• In a world of shouting, the clearest sound is sometimes a whisper

How to brand your practice

Which supermarket is your dental practice like?

(by Chris Webb and Cary Cray-Webb)

We’ve been working in PR for the dental industry for two years now – you may have seen some of our work with brands such as Pearl Dental Software.  During that time we’ve had the privilege to study many dental businesses and practices across the country.

It is fascinating how dental practices are perceived by professionals and patients. This perception derives to a very great extent from the efforts that owners to create ‘a brand’. It is true that all the clever marketing in the world won’t create a great ‘brand’ without any substance, but you can at least set the direction. After that, it’s up to you to create substance by living the values you have ascribed to your brand.

This article offers some ideas on how you might shape your practice brand.

The supermarket test

A simple example of how people think of your dental brand might be to consider which supermarket chain it is most like.

For example;

  • {my}dentist = Aldi. Low cost, high volume, limited range, no-nonsense and highly efficient
  • BUPA = Sainsbury’s. A little confused. A reputation for being expensive and luxurious while stacking it high and selling it cheap in places to compete with Aldi
  • Portman = Waitrose. No compromise, personal, classy and with the flexibility to meet the needs of the local market – so long as they are rich enough to go private
  • JDRM = Booths. Family owned and run, with great staff involvement and customer loyalty, but very definitely regional.

 

Picture - Open all Hours Arkwright (Ronnie Barker) and Granville (David Jason)

Open all Hours Arkwright (Ronnie Barker) and Granville (David Jason)

Unfortunately, there are also a lot of ‘Arkwrights’ out there. Open all hours, but providing a great experience for neither patients nor for poor little Granville.

So which one are you? And if you are an Arkwright, will you plod on in the same weary way until Granville grows a pair and sets up his own corner shop down the road?

 

 

Analysing the players in detail

{my}dentist

Even though the huge practice portfolio is made up of some very diverse properties, and even though practice sizes vary greatly, {my}dentist has done a fantastic job of creating a unified brand.

{my}dentist – excellent presentation and signage

Their practices are visually crisp. They have a well organised corporate back office and a rational practice/area management structure to take the admin load off clinical and nursing staff. They are efficient and friendly and effective. I will state now that I (Chris) attend a {my}dentist practice, and I drive an hour each way to do so.

However, they can be a little stingy on pay for some staff, and when they have a resource gap it all falls apart. And that is the weakness in their brand. It works better for patients than it does for staff, and they struggle to recruit in some regions as a result.

Our verdict: 8/10. Feels very efficient. Clever naming. Still working on improvements.

 

BUPA Dental – Camberwell

BUPA

Having built THE pre-eminent private healthcare brand in the UK, BUPA decided to go into dentistry by buying and extending the Oasis dental business. But we don’t think they realised how different dentistry is to their normal areas of operation. As a result, they are balancing too many diverse staff contracts, and therefore have a lot of unhappy staff – never good for great patient experience.

There is a real conflict between BUPA’s carefully crafted private health image the mix of dental services they offer. As a result, many NHS patients feel like second-class citizens. And we’re sure many potential new NHS patients assume that the BUPA brand means a private only practice.

On the plus side, they have done a good job on the visual elements of the brand and updated many practices with new imagery, decorations and furniture. And they do have that very well know private healthcare reputation to fall back on.

Our verdict: 6/10. The positioning of BUPA’s dental offering is very confused. The BUPA healthcare brand is both helpful to recognition and a hindrance to execution.

 

Portman Dental and Implant Clinic – Maidenhead

Portman

They are growing organically, and take on new practices after a very careful evaluation process. It’s not about acquisition price; it’s about potential and fit. As such, Portman’s brand is all about consistent high quality.

Portman has also eliminated the conflict that plagues BUPA – they don’t offer NHS treatments. That means they can be 100% focused on offering quality private treatments. And that focus results in happier staff and happier patients.

Our verdict: 7/10. Well thought through positioning reflected across the company’s operations, but not a very visible brand.

 

JDRM

JDRM recently won an NHS emergency treatment contract in Leicester, and the business has created an impact by keeping it local and concentrated.

They have a real focus on their services. However, because this focus is around a single service in a single area, they have been able to use it as a central point around which they can offer other services: it’s a concentric strategy, not a just a bunch of tangential ideas.

They have also invested sensibly in creating a strong visual image for their seven practices and implemented the latest software to help create a single, integrated business. The software enables them to make savings through shared back office services.

JDRM also take the trouble to exploit PR opportunities (such as case studies by suppliers) to tell professionals about what they do, and so make recruitment easier.

Our verdict: 8/10. Visually exciting. Feels fresh, but also personal and friendly.

 

So Arkwright, what about a new till?

In Arkwright’s case, a new till and a small van would have made Granville much happier. And in today’s competitive market for dental associates and nurses, having better equipment and systems might well give you an edge. But what can you do about patients?

What do you do to advertise your presence in the area? If patients and potential patients don’t know about you they won’t book appointments.

JDRM Dental Care – invested in creating a strong local presence

Visuals

And when they do come in, what is their first impression? What does your signage look like? Is it reflected in the way your practice is decorated or do you have random colours and mismatched chairs in the waiting room?

Do your documents look like they’ve been printed professionally or at least on a professional office printer, or do they look like they’ve been churned out on one of those Gestetner devices they used to make school teachers suffer?

Do you have a practice logo, and if you do, is it used consistently?

And talking of logos, does yours look like everyone else’s anthropomorphic molar, or is it a bit ‘different’?

Does your business name suggest ‘dentist’ or could it be equally applied to a greengrocer or funeral director?

Online

What does your online presence say about you? Do you know what websites list your practice, let alone what they say about you? Have you created social media channels and then forgotten about them? And when was the last time your own website was updated?

Patient interaction

How do your reception team deal with patients? Do they have the right tools to manage your book (and training in how to use those tools)? How do they sound on the ‘phone? How long do patients have to stand at the reception desk before someone deals with them? How do the reception team deal with the pre-treatment paperwork? And how well do they handle the tricky and uncomfortable process of taking payment?

How we can help

Every single one of these things shapes the perception of your brand, and every single one is in your direct control.

Chris Webb is an Accredited Member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and director of Precision PR Limited with a background in digital imaging technology and all its applications. Cary Cray-Webb is a practising dental nurse with a degree in Fine Art. Our company, Precision PR, has been working in the dental industry since we started in 2017, writing, creating websites, developing social media, web and media strategies.

Chris has nearly 30-years experience in marketing, marcoms, PR and social media, and 35-years experience in IT. Opinions and analogies about the brands discussed are based entirely on our personal observation and experience since, in branding, the perception of others is everything.

We can help you define your brand, and execute your marketing communications plans. If you would like to discuss how, please get in contact by emailing chris@precisionpr.co.uk or calling 07432 189149.

 

So let me ask you again? Which supermarket chain is most like your dental business?

 

Note: All opinions in this article are those of the writers, and are based on nearly 30 years of PR practice and personal observations of the UK dental industry.

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