Dental Branding: The Anatomy Of A Mouth-Watering Dental Practice

Sliman M. Baghouri
Sliman M. Baghouri
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11 minute read

You want your patients to fall head-over-heels in love with your practice?

The Best way of achieving that is to build a charismatic dental brand.


In an age where your would-be patients are bombarded with pushy ads and cringe marketing, it’s a privilege to see a pulling force.

Pulling force that we gravitate towards. Not pushed into.

That’s what charismatic brands do, they pull. Like magnets.

Today, I’ll share with you what is dental branding, and how by branding your practice you can achieve these charismatic attributes.

I’ll share also the 3 deadly sins dental practices make when trying to build an authentic brand.

This article covers:

  • What is dental branding? What it is not, and other myths.
  • What makes up a drab, bland, and dull dental brand.
  • What makes up a charismatic dental brand.
  • Advantages of having a charismatic dental brand.
  • Quick techniques to know if your practice is charismatic
  • And more…

Common misconceptions about dental branding

First, Let’s discuss what we mean by a “brand”.

To do that, let’s wipe the slate clean and explaining what is not a brand:

  • It is not your practice logo or a name. The logo is a symbol or emblem that carries a visual representation of the business.
  • It is not a visual aspect of your business or its design identity.
  • A brand is not a product, when people say “I bought brand X” they mean “they bought product X”
  • A brand is not a “sum of all impression”
  • It is not a “promise”.

I’ve seen this definition float around from AMA

“Branding. A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”

Again, That’s NOT what a brand is.

The above definition is a more literal meaning.

So, what is dental branding?

Simply: A brand is a customer’s GUT FEELING about your organization and your care service.

It’s a gut feeling because brands are defined by individuals –not companies or markets.

A brand is a gut feeling because people are emotional, instinctive beings.

And your patients base their buying decisions on trust or confidence they get from your communication channels.

A brand is not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.

― Marty Neumeier, The brand gap

Branding, on the other hand, is the management of all elements that make your dental practice charismatic.

What are these elements? I’ll get to this point in a minute.

(if you’re in a hurry, navigate to these elements from the table of content on your right)

Pitfalls that makes your dental brand bland

We’ll explore the usual suspects that might be hurting your practice.

If you feel like you’ve been caught with your hand in the cookie jar, worry not.

I’ll reference solutions in the next section.

Without further ado, let’s start.

I) Not Standing for a philosophy.

many consumers, such as millennials and gen-Yers, are eager to support organizations that look beyond their bottom lines to the needs of others. When they can, purpose-driven people will vote with their dollars for purpose-driven businesses

― David Hagenbuch

Which begs the question, why?

Why do people seem to vouch for purpose-driven business?

The reason for that is embedded in our core.

We, humans, value meaningful relationships.

A meaningful business that has a sense of direction will make life more bearable.

Why would a dentist choose to work at a rigid, spreadsheet-driven organization over one that possesses a high sense of mission?

No one wants to be treated in a dental facility where the most “meaningful substance” they could ever conjure up is a display of their googled mission statement.

To be purpose-driven means to act out your beliefs.

And not to put them as a decoration for an “about us” section.

II) The trap of “me too” purposes.

Have you ever skimmed through an about section of your competitors and seen the same thing repeated multiple times?

  • We believe in a passionate care
  • We believe in providing the best oral care
  • Best dental equipment for patients
  • Accountability, Responsibility…

This is the trap most dental practices fall into when they try to be purpose-driven

The first thing they do is to look up a mission or a purpose statement.

Pick 4 values from the 12 virtue list.

Post it on their website and they call it a day.

This is the fast lane to dissolve in the “lookalike dental brands” limbo

While these values are noble, from a business standpoint, they are problematic.

The issue is twofold:

  1. They are overused and will make your practice look ingenuine or “trying to relate”
  2. They are broadly defined. And when your objectives are broadly defined like “to provide quality care” you run the risk of not having systematic steps to hit your goals

III) Not different enough.

Being unique in your care offerings doesn’t require you to pose a service line that no one has.

You could offer the same services to everyone and still be different.

How?

By being different from your competitors in the eyes of your potential patients

That’s what we call positioning.

# CASE STUDY

Confidental™, a client of ours that provides cosmetic dentistry to its patients in napa valley, CA.

We positioned the practice as the only dental practice that empowers its patients with confidence through dental appearance.

You see, they offer the same care services but it has a unique difference in the market.

Patients go to Confidental™ not because of oral care, but because they are empowered by how good their dental appearance is.

