Dental Practice Branding: Helping Patients Get to Know You
Discover the how and why of branding a dental practice
Branding—it’s a marketing buzzword, but how well does the average dentist really understand it? After all, branding is just for large corporations, right?
Branding is actually an essential element of any dentist’s plan for practice growth, whether the practice has been around for 1 year or 20 years. A dentist’s brand is an identifying force within the local community. It connects patients with the practice, sharing what that dentist has to offer and why one office is different from the rest.
Many dentists still believe that branding is only for large conglomerates or for corporate dental chains, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Employing a branding strategy is even more important for small businesses like solo dental practices that may not have the budgets to compete with their corporate counterparts in order to gain widespread recognition throughout the community.
Branding vs. Marketing – What’s the Difference?
While these two terms are often used interchangeably, there is an important distinction. Marketing can be thought of as a set of individual tactics—a website, a blog, an advertisement—specific activities that are designed to get patients through the door. Branding is different. Branding is your identity, your message, and the emotional connection that patients have with the doctor. If marketing is the “how” to get patients into the practice, then brand identity is the “why” patients choose one dentist over another in the first place.
Branding is the foundation from which marketing tactics are implemented. Much is written about the various marketing tactics available to dentists today, but if there isn’t a solid branding strategy in place as a foundation, no amount of marketing will produce an effective return on investment. Here are 3 important steps dentists should take to create a solid brand for any dental practice:
Step 1: Identify Your USP
The unique selling proposition, or USP, is the message that’s communicated to patients about what sets you apart. This is the core of a dentist’s brand, and can be thought of as the overarching theme that sums up what makes the practice different. What does the dentist have to offer that patients won’t find at the competition? One doctor may want to be known for a family friendly atmosphere with a personal touch, whereas another may want to convey the impression of a modern office with state-of-the-art technology. Regardless, patients want to know what to expect from the dentist, and that’s what the USP should address.
When trying to come up with your practice’s USP, a good place to start is the office mission statement. Think about the words and phrases within the mission statement that resonate most in terms of what type of care is provided, who the office serves, and the meaningful impact that the doctor promises to deliver. Another idea for dentists when brainstorming the USP is to ask how they want their patients to describe them in particular or the practice in general. Whatever message is chosen, keep in mind that the USP is the core of the branding strategy, thus it’s a very critical first step to building the brand.
Step 2: Develop the Logo
Once the message has been established, the next step is to develop the practice’s logo. Think of the logo as a visual representation of the USP. For example, a practice that prides itself on being a cutting-edge dental facility with the latest and greatest technology but uses a logo designed 10 years ago will not portray the image necessary to attract the kinds of patients desired.
Should the logo communicate a serious mindset based on the dentist’s gravitas and clinical ability, or a fun and accessible tone? Is the office more high end or more down home? The dentist’s individual tastes can be represented as well. Does he like a more image-heavy design or a copy-heavy one? Does she want to use lighter colors or darker colors?
There are several key elements that go into the design process of a new logo:
- Color can imply emotions, set moods, and influence how people perceive a brand.
- Font is the style of text within the logo.
- The icon is the image that will identify the practice. Think of it as a representation of the values and goals of the practice or a symbol that represents the dentist or practice location.
- Orientation is the layout of the logo design, such as whether the icon appears to the left or above the practice name.
These four aspects of the logo work together to identify the practice and reinforce the brand. Hiring a professional, experienced graphic designer is a must in order to best visually represent the brand in a professional manner.
Step 3: Put it to Work
When the logo is finalized, it’s time to put it into action. Branding cannot be effective if it’s not executed consistently. The new logo should appear on all printed materials, on the website and all online profiles, in any internal/external signage, and on all email communication. A new logo may not generate new business for the practice right away, but it will immediately begin to communicate the values and goals of a practice to both prospective patients and patients of record.
Support Your Brand
Finally, a brand is nothing if it’s not authentic. In the end, a fancy logo or a large marketing budget may get patients in the door, but this isn’t what keeps patients coming back. When building a branding strategy, dentists should remember to stay true to who they are and what they and their team stand for as oral health care providers.
About the author
Naomi Cooper is president and founder of Minoa Marketing and Chief Marketing Consultant for Pride Institute. She is a respected dental marketing strategist, consultant, author, speaker, and industry opinion leader. Naomi holds a BA in political science from UCLA and a Certificate in Business Management. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and she blogs regularly at www.minoamarketing.com. For regular updates from Naomi, including dental marketing/social media tips and tricks, follow her on Twitter (@naomi_cooper) or “Like” Naomi Cooper – Minoa Marketing on Facebook at www.fb.com/minoamarketing.