I visit a lot of dental practices and talk with principal dentists and their practice managers about where the practice is heading and where they’d like to be as a business in the future.
One of the most common things I hear is ‘we want to be the best dentist in our town or area’ or ‘we want to be the first choice’ – of course they do, no-one ever wants to be the fourth choice!
However, when I probe a little deeper it’s surprising how little detail, substance or planning there is behind such bold and ambitious targets. This is where branding can help to focus the minds, not just of the business owners, but also of the whole team.
Driving the practice
For many people, branding is defined as their logo and corporate colours, but it’s a lot more than that. When used correctly, branding can become a strategic driver for the practice and a powerful support in developing a more effective leadership style.
Before we get into how this could happen, let’s debunk the biggest myth around branding – your logo. Your logo is not your brand. It’s a signifier of your brand – a visual trigger to the values, culture and emotions that your brand experience delivers. Think about the logo of any famous brand (McDonalds, Virgin, BBC) and you will immediately associate that image with your experience of interacting with that company (positive or negative).
A broader and more accurate understanding of brand takes in four key areas:
• Your products and services (your offer)
• The physical environment (where it all happens – your practice)
• Behaviours (the human interaction, the culture)
• Your communications (how you talk to people when you’re not about – your brochures, website, signage, etc.)
Being the best
So, how can you use this to drive your business forward? Well, let’s assume for a minute that you do indeed want to be the ‘best dental practice’ in your area. The key question now is – what does the best practice look like? How do you define ‘the best practice’? How do the staff in the best practice behave? What do they wear? What does the reception look like?
Defining and creating a consistent approach to each of these areas that is driven by your ideal picture of ‘best’ effectively creates your brand and with it, your brand standards. And this is where branding can help you to develop a more effective leadership style.
Leadership, by its very nature, means leading by example. Once you have set the brand standards in your practice, as the leader, it is your responsibility to be the living embodiment of those standards and to consistently re-inforce their importance to the success of the practice. You can’t expect any member of the team to buy-in to the brand if you are not yourself ‘living it’.
Now, let’s say that you have one or two members of your team who are, for whatever reason, falling short in delivering those standards. Many managers and leaders sometimes avoid dealing with this issue head-on, thinking that it might be seen as a ‘personal’ disagreement or falling out with the member of the team.
Your brand puts one degree of separation between you and that team member. The brand is the central driver and everyone, even the leader of the practice, has to adhere to the standards that have been set. Pointing out any shortcomings in the context of the brand, makes the conversation easier and less ‘personal’.
So, branding is much, much more than your logo; it is central to everything you do within your practice – it is not just what you do, it is how you do it.
Every practice has a brand, whether you think you have or not – your brand is how the outside world sees you. The question is, are you in control and is your brand positively helping you to manage your team and your business more effectively, or is it simply being left to chance?
Les Jones is the marketing director at Practice Plan and the Editor of ‘The Business of Dentistry Magazine’.
telephone: 01691 684120