Paul A. Henny DDS
Would you like your practice to be quickly recognized and perceived as high in trust and quality as well? The same branding process used to elevate The Ritz-Carlton and Mercedes Benz can be used to elevate a dental practice in the eyes of the public– albeit on a much smaller scale. Here are four more concepts to consider to Brand and Position your dental practice.
First in typically wins most. The most ideal marketing situation is one where you are the first to professionally promote a product or service within your community. Being first creates a much clearer connection between the mindset of the consumer and their understanding of what you can do for them. Your goal is to cause your target group to think about you first when they think about fine dentistry. Being first in a market to properly promote fine dental services goes a long way toward achieving this goal. An analogy that explains this well is what I call the “fishbowl analogy”. Consider the mindset of your target group to be a fishbowl full of clear water. Then think of your practice promotion efforts as individual drops of blue food coloring strategically added to that water. If you are the first to properly promote a fine esthetic restorative practice in your community, you can rather quickly change the color of the water to your shade of blue.
If not first, then shoot to become one of the top three. If it is too late to be the first practice to effectively promote to your target group, your practice brand can still become successful if your strategies cause your brand to be one of the first three practices that people think of. There’s an old cliché among brand managers in Fortune 500 corporations that addresses this point, “If your brand isn’t one of the top three that first come to mind … then it’s not that you were rejected … it’s just that you were never even considered in the first place.”
Too many excellent dentists today become victims of their own self doubt regarding the possibilities for their practices. This is often due to a lukewarm reception from patients to their initial recommendation for comprehensive care. Because of this, many dentists start to believe that “folks in my town just aren’t interested in this level of care,” when in fact, the real problem is that dentists are trying to promote optimal care to people who are simply not ready for it. Their practice brand has not differentiated itself enough in the mind of the general public to attract people to their practice who ARE ready and interested in these types of services.
Two measures of your Brand effectiveness. Brand researchers tell us that the effectiveness of the branding process can be evaluated by measuring what are known as esteem and knowledge. Esteem refers to how well a brand image is regarded within a particular market. (Are you considered by the lay public to be one of the best dentists in town?). Knowledge refers to how accurately consumers understand what the business does (Does the general public understand that your capabilities are well beyond those of a run-of-the-mill family practitioner?). A high-esteem, low-knowledge profile may be a sign of a brand on the rise, or an inability of a personally well-regarded dentist to differentiate his/her practice from the pack. (“I liked them a lot, but they do not accept my new insurance … so I left”). A high-knowledge, low-esteem profile, on the other hand, is an indication that the public is familiar with the practice brand but holds it in low regard – In other words, a practice brand that is in desperate need of a full “makeover”.
Persistence counts. Branding campaigns often take several months to begin to bear fruit … and several years to become optimally effective. They are the ongoing process of developing a preferred public image for your practice. Once people start responding favorably to your branding efforts, it is important to note what people are really responding to. What messages are you putting out that really seem to resonate with your target group? From there, adjust your message accordingly and repeat the things which are working well while replacing less effective efforts with fresh new ideas.
It is my hope that this series of articles has increased your understanding how a practice is perceived by others. I also hope that it has helped you to see that you have the ability to positively influence how others perceive your practice through strategic branding initiatives.
A well-branded and properly positioned restorative practice has people regularly calling who are open to a comprehensive exam process and who are interested in comprehensive care. It also has people within it who are becoming more and more interested in comprehensive approaches. The beginning of the new year is a very appropriate time to reflect on where your practice is – and where you would like it to be in the future. Perhaps developing a more clarified public practice brand will help you take better charge of your professional future.