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Let's face it, if your practice is well established in your community it might just be taken for granted by the public. Many practices have been in the same place and had the same look for so long, they become invisible. Established patients of the practice know it's there if they need it, but they don't think about it very often. The rest of the community may not even be aware the practice exists even if they drive past it regularly. Physical appearance of an eye care office is a very important part of any marketing plan. Maybe it's time to take an objective look at yours.
Times have changed in the health care professions and in society in general. While still maintaining a professional look, it's perfectly acceptable to have a large sign and to have it self-illuminated. Of course, the sign should be in proportion to the size of the building and the street frontage and you must comply with local zoning codes and state board of practice rules, but an upscale, progressive image can be created by a great sign. High-end signs are expensive, but they are actually very economical as a form of advertising. Break out of the mold and get noticed.
Take an objective and creative look at your office exterior and how a new sign could be installed. Get the opinions of some friends. Look at other professional practices and businesses in newly developed areas for examples of signs. Speak with your landlord if you rent and with city government officials if you own. Creatively consider where you might place a sign for best visibility. I personally like a free-standing, self-illuminated sign in front of the building, or individual, self-illuminated letters and graphics mounted to the wall of the building.
A common mistake on signs is having too much text. Resist the urge to put all kinds of information about your services, names of doctors, optical policies, phone numbers and more on the sign. A first class sign just says the name of the company.
A logo is a name, symbol or trademark of a specific style designed for easy recognition. It is the way you display your practice name in printed form, such as on signs, letterhead, business cards, advertisements and other media. Many practices don't have a logo at all, although even the font style used in a name can be a logo, if it is used consistently. The color of lettering, the size and spatial relationships of elements, the background, and the use of lines all define a logo. Quite often, a graphic such as an abstract picture of an eyeball is incorporated into the logo, but a graphic is not a requirement.
Too often, I see practice logos that look homemade. The owner may think he or she is very artsy and may also like saving money, but unless you are a professional graphic artist, the result will look homemade. I think it hurts the practice image. I recommend consulting with a local advertising agency or I've also seen excellent results from online logo design firms. Just Google "logo design" and you'll have plenty of choices and get some good ideas. Be sure to have your logo registered as a trademark so no one else can use it and ask for the digital files of the logo in various computer formats and in black and white and color, so you can supply it to printers and media outlets when needed.
A new logo can breathe new life into a tired practice as it is used on a new exterior sign, specialty advertising items, newspaper ads, business cards, brochures, newsletters, staff uniforms, and much more. An existing logo can be updated and freshened up by a graphic artist, while retaining its heritage.
Name of practice
Choosing a practice name is a very personal choice, but in general, I like a practice name that has the following characteristics.
It may not be wise to change the name of an established practice very much because it might confuse the patient base and the public. Often, some parts of the original name or doctor can be retained, so there is no doubt that the practice is the same one.
- It's memorable. I like names that are unique and quickly become a brand in the community.
- It reduces dependence on one doctor or a group of doctors. Some practices don't really have a name but are simply something like Dr. Smith's office. Nothing wrong with that, but Smith Eye Center could be an organization where many people work - including opticians and associate doctors.
- It's short. Short business names are easier to say when talking to others, when answering the phone and they look better on signs and stationery.
What you can do with the exterior of your office depends on the type of building you are in and the land surrounding it, but in any case, I'd invest money here. The image of quality pays off big dividends.
- Landscaping. If it's old and overgrown, pull it out and plant new. The idea is to change the look and get noticed. Big evergreens can be trimmed up so you can see the trunks and the building. Plant flower beds around trees and near the front of the building. Replace mulch. Get a lush lawn with an irrigation system and professionals to do the maintenance. Look at the best local banks for ideas.
- Front entrance. Even a multi-tenant office building or strip mall location may have room for flower pots or a small bench near your entrance.
- Parking area. Have it re-striped and repaved if needed, with handicapped spots clearly marked.
- Paint. If you have siding or stucco, a new coat of paint in a neutral and tasteful shade can do wonders. Or just paint the window trim, eves and fascia.
- Roof. Changing the roof material and color can give your office a new look. A whole new roof shape can make an old building look new.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
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Dr. Gailmard offers consulting services to eye care professionals through Prima Eye Group; information is available at www.primaeyegroup.com.
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