Can branding hurt your practice?
Overuse of misinterpreted branding concepts can have damaging effects on dental businesses. Is there such a significant difference between how big companies get custom and dental practices?
Apart from the obvious difference between larger companies and the small business dental practice, in that one is much larger than the other, there are much more subtle differences which the dental practitioner needs to understand if they are to overcome the huge hurdle when marketing their specific dental services. The hurdle is in fact, every other marketing, advertising and promotional material lured in front of your ideal patient. The hurdle is your competition i.e. everything else money can buy! And this hurdle is huge!
So can you simply follow suit when it comes to making people aware of your dental services? Can you do as the seemingly larger successful companies do and reap similar rewards? Can you show off your logos and get that hurtling of patients crash banging on your door to let them in?
The answer to these questions lays embedded in the fact that large businesses, corporate companies, small businesses, the professional services industry and the healthcare professionals (like us dentists), have very different needs and requirements. We all have differing objectives. The reason why one thing may be done in a corporate company is totally different to why it would be done in the healthcare profession. Larger companies use completely different criteria when deciding what marketing they should or should not do. For example, business CEO’s might decide to use a specific strategy to appease their board of directors or stockholders; or it may be trying to attract media attention (which not always predictably leads to sales).
Follow the leader or not?
Since most dental practitioners are not familiar with the larger company structure and the various business models possible, they assume that the following suit will also provide them with similarly successful results too.
However, after careful consideration of why a particular marketing activity should or should not be done, it is easy to see that without sufficient funding you will never be able to achieve corporate results. This is one of the key differences between larger companies and small business dental practice. This is why the following suit can end up with fewer profits for you.
Larger companies often use Brand and Image Marketing. This usually involves a multitude of strategies and expertise. They like the general population to associate them with something. They want memories to pop up in the heads of the people exposed to their “brand” so that it may influence what they think and how they buy. However, you need to be able to reach a sufficient amount of people many times over before you can get such a reaction. This requires very large budgets.
Therefore, we cannot ascend upon a business model which primarily focuses on “Brand Marketing”. This is because in order for this to have a significant impact on the general population or even in your locality, you need to make a considerable investment in this type of marketing.
Will this type of marketing enable you to generate the corresponding income?
If your expenditure increases considerably and your income does not then you will be leaking profits. You need to ascertain the level of risk you are exposing your business to before you make the decision to follow the larger company’s marketing strategy.
In order to make your Brand Marketing cost-effective, you need to be generating sufficient income to be able to make Brand Marketing worthwhile. The dental practice owner needs to be able to obtain a worthwhile return on the considerable investment made in Brand Marketing. Because the odds are very high, the majority of dental practices do not generate or are unable to generate this type of funding or income, unless they multiply themselves and set up in various locations throughout an area or nationally. The single practice owner then begins to adopt yet again a different business model which is no longer the same as that when there was only one practice involved.
What good is your logo?
For many years creating logos has been the norm when setting up a dental practice. In fact, it is one of the first things many dentists do when buying a practice. However, the reason why a larger multinational company would develop a logo is very different from why practice would want to create a logo.
One of the strategies employed in Brand Marketing is the design and use of logos. Larger companies have already exploited the smaller business model, and now they can afford Brand Marketing, which makes fuller use of their logo to create emotional links in the minds of their market. Emotional linking is when people see a particular logo and relate it in their minds to a particular feeling. For example, when people see Nike, they relate it to “action” and physical fitness. When they see, Sony, they relate it to the latest technology. Starbucks sells coffee and stands for daily inspiration. When people think of Disney, even though it sells animated and amusement park family entertainment, it stands for making dreams comes true. This is emotional linking. These companies have spent so much, for such a long time on marketing their products that people end up creating associations in their minds. How can dental practices realistically compete or practice this type of marketing?
Another example is Vodaphone. They have a particular logo and they sponsor various public events. However, they do not expect everyone at these events to get up and buy their phones immediately! All they do it to present their logos to the population enough times and at events where people are having certain emotions, so that later on when these people need a phone they think of Vodaphone because it is associated with a particular feeling of being at the event. This is a very unpredictable, expensive and risky way of marketing.
For the dental practice owner, creating associations and emotional links in the minds of the people they want to attract to their practice is not possible or occurs to a much smaller effect when on small budgets. In order to elicit a significant response from the prospective patients, they need to expose their logo and signage to the prospective a number of times. Therefore, the use of the logo in a dental practice is very different. It is still significant but to a much less of an extent than is presumed by many. Dental practices should use their logos to create unity amongst their existing patients and to create a link to the practice after the practice has been introduced in some way to the new prospective patient. It also assists in practice differentiation from other dental practices. The use of the logo cannot be the same as when brand marketing, since for this to occur effectively, much greater exposure of the logo and its associated slogans is necessary. The use of a logo in this way is expensive and can considerably increase your marketing costs.
Why market in a more expensive way, when there are better and more efficient systems available?
Dental practices need to have very different business models and approach to marketing if they are to optimise their sales and generate the necessary revenues. The best way of doing this is to target your ideal patients and then position your marketing messages of why they should choose you over and above any other practitioner, in a way that your ideal market notices it. This makes full use of “positioning” concepts as opposed to branding concepts.
For the dental practitioner developing long term relationships with your patients and maximising how you benefit your patients will provide shrewder strategies than those involved in branding.