AIM Dental Marketing

AIM Marketing

Marketing Insider: Let your humanity show

Successful case acceptance-especially among new patients-begins long before case presentation. When a new patient enters your office, his antenna is finely tuned for all messages-spoken and unspoken-that will help him form an impression of your practice. When that impression is positive, it increases your chances of treatment acceptance.

Successful case acceptance-especially among new patients-begins long before case presentation.

When a new patient enters your office, his antenna is finely tuned for all messages-spoken and unspoken-that will help him form an impression of your practice. When that impression is positive, it increases your chances of treatment acceptance.

So first, it is important to let your humanity show. This means letting the person know your interest in him extends beyond the basic dental appointment. After you welcome the patient, you can ask how he learned about your practice and then talk a bit about yourself and, later, your commitment to quality dentistry.

Bridge building

When you do this, you’re building a bridge between your practice and what’s important to your patients-namely, their desire for a caring, thoughtful health care provider. You’re also providing an opening for the patients to talk a little about themselves, their work and more. It may seem like a digression, but it is a great way to connect with your patients-that is, show them your sincere desire to understand, respect and like them.

Turning to dentistry, you might begin by discussing your goal to provide the best options for the patients, and to let them know their wishes will be respected. This has the positive effect of dissipating any stress the patients may feel about “being forced to make a decision.”

Anyone experiencing that kind of pressure is typically too distracted to concentrate on what you are saying. Assure your patients that you will provide them with everything they needs to make the best choice, and that a timely decision is in their best interest.

By this point, you’ve built positive communications with the patients and, ideally, achieved a level of trust. Your next task is to have the patients share with you what, in terms of dentistry, is important to them.

You can start by asking if they has any questions or concerns about their oral health, if they’re happy with his smile and if there’s anything they might want to change about the appearance of their teeth.

Then just listen. It’s important to remember that silence is your friend: When someone is silent, it usually means he is considering your point and wants the space to arrive at his own conclusion. So, when in doubt, remember: less is more.

Patients’ stories

In all likelihood, your patients will tell you their ‘story.’ Body language, eye contact and active listening will demonstrate to the patients you understand and care about what they are is saying.

Your reply is equally important. Depending on a patient’s response, you might say, “If I hear you correctly, you’re tired of being embarrassed about your smile, is that right?”  Concluding this question with, “is that right?” makes it a close-ended question (or closed probe).  A closed probe can only be answered by yes or no.

When you have the patient conclude the exchange with an unambiguous reply, he has have given you an opportunity to satisfy his need (with a treatment plan) or continue probing for more opportunities. For example, you might ask, “Is there anything else we might be able to help you with?” If the answer is yes, simply ask, “What is that?”

After your exam, the next step in getting to case acceptance is to show your patient how your proposed treatment will help him achieve his goals.

Continuing with the above example, let’s assume your probing determined that your patient has been interviewing, and his self-consciousness about the appearance of his teeth makes him feel anxious and lack confidence during the interview.

You might then say, “I can appreciate exactly what you’re saying. While people should judge us on our abilities, it’s often our appearance that tips the balance. Well, I’ve got good news. We can provide you with a choice of solutions to get you to where you’ll look forward to sharing your smile with everyone-friend, stranger, and prospective employer alike-and we’ll be able to do it in time for your next interview.”

If your patient responds with something like, “That would be great, doctor!” you’ve just confirmed a need, which is the impetus that drives someone to accept treatment.

The next step is to summarize your treatment recommendations, being sure to relate each procedure to how it will address the stated need of your patient.  Upon successful completion of this step, the patient is ready to be handed off to your scheduling coordinator to handle the “paperwork.”

Daniel A. Bobrow, MBA, is president of American Dental Marketing Company, a Chicago-Based dentistry marketing consultancy. Mr. Bobrow is available for a complimentary telephone consultation by calling 1-800-723-6523 or at Info@AmericanDentalCo.com.

