Your Most Valuable Asset: Your Brand

It only took me 32 years to come to this conclusion.  I hope this article will shorten that time for you.

I don’t give a damn ’bout my reputation – Joan Jett

You know how they say, “your reputation precedes you?” Certainly, we’re all aware that we have a “reputation” as dentists… at the very least with our own existing patients.  Presumably, since they’re still your patients, your reputation is likely “good” with them.  Perhaps your reputation may extend beyond your patients to their family or friends, with whom they had conversations about their experience in your practice.

Depending on your professional relationships extending from your practice, you may also have a reputation among colleagues and other connected professionals. 

Many of us work hard to maintain a good reputation.  We hope for good online reviews from our patients.  We hope our specialist referrals speak highly of us to our patients.  Those specialists may occasionally return the favor of referral due to our reputation with them. 

I recently learned that reputation isn’t the same as your brand.  And, by brand, we’re not talking about naming your practice, “Del Boca Vista Smiles” or even “Smiles by Dr. Schmuckatelli.” Branding is not a cool logo, either.  Your name and logo may REPRESENT your brand, but they are not your brand.

One time at dental camp…

A week ago, I was at my auto mechanic’s shop getting my brakes serviced.  Ernie is the owner of a decades-established local car shop that is well-known among car enthusiasts.  Hence, it turns out a lot of dentists are clients.

I was talking with Ernie, who is one cool cat.  He told me that the previous week, another dentist was there.  The dentist is from the county north of me, and I know his name, mostly from my days back in the dental association.  Ernie said, “Your name came up, and he said… Dr. Mike is a very good dentist.'”  It was nice and flattering to hear that.  This was from someone I really don’t know (lives and practices an hour away) and haven’t seen or had contact with for some 20 years, probably.

Later in the week what I learned something was said about me by another dentist (in the same town as me) not intended as a compliment to me, but I took it as a compliment!   I was seeing a new patient, who is the father of a good friend.  We’ll call my friend, “Mary” and her dad, “John.”  Besides being a friend, Mary has been a patient in my practice.  John had some implant / pros work done by another dentist in town.  John was having a hard time with the provisional upper denture for about a year.  It wasn’t fitting well and had broken several times.  One of the uncovered implants had failed, as well.

Finally, his daughter and he decided to do a “time out” and get my opinion on the situation. When they asked for x-ray copies to be sent to me, the dentist, who I don’t know at all, called her one evening, apparently to confront her about it.  He said (about me), “He’s just going to charge you $50,000.”  LOL!  OK… I’ll do it for that!  By the way, I had already completed a full mouth rehab for Mary’s mother-in-law last year.

Who Are You? Who, who? Who, who?

But, really… I was happy to hear that my reputation is both “good” and “expensive!”  Perfect!  I’m comfortable with both. I certainly would not want to be known as the opposite or even as “average.”  I’ve always been baffled at the dentists who boast, “My fees are average for the area.”  It’s a tacit admission of BEING average.

I posted these stories on a Facebook dental group.  My friend and President of the best dental marketing company on the planet, New Patients Inc., posted a comment:

Mark Dilatush

You are now branded.  Branded is what non-customers believe about your business.

That’s some deep stuff.  And, it makes sense.  How do you create such a brand?  I don’t think it can be artificially created.  It’s not marketing in the traditional sense.  I think it comes down to CONSISTENCY.  I’ve worked very consistently for 26 years in my own practice to create a culture of excellence.  I’ve been consistently TRUE TO MYSELF.  I was aware that my patients knew of my commitment to excellence by virtue of their consistent experiences and feedback in my practice.  But, I had not yet realized that I had (finally) established a BRAND that precedes me, so to speak.

Below are a bunch of car company logos representing brands. Even if you’ve never owned one of these brands, I bet you know something about most of them. When you hear “Lexus,” you think… luxury. When you hear Volvo, you think… “safety.” BMW… “German engineering.” Ferrari… “fast red Italian car!” Remember, Mark said that “Branded is what non-customers believe about your business.

What is your brand?  What would you LIKE to be your brand?  What are people who have never set foot in your office saying about you?

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7 Responses to Your Most Valuable Asset: Your Brand

  1. Brian K. Van Netta, DDS says:

    Hi Mike. This was an excellent post which touches on an important aspect of private practice. I fully agree with your assessment of consistency in regards to developing a brand. It takes time, patience, and focus to develop this consistency and I’m afraid many young docs will miss out on this aspect working in the corporate setting. There really is something special about having your own practice. Jumping from office to office or working anonymously in a large group makes it harder to develop consistency for branding.

    But when your name is on the shingle and you practice in a tighter knit community, you quickly realize that you will succeed or fail based on your reputation. Word of mouth is still very much alive and well. But this is one of the coolest aspects of having your own practice. You become integrated into the community you serve, and caring for many locals over the years, it makes it easier to develop an altruistic mindset in how these relationships are approached.

    Patients can count on your reliability, and know what to expect from you – every time. Your practice grows from referrals generated by satisfaction, not by slick marketing. I’ve been practicing for 34 years, 26 of them in my small little office. But it’s a tight, solid practice with many patients still with me since the start. All of them have my cell number and can reach me anytime. I never leave anyone hanging, always get emergencies in same day ( or at least within a day or two), and treat everyone as fairly as humanly possible.

    It makes practicing so much more rewarding – a win/win for the doctor and the patients. It’s a shame that things are becoming more impersonal and rushed and quite frankly, adversarial between doctors and between doctors and their patients. But your post offers great guidance for those docs fortunate enough to be developing their own practices currently. It doesn’t always have to be about the money. Some of the most rewarding aspects of our careers are the intangible aspects. Not in the least being the satisfaction gained by taking good care of your fellow man.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Somewhere I have a signed copy of a book written by the founder of Centrix (the dental materials syringe company). It was titled (going from memory), “How to Become an Overnight Success in Thirty Years.”

  2. Mark Frias, RDH says:

    Mike,

    I like your point about how some dentists proudly advertise that their fees fall within the average. Like it or not, price is one way patients (aka customers) assess quality. Average fees signal average quality for many patients.

    Great article / topic.

    • hickenack says:

      The only thing worse than average prices is $59 for exam/xrays/”cleaning” (which of course either most can’t have bc SRP or they get a prophy anyway to avoid a 1-star review containing the phrase “bait and switch”).

      • The Dental Warrior says:

        Thanks for visiting my blog and chiming in!

        The $59 new patient visit becomes a race to the bottom when the dentist across the street does it for $49… then $39… then….

        • hickenack says:

          Sometimes the office races itself. Guess how much one local DSO charged the entire year of their 20th anniversary…

          • The Dental Warrior says:

            Yeah… races itself into the ground. And, those patients they attracted will leave them for the same reason they came… when someone else is cheaper.

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