your products as well as areas where they think you fall short. By staying in touch with the market, you enhance your brand through continuous quality improvement with the notion of net-new business for the future.
How to strengthen your brand
Beyond the basics, gaining incremental value for your B2B healthcare brand requires a more strategic approach. When all your competitors offer good products and good customer experiences, rising above that high bar might seem impossible.
Follow the marketing tips below to strengthen your brand.
Anticipate the needs of the market
It’s easy to listen to customers and respond to what they say, however, getting out in front of market trends is an entirely different competency. In healthcare especially, the market doesn’t move in a predictable way, making forecasting a bit tricky.
Invest in deep-dive industry research that will provide clues about future needs. For example, regulations recently went into effect that require hospitals to post their prices online in a format that consumers can download. The trouble is, those files are large and difficult for consumers to understand as presented. That emerging consumer need has spawned several new businesses that act as interpreters, helping distill the pricing data into something actionable.
Your market research should also examine your competitors’ offerings to proactively identify gaps and unmet customer needs. Take a hard look at who’s winning in a particular niche and where they might be leaving money on the table. Decide if you can fill that void, delivering a viable product that complements your brand.
A strong brand provides the fortitude needed to defend market share when a new entrant hits the streets or when your own company experiences a misfire. For example, Google Glass comes to mind as one of the more notable misfires in recent history. Because Google had a long-established brand that still delivered useful digital services for consumers and businesses, the Glass failure was hardly a blip on the balance sheet.
That position of brand strength is always a competitive asset. However, it does not guarantee growth. Your brand becomes stronger with intelligent growth that satisfies market needs and reinforces — rather than detracts — from the equity you’ve built.
Growing in the B2B healthcare market often includes introducing new lines of business. As you design a thoughtful go-to-market strategy for a product or service launch, always begin with data to prove there truly is a market opportunity for your new offering. How big is the addressable market? Can you generate sufficient demand with integrated marketing? How much are ideal customers willing to pay for your offering, and can you achieve a margin that makes introducing the product worthwhile?
Also consider how you will address barriers to growth, such as workforce shortages, upskilling of current personnel, and new technology capabilities. Be sure your go-to-market strategy includes a comprehensive plan for how you’ll operationalize, sell, and promote the new line of business.
Expand your brand experience
Sure, you’ve got amazing sales teams and outstanding customer service, but what else can you do to enhance the experience your brand offers? A 2019 study found that 86 percent of marketing leaders have immediate plans to compete specifically by offering a superior experience.
Thanks to today’s digital platforms, it’s easier than ever to enrich your engagements with infographics, videos, podcasts, webinars, and virtual events. These informative content items can help shorten the sales cycle, especially when you introduce a new product or service. By educating your prospects and customers through digital channels, you also reduce your customer acquisition cost. Most B2B healthcare products and services are somewhat complicated to explain compared to consumer products, so visual tools can go a long way in showing customers your value rather than just talking about it.
Be sure anything you produce, on digital channels or otherwise, stays on-brand, maintaining your brand’s unique voice and echoing its established promise. Your goal is to educate your prospects in a way that brings them along on a journey toward a sale.
Refresh your brand as your business evolves
There are many reasons to consider a rebranding exercise. Do you find yourself correcting industry colleagues when they mispronounce your brand name? Has your business evolved to the point that your existing brand no longer represents your company’s values? Does your brand have a dated feel that makes it seem like a throwback?
Your motivation to rebrand should always be weighed carefully against the legacy of equity you’ve built in your current brand. Rebranding is a major change to your business no matter how you approach it, so always be certain your rebranding project is validated in a comprehensive go-to-market strategy that includes research and customer insight. Be clear about the why behind your rebranding decision.
Here’s a great example. In 2019, Dunkin’ Donuts rebranded its entire organization, dropping the word “donuts” in order to refresh the brand in tandem with its new overall vision for the business. Other changes included a new store design, upscale drink offerings, and digital ordering technology.
The rebrand wasn’t specifically meant to de-emphasize donuts — chocolate sprinkles remain plentiful — rather, it was part of a comprehensive plan to inject the idea of convenience, an up-to-date menu, and a modern customer experience. Dunkin’ was successful because leaders had a clear reason to rebrand, and they made the name change part of a bigger business evolution to increase relevance for its target market.
When launching a rebrand, remember that inconsistent messaging and behavior will only cause confusion for your prospects and customers. Be prepared with a step-by-step rollout process that includes multichannel communications to your internal teams, board members, current customers, the media, and other relevant audiences. Emphasize your why and look to create meaningful connections that resonate with the full spectrum of your stakeholders.
Bogged down by branding? Let our Canton & Company marketing experts craft a comprehensive plan to effectively launch your new brand or enhance your current brand, complete with strategy, tactics, and execution. We’ve got this. Start a conversation today!
The future cannot be a return to the previous status quo. Discover how healthcare will rise out of the pandemic.