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When patients know more than you

July 29, 2009 | dentalproductsreport.com web exclusiveWhen patients know more than you The Internet makes it easy to find details on dentistry and oral health, but does access to m

July 29, 2009 | dentalproductsreport.com
web exclusive

When patients know
more than you

The Internet makes it easy to find details on dentistry and oral health, but does access to more information make for better patients and better dental care?

by Noah Levine, Senior Editor

Photo: Getty Images

Dr. Bruce Murphy recalls an encounter with one extremely self-educated patient who came to his operatory with a hand drawn diagram “in quite elaborate detail” showing exactly what he thought was wrong with his tooth and the procedure he wanted performed to treat the problem. Unable to convince this patient that his diagnosis and proposed treatment were both incorrect, Dr. Murphy found himself ready to throw in the towel.

“His solution was the most cockamamie thing in the entire world. Eventually I pulled the highspeed handpiece out of the hanger and handed it to him and said ‘have at it,’” Dr. Murphy said.

While the general practitioner who works out of practices in Schaumburg and Bloomingdale, Illinois didn’t actually let his patient begin working on his own teeth, Dr. Murphy said the story illustrates one of his worst experiences dealing with patients in the age of the Internet.

Self-diagnosing
Between 75% and 80% of Internet users have used the Web to search for health information according to 2007 study by the Pew Internet Project. While much of the online information can be useful for patients, not everything on the Web is completely accurate or unbiased, and when it comes to health information sometimes the details can be too complex to be easily understood.

Dr. Murphy likens patients who come to his operatory with a self-diagnosis to criminal defendants who choose to act as their own attorneys. A little information can be a great thing for patients, but if they are not willing to approach their dentist as an expert who can bring the benefits of both knowledge and experience to a case, the appointment will not go well for anyone.

“The biggest problem is patients who read one little thing and then get emotionally attached to it,” Dr. Murphy Said. “They basically go off half-cocked. They get a little teeny bit of info a lot of times from some god awful source and then think it’s the truth.”

Those patients can be extremely frustrating to work with, and Dr. Murphy said he sees six or seven a year who will not accept that their preconceptions about their oral health are incorrect. In those cases he politely suggests they seek a second opinion or find a dentist with whom they are more comfortable, and most of the time the patients thank him for referring them to a dentist who can meet their needs. Sometimes they even refer new patients his way and, “strangely many of them turn out to be great patients.”

Information’s upside
Not every clinician sees the influx of self-educated and self-diagnosing patients as a bad thing. As one of the authors of Nothing Personal Doc, But I Hate Dentists! (ihatedentists.com), Dr. McHenry “Mac” Lee literally wrote the book on doctor-patient communications, and he believes that even the people who find incorrect dental health information online can still be great patients because their search for answers is a sign they are thinking about their oral health.

The key is to reach out to patients on their own level, said Dr. Lee who practices in Edna, Texas when he isn’t travelling to speak about improving communication between doctors and patients. Even patients who arrive with faulty information have taken a big step by showing an interest in the details of their health care. If a clinician is confident without being overbearing, patients are likely to come around to the correct conclusion after being presented with evidence from their own mouths.

“I just think it’s wonderful. You hear them out, and then you can use their radiographs and their oral pictures to guide them to the correct answer,” he said. It’s irrefutable. If you educate them in the correct way they can’t argue with you. It’s there in black and white on the radiograph and in living color with the digital pictures.”

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Questions and answers
As president of American Dental Marketing, Daniel A. “Danny” Bobrow, MBA, works with dental practices looking to improve patient relationships and case acceptance. One of his objectives is to help dentists be prepared to respond to patient inquiries in a way that turns their negative beliefs into positive truths.

“The key here is to understand the patient’s motivation and not prejudge it or them,” he said.

When Dr. Lee is treating a patient who comes armed with an incorrect self-diagnosis, he performs the exam, reaches his conclusion and then guides the patient to reach the correct diagnosis by asking his own questions. Dr. Lee said he is very comfortable explaining things in great detail because patients who show initiative by researching their oral health will choose the best course of treatment after the doctor explains things to them for a clinical perspective.

“A person that’s come in armed with information to me is a green light to have a very deep dialogue with them and tell them everything,” he said. “My whole deal is I’m going to educate a patient, but I’m going to let that next action be on them, not on me. I sleep better at night that way.”

Overcoming any preconceived notions and getting the patient to understand and agree to the proposed treatment can require different strategies depending on the patient. While some patients may be ready for a crash course in the intricacies of oral anatomy, Dr. Lee said others might require an easily understood analogy such as comparing a patient’s bone loss to trying to plant a fencepost in unstable ground before they are able to grasp the treatment their case requires.

