Article Date: 3/1/2010

Don't Get Burned By Branding
business advisor

Don't Get Burned By Branding

To make your mark on patients, avoid these four common mistakes.

JERRY HAYES, O.D.

Back in the days of the Old West, cowboys used red hot irons to sear distinctive markings such as “XIT,” “RO” and “6666” on their cattle. These brands served as marks of ownership as herds were driven cross-country to market.

Of course, when it comes to “branding” as it applies to optometry, you can't put marks on your patients' hindquarters. Today, you have to impress the brand of your practice somewhere else — on their minds. In order to make your mark, you need to avoid what I consider to be four common mistakes many practice owners make on a regular basis.

1. NO LOGO. The logo is the modern version of the branding iron. It is the visual anchor that holds all your marketing, advertising and communications pieces together. Think IBM or the Nike swoosh. One is a simple graphic. The other is made up only of letters. However, just the thought of either logo instantly brings to mind an image of what that company stands for. That is the kind of branding power you should be striving for in your own modest way.

One of the excuses for not having an attractive logo used to be that it was too expensive to have a professional designer create one for you. But great looking custom logos are now readily available on the Internet for just $100 or more. I recently had a very nice one designed on www.logomyway.com for just $250.

2. UNATTRACTIVE STATIONERY AND BUSINESS CARDS. Again, because a variety of top caliber design talent is available at the click of a mouse, there is no excuse to have bland or poorly designed graphic materials in your practice. I have had good experience finding designers for small projects on www.guru.com.

3. LACK OF A CONSISTENT LOOK AND FEEL IN EDUCATIONAL AND ADVERTISING PIECES. This is perhaps the single biggest mistake made by O.D.s who design their own educational and advertising pieces. For best results, all your printed materials should have the same colors, border design, font style and general layout, including the position of the logo in each piece.

Try this. Put copies of your recent newspaper announcements, in-office brochures and Yellow pages advertising side by side. Do they look like a hodge podge of advertising styles or would a new patient easily recognize them as from the same practice? Presenting a consistent look and feel will reinforce your brand and help make your marketing pieces more recognizable to your audience.

4. NAME THE PRACTICE ONE THING, CALL IT ANOTHER. This happens a surprising amount. It's like the kid whose real name is James, but everybody calls him Buddy.

If the name on your exterior sign, front door, letterhead and business card all read River City Eye Center, your receptionist should not answer the phone by saying, “Thank you for calling Dr. Hayes' office.” That will confuse your audience. Again, be consistent, even if it means changing one of the names you use.

In closing, creating a strong brand for your practice is a process, not an event. The starting point is to develop professional looking materials and then present them in a clear, consistent manner. In a service profession, such as optometry, business is based largely on referrals. That means your practice's name and reputation are really all you have. OM


THE FOUNDER OF THE HAYES CENTER FOR PRACTICE EXCELLENCE AT SOUTHERN COLLEGE OF OPTOMETRY IN MEMPHIS, DR. HAYES IS A REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR TO OM. E-MAIL HIM AT DRHAYESBLOG@GMAIL.COM.

Optometric Management, Issue: March 2010