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In Conversation with Ms. Rabea Hahn
Setting up a unique dental identity and branding is one of the most effective means of acquiring new patients. A strong identity can communicate your professionalism, attracting patients who often rely on external markers to determine a dental practice’s suitability. But how do you establish a strong dental practice identity? How is it different from a corporate design? Can you change your complete practice identity after several years?
Ms. Rabea Hahn, a renowned graphic designer and corporate identity specialist focused on the healthcare market, has the answers to all the aforementioned questions and more. Our team at Zircon Medical recently hosted Ms. Hahn on our podcast series to discuss the necessity of establishing a unique dental practice identity.
Introducing Ms. Rabea Hahn, the managing partner at WhiteVision
Ms. Rabea Hahn is the managing partner at WhiteVision, a brand and corporate design agency specializing in the healthcare market. After studying marketing and communication in Stuttgart, Ms. Hahn founded the WhiteVision agency with her friend in 2006.
Ms. Hahn’s first gig was simple — designing a flyer for a dentist offering prophylaxis. She describes the conception and start of her business as a “classic one-woman story,” having started her business from the kitchen table with her girlfriend. She initially advised dentists to establish their corporate design and brand, scaled their understanding of dental practices gradually, and eventually established a professional corporate design agency.
WhiteVision currently has around 20 employees, and they’ve expanded their reach to various healthcare fields, including aesthetic surgery, dermatology, and pathologists. Instead of focusing primarily on corporate design development, they now provide the full spectrum of services necessary to position the clinic on the market, including design, consulting, web development, and interior design. WhiteVision now provides a complete package to build brands.
Understanding corporate design and corporate identity
The online space is full of buzzwords that sound awfully similar, such as corporate design, corporate brand, and corporate identity. Most people don’t understand the differences between these terms; many assume they’re synonymous, and some assume a corporate design is a fancy word for a logo. While these terms certainly have significant overlap, they’re actually fairly unique. Ms. Hahn breaks down the unique differences between corporate design and identity.
“Corporate identity” refers to the brand’s complete identity and personality. Like people, all brands have unique personalities expressed in three levels — visual, linguistic, and behavior.
The brand’s visual identity is what patients see from the outside, i.e., the corporate design. It indicates the brand’s color scheme, logo, and image tonality — the first things patients notice.
The brand’s linguistic identity is how they communicate via written text. It’s similar to how each individual has a unique style of speaking, dialects, vocabulary, etc.
The brand’s behavioral identity refers to its principles, ideologies, working ethos, similar to an individual’s identity. Just like it takes time to understand an individual’s behavioral identity, it takes time for patients to understand a clinic’s identity.
“Corporate design” refers to the brand’s visual identity — it includes the brand’s logo for sure, but that’s only a minuscule component of the design. A corporate design includes the logo, color scheme, writing, and complete image tonality. It’s the brand’s external perception — the first things patients notice about the brand. When personified, corporate design can be compared to how an individual dresses, i.e., the clothes and accessories they wear to express their identity.
Corporate design plays a major role in patient acquisition because it’s the first thing they notice. When you see someone new, your first impression is formed based on their external appearance and clothing. As such, the clothing or “design” breaks the first barrier, encouraging patients to come closer and learn more about the dental practice. In an oversaturated market with numerous practices providing similar services, the practice with the better design usually comes out ahead.
A corporate design also helps practices get the “right” patients, i.e., those who fit the practice’s specific ethos. As the visual representation of the practice’s personality and expectations, the corporate design has to be established after answering the following questions:
What is my dental practice’s identity?
What are my goals?
What do I want to offer?
Who do I want to work for?
How do I want to treat patients?
What values are important to me?
How do I want to interact with the staff, co-workers, and patients?
The right time to focus on the dental practice design and identity
Founders generally have a lot to decide when setting up their dental practice — finding real estate, implementing practice software, finding employees, and more. They don’t have the time to worry about things as seemingly mundane as corporate design and positioning. However, Ms. Hahn believes figuring out the corporate design and identity at the initial stages is essential. According to her, you should carefully think about the smallest details, including the chairs or software used.
