Dec 14 2014

Santa Can Teach Us Advocates Plenty About Good Branding

santaHere come the holidays!  And whether or not Santa plays a role in your own celebration, you have to give it to him – he may be THE most recognizable brand in the world.

It struck me this week that what Santa stands for, and what advocates stand for, are very similar: selflessness and improving others’ lives. So what can independent health advocates learn from Santa Claus about branding ourselves, our work and our practices?


Basic branding is about three things:

1.  Recognition

We all recognize Santa.  Even variations on Santa imposed by others – we still know they are Santa. Old Santas, young Santas, male Santas, female Santas, long-coated or short-coated Santas, even fat Santas and skinny Santas – we KNOW what Santa looks like.

Why?  Because the Santa look is consistent, whether it’s the red coat and pants with the white fur trim, or the wide black belt, or the hat, or the beard, or even the chimney or rooftop that accompanies Santa.

Santa has had hundreds of years to hone his brand, of course. But like the rest of us, he had to start somewhere, too.

You, too, can hone your brand by making sure you and your business are recognized whether it is in-person, in print or online.  Maybe you wear the same color blazer every time you are working (remember those Century 21 gold jackets?)  Or maybe you always wear a name tag that is large and easily readable. Stick a car magnet on your vehicle. Your marketing materials, like your logo, your colors, your type faces, your messages – they should always have the same look and feel.

vehicleConsistency in look is the key to recognition. Like Santa – pick a look to help grow your brand.

2.  Consistent behavior

We KNOW what Santa stands for.  And it’s not just about coming down the chimney and leaving gifts. Santa’s behavior is always positive, he always says and does the same thing (HO HO HO! and down the chimney he goes)  Even when he’s exhausted from an entire day of talking to “gimme” kids and crying children (and their parents, who may even be worse) – he still keeps a smile on his friendly face and yes, he still shows up on Christmas Eve.

Santa is happy, friendly, kind, generous, a hard worker, has a belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly when he laughs, lays his finger to the side of his nose before he retreats up the chimney, and has a reputation for always showing up, consistently, year after year after year.

As independent private advocates, we, too, need to develop that consistent behavior as probably the most important part of our brand. Our clients need to know that they can trust us, that we are readily available, that we will always come through for them, that we can handle any hurdle on their behalf, that we will bring them peace of mind…. (that belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly is optional.)

As you strive for consistency in your practice, keep Santa’s consistent behavior in the back of your mind.

3.  Being memorable (and findable)

From the time you were a very young child, the moment you saw Santa, no matter what time of the year, even if you aren’t Christian, as soon as you saw Santa, you knew exactly who he was and what he represented. Santa is most certainly memorable.

And so it should be for you as a private advocate.  Be sure that every one of your clients remembers you – your name, your behavior, the value you bring, and your readiness and willingness to answer questions or tackle problems. As long as you have managed their expectations accurately and your results have been as billed, you will very likely be remembered with appreciation and respect.

Make sure they also remember how to get in touch with you at a moment’s notice (the nature of health problems is that they rear their ugly heads quickly.)  Provide them with plenty of ways to connect with you – your email address and phone number should be at their finger tips – online, on a business card or brochure on a table at their home or office, or even a pen, tablet or refrigerator magnet.

Further – be easy to find at those “moment’s notice” times. We always know where Santa is – either at the North Pole, or at the mall (!), at Christmas parties or making deliveries in his sleigh.  You should be easy to track down quickly – by phone or email.

Even when you aren’t currently working with a client, stay in touch over time.  Phone on occasion; “Hi Mrs. Clark. Just thought I’d call to see how you’re feeling….”)  Drop a note in the postal mail or send an email. Stay at the top of even past clients’ minds.

Be as memorable – and findable – as Santa.


Yes – it seems that Santa has this branding thing down pat. I challenge you to give thought to your own brand this season each time you see Santa, no matter what interpretation of Santa you may see. Then mimic Santa’s great branding to be sure you and your practice are recognizable, consistent and memorable, too.

I wish you and yours the very Happiest and Safest of Holiday Seasons

…whether Santa plays a direct role or not. :-)

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Share your experience or join the conversation!


Dec 08 2014

The Weakest Link

weakestlinkRemember that TV show from a decade or more ago?  When a contestant failed to answer a quiz question correctly, the host would sternly declare, “YOU ARE the WEAKEST LINK. GOOD-BYE!”  Remaining, of course, were the more knowledgeable contestants, presumably a stronger chain of smarter people who could get the job done.

Oh man, how I wish I had been able to invoke that host’s dismissal powers this past week!  As both my husband and I had to deal with different parts of the healthcare system, we encountered roadblocks – the weakest links – and in each case, we had to go over their heads to get what we needed.  THEY were the weakest links.  The problem is, they are still working there, stymie-ing patients every day.

And over and over again, the words of so many of you echoed in my head, Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 01 2014

And They Called it Puppy L-o-o-ve

firstlove< ….cue Paul Anka or Donny Osmond…. >

….  Remember when you were a teenager in puppy love?  Oh! You couldn’t stand to be away from the new person in your life!  You knew you would love each other forever – but the rest of the world that was getting in the way of that love. THEY thought you were too young, but you knew better! ….

And they called it puppy love
Oh I guess they’ll never know
How a young heart really feels
And why I love her so

It was the highest of highs, finding love for the first time!  Like no other, you couldn’t imagine feeling any better than you felt at that point in your life.

Hormone-driven passion… the dopamine, serotonin, estrogen and testosterone… Giddy with new-found love, you took chances and made stupid decisions….

