Starting a practice can seem daunting to a new dentist, but with the right recipe, it can be an exciting and rewarding experience. The key is to think of your dental practice as a brand—a memorable, cohesive identity that tells people exactly what makes your practice right for them before they ever set foot in your office.
A successful brand matches your goals with those of your target market, aligning the benefits you offer to the needs of your community. The most effective and enduring brands are also results-driven, with tangible ways of tracking both successes and failures along the way. Every practice is unique, but the ones that thrive tend to have certain characteristics in common. Keep these tips in mind while you’re building your dental brand and before you know it, you’ll be running the practice of your dreams.
Know Your Area & Your Target Market
It may seem like a given, but many people underestimate the importance of location. Even the most meticulously designed dental practice can struggle to succeed in an inferior location. Don’t rush to find a place; a little research will save you a lot of problems down the road. If you don’t have a location yet, now is the time to find a prime one. The best location is where people want what you have to offer, and you want to serve those people. Dental demographic research is key when determining whether a location is right for your practice and, if it is, what message will resonate with that community. Do you want to see mainly families, young professionals, or an older demographic? Should insurance-friendly or fee-for-service be your model? What is the competition like? We have helped more than 500 dentists locate their offices, and you could be next.
If you already have a location, get to know your area and make it work in your favor as much as possible. Is your practice vision in line with the actual people who live around it? Are there any details you could tweak to make your practice more appealing? You can’t escape reality, so make sure there’s not a disconnect between what your dental practice offers and what your target market actually wants.
Throw a Party Patients Want to Attend
Starting a business is like throwing a party. You can send out thousands of invitations and assemble the perfect guest list, but if no one’s having fun, then your party’s a bust. And that’s if people come at all! When you’re designing your practice, think of it as a party you’re planning for prospective patients. What amenities will they find attractive? What office decor will make them feel comfortable? What services will they be looking for? Establishing marketability in the eyes of your target market is a must, and no detail is too small.
Remember Your Audience
Remember, the party is yours, but it’s not for you. Your dental brand needs to appeal to your patient target market, not just to you, your colleagues, or your friends. That’s not to say their input can’t be helpful, but when it comes to making the final decision, always go with what best reflects the desires of your ideal patient. This includes your practice name, which will immediately either align your message with your patients’ needs or fade into the background noise, of which there’s plenty. Don’t underestimate the savvy of today’s consumers. They’re receiving more invitations than ever before, so make sure your invitation stands out and accurately portrays that your party is awesome.
Plan Ahead to Get the Word Out
Just as a barrage of invitations doesn’t guarantee a great party, a great party doesn’t simply announce itself. How will people know what you have to offer if you don’t get the word out? Once you’ve established a brand image, use it wherever you can. If a potential patient might see it, consider it to be under your brand umbrella. This step requires a well-planned dental marketing investment, both for development and deployment, because a “whatever is left over” advertising budget won’t cut it in today’s competitive market. Set aside enough to make a viable campaign possible.
Build Brand Equity
One of the most important gauges of a brand’s success is its perceived value, or equity. While you’re getting your practice name out there, remember to be consistent about the messages you’re sending. Are people seeing your dental practice logo in places that already hold value to them, like schools, community events, and neighboring businesses? You can capitalize on that goodwill by manipulating the frequency of your branding and by diversifying your efforts.
Frequency refers to maintaining a constant presence in your community. One print dental ad or a short online pay-per-click campaign a year probably won’t make a big enough ripple to secure your brand as a household name. Studies have shown that repeated exposure (through a variety of channels, not just paid advertising) is a reliable way to build brand equity. Diversifying your efforts involves expanding your presence into new media. The benefits of diversifying are twofold: you reach new potential patients, and you increase your frequency with the crossover patients you’re already reaching through other methods. Practically any medium is fair game, as long as it fits your budget, schedule, and brand image. For example, if you want to build a reputation with young families, participate as a sponsor in local school and community events.
Showcase Your Dental Practice With Photos
When you’ve invested valuable time and money into creating a beautiful dental practice that reflects your brand’s philosophy, show it off in the best possible light with quality photos! Hire a professional if you need to—it’s worth the investment. Great photos enhance your web presence, make your marketing pieces more eye-catching, and are quite often what persuades people to end up choosing you. Give the buzzwords a rest and let people see for themselves what sets you apart! If a picture is worth 1,000 words, also consider the immense value of a promotional video featuring your dental practice.
Be the Easy Choice
Plenty of factors keep people from going to the dentist, from budget concerns and scheduling conflicts to dental phobias. While some barriers are out of your control, many can be removed with a few simple strategies. Make it easy for patients to choose you by providing:
- Incentives — New patient offers and competitive fees
- Accessibility — An optimized dental website, visible signage, an accessible office, reliable answering and handling of calls, and prompt followup
- Convenience — Extended hours and easy check-in
- Atmosphere — TVs, beverages, and other amenities that will make your dental office feel less clinical
- Accommodating financing — Insurance acceptance and alternatives for patients without it
Another major potential barrier is timing. You wouldn’t plan a party in the middle of the week when you know your guests are busy with work and school, or in the middle of the night when they’re sleeping, so why open your dental practice when people aren’t likely to have dental care on the mind? Whether it’s your grand opening or just one move in your larger marketing strategy, you’re bound to get lost in the shuffle during historically busy times like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. June is often another pretty downer time for dental marketing, although pediatric dentists do have different busy seasons than general dentists.
Track, Learn, & Modify
Even when you are deliberate with every step of your dental brand development, results can sometimes be unpredictable. As you go, track the success of your marketing to identify areas that might need improvement. The trick is giving something enough time to work, but not enough time to become a drain on your resources. Don’t pull the plug or make a complete 180 until you’ve compiled enough data to make a fully informed decision. If you do find your efforts aren’t paying off in a given area, redeploy those funds to more fruitful dental advertising endeavors. Examples of in-house improvements include better phone training for your front desk staff, more competitive offers, and extended hours. If you need to focus your improvements on external elements, try adjusting various aspects of your advertising approach: changing your message, modifying your method, or adjusting your timing can help you better connect with your community.
Get People Talking
You’d be more likely to take a restaurant recommendation from a good friend over an ad in the local paper, wouldn’t you? Use this concept to your advantage by encouraging patients to review your dental practice online. Positive patient reviews—specifically through reputable third-party sources like Google+, Yelp, and Facebook—are powerful brand builders.
Maintain Momentum, Stay Up-to-Date
It’s important to keep your dental brand image consistent, but that doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. Refresh your brand as needed, just like you update your wardrobe and hairstyle. This not only prevents your brand from getting dated, but it also helps spread out your expenditures and saves you from needing a total rebrand later. Remember that with the web, time is measured differently. Web years are like dog years—they move quicker. Things online are constantly changing and evolving, so it’s a good idea to focus the majority of your brand renovations on your web presence.
Sure, any marketing is probably better than none, even if it’s for a less-than-marketable practice, but advertising is not a magic bullet! The reality is that to succeed at marketing your practice and growing your business, you have to build your brand from the ground up with marketability in mind.Get a Comprehensive Strategy