They went there to get confident.

IV) They are not strategic in communicating with patients.

This is not to say you need to rehearse talks or engineer conversions.

What you need to do is to be selective in the communication with the patients/would-be patients.

Meaning, your channels (media, websites, referral pads, receptionist, doctor giving care, etc…) should mirror your philosophy.

Does your staff project the same values of your brand when talking to patients?

And is that way of communicating consistent with what your brand stands for?

Do your blog posts discuss the same principles that will solidify your position in the market?

One of our clients, Healthier , is positioned as the safest hospital in Orlando.

In their communication with patients, they always stress on being safe and healthy first.

In their ads, marketing, or even blog section, that’s all they talk about: being safe.

When new patients come in, nurses emphasize the patient’s welfare.

In other words, What will patients remember you for after they came in contact with your dental brand?

Is there any framework that makes sure you are unique in the minds of patients?

What makes a charismatic dental brand?

A charismatic dental brand can be defined as any oral care service for which patients believe there’s no substitute.

Not surprisingly, charismatic dental brands often claim the dominant position in their categories, with market shares of 50% or higher.

They can also tend to command the highest price premiums- up to 40% more than generic care services.

And, most importantly, they are the least likely to fall victim to commoditization.

So let’s explore what elements that form this kind of brand.

I) Charismatic dental brands own a clear competitive stance

One of the traits of a charismatic dental brand is having a competitive advantage.

A competitive stance consists of multiple aspects.

It can be an area of specialty your dental practice is known for, the unique personality infused in your communication, reputation, or even aesthetics.

It can also be a special-purpose your practice fights for and is always vocal about it.

There’s a differentiator that works as the gulf between a charismatic dental brand and the “lookalikes”.

II) They pose a high sense of purpose

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it and what you do simply proves what you believe.

― Simon Sinek, Start with the why

Charismatic dental brands KNOW their raison d’etre or a reason for being.

In other words, they know their WHY.

By WHY I mean the reason you get out of bed every morning.

Why you do what you do besides making a profit?

What’s the meaningful substance behind your work?

And if you have one, are you well articulate about it?

To illustrate how important this is, I’ll show you two versions of a pitch for a dental practice

First (PRE WHY):

“We’re Confidental, we provide the highest oral care services for our patients at an affordable price.”

It clearly states who they are, and what they do. Good.

It also explains how this benefits patients (affordable prices)

Let’s see how this will look when your “why” is well articulated.

SECOND (POST WHY)

What good is a smile if you’re nervous about it? Our practice was founded to help patients lead a stress-free lifestyle. The more confident you are, the less stressed your life is. There are many ways to fight anxiety; one is to be confident in your dental appearance. That’s where we come in. We make you confident in your smile.

You see the difference? Confidental™ wants it’s patients to lead a stress-free lifestyle how? By empowering them with confidence in their dental appearance.

This solidifies and differentiates them from the rest of the pack.

III) They are dedicated to aesthetics

Why aesthetics? Because it’s the language of feeling, and, in a society that’s information-rich and time-poor, patients value feeling more than information.

Aesthetics is so powerful that it can turn a commodity into a premium care service.

Aesthetics consists of all elements that make up your visual identity.

From referral pads, office interior design, signage, logotypes, typography, web graphics, color schemes, and design patterns.

All elements need to reflect what your dental brand stands for and its message to patients.

Great dental brands subtly convey their place in the market using visuals.

IV) They utilize a communication framework

You know that no amount of brushing, flossing, x-rays, fillings, or cleaning is going to result in healthy mouths if you are not on the same page with your patient.

When your communication comes through intact, crystal clear, and potent- it goes straight into the patient’s brains without distortion.

It shrinks the “psychic distance” between you and your patient so that a relationship can begin to develop.

And to achieve the same level of understanding, charismatic dental brands utilize communication frameworks.

A communication framework is a branding strategy that allows you and your staff to convey consistent messaging to your patients AND would-be patients in a novel manner.

Within this communication framework, we use techniques like Storytelling, Messaging, Main Narrative, etc…

If you’d like to see how this unfolds in detail, check our free healthcare branding series

Advantages of building a charismatic dental brand

Establishing a brand for your dental practice arms you with a bottomless source of perks.

In an age where we’re seeing an overabundance of patient choice, branding is an integral part of success.

Here are a few of these benefits that take your dental practice to a new arena

I) Established dental brands charge premiums and do not compete on price

Since you built a brand that patients gather around and are loyal to, you don’t have to cut down prices.

