Find, get, and keep new patients with a smart online strategy
by Joel Fisher
Is your practice making the most of the Internet? If you think having a professional Web site and proactive online marketing program are “nice to haves” rather than “need to haves,” you might want to reevaluate.
If your practice is not online, it is invisible to patients who “Google” before anything else when shopping for a new dentist. Even if you have a Web site, a smart manager or owner will make certain that his or her site appears and provides targeted information to those searching online.
Internet marketing might sound intimidating and confusing, but it needn’t be. An effective online presence isn’t about a flashy Web site with lots of graphics and reams of content. Rather, it is about a Web site that is optimized for search and simply and professionally presents the information patients want to know: who you are, where you are, and what services you provide.
Does your site do those things?
This article is specifically designed to answer the questions many dental practices have when it comes to Internet marketing. By taking this advice, you can grow your practice in a smart and cost-effective manner.
First, evaluate your Web site - if you have one - from an outsider’s perspective. Pretend you are a new patient, look at your site, and ask:
- Can I find the information I am seeking?
- Does the practice present itself in a professional, polished manner?
- Are staff bios available?
- Are office location, hours, and contact information easy to find?
Next, look at your site from the perspective of a current patient and ask:
- Does my site provide relevant information?
- If I were considering services beyond regular cleanings, are details available?
- Does the site make me feel like I am in good hands?
Last, look at your site as a potential employee and ask:
- Would I want to work for this practice?
- Do they look like they have their act together?
- Do they stand out from the competition?
If your practice does not have a Web site, that’s OK. Think of it as an opportunity. Sometimes it’s better to start from scratch and build something effective than to update a site that has become stale.
There’s a reason Google pulls in more than $3 billion per quarter: It works. People Google what they are looking for, and businesses that provide it pop up, just a click away.
If your Web site is in good shape - or at least providing the basics - look into driving traffic via paid search marketing. Paid search marketing will effectively reach and bring in new patients. With the new advent of geo-targeting, you can zero in on just your local market and appear based on relevant keywords. Search is more effective and often less expensive than your local Yellow Pages listing. Also, unlike the Yellow Pages, search marketing is completely traceable, meaning you can evaluate in real time the effectiveness of your program.
Even if most of your patients find you through word of mouth and referrals, Internet marketing can make the process easier. It’s easier and makes more of an impact if one of your happy patients sends a friend an e-mail with a link to your site than if he or she provides the friend with your phone number.
By now you might be wondering, “This all sounds good, but how much is it going to cost?” How much does it cost for healthy, good-looking teeth? Likely your answer will be something similar to “How healthy are your teeth now, and what does ‘good-looking’ mean to you?” And then you would start an examination and ask more questions before providing an answer.
It’s the same thing with Internet marketing. A site designed and developed by a professional can make the difference. Although the do-it-yourself tools and options have improved considerably, it takes professionals who understand the importance of design, know the best development practices, and understand marketing goals to create an effective Web presence.
If you do nothing in online marketing, we recommend the following:
- If you have one, review your current site with the eyes of a prospective patient, current patient, and potential employee. Evaluate the content and appearance.
- If you don’t have a site, hire a professional to help you design and develop an effective Web presence.
- Start using paid search to generate new leads. It works.