Just last week I spoke with three doctors about their practices. In each case I went to Google Earth and viewed their offices from street level to see how visible they were and what type of practice they projected to the community at large. In one I saw a new sign perpendicular to the road with just a street number and nothing else, with the other two offices, I found aging neglected letters mounted on the front of the building partially obscured by overgrown landscape and deteriorating siding. With the advent of a GPS on every phone and in every car, you might think: Who needs a sign? Of course the answer is: You do, and not just any old sign.
Your number one marketing strategy is not a website. It’s your signage. Too often I see some neglected overgrown sign hidden in the underbrush of twenty year old landscaping gone bad. The rest of the time I find younger dentists who, while coming up with their budget for a build-out and start-up, actually forget to budget for a great sign. Signage is the one form of marketing that will have the longest, best, and highest return on your investment in any marketing campaign. Don’t even think about the hundreds of other marketing strategies out there without taking a long hard look at your signage. Every new practice we have started begins with a great location and the ability to place an awesome sign where it can be seen by the maximum number of potential new patients. If we can’t get the sign, the location won’t matter. People have to recognize where you are, be able to find you easily.
Keep in mind that I am assuming you have the name of the practice, domain name, and practice strategy down and ready to go with “Dentist” or “Dentistry” in the name. You have had several females look at them and all agree this is the way they should look. Now it’s time to take the visual images and names and translate that to a sign.
Be sure to at least have the following:
1. Website URL on the sign
2. Phone number on the sign
3. You have used attention getting colors
4. The sign is placed perpendicular and as close as your sign ordinance will allow to the traffic flow
5. Make sure that you mention that you are “Accepting New Patients”
6. BONUS: An LED sign for a home run and lots of new patients
In almost every practice that we have been involved with opening, we have recommended budgeting about $30,000-$40,000 for a two-sided 4X6 LED sign orientated perpendicular to the road your practice is on. I realize that most you reading this have existing signs and were not thinking about making this type of upgrade or might not even have the ability in your location to have one, but if you could, they are worth about 40 new patients a month for the rest of your career. Now do you think you can afford it? Keep in mind the three-second rule: You have three seconds for the consumer to see it, understand you are a dentist, and mentally capture the information. So make sure it attracts their attention, clearly states that you are a dentist, and makes them want to call you. This is an investment (it pays dividends and a return), not an expense (it’s gone after you spend it).
The reason an LED sign is so great is that the frame for it has all the pertinent information like web site, phone number, practice logo and name, while the center of the sign is constantly moving and changing with any message you desire. The sign is controlled by a computer in the office and operates 24/7 for about 15 years before you even need to change a bulb. An unlimited marketing pallet for over a decade cannot be beaten. If all things were equal, LED signs would win hands down.
Before you place a sign you need to find out what your landlord and the city planning and zoning committees require or allow. With a landlord you will have an uphill battle so make sure that you have everything in writing before signing a lease. Lack of signage has ruined practices. If you have the go ahead, then you must pony up a little money to the city, and your sign company will do a digital design and submit it to the zoning board. Distance from the road, width and how high it can extend all come into play, as well as what type of sign they allow. Until you receive your permit for signage and the official go ahead, I would not sign a lease or consider building. Signage really is that important. It is the first thing to check and if possible the first thing to go up even prior to building and occupancy. This is how you Summit.
Mike Abernathy, DDS