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    Employees are a practice’s best brand ambassador

    Successful practice marketing is largely an inside job, say experts during a mini-MBA session at the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery annual meeting. That's because effective marketing demands tightening your connections not only with existing patients but also, and perhaps more importantly, with your employees.

    Cultivating practice culture

    Kathleen M. Welsh, M.D.The way employees embody your brand within your office is the most efficient form of internal marketing, says dermatologist Kathleen M. Welsh, M.D., founder of Bay Area Cosmetic Dermatology in San Francisco. "Every time we see a patient, the patient is affected by our front desk staff, our receptionist and our medical assistants." For branding to be effective, she says, these staff members must live and breathe the brand.

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    Sarah C. Jackson, M.D., added that, once staff members understand what the practice is trying to achieve, "They become part of the brand, and that creates brand consistency." She is a dermatologist in private practice at Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans.

    Overall, Dr. Jackson says, "The practice brand is what patients experience during their visit in your office. It's not just a practice logo or fancy website. It's what the customer will remember and tell their friends and family."

    Sarah C. Jackson, M.D.Dr. Welsh says, "We are living in an experience economy. People are looking for things to talk about" in person and online. To create great stories, "We want the customer service in our office to be remarkable. Or if a patient has an unpleasant experience—for example, a bruise in the office—we want to offer camouflage makeup, topical treatments or a laser treatment" to banish the bruise ASAP.

    "In the past," says Dr. Welsh, "we would strive to provide Nordstrom's-level service. But we need to do better than that."

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    In medicine and elsewhere, Dr. Jackson says, "When you hire a new employee, they may think of it as a job; they don't necessarily think of being part of your brand. If you walked into a Ritz-Carlton, you'd expect the same thing every time—consistent delivery of exemplary service. We're trying to impress upon our staff that Audubon Dermatology in itself is a brand. It may be different from their previous job in healthcare or other specialties. It should be more upscale; our goal is to provide a consistent, superior patient-care experience to each patient, every visit."

    At Audubon Dermatology, says Dr. Jackson, "Our brand is Confidence in Our Care—patients have confidence that they're receiving the highest quality care, and our staff has confidence that we are providing the highest quality care."

    NEXT: Communicate the vision

    John Jesitus
    John Jesitus is a medical writer based in Westminster, CO.

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