The name of a business, any business in any industry, matters. So it’s important that the business owner selects the right name right from the start. How do you know that you’ve selected the “right” name? And what can you do if you think it’s time to rename your practice?
Effective business names aren’t generic. Ideally, they should suggest certain feelings, emotions, connections and possibly even stories. Since many dental practices are solo or small businesses, they’re often named after the owner/doctor or the owner and any associates. It’s estimated that as many as 90% of all dental practices have that type of generic name. While the name might accurately represent who you are and whether or not other doctors are in practice with you, it doesn’t support or strengthen the brand of your practice. While it’s not suggested that you rename your practice just to give it a more evocative name, if there comes a time that it is necessary to change the practice’s name, such as an expansion or merger, keep in mind that it’s a good idea to select a memorable and descriptive name.
Consistency and the culture of your practice impact your brand. Odds are you’ve heard stories about patients who dislike going to the dentist but who rave about their own dentist. That’s the brand talking; that’s the brand confirming that the dentist and staff provide excellent service and that patients in the practice are happy and satisfied with the care and treatment they receive.
In a dental practice, consistency refers to both the design and formatting of your materials and staying "true” to your brand. Staying true to your brand means fulfilling the promises conveyed in your marketing materials. For instance, if your business is founded on patient convenience, you shouldn’t close the doors at 3:00 p.m. every day and not provide a way for patients to contact you in case of an emergency. This would violate the promise you've made in your brand. Along the same lines, if you brand your practice as one that’s ultra-high tech, you should have the latest equipment.
Within dentistry, some elements of branding are based on the type of practice you have: is yours a low-cost, moderately-priced, or high-end practice? Does it attract families, patients needing specific or highly specialized services? Is it a cash fee practice or do you accept dental benefit plans?
Take a look at your patient population and consider how those demographics match the brand of your practice. Is your brand delivering the types or patients you want in your practice? If not, it’s time to take control of your brand and manage it until it becomes the positive influence you want it to be.
A patient survey is the best and most effective way to assess your brand since it offers the chance to gather valuable feedback about how patients perceive and feel about the practice. It’s a good idea to regularly survey a sample of your patients to confirm that your brand is strong.
Share the survey results with everyone on your team and make sure they recognize that every interaction they have – regardless of whether it’s with patients, prospective patients, vendors, or colleagues in other offices – adds to or detracts from the brand.
If your brand makes patients think of “friendliness” or “kindness," every person in the office has to project that emotion with every patient every day. While anyone can have a bad day or have stressors that weigh on their minds, it’s important for everyone on the team to commit to constantly reinforcing the positive aspects of the brand.
Another helpful idea is to periodically conduct an online search of your name and the practice's name to see what information is available to current and prospective patients. These results will reveal what online information supports your brand and what detracts from it. Consider setting up automatic email alerts, a feature available through most of the major search engines, so you’re automatically notified by email any time your name or the name of your practice appears online.
A strong and positive brand can even overcome a bad logo as long as you take excellent care of your patients and they rave about how you and your team take such good care of them. More information on branding your practice is available in the articles What Is a Brand? and Your Logo and Tagline.
Finally, even if you don’t tactically market your brand, stay focused on managing it so your brand continues to prompt a positive response within your community