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Take Control of Your Veterinary Practice Brand

By Harley Orion, CEO

A brand is more than just your logo or your signage. A truly authentic brand grows from your core values, mission, and culture. And then it expresses everything you do as an organization, from marketing to staff recruitment, and everything in between.

As a veterinary practice owner (or a leader on a practice team), one of your fundamental goals is to build an authentic, effective, and engaging brand for your practice. To do that, you’ll need to understand what a brand is. I’ve worked with practices all over the country, and I've often found that practice owners consider branding to be something complicated and expensive – or something that only big companies do, not a local business.

So let’s unpack what a brand really is and help you understand what it means for your practice. It’s actually a very practical and tangible thing when you really understand it!

The Benefits of a Strong and Consistent Brand

The most successful veterinary practices have a sense of themselves and know who they are. They understand - and even purposefully craft -  aspects about themselves such as the design of their physical space and the details of their history that they include on their “About Us” webpage. They make an effort to represent themselves in a way that connects with local pet owners, so that they will see value in their practice – and this helps continually grow their business.

A strong brand does three important things:

  1. It makes marketing easier and more effective
  2. It saves money while also increasing your revenue
  3. It increases your practice’s value

A person brainstorming on paper about branding

  1. It makes marketing easier and more effective
    Once you have your brand well-defined, it becomes faster and easier to develop new marketing and advertising materials. And they’ll be more consistent, too, since they all flow from the same statement of your brand. This means they’ll be more likely to be remembered. There’s a reason Coca-Cola has had the same logo for over 150 years – people remember it!
  2. It saves money while also increasing your revenue
    Any quality marketing staff member or contractor will ask you for information about your brand when they start to create materials for you. If you have this well-defined, you’ll save time in every interaction – which means you’ll save money as well.

    And of course because your marketing is more memorable and consistent, it will drive more revenue for your practice. 
  3. It increases your practice’s value
    This claim is probably the least understood one. When we discuss this in our presentations to groups, many practice owners (and even regional aggregators who acquire practices) often don’t understand this, and it’s very important. It’s well known in the corporate branding industry that the stronger a brand, the stronger the company’s margins and valuation. Many iconic brands are valued at billions of dollars, even apart from the assets of the company they represent. Why? Because the Coca-Cola logo transforms a 1-cent bottle of sugar water into a $1.99 Coca-Cola. That’s quite a margin!

So what does this have to do with your practice? As consolidation increases and larger corporates (and even Wal-Mart, Petco, etc.) are all apparently in the veterinary business now, there is constant downward pressure on the prices you can charge. If there isn’t a cheaper clinic down the street from your hospital, there will be soon. And if you don’t have a strong bond with your clients, they will go there instead. A strong brand bonds you to your clients and helps them understand how you are unique and different. In marketing this is called differentiation and it is crucial to protecting your margins from cut-rate competitors.

Your Brand is the Bridge Between Your Core Values and Your Marketing

Everything begins with your mission and core values. Visit this blog from Dr. Michele Drake for steps on how to develop a mission statement and core values for your business. So that’s where it starts – if you haven’t taken the step to define your mission and values, I’d suggest that you start there, and then return to working on your brand. A great brand always comes from within, and grows from authentic values.

A dog at one end of a bridge

But having a mission statement and a set of values isn’t enough to fully accomplish your marketing goals. Before you can deliver effective marketing, you must define your brand. Your brand is the bridge between your practice’s core values and your most effective marketing programs.

You know your core values, and hopefully your team knows them too. But your brand is how you express those core values to the world.

Misconceptions About Branding

There are a few common misconceptions about branding. One common misconception is that a
brand is only for big companies like Apple, Nike, etc. But in fact, a strong brand will enhance the performance of any size company. 

A magician with smoke in his hands

Another common misconception is that branding is all smoke and mirrors. It’s just big talk from “agency people” with big egos. And for sure, there are those people, but that’s not who you have to be. The fact is, a good brand is real. It’s built from the core values and daily actions of your company. A great brand isn’t just the words you say, it’s what you do to back those words up.

A great brand isn’t just the words you say, it’s what you do to back those words up

The third common misconception that I see with veterinary practices is that branding requires a big agency and lots of money. I often hear “No, I don’t need branding. I just need to bring in some more new clients.”

The fact is, there are some steps you can take today to build your brand at virtually zero cost. It starts with defining your brand. This is as simple as writing a statement that describes how you want to be perceived by your target clients. If you’d like more help with this, our GeniusVets Academy includes a complete step-by-step walk-through of how to create your own brand. That’s just one of many lessons in our Academy, which costs just a few dollars a month – a LOT less than you’d spend hiring that “branding agency”!

In reality, the single biggest difference between organizations with a well-defined brand and those without, is taking the time to articulate it and write it down. Once that’s done, you can start to build the habit of living that brand. Of course this is too simple to believe, but if you think about it, how can your team express your brand if they don’t know what it is?

Once you have written down what you want your brand to represent, you can guide your team toward expressing that brand as part of the routine actions they already do every day. Use your employee manual, staff training, team meetings, and more to work through:

A veterinary team meeting

Strengthening your brand is tremendously valuable across many dynamics of your business. It can lead to not only increased revenue, but improved practice valuation and employee retention as well. Your mission, values, and culture give your business direction, and your branding illuminates that path for local pet owners.

Ready to learn more about creating and expressing a brand that grows your business? Enroll in GeniusVets Academy today!

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