Here 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:
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.
Consistency 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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