The “best patients”
While Dr. Murphy often is frustrated by patients who show up thinking they already have all the answers, he too finds value in treating patients who arrive with some background knowledge about their oral health. When a self-educated patient remains open to having a dialogue with and learning from the dentist he or she becomes “the best patient in the world,” Dr. Murphy said. Those appointments might take some extra time, but patients who understand their oral problems are more likely to accept proposed treatments and follow through with follow-up instructions.

“I do think there is some benefit from some people knowing a little more about their health,” Dr. Murphy said. “I’m happy to answer their questions. Well informed patients are going to eat up more of your time, but once you’ve cleared up their concerns, they’re ready to go.”

Making time for dialogue
The time factor is one of the biggest considerations when seeing a patient who comes armed with an online dental education. Dr. Murphy said he now expects to spend a bit more time with his patients, so they can cover any details. He is happy to answer the questions his patients ask, and if they reference a Web site he often pulls it up on the computer in his office so he can review the same information as his patient. There are times he finds himself learning from his patients and others where reviewing the site gives him a chance to explain what the patient didn’t understand on his or her own.

Bobrow said this is exactly the approach that will work to win over patients. Patients who ask tough questions or bring new concepts, technologies or other information to a clinician’s attention should be appreciated and recognized for their contribution to caring for their own oral health.

“That’s often what the patient really wants anyway,” Bobrow said. “This way, instead of creating an adversary, you’ve formed an alliance or partnership of sorts, and isn’t building relationships based on common interests what growing your practice is all about?”

Taking this time to really talk with patients, answer questions and explain diagnoses and treatments is one of the most important things dentists can do, Dr. Lee said. Still it does take time that could be spent on treatment, so his practice employs a highly trained patient care coordinator who builds a rapport with patients, helps answer their questions and provides education while Dr. Lee is with other patients.

Dentists have gotten a bad reputation, and many patients who have had painful or unpleasant past experiences bring their fears and discomforts with them to their appointments. While technology and technique advancements are changing that paradigm and making dentistry far less invasive and uncomfortable for patients, dentists still need to inform patients of all the benefits of these advancements.

“They’re so impressed over all the modern stuff and when they find out what we can do, it’s just phenomenal,” Dr. Lee said. “It is extremely important that a dentist has a tremendous amount of continuing education and updates their office to all the modern technology.”

You can’t please everyone
While he advocates open communication and working with a patient to reach an understanding, Dr. Lee said the final decision about treatment is the patient’s to make. A clinician can advise the patient of the best course of treatment for long-term success, but a patient may choose to go another way for a number of reasons or no reason at all.

While he will never do anything that would be harmful or would not be in a patient’s bets interest, Dr. Lee said he will allow patients to choose materials for a procedure if, for example they are following holistic advice that decries certain materials. However, if a patient requests a material he does not normally use, he will have the patient purchase the material and then take home any unused material after he has concluded treatment.

Dr. Murphy said he too tries his best to work with patients who are very specific about treatments or materials. He said engineers tend to be especially picky patients because they are analytical by nature and ask endless streams of extremely detailed questions. Normally he will happily answer the questions to the best of his ability, but if he reaches a point where he can tell the patient is not open to his answers and is unwilling to work with him, he tries to shut things down, and that is when he recommends that particular patient seek another opinion. He said he is always game to try, but realizes he will never be able to please every patient who walks into his practice.

“You know you’re not going to be able to help them, and if you try it’s going to blow up in your face,” he said.

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Do you Google yourself?

Recommendations from friends are still a big part of how patients find a new dentist, but in a time when the whole world is much more closely connected through the Internet those “recommendations” and “friends” are available from a much wider array of sources, all of which are easily searchable.

Recommendations from friends are still a big part of how patients find a new dentist, but in a time when the whole world is much more closely connected through the Internet those “recommendations” and “friends” are available from a much wider array of sources, all of which are easily searchable.

Gone are the days when people would flip through a massive phone book to finds the pages of ads from dentists in their area. Those books still exist, but these days prospective patients are far more likely to conduct their search via a computer at home or at work, or even from the rapidly growing number of Internet-enabled cell phones.

