Dentists go through years of education and training to enable them to become practitioners.
They may take advanced MSc courses in implants or other related subjects, but it is always to achieve the same end result; to have a practice of one’s own, or to be a private practitioner under somebody else’s banner.
And this is where all of the learning and course work cannot help.
People often make the mistake of assuming that a brand is nothing more than a logo, a slogan or a mixture of both, but it is important to realise a brand is so much more than that. It is the measure by which staff, customers, clients and investors will judge a company. Understanding the importance of branding is imperative to gaining a greater insight to business, whether it is dentistry or not.
Branding encompasses every aspect of your business. A brand identity needs to be visible, tangible and all embracing. From the physical – the visual layout of your dental practice, a website, stationery, appointment cards and your logo – to the cultural – guidelines given to staff for dealing with customers, your social media presence and your status among peers and competitors.
Everything your business does, owns or says contributes to the collective identity that makes up your brand. And your brand’s identity is not just important for influencing external factors, such as how your customers see you. Whether it be improving the performance of staff, by giving them something to identify with, or impressing quasi-external members of a business, such as bankers and accountants, your brand makes an impact.
To get the most from branding, you must identify the two basic components of identity and apply them to your own business. These are purpose and belonging. A sense of purpose is necessary to allow your brand to gain strength. It allows the people working for your business to understand the standards and values of the company, and to project those values on to customers. A sense of belonging gives your brand a place in the market and is what should distinguish your brand from the competitors.
This is not to say that there is a set formula for branding. Each individual dental practice will have an identity that is representative of the founder’s interests and character. In most cases, the management will have branded a dental practice intuitively, with little thought given to the most important question: ‘How will this affect perceptions of our practice?’
There are only two factors that will affect a customer’s perception of a dental clinic: the services provided, and how they are communicated with. Your services must reflect the standards and values of your brand. If you specialise in implants, then make this the focus of your brand and your online activity. If you aren’t a specialist, or do not sell a tangible product, you must ensure your brand remains consistent in attitude, action and style.
Everybody wants to be good at their job, but just how good do they really want to be? Quite good; good; very good; the best in their field or the best in the world? Talent will help, but it will never take you as far as ambition will.
You must decide on your strategy and implement it in a single-minded manner. It is key that you establish a framework for what it is that your practice or group of practices represents. Understanding what you want to achieve is as much the responsibility of your agency or designer as it is yours. They should be well versed in assisting and consulting you to reach that objective.
Whether you have actively chosen it or not, your business already has an identity. From the symbols, typography and colours you use, to the visual look, functionality and writing style of your site, to the buildings, furniture and products, your company’s identity has been created. In the minds of your customers, associations have been built between you and the way your business is presented.
Given this fact, the most important thing a dental clinic can do is ask itself the questions: ‘What is my brand’s identity? And is that the identity that I want?’