Is your business success impacted by what clients think of you? If the answer is “yes” then taking the time to assess and tidy up your personal brand is time well spent.
When you are providing hands on services as a health professional then what your clients think of you and your business become entwined. They don’t make the distinction between the person and the business owner. Nor should they be expected to. After all, they are trusting you with their health and likely that of their family as well.
Listen to a friend referring a naturopath, dentist or veterinarian. Chances are the referral is going to be a mix of professional and personal comments such as, “She is an excellent vet, great with the dogs and never recommends tests that aren’t needed. She is very professional, polite and caring.” What follows may be comments about the cleanliness of the office and the friendliness of the staff etc… What remains consistent, however, is that you, the service provider, remain the central figure in the referral process.
Since you know you have the starring role in the business, the key becomes taking control of your personal brand to make a positive and lasting first impression.
[Tweet “Take control of your personal brand to make a positive impression”]
Personal branding did not arise out of a need to determine how best to present yourself at a dinner party but rather how to best present yourself online. Online is where your target audience is going to meet you for the first time so you want a polished personal brand that accurately reflects the high quality of service you provide.
You never want to give a client a reason to hesitate referring you. A referral of, “He is an excellent nutritionist that has really helped me managing my allergies but he is kind of moody and curt with his staff” is not going to get new clients through the door. Unless you are performing medical miracles, don’t count on your expertise alone to be your personal brand.
5 Tips From Your Colleagues
Within a series of ongoing interviews with professionals that work within Canadian community health centres, one of the questions we asked was: “In addition to direct recommendations, what information do you search for prior to recommending a health service provider to a client?”
I have summarized below the top 5 overlapping sources these professionals checked before reaching out to book an appointment with health professionals like you.
Take a few minutes today to read through the course of action your colleagues are taking as they evaluate you. Then take a step back and analyze your online presence and see if there is some polishing you could be doing to your personal brand that would help you connect even more with your target audience.
Your “About Us” section on the website or your biography is an opportunity to share not only your educational background and training but also why you are passionate about your industry. Share what you love about working with your clients and why you are committed to their wellbeing. Make sure there are pictures of you that are natural and engaging not just you sitting stiffly in a suit or lab coat.
Better still, have a video on your homepage introducing yourself and the services you provide. Videos create a stronger connection and give your target audience, full of potential clients, the opportunity to spend a few minutes getting to know you a bit better. Clients aren’t looking for a superhero they want to get to know the person behind the expertise.
[Tweet “Clients want to get to know the person behind the expertise”]
Websites are generally good at showcasing services but remember that your competitors also provide the same services. You need to use your personal brand to help define what makes you and your business unique. If you aren’t sure if your content is effective or engaging, check your analytics and see if you are making a connection with your target audience.
#2 Check Your Blog Content
The results from my interviews confirm that once people are on your site they use your blog to find out a bit more about you and your approach. Each person I spoke with noted that, if there is a blog, they will read through it before reaching out for an appointment.
Keep that in mind when you are creating and posting content. Text riddled with typos, fuzzy images or blogs that look like platforms from a decade ago are making you and your business look sloppy and outdated. If you have a blog try to keep the content current. It needn’t be all original content, you can share relevant content that has value to your target audience. Just be mindful that the type of content you create and share is assumed to reflect your personal opinions.
#3 Read Your Online Reviews
Make sure you are on top of what is being said about you online. Consider making it a weekly practice to Google your name and business name to catch any reviews or comments being posted. If you are in an industry where clients will post online reviews then daily management may be required.
Two great tools for helping you stay on top of your online reputation management are Google Alerts and Hootsuite. Google Alerts will come directly to your inbox for your review and allow you to respond quickly. Hootsuite is one of our favourites and allows you to create listening streams on Twitter with keywords you select. There are numerous other reputation management tools available and that come highly recommended.
If you are going to respond to online criticism remember to be respectful and professional. Respond genuinely online, acknowledge their concern and then take the conversation offline to address their specific concern. Getting into an online battle of wills is not good for business and may lead to you responding in a way that damages your personal brand with your target audience.
Several of the health providers I interviewed felt that Facebook comments left unattended suggested a lack of client focus. Accordingly, they were reluctant to make any referrals. The devil is in the details so, once you launch an online presence, it is important to set time aside to respond and engage with your target audience every day.
#4 Create an Optimized LinkedIn Profile
Is your LinkedIn profile partially done, or even worse, non-existent? Perhaps you feel that LinkedIn is just a platform for recruiters and not important for health professionals. That may have been true 5 years ago but lots has changed on LinkedIn in the last few years and it is important not to be left behind.
Health professionals across all industries are creating amazing profiles, sharing great content and participating in active industry discussions every week. Not only in an attempt to reach out to potential clients but also to connect with other groups that make up their broader audience. Groups such as strategic partners, the media or even investors.
There are countless blogs and articles on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile but there are some things which are an absolute must:
✔ a professional headshot photo
✔ a headline that highlights your expertise and
✔ a summary written in the first person that provides a clear definition of what you do and why it works
Keep in mind that when a potential client enters your name into Google, one of the first things to show up on that first page is your LinkedIn profile either just above or just below your website. If your profile is only partially complete make this a priority item or remove the profile altogether. The half-done job is a poor reflection on your personal brand.
#5 Use Twitter Professionally
If your Twitter profile is attached to your website and used for business then keep it clean. Several of the people I interviewed for this post told me that after looking over a service providers Twitter feed they decided against recommending them to clients. The number one reason was the use of inappropriate language with respect to client and competitors.
Even if you think a profanity filled joke is hilarious, before you hit retweet, remember the account is linked to you as a professional, your personal brand. Your target audience will see what you share and judge you without the benefit of the doubt. A good rule of thumb is the Grandma test. If you would be comfortable for your Nan to see what you are tweeting then it is probably fine. Alternatively, you may want to consider having two Twitter accounts.
If you aren’t handling your own social media directly then creating a social media policy for your team is a good idea. Make it clear the types of content you want to create and share so you can continually focus on engaging with your target audience and building your personal brand.
One thing all the professionals interviewed agreed upon, BE YOURSELF.
If you are a little quirky and love 50’s retro style that is fine. Are you a sports fan and love to integrate sports analogies into your content – go for it! The most important part of building a personal brand is to be yourself. You need to let your authentic self be part of your personal brand.
[Tweet “The most important part of building a personal brand is to be yourself”]
Professional does not equal dry and uninteresting. Allowing your target audience a chance to see you as a person and a service provider is a much more effective route to engaging them and keeping the referrals flowing.
Jennifer Arnold, Founder at InnovaMap, Ph.D. in Neuroscience
InnovaMap is an Ottawa based content marketing firm, specializing in the health industry. Creating strategic content marketing strategies and online sharing that connects you to your target audience.
Looking for ways to connect with your clients and potential clients? Contact us to learn more on our strategic and scientific approach to content marketing and social media – The Science of Content Marketing.