Establishing Your Personal Brand
Manufacturers who market specific, physical goods – shoes, refrigerators, soft drinks, children’s toys — invest a great deal of time and money into product development, since those products will help to develop and reinforce the company’s brand. Personal branding presents a similar set of challenges in an altogether different framework.
How Important is Image?
As a dentist, you are the brand. Instead of promoting the coolest new shoe line or the next big soft drink, you must position yourself as the go-to expert in your area for your specific services. Establishing a personal brand and taking it a step further by translating that brand into increased revenue depends a great deal on how your intended audience perceives you and your practice.
There are many pieces that go into establishing a business brand, from identifying graphics and taglines to the things you focus on when communicating your services to the culture of your practice. Each practice is as unique as the individuals that lead them. Each brand is highly personal.
Creating a Marketable Image
Whatever visual marketing tools you opt for, their primary goal is to create a visual impact that prompts an emotional or intellectual response. Many potential patients feel uneasy about visiting the dentist and therefore might be influenced by images that promote a caring, nurturing practice and a friendly, sensitive staff. Others may be more interested in the dental spa experience, thus images that promise a soothing, pampering environment with plenty of comfort amenities. New parents with young children, business professionals, and older patients with a no-nonsense attitude toward dental care can all be engaged through visual marketing that sends them the message they most want to hear. Your challenge, then, is determining your target demographic and figuring out how best to engage them so that those potential patients become returning patients.
How Important is a Logo?
Logos are very important for two reasons:
1) They offer an instantly recognizable, simplified image that, if deployed properly, can contribute to your brand’s visual impact and set you apart from your competition.
2) They tie your entire marketing strategy together visually. The same logo on your website, your practice signage, and your mail-out postcards gives your entire campaign much-needed continuity and focus.
While determining the ROI on developing and deploying a logo is difficult, their centrality to your personal brand cannot be overstated. We strongly suggest you put some research into locating a professional graphic designer or marketing firm with a design department that has a portfolio of logos that you find striking. A good logo will be easily recognizable, look good in both color and black and white, look good in both large and small formats, and be relevant to your practice.
How Important is a Website?
Your website is the foundation upon which you will build your online brand presence. All of your marketing efforts, from social media to print brochures and postcards, should direct current and potential patients to your website. The importance of your website to monetizing your personal brand cannot be overstated. Of course, no two websites are created equally and a poorly designed, hard-to-navigate website could turn off prospective patients as easily as a well-designed, easy-to-use website might secure their business. A “good” website will achieve the following:
- Pleasing page layouts with graphics that give an accurate impression of your practice’s feel. For instance, bright, cheerful primary colors may be an appropriate palette for a pediatric dentist, while a cosmetic dentist in an urban area may want a more sophisticated style.
- Well-organized navigation. In layman’s terms, this refers to how easily your website’s visitors can find the information they want. If the information they need is not easily accessible, many of your prospects might abandon your site altogether.
- Well-written copy (text) that clearly speaks to your audience. Poor grammar, too much slang, or language that is too technical for laypeople will not engage your website’s visitors. In addition, overly aggressive advertising language could give an incorrect impression of your practice.
- Mobile-ready design with text that flows on mobile devices, because in today’s world over 30% of any demographic and, perhaps, as high as 90% of your targeted demographic will seek dental services over a mobile phone or tablet.
- Landing pages focused on the key services those in your community and targeted demographic are seeking.
Unless you have a great deal of experience building websites and you have an excellent grasp of marketing writing and SEO strategy, you will want to leave the creation of your website to the professionals. Your marketing consultant or accountant will likely have worked with a reliable website designer or design firm and can offer recommendations.
Other Factors that Influence Image and Patient Perception
Some dentist’s believe that once the patient is in the office, the need for marketing is over. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, creating an office environment that reinforces your practice philosophy and makes your patients feel comfortable and valued may be just the thing that secures those word-of-mouth recommendations that are essential to successful marketing. Four aspects of your practice that you need to consider include:
1) Décor: Well thought out décor not only looks good and creates a good first impression; it lets your patients know you take pride in your practice and in their business. When choosing décor, you should consider how the look of your office can underscore your practice philosophy. Do you want your practice to be open, inviting, and contemporary? Sleek and modern with clean lines and bright lighting? Homey and welcoming with brick accents and comfortable chairs? Consulting with an experienced interior designer who specializes in dental and medical practice décor can help you make the right decisions for your business.
2) Aroma: Many patients do not like the sterile, antiseptic scent often associated with clinical spaces. However, overzealous use of spray air fresheners can also alienate your patients. Ensure your office has proper air circulation. You may want to subtly scent the air with oil-reed or plug-in oil diffusers.
3) Cleanliness: Even though patients may not like antiseptic odors, they want assurance that their dental office and all the tools and equipment to which they are exposed are sterile and hygienic. Make sure every room of the practice is spotless and dental tools are covered. Put on your sterile gloves in full view of the patient.
4) Creating a memorable experience: You want every patient to rave about you and your practice. This requires standout hospitality, communication skills, efficient administrative systems, not being rushed, the finest care, and genuine interest in each patient as a person. Beyond your digital presence and reputation, and beyond your professional environment, the social atmosphere of your practice matters, and the services you provide should exceed the expectations of your consumer-aware target demographic.
The Importance of First Impressions
Whether patients can tell you what they like or don’t like about you, they still know whether they are reacting positively or negatively to you. If they aren’t feeling good about you or another aspect of your practice, securing a commitment for an appointment or treatment will be difficult. Unfortunately, most people form an opinion of someone new within 30 seconds of meeting them.
In today’s world, the first impression you make will likely be the result of how your practice uniqueness is communicated over the Internet. If you make this first hurdle, a prospective patient may pick up the phone and call for an appointment. The first person-to-person contact also creates an impression within seconds that has long-lasting impact. Make sure the right person answers your phone and creates an impression of excellence that is congruent with the brand and reputation you are working to establish and maintain.