Your practice is a direct reflection of who you are, what you believe in, and what you can do for others. And the way the public perceives your practice is your practice “brand.”
You create your practice brand, consciously or haphazardly, with everything you do. In marketing circles, it is commonly said that “a “brand is an implied promise”, but successful branding in dentistry is a strategically created expectation in the mind of the target client.
Your patients chose you for a reason, they expected something – and what they expected was a feeling.
Some chose you because they live near your office, but they expected to feel that your location would be a convenient fit into their busy lives. Someone else may have chosen you because you go to their church and they expected to feel that you are principle-centered. Another person may have heard you are gentle, and therefore expected to feel comfort while under your care. And yet others may have chosen you because you are in their insurance network, expecting to feel financially secure if they ever needed dental work.
But how many people have chosen you for the quality of your work, the level of your expertise, or for the value of the relationship you consciously create with each person? In other words, how many people chose you because they expect to feel that they are in the hands of a masterful practitioner who truly cares who they are and what is in THEIR best interest? If you intend to develop a fine relationship-based esthetic restorative practice, AND have those whom you serve truly appreciate what you are doing on their behalf, then you must create a practice brand in the minds of your community which will lead them to expect to feel that way.
When people come to you with a sense of clarity regarding what they want, who you are, and what you can do, the chance of your meeting or exceeding their expectations is high. This because there is a fundamental match between their expectations and your capabilities from the outset.
But when people come to you with expectations outside the scope of your primary purpose or capabilities, then there is a high risk of confusion, disappointment, and in many cases – conflict. Conflict is the seed of discontentment, and when expectations are routinely violated – confusion abounds. When confusion abounds – conflicts multiply. And when conflicts multiply – everyone in the relationship becomes unhappy.
Unhappy people are prone to make poor choices and thus experience more negative feelings. And this is where many patients, practitioners and staff are stuck…in a “doom loop” of negative feelings about each other. Practitioners who are frequently in this negative place rarely succeed at developing their practice to the next level regardless of their clinical prowess.
If you have a high level of skill and strive to provide more sophisticated and complex esthetic and restorative services, it is unlikely that you will do so by simply waiting for it to randomly happen. Practices filled with patients who seek fine, complete restorative services have first created positive value in the minds of their target audience – they have “branded” themselves with a reputation for consistently providing high quality restorative care and people have organically moved toward it.
Practice branding should therefore be a process by which you are carefully managing how your practice is perceived. In essence, you are strategically influencing how others think of your practice by carefully cultivating your reputation. And this is achieved by effectively communicating to others how you can help them, what you believe in, and how you do things.
When practice branding is accomplished in a fashion which is organic and unobtrusive – it causes others to think that they’ve developed their perception of your practice all by themselves. And then once properly created, a practice brand is powerful and compelling. It becomes your “proxy self” by giving certain people specific reasons to choose your practice even when you are not around. And of equal importance, it gives reasons for others NOT to choose your practice – thus avoiding conflicts created by incompatible expectations.
In this way, an effective practice brand becomes a “self-screening tool,” as it allows prospective patients to decide much earlier in a relationship – often times before they even enter into one -whether or not a particular dentist and practice is the best resource to address their perceived needs and desires.
Your practice brand also helps to keep your practice and capabilities top-of-mind, by gently reminding them of your unique value. This in turn, makes you a contender to potentially provide more of the kind of dentistry you want to be doing, and the quality of dentistry that makes you feel good about what you are doing.
And when you and your care team feel good about yourselves, you are much more likely to grow personally and professionally. Thus, a positive practice brand facilitates growth in yourself, your team, and your patients.
And here by saying “patient growth”, I am not referring to a simple measurement of increased volume, but rather to a measurement of the increase in the value new patients place in your ability to help them achieve their health objectives and appearance objectives.
Lastly, the process of practice branding must be authentic and fit with your overall practice development strategy: a principle-centered evolution catalyzed by internal and external activities. Thus, one can’t “fake it to make it.” Practice branding is what Avrom King called an “inside – out” process, and therefore must be an authentic expression of who truly are to be optimally effective.
The final outcome of a well-executed practice branding process is that when prospective patients contacts your office, the same tone, image, philosophy and approach is EXPERIENCED which was EXPECTED.
Consequently, when the person finally arrives, they feel good about themselves and the choices they are making. Hence, Personal Branding is about managing how others feel about themselves when they are in direct or indirect contact with your practice.
How do your patients / clients FEEL about your practice? Is it what you want them to feel and think about you? And if not- why not? And if yes, how can you amplify those feelings so that more like-minded people can find you and your services in the future?
Branding. You are already living with it, why not properly manage it?
Paul A Henny, DDS
Read more at www.codiscovery.com