Your Web site: How should you build it?
The Dental Economics year-long series,"The Internet`s Impact on Dentistry," is proudly sponsored by smileworks.com.
Bill Kimball, DDS
I trust that you are ready for a Web presence of some sort. You`ve been reading about how the Web has grown. Some of you are tired of patients asking for your Web site address and having no response except, "We`ve been thinking about it." You`ve read about Dr. Tom Orent of the 1,000 Gems Seminars, who "did $100,000 of dentistry last year for patients who listed surfing the Web as their referral source." You realize that one or two good patients every few months could pay for your site!
You may have read Bill Gates` latest book, Business @ the Speed of Thought, in which he states, "Word of mouth is the most powerful means by which any product or company builds a reputation, and the Internet is a medium made for word of mouth." Imagine your team and loyal patients e-mailing their friends and family a short note that includes your Web address. The recipient just clicks on your address (in hypertext) and is sent directly to your Web site, which might include a special offer. The site might answer a common question or two about dentistry. The future patient enjoys learning about your office philosophy, gets a look at your smiling face, and is encouraged to e-mail or call your office for an appointment. If visitors to your Web site are not ready to schedule, they could at least sign up for your e-newsletter that your office sends out regularly. By the time this article is published, several offices will be doing this.
OK, it`s time. "Does anyone know where I can find someone to build a Web site for me?" Most of you do know someone! It seems that everyone has a brother, uncle, friend, or employee`s brother`s girlfriend that is into Web site development. The big problem here, of course, is that most of us have no way to evaluate their skills, reliability, or pricing.
This month, I provide some options for your own office Web site. We`ll look at how to build your Web site, what to look for, pricing, and what to expect, etc. Next month, we`ll discuss how to drive traffic and potential new patients to your site - the primary reason for creating a site for most of us.
As dentists, our first question often is, "How much is this going to cost me?" I`m not implying that we are cheap ... well, at least not super cheap ... well? We see ads for free Web sites, but what do you get for that? If "free" is one end of the spectrum, what`s the high end? Three years ago, I spent $10,000 building www.kimballconsulting.com. Was it worth it? Yes. Would I spend that much today? No. Just like the $40,000 FujiCam, one of the very first intraoral cameras, those who purchased it felt it was a great investment because it was so unique. Having a Web site is becoming less and less unique, so I don`t see the need to spend more than $2,000 to $3,000 for a nice site. I saw a comic strip that had a homeless man standing by the road with his cardboard sign that read, "Need food. Please help. www.needfood.com." Yes, everyone will have a site sooner or later!
Here are some basic terms you might like to know:
* AOL (America Online), MSN (Microsoft Network), CIS (CompuServe) - These large commercial online services offer proprietary services and information less readily accessible on the Internet, as well as a connection to the Internet, for about $20 per month.
* ISP (Internet Service Provider) - These are the companies that charge about $20 per month to connect you straight to the Internet. Some ISPs, like www.integrityonline7.com, filter potentially offensive material from the Internet.
* URL (Uniform Resource Locator) - Your address on the Web (www.yourpractice.com or http://hfarran.smileworks.com). You can find out if the name you want is available by checking www.register.com.
* Server - The physical computer (hardware) that houses your site.
* Host - A company that adds and maintains your site on their server.
* .com - Indicates a commercial site, usually in the United States.
* .org - Indicates a noncommercial site.
* .net - Indicates the host is run by a networking organization, usually an ISP in the United States. (But when capitalized, Net means Internet.)
* TLA (three letter acronyms) - I think Web developers stay up late at night to think up new TLAs just to confuse us.
Today`s dental Web site pricing comes in four distinct ranges, according to Jim DuMolin of Internet Dental Alliance:
- Free: Register with a service only
- $200 to $350: Site is part of a portal (a larger site that "hosts" your 1-5 pages)
- $1,000: Your own domain name, 30+ pages
- $3,000 to $7,000: Very high-end (of course, the sky is the limit)
The Internet Dental Alliance has been reviewing the site logs of 200 dental Web sites to track visitor preferences and the number of dental appointments made. They found that people are looking for specific types of dentists (cosmetic, high tech, halitosis, etc.), rather than a general listing. Visitors stay an average of 14 seconds. So the first impression has to captivate them, and the site should have enough content to keep them interested. Sites also need to keep changing to generate return visits.
Promotions help to attract visitors to the site. Jim DuMolin`s group has been offering a $5,000 vacation to Paris to increase site traffic. Smileworks.com has teamed up with Columbia Pictures and its family film release, "Stuart Little," to offer "Stuart Little`s Smileworks" Sweepstakes.
According to Kirk Hans, president of Comdent, "The Internet provides proactive dentists a dynamic way to reach their local community. Web technology now offers many tools, such as virtual tours, QuickTime movies, and other exciting ways for dentists to inform potential patients about the services they offer. If a site lacks creativity and is slow, there is no way it will compel viewers to request an appointment - and that`s what it`s all about!"
Seltzer Institute recently completed a study on dental Web sites that I requested specifically for this column. They found two basic types of services offered: "One type provides a presence on the Internet by setting up Web sites. The other type - such as smileworks.com and Seltzer Institute - integrates Web page design services with marketing programs designed specifically to attract new patients."
Every vendor provides a unique bundle of services. Contact vendors directly to discuss their services and determine which makes the most sense for your practice. Costs shown cannot be compared to each other because of the differences in service packages.
Some information from the study is displayed in the boxes on the previous page. You may obtain a complete copy of the survey from Seltzer Institute at no charge by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and requesting the Internet Survey.
Is it time for your office to have a presence on the Net? I say YES! As Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric, said, "Any time there is change, there is opportunity. So it is paramount that an organization get energized rather than paralyzed." This is not the time for paralysis by analysis. Do your homework and make a choice. The future of your office is yours to create. See you on the Net!
Phone: (800) 527-3733
Internet address: www.smileworks.com
Web site name (domain name) owned by: Vendor Sample pages:
Cost: No setup fees. Free trial membership. $295 per month thereafter, which includes television commercials and Internet banner ads.
Phone: (800) 736-9998
Internet address: www.dentistryonline.com
Web site name (domain name) owned by: Vendor or doctor
Cost: Free basic service. $59 per month with all options.
Phone: (800) 446-8848
Internet address: www.quickbooks.com
Web site name (domain name) owned by: Vendor
Sample pages: Not available
Cost: Six months free; $9.95 a month thereafter. Purchase of Quickbooks is required.
Internet Dental Alliance
Phone: (800) 795-2946
Internet address: www.internetdentalalliance.com
Web site name (domain name) owned by: Vendor. Doctor may purchase domain name
Cost: $1,300 setup. $99 to $178 a month depending upon services.
Phone: (800) 229-8967
Internet address: www.hitecdentist.com
Web site name (domain name) owned by: Doctor
Cost: $1,500 to $3,000 setup and $50 a month.
Focus is on marketing for cosmetic dentistry.