If you’ve wondered how your practice name could affect your branding and business’ future success, you’re not alone. We frequently get questions about practice naming, and a surprising amount of our website’s traffic comes from searches by dentists looking for help with naming their practices. This is a new and improved version of a practice naming guide that we first posted in 2007, then updated in 2013.
Your business name can immediately help align your services and marketing with potential customers’ needs. Before you decide on a practice name, we recommend determining the kind of practice you want. Do you have a personal practice philosophy or a practice mission statement? Have you done enough demographic research to understand what will likely appeal to the community? Your approach to naming your practice should be heavily influenced by its location. When you have a good grasp of your practice vision, your target market, and the competition, you’re better equipped to add a practice naming endeavor to the mix.
Borrow Existing Goodwill
If you’re setting up shop in a community where you grew up and people know your last name, you might already have some goodwill there. This is especially the case for practices with family members working together. If your name is new or unfamiliar in the area, we suggest borrowing from existing goodwill. Find out names and concepts that could instantly make your practice sound familiar and endear you to potential patients. Is the community or neighborhood name something you could incorporate into your practice name? Is there a big park or landmark nearby that the locals value? What about a great school? Taking advantage of existing goodwill can add equity to your brand that you otherwise wouldn’t have when you’re just starting out. Researching the area can also inform you of what to avoid pursuing as a theme or idea for your dental practice’s name.
Focus on Your Patients
Today’s marketplace is as competitive as ever, and consumers are more savvy with higher expectations. This is in large part due to the digital age, which makes more information available at the touch of a fingertip to a smartphone. Don’t fall short in patients’ eyes by not having a business name and brand image that appeal to them! It’s tempting to name your practice and then develop branding that appeals first and foremost to you. After all, it is your business and your career. But remember, you aren’t your target market! Practice Cafe has extensive experience working with individual dentists on practice name ideas and branding that fit their personal marketing vision and that will appeal to their target market.
From day one, think ahead to hiring one or more associates, bringing on a partner, or eventually selling your practice. A dental practice named with only the original dentist’s name has limited appeal in the community and poses more brand transition challenges. You want to be linked to your practice branding, but in the majority of cases it shouldn’t be totally dependent on you as an individual. We recommend naming your practice with something geographically or “dentally” inspired, and then include your own name with your logo in your marketing. If your exact office location is likely to change, keep your geographic inspiration more broad. It might be obvious, but it’s still worth saying that you should include a version of “dentistry,” “dental,” or “dentist(s)” in your practice name so it’s clear that you’re a dental office. If your practice name is “Something Smiles,” be sure to include “dentistry” or “dental” in your tagline.
Speaking of dental taglines, if there’s room for one in your logo composition, a short phrase that encapsulates your practice philosophy can further personalize your logo, bolster your branding, and help differentiate you from the competition. Beware of using “dentistry” or “dental” repeatedly between your practice name and logo. The goal is to capture as much meaning in as few words as possible. Short and memorable is best! Whenever possible, avoid practice names that are hard to pronounce or even harder to spell. Sometimes people are tempted to change the spelling of a word to be clever or unique, but this can backfire if people in your target market don’t understand the intended meaning or can’t remember the intentional misspelling.
Consider signage possibilities as well as available domain names for your web address. You wouldn’t be the first person to get attached to a practice name only to discover afterwards that someone else owns the perfect domain name for your business.
Dental Practice Brand Image
Another thing to keep in mind when naming your dental practice and developing a logo is what image you want to portray. Will your practice be family-oriented or more restorative-focused for adults? Do you want to be viewed as a personal, private practice or a larger, dental center-like presence in your community? We’ve found it helpful (and fun) to talk about all these things, then do a big brainstorm. Writing down all ideas that come to you and then going back over them can really get the creative juices flowing and inspire even more ideas. During initial brainstorms at Practice Cafe, no idea is a bad idea and snacks flow freely! After the first pass, use the process of elimination to narrow down your options to the top ideas. You can use your favorites to come up with variations or branch-off ideas. You never know when one idea might be the catalyst to another new and unexpected gem that you’ll fall in love with. Look up available domain names as you go.
Possible Questions for Brainstorming
What is close to your office? Any widely recognized landmarks or notable geographic features?
Refer to the map. Consider Google and Wikipedia your friends! Learn more about your area than you knew before, and don’t discount any source of inspiration. Indigenous trees and flowers, local crops, and annual community events have all inspired practice names that we’ve helped brainstorm. Even local animal wildlife can provide both practice name and logo icon design inspiration.
Be careful not to name your practice after your street name or shopping center if you plan to move in the future to build out a bigger or newer office elsewhere. You’ll also want to check on legal issues, including but not limited to trademarked phrases and other registered businesses in your state.
Can you think of any meaningful words that describe your area and capture its feeling?
This could be something as simple as “hills,” “valley,” “canyon,” “lakes,” or “springs.” For something less literal, call on the dictionary and trusty thesaurus to take you a word journey. Invite others to participate in your search for relevant and expressive words, particularly people you’re close to. If you’ve recently moved to an area in hopes of establishing your practice there, turn to locals who can give you some insight about your new community. Get involved in the community as soon as you can! It can greatly benefit your business as time passes.
What about words that describe your practice philosophy and vision?
If you don’t have a practice philosophy or mission statement, now is the time to think about it. Why did you want to become a dentist? What do you like about it? What are some common threads in patient feedback you’ve received before? What are some things you hope your future patients may say about you? What part of the services you provide gives you the greatest sense of fulfillment or seems to improve your patients’ lives the most?
How would you describe the personality or “flavor” of your office environment? Consider your team dynamics, too, or the team culture you hope to cultivate.
If writing a practice philosophy or mission statement strikes you as too abstract or overwhelming, start with something easier for you. Team culture, perhaps. List 3-5 words that describe the kind of team you want to have. Health-focused, compassionate, and skilled? Gentle, efficient, and artistic? Bubbly and chatty, or more formal and businesslike in their professionalism? Will your employee dress code allow for bright colors, or do you prefer more sleek uniforms such as matching black dress shirts? If your office feeling will be more casual, you may like a more playful or whimsical practice name. If your team culture will be more formal and your practice considered more upscale, that should be reflected in your business name and branding.
Of course your practice name can’t include answers to all these questions, but the exercise of going through them is meant to bring out ideas that will lead to a name that’s just right for your business and community. If you think you could use some assistance from professionals, we offer practice naming help for free!Need a Name? We'll Help for Free!
Dental Branding Begins with Your Practice Name & Logo
Branding is important for your presence in your community. From your practice name and the feel of your logo, to your direct mail, website, and beyond, your marketing should introduce you as an approachable dentist who cares about your patients and their smiles. As much as possible, you want your marketing, starting with your practice name and tagline, to communicate the benefits you offer patients. Consumers really buy benefits, not products and services. The specifics of your services don’t mean nearly as much to patients as the benefits of feeling at ease in your office, having self-confidence in their smiles, enjoying good oral health, and the numerous other benefits of dental care.