Who Are You? Branding and Marketing Your Practice
As you launch your new dental career, the world is full of opportunities. Perhaps you’re buying your own practice, or maybe you’re starting as an associate or in a corporate practice. Regardless of your new position, you are beginning to invent something: yourself, as a dentist. In essence, you are starting to build your “brand.” Who are you? What kind of care do you want your patients to know you for? How does that set you apart from your colleagues or competition?
Creating Your Brand
It’s been said that everything is branding. That’s because a brand encompasses much more than a logo, color scheme or slogan—it’s a reputation. When you think of a major corporate brand, you likely associate an instinctive emotion or quality with it, such as success, reliability, attractiveness, or trustworthiness. That’s the power of branding, and multimillion corporations spend a lot of money to achieve it.
If you are a practice owner, you too will need to actively promote your brand to help keep patient numbers high enough to offset the drain on profits imposed by insurance. But even if you’re not yet ready for a logo, you are already creating your brand with your patient interactions every day, and the feelings your patients have about you.
So what is your brand? Are you the dentist who soothes anxious patients? Who likes to work with the latest technology? Who loves to work with children? Who prides themselves on perfect esthetics? Whatever it is, your brand makes you more than “just” a dentist to your patients, and you can take it with you wherever you go.
Marketing: Show, Tell…and Do
The line between branding and marketing is blurry, but if branding is the reputation or mission you want to have, marketing is the way you tell the world about it. The most obvious, visible aspect of marketing is sometimes called your “brand identity.” This includes your practice logo and website design, even the color scheme of your waiting room. You want your visible identity not only to be compatible with your brand, but to look professional and consistent across all the patient-facing aspects of your practice. Be aware that while your brand may stay the same, the way you display it will need periodic updating to attract new patients. Think of the last dated-looking website you visited. Did you do any business there?
In the same way that behavior is branding, a lot of it is also unspoken marketing. For example, if you promote your practice’s warm and friendly atmosphere, it’s essential that everyone on the team be just as committed to engaging with people as you are. Otherwise, no matter how good your outside messaging is at bringing in new patients, your internal reality will make them hard to retain.
Finding Your Market
The most profitable marketing in terms of ROI is aimed specifically at the patients you want to reach—the ones your brand is built for. While traditional advertising (e.g., direct mail) is still in use, it’s generally the most expensive and least effective method of marketing. Now that most people use the internet as their go-to resource for finding new providers of all kinds of services, more money is spent on digital advertising than on traditional. Maintaining a strong and well-defined digital presence—at minimum, your practice website, Google ranking, and social media accounts—is therefore essential.
Spreading Your Message
Your website is likely to form potential patients’ first impression of your practice, so it is worth spending time (and money) to make sure it communicates your brand clearly and meaningfully. It’s one thing to tell people you’re great—but everyone says that. What people really want to know is exactly what makes you great. One excellent way of describing your success is to collect and post reviews from satisfied patients. According to one source, 70% of consumers trust testimonials, even those from complete strangers.
Just as important as having a useful website is making sure that it gets used. Google rankings are boosted by the number of visits your website receives vs those of other practices in your area, so high-quality site content and search engine marketing are important for driving traffic to you and keeping you at the top of search results. Another highly recommended step is to fill out your Google My Business listing with current, accurate information, including a link to your website. This helps people know instantly whether you are local to them and worth a look.
Meanwhile, your practice’s social media accounts allow you to showcase the personal side of your brand. Each major channel—Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram—has its own user demographic, which can help you determine where your posts will be most effective, depending on your desired audience. Engaging, shareable posts can help patients feel a stronger relationship to you and (hopefully) promote the practice to their friends and followers.
Making It All Work
With so much riding on its success, marketing cannot afford to be a haphazard endeavor. You’ll need a strategy that includes tracking your ROI and adjusting anything that isn’t paying off the way you want it to. And remember that to have a return on your investment, you need to invest adequately in effective marketing options in the first place. Underbudgeting marketing is a common business error in dental practices.
Seeking help from professional marketing services, such as those offered by Henry Schein One, to build a successful marketing strategy can be of enormous benefit. The ADA also offers advice on a wide range of marketing aspects on their website as a place to start. Remember, you’re not just practicing dentistry; you’re practicing your own brand of dentistry. Make sure you stand out from the crowd!