The other day, I drove by an urgent care center startup where it was immediately clear the operators had not consulted anyone with urgent care signage or branding expertise. The center probably avoided paying a consultant for fear it would cost too much, but one can be almost certain that the center will lose hundreds-of-thousands of dollars due to their multiple mistakes in signage and branding. An expert consultant would have completely paid for himself or herself  by allowing a center to avoid many mistakes.

Here are a few reasons why effective signage is crucial for urgent care success:

  1. A good, visible sign has the same marketing impact as a billboard. If you consider how much it costs to rent a billboard on a certain street, not having a good sign means a center would need to spend similarly on a billboard to get the same effect as a visible, permanent center sign.
  2. A good sign boosts the return of all other marketing investments.  If a consumer sees a sign, and then hears a radio ad or receives something in the mail…all of this reinforces the physical location a patient will go when they have their urgent care need.  Without a visible sign, advertising becomes to a “blind” location and thus far less effective.
  3. The sign should connote “urgent care” or make it clear the services offered at the location.  A center that gets too creative in branding may confuse consumers as to what services are provided or why they would go to the facility.

Signage should be clear, concise and relevant. It needs to communicate urgent care or the services provided, but omit unnecessary details.  For instance, some centers put the phone number on the sign, which takes up valuable real estate, adds clutter, and doesn’t add any value as a consumer who is at the physical location can walk in if they have questions.

Urgent care signage should optimize space on monuments and poles. Take the largest, most visible position available. Use a background color such as red or blue with white lettering (as opposed to a white background) and bold lettering.

Operators should also consider visibility both day and night, and evaluate the signage of any visual obstacles such as trees, other signs, and outlot buildings.

If a location lacks good signage, or municipal restrictions limit it, think of creative ways to augment signage such as street-facing flags or banners, which most municipalities allow on a temporary, seasonal or grand opening basis.

So what is the take-home lesson here?  We would recommend that before you spend everything that you have on an urgent care startup, you need to spend some money to network with other urgent care professionals.  You might consider attending a conference put on by the Urgent Care Association of America. It seems like a good idea to invest in hiring a specialist consultant in urgent care startups. If this consultant is truly expert in urgent care startups, that consultant should pay for himself of herself. Beware: When it comes to hiring a consultant, there are plenty of so-called experts that have little or no experience in successful urgent care startups. Be sure that your so-called expert has personally been involved in multiple successful startups, has lost of urgent care (not generic healthcare) experience, is not just hiding behind a graphically-pleasing website, and most importantly check their references (preferably urgent care operators that now have at least 2-3 years of experience).  The most experienced consultant in in startup urgent care consulting is Urgent Care Consultants.