Build a brand in 5 steps


How to develop your brand.

If you're looking to develop a brand, first, you need to make sure you have a handle on the practice's vision, which represents the clinic's values, direction, aspirations, and goals. The practice's brand is the visual and experiential reflection of this vision. So understanding where your practice is headed is imperative in designing a meaningful brand. With the overarching idea you're trying to communicate in place, it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty. Start with these five steps.

1. Choose practice colors and logo. A brand doesn't work unless the whole team buys into it and helps promote it, says Shawn McVey, MA, MSW, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and CEO of Innovative Veterinary Management Solutions in Phoenix. One way to get every team member involved is to decide the practice's logo colors as a group. Select no more than three primary colors. Typically, one color will be navy or black to use for writing on business cards and signs. If your practice has already established a logo, you're a step ahead. Look for other ways to get team member input, such as a group discussion about how you'll market your practice (see step Nos. 3 and 4).

2. Determine your target market. You want to attract oodles of new clients, but you can't be everything to everyone. One way to carve out a niche for your practice is to identify the types and costs of services you want to offer. Then think about the expectations and socioeconomic status of the clients you hope to attract with them.

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This isn't about examining clients' wallets, it's about honing in on your customers. Think in terms of beauty salons. Some people are willing to pay more to be able to sip a glass of wine while they get their hair cut. Others want a less expensive trim that's completed as quickly as possible so they can head out the door. Both types of people want lovely locks, they just want a different experience to get them. So decide which type of client will be interested in the experience that surrounds your veterinary care, and market to those pet owners.

3. Pick a point person. When the above details are in place, choose a team member to lead the marketing efforts. Either on her own or with a committee, this person should take two to three weeks to develop a marketing plan around the practice's vision and brand. Eventually, this person will be in charge of surveying clients to see whether your efforts are paying off. One important question to ask: "How did you hear about our practice?"

4. Decide your marketing path. Do you want to undertake one big, flashy, high-impact event, such as sponsoring a community fair? Or do your tastes lean toward something more subtle, such as refreshing the sign in front of your practice, ordering team uniforms that sport your logo, or placing ads in local newspapers. If starting small sounds right, choose one medium at first, such as e-mail newsletters. When you've completed that project, measure its success to decide which projects you'll tackle next.

5. Budget time and money. Financial restraints usually factor into the final choice of which promotional efforts you'll undertake. The standard amount practices devote to marketing and advertising over the course of a year is 2 percent to 3 percent of gross revenue, McVey says. Figure the projected costs for completing the projects you've brainstormed to see where your costs come in.

Perhaps more important than setting aside a certain amount of money is allotting a certain amount of time to complete the projects. Most practices don't follow through with promotions because team members grossly underestimate the time involved, McVey says. So a time budget is essential. This is tough if you're heading on down untested paths, because you just won't know how long certain tasks will take. Make an educated guess, then track the actual hours spent so you'll know how to plan next time.

Kelly Stazyk is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C. Please send questions or comments to

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