Understanding your brand
In these ever-increasing tough economic times, it is becoming apparent that to keep ahead in business (including dentistry), there is limited room for error. We all need to do more, with less. Competition is fierce and consumers (including patients) are no longer passive in the buying process. It’s not so easy to just ‘sell’ any more; instead you need to connect with and engage your target audience, ensuring that you are the one to meet their needs and wants and provide them value, and not your competitor.
So, as a dentist, how do you engage with your patients and ensure that they choose you as their dental practice of choice? This article, by Zoe Davitt of Blue Horizons Marketing, looks at how you can develop your brand offering to strengthen your message, build trust and establish long-standing relationships with your patients.
What a brand is
Your brand isn’t just your logo. Your brand is everything you say, everything you do, everything you stand for and how you make others feel.
Think of a brand as a source of promise. A good example that everyone can relate to is Apple. Their brand promise is a customer-focused experience. Everything that Apple do is centred on delivering what people want: beautiful products with easy, intuitive operation. Their brand isn’t about computers or mobile phones; it’s about the experience and feeling of using Apple products.
It is so important to remember that most patients will be unable to judge the quality of your dentistry. Instead, they will be making judgements on their perceptions of the quality of your dentistry by all the touch-points that affect them – the way your receptionist speaks to them on the phone, the tone of the letter that you send out to them, the impression they get from your website, the decor in the waiting room and so on and so forth.
Your brand strategy
Where are you now and where do you want to be? Your brand strategy must be in line with the strategic goals of your practice. To keep at the top of your game, everything needs to work in harmony and towards the common purpose of fulfilling your target audience’s wants and needs.
It may help you to clarify your strategy as follows:
Mission – the ultimate long-term goal and constant purpose
Vision – how you see the future development of the business
Value proposition – why your target audience should choose you over the competition
Your brand essence
You need to put your patients at the heart of everything that you do. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense because, without any patients, you wouldn’t have a business! It’s more about seeing where your skills and offerings can fit in with what your patients need and want.
- Arrive at the ‘one thing’ that differentiates your practice from the competition. This is the core of your promise to your target market and needs to be single minded
- Create the ultimate, branded ‘patient journey’ ensuring that your brand touches them at every opportunity
- Increase the awareness and the perceived value of your offerings through integrated and consistent marketing communications
- Motivate and inspire your team to be ‘on brand’ in all that they say and do.
A simple questionnaire given to your target audience, such as the example below, will elicit the information you require:
Define your promise
Your brand should have a personality of its own with associated character traits. If you want your patients to engage with your practice and become loyal, long-term advocates then you need to work hard to ensure that your brand makes (and continues to make) an emotional connection. You want your brand to help attract new patients and also encourage loyalty and trust with your existing patients.
It all comes back to having a clear, defined brand promise. Think along the lines of ‘helping to create confident, healthy smiles’ – something that fulfils those higher level needs and makes your patients feel connected with you. Rather than focusing purely on treatments that you offer patients - check-ups, cleaning, orthodontics, and implants - focus on oral health, pain relief, and improved function. Offer your patients confidence, wellbeing and peace of mind; things that mean something to them.
Making your brand a success
Once you have your promise defined, you must then focus your entire brand on delivering that promise, using every touch point possible.
Be clear and credible with your message and, most importantly, be consistent. There needs to be a consistent look, feel and sound to all your communications including stationery, forms, website, brochures, social media, emails, newsletters and also things like uniforms, TV/pc screens, signage, answer phone messages and practice décor. Your entire team deliver the brand promise to your patients so you must ensure that everyone understands and is a true advocate of your brand.
As dentists, you need to break through the barrier of ‘scary, pain-causing person’ and work hard to build and maintain trust with your patients. It is very important to try and make each patient feel like an individual and feel as though you genuinely have their best interests at heart. As I mentioned earlier, a patient is unlikely to be able to judge your clinical skills but they will judge you on how you made them feel.
Humanbeings are social animals and (most) crave connection and interaction with others (most of the time!) A dental team who are personable and clearly demonstrate the brand’s promise and values are key in the provision of dental care.
In order to make your marketing communications exhibit your brand values and personality, consider the use of bespoke photographs and video. As they say, a picture speaks a thousand words. Having, for example, professional photos of the team in action interacting with patients or maybe some real patient video testimonials, can really add to the authenticity of what you are trying to say and demonstrate what makes you different.
A brand isn’t static and should grow and evolve as it constantly adapts to suit the needs and wants of the target audience. If you would like some advice on branding your practice then please get in touch.
Once you understand your brand and live and breathe it, it will be a lot easier for your team and your clients to do the same. Having your brand values crystal clear in your own mind is the first step.
Managing Director, Blue Horizons Marketing
T: 01242 2346600