Everyone knows that developing a positive and effective brand is the key to a business’s growth. What is often less clear is how to actually create this brand, and what it specifically encompasses. A brand is a constantly evolving marketing strategy to entice people to want to buy your services, and in essence “buy into” and become a part of you. In the same way a charming person easily makes friends and alliances, a practice with personality garners business and success. By humanizing your practice and considering it an extension of who you are, your branding efforts will be more successful, and your patients more satisfied. Practice Identity Your brand is the image and feeling that is conjured when a patient thinks about your practice. Their expectations and experiences are encapsulated in this image, meaning who you are in their eyes is manifested in everything you do to make your practice personal, professional, and special. The relationship you establish with patients, as well as every impression your practice portrays, from aesthetics to cleanliness, warmth to quality of care, contributes to their perception of your work. Whereas people often misconceive a brand as a logo or catchy phrase, it is actually all of these views and feelings your patient develops that add up to create an overall identity– a brand, if you will. When considering your brand, think personal. There are many ways you are going to impact your patients’ perceptions, and one of the most positive ways to do so is to take the time to interact with your patients on a personal level. Ask about their weekend or summer plans as you prepare for exams and procedures. Consider offering individualized goody bags, filled with products targeted at a patient’s specific age group and oral condition. Send birthday and holiday cards to regular patients- these touches will set you apart and show patients you care. A meaningful brand can be so powerful that even when you leave your practice, the identity you established will live on. Practice Differentiation Equally as important as differentiating your practice through personalized experiences, is emphasizing the unique service you provide. Finding a niche and sticking to it has actually been proven more effective than attempting to market yourself in an all-encompassing way. What makes you unique? Perhaps you are on the cutting edge of new technology in your field. Maybe you employ sedation dentistry, or are an unmatched expert in placing dental implants in your area. Do you offer innovative solutions to cosmetic dental issues? Whatever it is that makes you special and that appeals to patients in your area should be your branding emphasis. Remember that branding is an ongoing process, and that once your identity is established, it must also be maintained. Keep yours fresh and progressive by monitoring success through patient surveys, and constantly re-imagining your image. Practice Marketing You can probably think of countless examples of catchy tag lines that have stuck with you over the years. What they have in common is simplicity. Simply but memorable marketing aides will propel your brand. Keeping your market “small,” though seemingly counterintuitive, is actually more beneficial than trying to accomplish too much. Another important element of successful branding is consistency. Everything from your website to mailings, your logo, color schemes, and office atmosphere should be considered and coordinated. Get feedback as you revamp your image to ensure that all print marketing pieces accurately depict the brand you are attempting to create. Keep your logo in plain site, allowing it to grow into the minds of your patients. You can achieve logo visability with promotional items such as magnets and coffee cups emblazoned with your symbol. You can also use social media to enhance your branding. Facebook is a great tool for keeping your practice in your patients’ lives. It also allows patients a look inside your practice and the more personal elements of your business and office-workings. You can even develop a custom Facebook business page in the likeness of your practice website! Color schemes and design can be imitated to ensure complete branding cohesion. Practice Reputation Once a person develops a positive association with a brand, any single negative experience they may have is negated by their overall sense of faith in the brand. In the same way a person will remain loyal to a favorite potato chip company, despite an isolated purchase of a stale bag, a patient will remain loyal despite any minor mishap that may occur during their visit, such as a longer-than-usual wait time. Patients who trust your brand will also be more inclined to accept treatment, regardless of cost or other factors. When they hear you explain the importance of a procedure to their oral and overall health, a trusting patient will not question your expertise. In the same way people often pay more for brands they know and trust, patients will be willing to use your services for the quality care you ensure. By bolstering your reputation through an outstanding brand, you will achieve trust and loyalty from your patients. This will lead to patient retention and increased referrals, a cycle essential to growth. Practice Expansion By “practicing” these tips, providing consistently excellent customer service, and constantly considering the ways you and your team members are enhancing or detracting from your brand, your practice will see returns in patient loyalty and referrals, the cornerstone of a successful dental business.