Both continuing professional education and health care providers should look to the future. To succeed in the 21st century you must appreciate that the traditional model of conducting business is shifting, and you must shift with it. Organizations are transforming themselves from today's seller-driven business model to one that is both consumer-centric and buyer-driven.
The evolving dynamics of both health care and continuing professional education suggest an ever-increasing movement toward the retailing of both industries. Regretfully, we know that in retailing, the three most important considerations are: location, location, and location. For primary and secondary health care this shift is already taking place. For adult learning programs we may add issues of timing to the mix. Therefore, as a first step toward creating "brand demanders" -- consumers willing to travel longer, wait longer, and pay more for your program, product, or service -- you must create awareness, awareness, awareness. Such brand awareness can help counteract considerations of convenience and price.
First You Make Them Aware As was noted in my September/October 1999 column, brand awareness is an essential ingredient in the consideration set of potential purchases. Brand awareness is particularly important in markets where consumers make top-of-mind buying decisions. In such markets, consumers often make decisions based on the image of the brand that comes to mind automatically.
Even when there are no specific brand associations, brand awareness can affect the decision-making process. When consumers do not know anything--or don't care that much--about a product or service category, they are most likely to pick the brand that is top of mind. Even a minimum level of brand awareness may determine their choice of product.
Top-of-mind decision-making is less likely in markets where consumers take their time to analyze and weigh the benefits of their purchase. Even so, in many situations, awareness alone will result in your "gaining trial," otherwise known as getting the opportunity to sell your product to the consumer, who gives it a try. Once "gaining trial" occurs, a consumer is more likely to repeat a purchase if he or she was satisfied with it.
Power brands often gain trial or "share of wallet" simply because the marketplace is aware of their existence. That is, they enjoy "mind share." Awareness will not have the desired effect ("stickiness" in the consumer's memory) if the brand message is not relevant or compelling.
Then You Make Them Care You accomplish strategic awareness by having a singular message that is repeated and that resonates with the target audience.While you may never achieve the brand dominance of Kleenex or Xerox, when people say your name you want them to remember the image you have built.
I frequently ask internal and external stakeholders why people select them as providers. If your organization is like most, you will get about as many answers as there are respondents. This is not the case with power brands, nor will it be the case for your organization if you invest in branding. FedEx employees, as well as consumers, understand why people use the service. Branding allows organizations to develop the same clarity of purpose and value proposition by using strategic awareness to share your message with the market. Creating strategic awareness for your organization starts with the answer to the question: "What's your message?"