They might start the search with the name of a specific dentist they heard about from a friend, or they might simply be searching for a dentist in a specific city, but either way they are likely to start at an Internet search engine such as Google, Yahoo or the newest to launch, Bing.

Search results

In the not too distant past, the results of such Web searches might turn up a practice’s Web site, or possibly a listing for the practice at an online “phone book” type site that lists contact information for different business categories. However, these days the search results are likely to include the practice Web site along with additional online outlets for the practice.

These can include practice controlled social media profiles on a site such as Facebook, a practice’s micro-blogging presence on a site such as Twitter, or content the practice does not control such as user reviews on a site such as Yelp!. Practices can either test the waters, or dive head first into the world of social media, depending on their comfort level and if they feel it’s a fit for their practice. But even those who are not yet up to setting up a blog should at least be up to date on what current and former patients are saying about them on the Web.

“Searches for a dentist that include the term ‘review’ are being conducted nearly as frequently as just the name and location of the dentist, so these review sites are clearly a force to be reckoned with,” said Daniel A. Bobrow, MBA, president of American Dental Marketing.

Watching yourself online

“These alerts, while not perfect, are a convenient way to keep up to date on what is being posted…”

-Danny Bobrow

Bobrow recommends that his clients set up Google Alerts, a free service that sends them an e-mail whenever keywords such as the practice’s or the doctor’s name appears in news articles or recently posted online reviews. “These alerts, while not perfect, are a convenient way to keep up to date on what is being posted, which is especially important if a patient posts a negative review,” he said.

Most review sites will not remove negative reviews, but they will allow the business to post a response. Bobrow recommends reaching out to the patient who posted the negative comments to address the concerns, and then posting the results of those efforts to accommodate the patient.

Rita Zamora, a consultant who blogs about relationship-focused dental marketing at dentalrelationshipmarketing.com agrees that dentists need to be actively policing their online reputation. Part of that is responding to negative comments, but another part of that effort can involve creating a more robust Web presence so positive information outranks a negative review when someone searches for your practice.

“When you’re actively participating in social marketing on the Web and have a lot of positive information out there, it will help to drown out some of those hopefully very sparse negative comments that exist out there,” she said.

Taking control

The fastest way to spread a lot of positive information online is to create practice profiles on the social media networks. However, practices will only see the full benefit of those networks if they are putting in the time to actively participate in the online communities, Zamora said. Because of this, social media marketing will not be for everyone.

For those practices that are comfortable online and willing to dedicate the minimum of an hour or so a week to social media efforts, Zamora believes these efforts can pay off by creating stronger bonds with existing patients and showing an inviting presence to new patients. A practice can use a Facebook profile to post updates and specials that only fans of the profile can receive, and the page can also be used to show off small bits about the personalities of the practice’s staff.

“I think one of the most challenging situations that’s going to come up for dentists using Facebook is that there is a fine line between being too salesy and really socializing in a community,” she said. “They do want to have that traditional type of information available, but when they’re researching who is going to be the best dentist for them, they want to see a little bit about your personality and how it’s going to feel to interact with and relate to you when they come into your office.”

Maintaining a profile on Facebook gives a practice the opportunity to interact with patients on a number of levels. Engaged patients might be more likely to post a nice online thank you after an appointment, and Bobrow said dentists should be active in asking new patients to post a review about their positive experience. However, Zamora cautions about soliciting positive reviews, as she believes savvy Web users will be able to tell if a review is not genuine. Both agree that the best approach is to be sure search engine results feature far more positive than negative reviews.

Reaching out

While Facebook and similar sites can provide a terrific place for patients to get a sense of both the practice and the people behind the practice, micro-blogging site Twitter can provide practices with an easy way to provide current and prospective patients with practice-related news and announcements. The site lets practices post short notes that other users who’ve signed up to follow that practice’s Twitter feed can view online or receive as text messages on their phone.

A Twitter account can be useful to dentists who want to follow the latest news from media users such as Dental Products Report, or by following the feed from a manufacturer using Twitter, a practice can stay up to date on the most recent information on products and services. However, the site can also be very useful in helping a practice grow its online presence.

“It’s just a different avenue of marketing. It’s nice to be on it because if somebody happens to be reading a post we put on it, they can communicate with us right there on Twitter,” said Melinda Baugh, office manager at Brazos Family Dentistry in Waco, Texas. “We want to have an online presence where people can find us, and just having a Web site sometimes doesn’t get you there.”

