By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Sooner or later every healthcare provider will need to name, or rename, his or her professional practice. And for most, it will be sooner, given the upheaval in contemporary health delivery systems.
Healthcare reform and the tough economic climate have propelled many of these changes, with more to come. Medical practices and solo physician providers have rolled-up into partnerships, larger group practices, or have become employees of health systems or hospitals.
Who needs a marketing-smart (new) name?
Many providers-solo or group practices-have revised their business model and marketing plan in response to changes in the marketplace and/or changes in the competition. Even well established and relatively stable practices, practitioners and hospitals have considered how they can improve value in their name (or launch a new name) and strengthen marketing effectiveness.
In fact, the business or practice name is such a fundamental ingredient to your brand and branding message you’ll want to consider these important DOs and DON’Ts.
DO consider professional guidance. Naming or renaming is not easy or automatic. Before you jump at that perfect, “new-name-solution,” good professional help can keep you on safe turf and find early success.
Begin with a clear understanding of the legal playing field…what’s required, what’s permitted and what might be out of bounds. Businesses in general, and licensed professionals in particular, will need to know what’s required in practicing, as one state describes it, “under a fictitious, false or assumed name in any public communication, advertisement, sign or announcement.” Checking with your attorney is a good beginning.
What’s more, an experienced healthcare advertising agency or a creative resource that has successfully done this previously can be of immense help with the process. (Drawing on experience—legal and marketing—saves time and expense.)
DO understand your target audience and competition. You want to speak to the needs and interests of the audience that you intend to reach. That’s vital to inspiring interest and a marketing conversation. And don’t assume you know what the competition is doing. They are reaching for the same prospective patients as you, and they may have made changes recently themselves.
DO think name + tagline + (sometimes) logo. A marketing “identity” leverages the strengths of a name AND a tagline and possibly a logo as a complete message. Collectively these elements support each other to communicate who you are, what you do and why that’s important to the audience. Does the identity convey a benefit or value to the reader?
DO consider your present and future uses. Your creative solution needs to be versatile enough to work in various sizes and placements…from business cards to outdoor signs and everything in between. Is there a website address (URL) available? Does it work with a visual concept?
DO think memorable, distinctive and descriptive. Avoid anything that’s difficult to spell, pronounce or say (in person or on the phone). Is it unique enough to make an impression that’s easy to recall? Is it unlike the competition and not easily confused? What is the one thing you want the reader to remember about you?
DO be brief. Short and direct is more challenging to create, but the result will be easier for the public to remember.
DON’T think your personal name says it all. Sorry, but your first and last name probably don’t mean much, especially for people who don’t know you yet. Few professional practitioners have a name-value reputation that stands out with the general public or prospective patients.
DON’T shoot from the hip. Consider dozens of options and refine the words to what works best. This process often reveals alternatives, variations and even better options. Don’t embrace the first idea out of the gate until you’ve explored the field.
DON’T be trendy, cute or clever. Does your naming solution have enough staying power to endure changes in the marketplace? Does it reflect how the practice operates now and in the future? A name that’s too chic for the room will soon be unfashionably out of date.
DON’T create a name by committee. As the maxim goes, “a camel is a horse designed by committee.” The fastest track to a bad solution is to collect and combine everyone’s opinion.
It’s surprising how often we discover a professional practice or healthcare entity that has launched itself in business—and subsequently marketing and advertising—with little or no thought about the importance of their name. (That’s often when we get a call for help.)
A medical practice name (or the name of a health system, a hospital or other healthcare entity) is an essential consideration in doctor marketing, physician advertising, dental practice or even a hospital’s branding message to the community. Although every situation is different these guidelines will help you get started on the road to success.