Branding is something we hear a lot about these days in the business world. So, what exactly is branding? And why should you, as a dentist, be concerned about branding? This article will give you an overview on branding and how you can build a positive brand for your dental practice.
What is branding?
According to the American Marketing Association, "a brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers."1 In my mind, the most important part of the definition is the word "distinct." If your brand is not distinct, then you probably don’t have much of a brand.
In many ways, branding is what goes on between the ears of your clients when they think of you. That is, when they think of you, what do they think about? What’s the aura, feeling, or vibe they associate with your practice?
As a non-dental example, take Nike. What does that name conjure up for you? Perhaps you think of sports, shoes, clothing. But maybe it’s more about success, given the megabucks they pay to successful athletes to endorse their products?
The reason branding is worth considering is because it creates better patient attraction and patient retention and even allows you to charge more. Don’t believe me? Consider the following.
Have you ever wondered why we pay such different prices for two products that are essentially the same? For example, why would you pay almost double for a bottle of Coke when you can get a generic-branded (almost identical) product from the supermarket? I mean, both are dark, fizzy, beverages packed with sugar or similar sweetners. Yet, in the minds of consumers, these products can seem miles apart. Companies spend years building their brands to distinguish themselves from their competitors. That branding creates a distinct feeling associated with the product that causes the different buying behavior.
Everything is branding
For your dental practice, you may be surprised to realize that building a brand is not just about having a nice logo or beautiful signage. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Branding is a lot more than that. The reality is:Everything your practice does is branding.
You might be putting on big promotions or creating beautiful flyers, but an unfriendly receptionist or unprofessional phone etiquette can completely destroy your brand. Why? Let’s put yourself in the mind of your patients. Imagine they want to have their teeth checked, but don’t know which practice to go to. They looked up dentists online and found a clinic with a nice, informative website and pictures of friendly-looking staff. It’s not too far from their home, so they call up to make an inquiry.
However, the person answering the phone sounds like she is totally disengaged and uninterested in helping them. Will they trust this practice with their money and their teeth to make an appointment? Probably not.
Similarly, what is the patient experience like, once they come in? What does the practice look like, how does it smell, how friendly is the staff, and how well dressed are they? All of these factors add up to make your brand.
You do not own your brand
While it might surprise you, the reality is you do not actually "own" your brand. As much as you can try to create a good brand for your business, at the end of the day, your brand is in the mind of your clients.
I recently did an exercise with a practice where I got them to close their eyes and imagine how their ideal clients would see their practice.
What really interested me was that after we had completely filled the whiteboard with their feedback, there was only one reference to dentistry. That is, in the eyes of their ideal clients, the team determined there was a whole range of other factors to build their brand that were not related to dentistry at all. These were also the same factors that made the practice unique—a key component of effective branding, as noted above.
How to build your brand
So, how do you create a good brand for your practice? Remember, everything your practice does is branding. To ensure that you build a positive brand in the minds of your clients, you need to provide a positive client experience and pay attention to the details. It is the little things that can trip you.
Airline boss Jan Carlzon from SAS had great success in turning around that business in the 80's by focusing on what he called "moments of truth," or client experiences and interactions. Rather than trying to improve one thing by 100%, they focused on improving 100 moments of truth by 1%.
Here are a few thought-provoking questions that can help you define and improve your branding:
• What does your practice stand for? What are you for and what are you against?
• How do you communicate these values to your clients in a tangible, meaningful way?
• How are you different from other dental businesses? How can you differentiate yourself from others as being unique?
• Who is your ideal client and how can you improve the experience for them? What moments of truth could you improve by 1% (or more)?
• How consistent is your branding? For example, does your website project a nirvana-like dental experience, whereas the reality is something much more basic?
Branding is worth the effort—good branding means you’ll attract and keep more patients, and you can even charge more for your services. However, good branding is not easy to achieve. Everything you do is branding, and technically you don’t even own your own brand—it’s in the mind of your clients.
Fortunately, with a focus on what makes you unique—as long as it’s something your clients value—plus brand consistency across everything you do, you can get the boost you’re looking for.
- Dictionary. American Marketing Association website. https://www.ama.org/resources/pages/dictionary.aspx?dLetter=B. Accessed October 1, 2017.
Angus Pryor is a dental practice growth expert. He holds a master's degree in marketing from the University of Southern Queensland. He is founder and CEO of Dental Profit System, a Sydney-based full-service marketing agency. He can be reached at [email protected] or by visiting dentalprofitsystem.com.
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Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Apex360 e-newsletter. Apex360 is a DentistryIQ partner publication for dental practitioners and members of the dental industry. Its goal is to provide timely dental information and present it in meaningful context, empowering those in the dental space to make better business decisions. Subscribe to the Apex360 e-newsletter here.
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