The name of your practice has an enormous impact on branding and online marketing. So should you choose a catchy moniker or something a little more sensible? By Angela Tufvesson.
Deciding on a name for your new or rebranded veterinary practice may seem like a straightforward task, but choosing the right name is one of the most important—and, for many vets, most difficult—business decisions you can make. Your name is the first thing potential clients will see walking past your practice or when they search for you online, and the opening line they’ll hear when they phone to make an appointment. Pick the wrong name and your business may suffer. Choose well and you’ll likely be on a path to long-term financial success.
Every business wants a name that stands out from the crowd. But that doesn’t mean you should channel your inner nerd and choose something as abstract as Yahoo, Uber or Tinder. For veterinary practices, including your suburb or town in your name—along with, of course, some mention of veterinary services—is one of the most effective strategies.
It might sound boring but it works because your location differentiates your practice from the thousands of other practices around Australia and makes it easier for potential clients to find you online, says management consultant Dr Tony Thelander, director at ValuVet.
“You can help yourself by, if it’s available, adopting your suburb or town’s name in your business name because that creates a barrier to entry to another business and also helps with internet marketing,” he says.
“When it comes to Google searches, naming the region or area that you’re operating in is essential for people to be able to find you on the internet. You’ve got to think like the general public and if they want to find a veterinarian in Armidale, they’ll Google ‘vet Armidale’.”
Adam Russell, director at Veterinary Practice Partners, says choosing a name that highlights your location also helps to create a connection with the local community who will form the bulk of your client base.
“Definitely give some indication of where you are, because one of the most important things is that people know your location and remember it,” he says. “If you can include the name of the road or suburb it’s a really positive thing to have in the brand name because veterinary clinics are local businesses and having a local feel in the name is a really positive thing.”
If you’re unable to include the name of your local area in your business name—perhaps it’s been taken by another practice or you’ve taken over a thriving practice named after the former owner—you’ll need to work extra hard to make sure potential clients can find and remember you.
“Your practice—let’s call it ‘Tony’s Practice’—could be the best practice in town and there may be a lot of special things associated with that practice, but unless you convey that to people beforehand, either through word of mouth or some other channel, it’s going to be very difficult for them to know that nice practice on the high street is actually Tony’s Practice,” says Dr Thelander.
“You can operate as a successful business with a name that doesn’t identify your area so long as you market in your local area to make sure your clients are aware of where you are and who you are in order to generate word-of-mouth referrals. Remember, the people who are going to come to your practice are likely to come from the area surrounding your practice.” Clever digital techniques that optimise your website for search engines, distinctive logos and other branded collateral, and local advertising can help potential clients to associate your name with vet services in their area.
It’s also possible to use your location to enhance search engine optimisation, even if it doesn’t feature in your name. “If you have a name that’s totally unrelated to veterinary services in Elwood, you could have a domain name like ‘Elwood Vets’ or something along those lines,” says Russell.
“What are your clients going to think when they hear the name? Is it memorable? Is it easy to understand what you do and what services you offer?” – Adam Russell, Veterinary Practice Partners
“By the same token, you could have a domain name like ‘Vet E’ and you could have your search engine optimisation so that whenever anyone types ‘vets Elwood’ [into Google] your practice comes up.”
What not to do
Names that are too similar to other local businesses, difficult to spell or pronounce, or too long are best avoided. And any references to your line of business should be clear.
“Sometimes practices have a name which suggests that they could be a veterinary clinic but at the same time it’s not clear,” says Russell. “I worked for a vet clinic in the UK named Vets for Pets. You would think it’s very obvious what they do. On their signage they used to just have their name and they had a lot of trouble getting people coming through the door. So they put ‘veterinary clinic’ below their name and all of a sudden they had a massive improvement in their foot traffic because people weren’t sure Vets for Pets meant they were a veterinary clinic.”
Ultimately, Russell says the most important aspect to consider is your clients. “What are your clients going to think when they hear the name?” he says. “Is it memorable? Is it easy to understand what you do and what services you offer?”
Checks and balances
Before you get too excited about your new name it’s important to check that the government and the internet will allow you to use it. Confirm with ASIC to make sure the name isn’t already registered to another business. Because registering a name with ASIC doesn’t mean you own it, you’ll also need to check with IP Australia that it isn’t registered for trade mark.
Next, check with any one of the many domain name registrars that your domain name is available. “If you can get a good domain name and your domain name doesn’t appear too similar to anyone else, that’s ideal,” says Russell.