Patients can’t assess the technical aspects of your healthcare practice — they can’t determine if you use components from the right manufacturers and your technical skills. For patients, the external impression and appearance are often the determining factors. That’s why it’s important to work on the corporate design and identity at the initial stages, even if it doesn’t take a completely comprehensive and solid form at the start.
However, a dental practice’s identity isn’t necessarily fixed — it can change over time. Most dental practice learn more about themselves and their external perception through time, and they learn to modify their visual stylings accordingly. As such, even if a dental practice works on a comprehensive identity at the beginning, they should re-evaluate every 3 to 5 years anyway to ensure they stay abreast of their recent developments.
Ms. Hahn believes some practices also need a complete “facelift.” Sometimes, you need to perform a complete brand review to determine what’s worked well in the past, identify the pain points, discuss future possibilities, and adjust the branding to ensure the dental practice’s external perception and image remain relevant. Regardless of the strength of the practice’s corporate design and identity, a timely reevaluation is necessary.
As such, there’s no one correct time to focus on the design and branding — it should be an ongoing process. Dental practices should focus on the branding from the very beginning, and they should continue adapting and re-evaluating their identity to stay relevant and attuned with their patients and true offerings.
Promoting and advertising dental services
According to Ms. Hahn, promoting and advertising dental services is delicate work, and it’s not as simple as screaming out your services into the void. Before advertising, the practice owners must lay the foundation — that includes building a strong brand and clearly communicating their services. That should be done consistently across all channels, including the website, Google, social media, and other platforms.
Furthermore, advertising shouldn’t necessarily be direct, especially on social media. Instead of advertising the services, the practice can talk about how they treat patients, what they do well, and a look behind the scenes. Social media helps practices cultivate an image rather than advertising their services explicitly, i.e., showing the prospective patients that the practice is friendly, professional, and caring. It’s about creating a relationship with the patients.
“The patient often cannot decide whether this is really a good practice in terms of medical service,” says Ms. Hahn. “He has to rely on a recommendation from friends, family, or Google.” When the patient steps into the dental clinic, their initial impressions and perception must be reinforced, i.e., there should be a seamless transition from the practice’s online image and their in-practice aesthetics and identity. “That’s where the corporate design, corporate communication, and behavior come in, building on each other coherently.”
Potential breaking points in patient acquisition and practice identity establishment
Ms. Hahn states that working on a dental practice’s identity is an ongoing process that requires constant monitoring. Without proper monitoring and routine reevaluations, the practice runs the risk of developing “breaking points,” i.e., problem areas that interfere with the patient acquisition or nullify the work done in practice identity establishment. Small breaking points can often undo all the efforts made in establishing a practice identity.
According to Ms. Hahn, these are some of the most common breaking points:
You can go to great lengths to ensure top-notch photography, website, and profiles, but the front-desk receptionist can immediately undo all the goodwill. As such, the dental practice must ensure their receptionist upholds and furthers the goodwill established through all the background brand identity work.
Patients are often turned off by the cost estimates. That doesn’t mean the practice must lower their costs but rather present the cost breakdown in an easily digestible manner. While curating a brand identity, they must put together an efficient cost sheet that ensures completely transparency, letting the patient know what they’re paying for.
Practices often lose out on business if they don’t constantly evaluate their online presence and reviews. Patients often leave bad reviews, whether justified or not, on online platforms that turn new patients away from the clinic. As such, practices must engage in active monitoring — sometimes, the right response to a bad review can nullify the negative.
You can find Ms. Rabea Hahn at her agency’s professional website, www.whitevision.de — the agency is currently headquartered in Karlsruhe with another branch in Berlin. You can also listen to Ms. Hahn in our Zircon Medical podcast or continue reading for a detailed guide to dental practice branding.
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An Introductory Guide to Dental Practice Branding
An independent article by the Zircon Medical Team
Ms. Rabea Hahn provided some incredible information on the importance of dental practice branding. It creates meaning for your company, tells your customers why they should trust you over all others, and differentiates you from your competitors. After all, patients don’t have the expertise to determine the quality of your dental products, services, and other technical components of dentistry. Those technical components are essential to provide optimal services, but they can’t help you acquire new patients, at least not in isolation.
