A Coca-Cola executive was famously quoted as saying, “If Coca-Cola were to lose all of its production-related assets in a disaster, the company would survive. By contrast, if all consumers were to have a sudden lapse of memory and forget everything related to Coca-Cola, the company would go out of business.”

Mind Over Matter
How would your practice fare in a similar situation? Which would hurt your business more—a physical disaster of your equipment and inventory or wiping out your patients’ and community’s perception of your brand? How strong is your brand and your brand awareness? Do people really emotionally connect with who you are and what you do? 

If you think loss of your physical assets would be more devastating than mass memory loss, you’ve got work to do—a lot. While it’s certainly not easy to physically rebuild a practice, in the final analysis, as the saying goes, it really is “just stuff.”

Your brand, on other hand, is so much more. It’s who you are or, more importantly, what patients believe and expect you to be. If that is destroyed, no frame displays, new contact lenses or ultramodern piece of technology can replace it.

It takes work to continually support and protect your brand. This isn’t about reputation management. A strong brand can manage that for you. If you get a bum new iPhone, you expect it to be replaced with no hassle. If it isn’t, and you write a bad review about it, Apple’s existing strong brand will negate your review. You’ll be seen as a whiner, complainer and outlier. Brand management goes beyond getting good Yelp reviews. 

Make Your Practice Match Your Brand
To protect and build your brand, you must clearly articulate what it is—a difficult task that often requires professional help. 

To start, first think in terms of what you want patients to feel after doing business with you. Or, what do you want a current patient to relay to others about their experience with your practice? Consider these examples of patient reactions: “There were eight other patients in the office. I counted. Yet, I received undivided attention. I genuinely felt like they cared about me.” Alternatively, it could be, “I felt like they were more concerned about making sure the boxes on the insurance form were all filled out than they did about my eyes.” Or, “They just cared about selling me glasses—the ones they wanted to sell me, not ones that I wanted.” These scenarios can help initiate the evolution of your brand.

Stay True to Your Brand
Take some of the positive attributes above and start to build your brand around them. For example: if undivided attention is a key part of your brand message, challenge your staff with the question, “How will you handle a situation where you’re on the phone with one patient, two others are on hold, one patient is waiting at the front desk to pay his bill and a new patient walks in 20 minutes early for her appointment? How can all of those patients experience undivided attention?”

Such situations might lead to responses like, “We have to ensure we have enough staff so that never happens.” If it turns out that really is the best solution, and you are going to be true to your brand, then you must hire more staff. After all, you are either about providing undivided attention—to every patient every time—or you’re not. Create a sincere brand and practice loyalty to it; and, if you have a minor disaster—your topographer keeps shutting off between imaging the right and left eye, for instance— your patients will be forgiving.