October 31, 2013
In a down economy, it’s common for dentists to cut back on their marketing efforts due to fears about how the recession will affect their practice. In my opinion, this is a big mistake, and just the opposite is needed. Dentists need to find new and innovative ways to attract new patients to the office. In 2013, the marketing hub of most practices should be centered around the practice Web site. In my experience, though, many dental Web sites miss the mark when it comes to attracting new patients. Here are some basic concepts to keep in mind:
1. Lay out the process. There has to be a “method to your madness.” The protocol should be designed to get people to the Web site, catch their attention as soon as they get there, and then make it easy for them to provide contact information. Many practices have found that free reports or other giveaways are a good way to provide a service for prospective patients while establishing your credentials at the same time.
2. Understand your business model. This may seem easy, but many offices have not taken this first step. You need to ask yourself: What do my patients really want, and how can I make money from that? You’ll also need to evaluate where you are currently spending money in your practice and, most importantly, how your Web site can support the above points. This would often be through modern conveniences like online scheduling, completing patient forms online, automated reminders, and newsletters.
3. Understand your customer. Notice I said customer, not patient. You need to realize that patients are consumers and they shop for dentists just like they shop for other services. Don’t discount your older patients … 65+ is the fastest growing segment of online users! You need to find marketing that will stir emotional responses from your existing and potential customers. If you don’t know what your patients want, ask them … they will let you know!
4. Use outbound promotions to draw people in. Remember that famous line, “build it and they will come”? Well, guess what … it was from a movie. It’s not a business strategy — there’s no way that patients will find you if they don’t know you are there. You’ll likely want to focus on more traditional methods to raise awareness of your site: direct mail, newsletters, postcards, etc.
5. Maximize design and content. Many dentists do not have degrees in design, so why they try to do this on their own is beyond me. There are very qualified people out there who can help you design a Web site that won’t break the bank. Keep it clean, keep it simple, keep it unique. You should have photos and other pictures on the site, as long as they enhance the content, not distract people from it. You should keep the customer in consideration here … think about what they want, not you.
6. Give them an incentive to sign up. Getting a visitor to your website is half the battle. The rest is getting them to provide you with their contact information. People are reluctant to do this, so you need to make them an offer. It may be access to a free newsletter, access to reports, perhaps a discount on services you offer, etc. You’ll have to figure out what works in your specific community.
7. Close the sale. If a prospective patient does complete your online form, someone from your office should be following up within 48 hours … and no, an e-mail doesn’t count! This should be a live human who does this. Many offices report that having scripts makes the process much easier, as you really should have an objective in mind. A basic rule of thumb: Have three questions and give one piece of information up front.
8. Track visitors. The area where many dental Web sites fail is proper tracking of visitors. Many tools are available for tracking visitors, and quite a few are free. Google Analytics and HiStats are two that I have used with great results.
9. Learn to adapt. Finally, like all creatures that evolve, you need to learn to adapt. Things that work now may not work in the future, and until you’ve tried some ideas, you have no idea how successful they will be. Keep an eye on things and make changes as they become necessary.
Web sites are no longer billboards that you plaster online and then wait for the calls to come in. You need to be proactive and monitor your Web site on a regular basis.
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