While local phone books are still
delivered door-to-door, spending dollars from a marketing budget to place a costly
ad may not be as effective for dentists today as it once was. Consumers now rely on instant Internet access
via their personal computers and smart phones to locate everything from local
restaurants to hair salons and plumbers, whenever and wherever.
For the dental professional, it
has become increasingly important to embrace these emerging online trends in
order to capture the attention of local patients who are benefiting from the
expediency and expansiveness of the Internet. Phone books may not be
diminishing completely, but there are significant advantages to shifting focus from
traditional print advertising to online marketing. Starting with a professional
website, dentists can leverage existing and emerging online opportunities to
attract new patients through the most powerful marketing medium available.
Building the Foundation
Like building a house, creating a
strong online presence requires the creation of a strong foundation. A website
should function as the base of a practice’sInternet strategy, the core from
which all other marketing initiatives and communications extend. Working with an experienced website and online
marketing professional, dentists can create a truly customized website that
works for their practices 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to engage existing patients,
increase treatment awareness, and generate new patient appointments. A professional practice website
- Engaging, patient-friendly
- Patient education
library and animations
- Downloadable patient
- Online appointment
- Easy, self-editing
Often times the first impression a
patient has of a dentist and a critical influencer of whether he or she
contacts the office, a website is a practice’s storefront to online users. A
great-looking website with the right words and tools can positively affect a
potential patient’s perception of your practice.
Reaching Your Target Market
Search marketing campaigns, such
as search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) advertising, are
important strategies that help dentists achieve prominentwebsite placement in
the search engine search results and, ultimately, more clicks from patients who
are actively searching for such services.
A potential patient may glance only once at a dentist’s ad in the phone
book, but with a strong SEO strategy, a dentist’s site can gain long-term
exposure and continuously appear front and center on a prospect’s screen every
time a search for dentist
is performed in the dentist’s local area. Additionally, dentists
don’t have to wait weeks to see a significant boost in appointments. With a PPC campaign, dentists can experience
real-time results and instant conversion ability.
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A considerable advantage of online
marketing compared to traditional print marketing is its ability to measure
results in real-time. It can be difficult to assess the direct sales impact
from a print ad, but with search marketing dentists can easily track the
effectiveness of campaigns and concentrate efforts on the ones providing the highest
return on investment through simple analytics and performance tracking.
Managing Your Reputation
Dentists don’t have to have a
website in order for a disgruntled patient to review their practices on the
Web. That’s why it’s important for
dentists to take responsibility for their online reputation, starting with a
website that is optimized for first page Google ranking. This ensures that a prospective patient’s
first impression about the practice is coming straight from the dentist, not a
review site such as Yelp, Insider's Pages, Angie's List, or Merchant Circle, where a few negative patient comments can influence
the potential patient’s decision to visit the practice down the street.
The first step to an improved
online image is building a website optimized for search, followed by submission
of practice information to top local directories and a strategy to generate
positive online reviews from a dentist’s most loyal patient base. A dental website and online marketing
provider can help launch and implement a natural reviews process that
encourages patients to review their dentists online. Acquire 5 or 10 reviews
each month and over the course of a year, a dentist will have garnered enough
positive reviews to negate any harmful reviews that will undoubtedly appear
from time to time. Bottom line: Website or not, potential patients can find
information about a practice online and existing patients canshare their
experiences (good or bad) on review sites. It’s the dentist’s responsibility to
create and shape the practice’s image online by taking hold of its own online
Growing Your Referrals
There are currently 500 million
Facebook users, and that number doesn’t include those using Twitter, YouTube,
and blogs to connect and share information with other online users. With so many people and businesses plugging
into social networks, dentists too should consider incorporating a social media
strategy into their existing marketing plan. This subject is beyond the scope of this
Article, however, and will be covered in a forthcoming presentation devoted
specifically to social media.
A Few Points to Consider
Consider the following when
evaluating your Internet strategy for practice growth and development:
- In what ways has the
Internet already influenced your professional growth and development?
- How do you see the
Internet influencing your profession in the next 5 years? 10 years?
- How frequently, if at
all, do you personally engage on social media sites? How do you see social
networking impacting dentists now and in the future?
- Have you considered
ways to protect and enhance the reputation of your practice? In your opinion,
how significant of a role does the Internet play in a practice’s image?
The Internet has made it possible for dentists to promote
their services in a manner that is “always on,” meaning a dentist’s information
can be available to patients at the exact moment they are looking for it. Many challenges faced by dentists today can
be solved through a comprehensive website and Internet strategy. Apart from word-of-mouth
and leveraging personal relationships with existing patients, a website is the
most important marketing tool a practice can have. A professional website integrated
with a targeted search marketing campaign, a solution to monitor and encourage
patient reviews, and an engaging social media strategy is essential to showing
people exactly how a practice is distinctive―and how it can offer the best
value to patients.