What is a brand? And why is it important for you?

There is so much to consider when you are “setting up shop”, between legal and regulatory issues to your lease and equipment, staffing, and more.   Given this, many feel that marketing/advertising is the “soft” stuff—the name and logo.  I know of practices who let the sign-maker determine the name and logo for their business! Not so fast.

In this competitive marketplace, branding is mission-critical.   You need a name and a logo but also a positioning and messaging strategy for your practice that sets you apart from your competitors and that resonates with the people in your trading area. 

If you are certain you will stay in the same general location, consider putting the name of your neighborhood/geographic location in the name.  I did that with my practice (Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital), and it helps set me apart and gives me the highest relevance on the search engines when people are searching for a vet in the specific Atlanta neighborhood of Peachtree Hills. However, I make sure to include the other neighborhoods that our practice serves in the homepage copy of my website.  You need to work to make sure that a specific location name doesn’t work against you.

Once you have a name, you will need a logo and a graphic identity program.  Use a professional graphic designer to create your logo.  It is worth it to spend the money on your logo—you will have it for the life of your practice and it will be the first thing people see and use to form an opinion of you!  The logo should look professional but not corporate.   Friendly but not childish.  It should be readable and it should work well in a variety of sizes. If it has color, be sure to specify the color in an RGB formula for the web and a CMYK and PMS color for print, to ensure that the color stays consistent.     

Once you have a logo and have determined the rules for its usage, think about how you want to portray yourself in external messaging.  All of your messaging and paid advertising should have a consistent look and feel and a consistent tone of voice—so that people recognize it as yours.  A consistent look will make your marketing dollars go farther.  Your website should look like it is part of the same family as your business cards and any promotional materials you have out in the world.  To that end–

Create a one-page communications guideline document that includes the logo art and any rules for its usage (meaning you may not want it to be used in different colors, or reduced too small or broken up in any way).  Include any taglines you want to use in conjunction with the logo and define the type fonts and colors you will use. 

And then write a checklist for marketing efforts….define the things that every external communication must include—your web URL, address, phone number, email address, social media icons, map, hours of operation, association logos, doctors’ names, etc.   This will serve as a reference when you create advertising and promotional tactics.

But ultimately, your brand is bigger than just advertising tactics. It is your DNA, your personality, a reflection of you and what you stand for.   It is the intangible that makes you unique.

Think of the brands that you know and feel a loyalty towards.   You may not have the budget as a mega brand, but you can follow the same rules they follow.   

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