This article aims to build on Ms. Hahn’s incredible insight. We discuss the core components of branding and provide valuable tips for effective branding.
Components of Dental Practice Branding
The mission statement defines your dental practice’s purpose, goals, and intended effect. It describes the effect you’d like to have on your patients, the community, and the world at large. The mission statement usually includes a few short lines declaring your practice’s core purpose and ethics.
The style guide is a comprehensive document that outlines how your brand should be presented. This is essential to ensure consistency across all your platforms and promotional efforts. The style guide should include your vision, mission statement, font information, color scheme, logo size, and other aspects of your brand presentation.
The logo is a small graphic, emblem, symbol, or text that identifies your dental practice. The logo is placed on the website, business cards, and all other promotional materials, and it helps you stand out from the crowd. The logo can be literal, abstract, or whatever represents your identity.
The website is your practice’s online portfolio and representation. In recent years, the website has become one of the most important aspects of your branding because it’s the first thing patients see. Whether they’re referred to your practice from friends, Google, or social media, they go through your website to get a sense of who you are.
Social media refers to your dental practice’s online presence on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and other online platforms. It’s one of the most effective means of engaging prospective patients directly while building a personal relationship. It’s one of the most effective means of distinguishing your dental practice.
Your dental practice’s physical aesthetics and design are just as important as your online presence and branding material. Both the exterior and interior of your office should follow similar design principles as your online presence, allowing the patients to carry the goodwill generated online to your physical location.
It’s important to extend your branding efforts to your entire dental team. After all, your dental practice offers incredibly personal services, so patients should get to know your team. You should have photographs of the entire team to showcase their personality. It also helps if the team members maintain an active presence on social media to engage patients even better.
Social proof refers to the fact that people usually trust institutions (like your practice) if they see others having a positive experience. Social proof for a dental practice can include a smile gallery, testimonials, and warmly-crafted patient stories. It’s even better to encourage your patients to feature you on their social media, which you can then use as a part of your branding efforts.
Tips on Dental Practice Branding
#1. Focus on a niche instead of catering to everyone
This tip applies to most businesses, but it’s also true for dental clinics. Instead of trying to appease everyone, select a specific niche and double down. Patients generally want to approach clinics that specialize in the services they need. As such, selecting a specific niche of patients may help you more than generalizing your branding and marketing efforts to appease everyone.
If you specialize in pediatric dentistry, double down on content that will engage families rather than focusing on everyone. If you specialize in cosmetic dentistry, craft a chic online presence that focuses on the aesthetics of a beautiful smile. Having the right focus is especially important when you’re promoting your practice through social media.
#2. Build and nurture customer trust and loyalty
Dentistry is fairly personal. As such, there’s incredible value in forging strong relationships with customers to maintain their trust. You can gain (and maintain) your patients’ trust and loyalty by being professional, friendly, empathizing with their concerns, responding quickly to their concerns, and ensuring consistency.
Furthermore, it’s important to actively work towards nurturing your existing relationships. This can take the form of sending regular communique to your existing patients, engaging with them online, etc. After all, most businesses get over 70% of their revenue from existing customers rather than new ones.
#3. Transparency across all platforms and communications
You should ensure complete transparency across all your platforms and communications because it earns significant goodwill. If you don’t provide a specific service, make that very clear. And there shouldn’t be any hidden fees or fine prints because they might make your patients lose trust.
#4. Create a constant stream of quality content across your media platforms
One of the best ways to get new patients and keep existing patients engaged is through constant media feeds. Build high-quality content that doesn’t actively “sell” your services. You can provide helpful advice over social media platforms, relate funny stories related to your patients and practice, and do Q&As with patients to provide helpful advice online.
#5. Ensure consistency across all components of your practice branding
You must ensure consistency across all components of your brand, including the online presence, social media platforms, physical locations, and more. Furthermore, the consistency extends to your logo usage, language, color scheme, and more. This allows patients to transfer their online goodwill into your practice. Your Style Guide can help with consistency.
The aforementioned tips can help you get started with dental practice branding. But the realities of branding are so diverse and extensive that it can’t truly be covered in a single article, and it also varies from one practice to another. However, committing to ensuring transparent, open, consistent, and frequent communication with your prospective patients will put you on the right path.