Effective marketing to consumers and referral sources requires new skills and competencies for many health and human service organizations. This was the message in the 2014 OPEN MINDS Planning & Innovation Institute session, How To Position Your Organization For Growth: The Importance Of Planning To Stay Competitive & Keep Your Consumers Engaged, featuring Jonathan Lee, Chief Executive Officer, Signature Health, Inc., and Kelly Farrell, President, designRoom Creative.
The session explained the difference between positioning and branding. Positioning is the process of creating differentiation (or “position”) of your organization and its services in the mind of customers. Branding is the “identity” – built on the culmination of various images-as-symbols – to convey that positioning in the market place. Essentially, positioning is how your organization exploits its competitive advantage – differentiating you from your competitors in the minds of customers. Branding is how you communicate that difference.
Ms. Farrell described and discussed a four-step process to brand identity – find all connections in your organization and the market you can leverage to build a brand (discover), organize those connections into a coherent plan (develop), apply the right packaging for your new brand (design), and deliver that image to the consumer (deliver).
Mr. Lee described his journey to a new brand – from The North Coast Center to Signature Health. A transition to which he attributes a 20% year-to-year growth in revenue. My takeaways from Mr. Lee’s presentation were many:
- The use and focus of branding in health and human services, as in any industry, is to communicate the essence and differentiators of the organization to customers – resulting in increased revenue.
- Spending on brand development is high initially, and less once a brand is established. (His current spending on marketing is less than 5% of his total budget.)
- Developing brand guidelines is essential to communicate to the entire organization how to use the brand and to ensure brand integrity.
- Mr. Lee describes himself as a “brand ninja” – once established, it is the responsibility of executive leadership to enforce the integrity of the brand and the use of brand guidelines.
In her closing, Ms. Farrell talked about the characteristics of a good brand – good brands are believable, understandable, unique, compelling, attainable, consistent, and timeless. The question for every executive team – is your “brand” and “brand image” helping or hindering your business development?