You skip past the hassle of having to negotiate prices because patients already know your value.

Your patients are aware of what makes your dental brand unique.

They are aware of the fact that there is no substitute for the kind of experience you provide.

They know your value because you proactively communicate it through your messaging with them before treatment.

This is the power of branding: Being able to convey your message early on before the patient made the decision to see you.

II) skyrockets patient retention

You know that patient retention is imperative to reliably grow your DSO’s practices.

And using paid ads for acquiring patients is like using a tactic that comes with an expiration date.

However, this is different when it comes to branding.

Branding, at its core, creates long-term relationships with your patients.

Building a grounded brand requires long-lasting bonds with patients.

Therefore creating a cult-like loyalty and increasing their retention.

III) Charismatic Dental brands Enjoy Organic Prosperity

You’ve seen how people describe themselves based on the tribes they’re in.

“I’m an android fan” or “I’m a Jeep person”

That’s because these brands spoke to their souls. They know their audience and they built communities around a shared purpose.

A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.

― Seth Godin, Tribes

Seth Godin, a marketing guru, is hinting at the need for organizations to build communities around their brand.

Because it’s when you build a circle of people around your dental brand, you gain the unmatched advantage of functioning like an organism rather than an organization.

You see, when your dental brand starts to be the playground in which your patients meet and build a community around it, it becomes more of an ecosystem for them to live and thrive.

And that’s what any good practice should be, a place where patients are empowered.

What does that mean for your practice? Simple: Organic Prosperity.

Your patients now are stakeholders and members of your tribe.

They are true evangelists for this brand of which they believe there is no substitute.

Patients will join the battlefield and recruit more patients around the same cause your brand fights for.

A brand like this creates tribes and loyal followers that WANT to spread the word.

Building a tribe around your dental brand is not some wishy-washy riffs.

Here at unnus, we implement design-thinking strategies to achieve the same effect for our clients.

If you’d like to dig deep into details of the “how”, again, we highly recommend checking out this free 5 part series on healthcare branding .

IV) It spark up operational efficiencies

Without a concrete strategy for where your dental brand wants to be, you’ll work aimlessly towards no man’s brand.

And building a brand forces you to squeeze your brain to imagine the future for your dental practice.

Your FUTURE BRAND will be the binoculars from which you peek into tomorrow.

This is important to all the stakeholders of your practice.

When everyone has an objective to aim at, work becomes more enticing.

This leads to your staff working together and providing better services to your patients.

And thus, sparking up operational efficiencies.

The charismatic brand test

In this section, I’ll share with you 2 creative exercises you can play with your team.

These exercises are meant to help you paint the bigger picture for your dental practice and see if it can pass the test of time or not.

I) Brand Obituary Technique

What will happen if your dental business closes its door tomorrow?

Would journalists write headlines heralding your past achievements, or would their stories simply add you to a list of bygones?

Would employees wonder how it could have ended, or would they have known it was inevitable?

Would patients mourn your passing, or would the demise of your brand go unnoticed?

Write down the obituary of your brand as if it were a person who just died yesterday.

Think of yourself as the journalist who has to report on the accident

Things you need to include in the obituary:

What was the brand’s biggest achievement in life?

  • What will patients remember it for?
  • Who did your practice leave behind?
  • What did your brand leave unaccomplished?
  • Who will mourn or miss your brand, and why?
  • What lessons can be learned from the brand’s life?
  • What can be learned in the wake of its death?
  • Now that the brand is gone, what will take its place?

This exercise will force you to think through some of the key elements that make up a charismatic brand.

Here’s an example of this technique from our client Confidental™

Healthcare Branding exercise

II) Onliness statement test

The onliness statement exercise is a luminous test of how unique your dental practice is.

It’s simple but surprisingly hard to get right.

Finish the next sentence:

Healthcare positioning statement

In the first blank you fill in the category you’re in (Orthodontist, cosmetic, general, etc…)

And in the second blank, you put your differentiator.

A differentiator is a competitive advantage that you own, it’s unique value proposition that makes you unique.

Example of Confidental™'s onliness statement :

Healthcare branding example

This positioning statement solidifies what you’re being perceived by the patients and how you’re different from others.

The truth about charismatic dental brands

Establishing a dental brand for your practice is like developing a vaccination for mediocrity

It sets you up apart from being seen as a commodity.

It is a sure-fire way to cut through the “me too” dental brands and establish a long-term growth strategy.

If you’re aiming to develop a brand strategy for your practice and want an extra hand to help, you can always reach us out .