And, as happens with any risk… sometimes you got caught in compromising positions – sneaking out, passing notes in class, or even the ultimate in getting caught when you thought no one else would be home….

At the extreme you might have even paid an “ultimate” type of price. Your reputation, a teen pregnancy, a total rethinking and reshaping of your future….

Of course, what we all know about puppy love is that it doesn’t last. The reality of puppy love is that you eventually have to deal with the real world (like parents and money!) no matter how distasteful that might seem and no matter how much it appears, at the time, to shatter your dreams. Few puppy love relationships last longer than a blip on the radar of a lifetime. Yet, we learn so much from the experience.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 24 2014

Gallimaufry: Your Questions, Some Answers, Media and Just Stuff


gallimaufryLast summer I came upon this great word – a word I had never heard before, but which can be used in so many aspects of conversation and life!  The word is “gallimaufry.”  It means a hodgepodge, a jumble, or confused medley of things – items, ideas, anything at all.

It’s a great word for an advocacy entrepreneur!  It describes the many ideas that come together to define challenges and create solutions, or the many activities it takes to achieve success, or even the creative approaches it takes to help our clients, or help each other.  I’ve even adopted the word for one section of my private blog.

And – it describes today’s post, which is a gallimaufry of information for you, inspired by a number of things:  current APHA activities, last week’s survey which asks you to help us determine topics and locations for our 2015 APHA advocacy business workshops, the time of year, current events – yes, a real hodgepodge, jumble or confused medley.  (Why not?)

So here you go – today’s gallimaufry:

Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 17 2014

Common Courtesy and Who Owes What?

Hysterical brunette talking with two telephone receiversIt was a desperate plea from a young women (we’ll call her Bethany) with a real problem:

Bethany had been through several years of infusion treatment for services rendered outside of her network, beginning while she was still a teenager. Her insurance company covered the service (because it wasn’t available at all within her network). So insurance had paid Bethany’s mother for each claim, and then her mother paid the infusion provider. The problem was that, over the years, the mother had paid less than the total amount due – and then she passed away.  The infusion company got in touch with Bethany and insisted on a lump sum payment for the balance of well over $100,000, payable within five days or they would take her to court.

Desperate (Who wouldn’t be? Could you come up with an unexpected $100,000+ within five days?) Bethany began trying to find help. She found a few advocates online and phoned them.  One advocate recommended Bethany get in touch with me. Of course, I don’t do advocacy work myself, so the only recommendation I could make was that Bethany connect with additional advocates through the AdvoConnection Directory….  I didn’t hear anything more until…..

A few days later, I heard from one of our members who Bethany ultimately contacted – the one who took Bethany’s case, negotiated it and got it straightened out for her. But the advocate was stunned and frustrated by something Bethany told her, so she forwarded that frustration on to me.

That is….

Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 03 2014

The Best 3 Minutes and 16 Seconds You’ll Spend Today, This Week, Month or Year

mikiagrawalOne of our APHA members* forwarded this video link to me, interested in the idea posed about starting one’s practice before it is perfect.

So I watched it…  And watching it was perhaps the best 3 minutes and 16 seconds I have spent on business motivation in a very long time. So I ask you, too, to spend your next few minutes viewing it – then come back here for a few comments….

Standing Out in a Noisy World

<tap> <tap> <tap> <waiting for everyone to come back to this post….> <tap> <tap> <tap>

OK – so in those few minutes I heard a very young and clearly experienced and knowledgeable Miki Agrawal** sum up the mental approaches and attitudes it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.  (I am truly impressed!)

Her suggestions, and her approach, are spot on for those who think they want to start and grow a patient advocacy business! I’ll provide some highlights here because they are so valuable.

Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 27 2014

The Best Way to Find New Clients

womanbooks… Isn’t by osmosis.

An email arrived this week – one that is representative of dozens, maybe hundreds of others just like it I’ve received in the past few years.  It asks “why can’t I find any clients?”  It represents others that have asked that same question, or similar, like “how can I market my business? or “how can I get my first client?” or “what am I doing wrong?”

I receive these frustration emails 2, 3, 9, 10 times a month.  Frustrated not-quite-advocates who want to start and grow a health advocacy practice…

Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 20 2014

Monetizing, Scaling – Making Smart Choices Affects Your Advocacy Practice and Income


An email this week comes from one of our APHA members, who I will call Bernice, who reminds me of how easy it is to lose sight of what is important to us when it comes to building our advocacy practices.

Bernice is in the process of entering a business plan competition which, if she wins, will provide her with a $10,000 grant to help her grow her practice.

Her concern is, that in order to win the money, she is going to have to write a business plan that’s about “going big.”  From her email to me:

“We have retired execs who are mentors, and they
just don’t see how I’m going to go “big” with this business.”

So she wanted to know if I have suggestions for how to build that in.

“So, as I push forward to make this a “winning” business plan entry, what do you see as the most viable way to monetize our businesses to take it up several notches?”

A few important points for all of us to consider:

Bernice is asking about two aspects of growing a business:  monetizing and scaling. Monetizing simply means finding more ways to maximize the income from the work she is doing. Scaling refers to the growth of a business – more products or services, more employees, more customers and of course, bigger income to support all of that (and hopefully more profitability too.)

To which I say… whoa!  Wait a minute!  Who says any of that is important?

Now, at first I expect you’re reading those words and laughing. Of course they are important! (you’re thinking.)  Who doesn’t want their business to make more money and to grow bigger?

To which I will respond…  Making more money? Of course.  But growing bigger?  Maybe you DO and maybe you DON’T.

Read the rest of this entry »

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