Baugh said her practice started using Twitter as a promotional tool in March and the practice’s feed (twitter.com/WacoDentist) quickly amassed more than 400 followers. She manages the practice’s posts and includes everything from specials for their patients to links to interesting dental news stories.

Thus far Baugh has used the site to communicate with people from around the world, and thinks it is a useful tool for connecting with a range of people. Still the focus of her efforts will remain on providing information for people in her community because, “local followers equal potential patients,” she said.

Keep it real

Keeping up with the Twitter feed and the practice’s recently created Facebook page does take a bit of time, but Baugh said it really only adds up to 15 to 30 minutes a day. A self-described, “computer person” Baugh said it is not difficult to stay current and keeping the practice feed populated with fresh posts, but she does occasionally make her posts from home after the workday is over.

It is that genuine interaction and the dedication to making sure the practice is active with their social media efforts that are going be beneficial to the practice, Zamora said. While being on the sites everyday is not necessarily a requirement, she said spending about an hour a week to manage a practice’s social media presence is probably a good idea.

Bobrow and Zamora both agree that any practice jumping into social media to expand its online presence should have one staff member as the point person for the efforts. It doesn’t need to be the doctor, but should be someone who understands how to use the systems and has the good sense to keep things on a professional level.

Baugh ended up handling it for her practice because of her role managing the office and her comfort with computers. If a practice does not have someone comfortable with personal interaction via the Internet, social media marketing may not be a good fit, Zamora said. While every practice should stay aware of reviews-both positive and negative-efforts to expand a practice’s visibility through social networking should only be undertaken by those who can be dedicated to the efforts.

“Social media amplifies a dentist and a practice’s patient relation skills,” Zamora said. “Someone who has natural people skills may find social media marketing much more enjoyable and a lot easier than someone who doesn’t really appreciate the nuances of networking.”

Noah Levine is a senior editor for DPR. Contact him at nlevine@advanstar.com.

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Marketing Insider: The e-volution will not be televised

2009 was a year filled with opportunity and challenge (more of the latter than some may have preferred).  As the pace of change continues to accelerate, we should expect no shortage of challenge and opportunity in 2010. Much of this opportunity for growth will continue to be found online, specifically, in the area of reputation management. The challenge will lay largely in trying to keep up without being distracted from what you find fulfilling and profitable.

2009 was a year filled with opportunity and challenge (more of the latter than some may have preferred).  As the pace of change continues to accelerate, we should expect no shortage of challenge and opportunity in 2010.

Much of this opportunity for growth will continue to be found online, specifically, in the area of reputation management. The challenge will lay largely in trying to keep up without being distracted from what you find fulfilling and profitable.

My friend and mentor Bill Blatchford suggests that the decision to engage in any activity be made by answering two simple questions:

1. Will it contribute to my livelihood?

AND

2. Will it enrich my life?

If the answer to both questions is no, then don’t do it.  While that sounds simple, sometimes we don’t know the outcome of a given activity until we try it, and therein lay the challenge.

84%
of consumers said they were more likely to check online for reviews prior to making a purchase compared to twelve months ago, according to a recent survey by Brand Reputation

Source: Retail Bulletin, October 2009.

The E-volution will not be televised

I use E-volution to denote the Electronic Revolution sweeping over us. One area where growth and change are particularly great is the relatively new phenomenon called Online Reputation Management (ORM), which, according to Wikipedia (as of 1/2010) is: The practice of consistent research and analysis of one’s personal or professional business or industry reputation, as represented by the content across all types of online media.

I offer a slight refinement to that definition: Effective Online Reputation Management, or E-ORM, is the process by which an entity (or a representative of that entity) exerts control over how its perception is formed, maintained, and accessed via the Internet.

I feel this definition is more useful because it: Asserts that E-ORM is a process, which goes beyond the simple gathering and analysis of information and it’s an ongoing, ideally proactive, process of controlling how perceptions are formed and maintained.

The great divide

As noted above, there is an accelerating trend where people turn to online media to research and purchase local services (like dentistry).

Though 63% of consumers and small business owners turn to the internet first for information about local companies and 82% use search engines to do so, only 44% of small businesses have a website and half spend less than 10% of their marketing budget online, according to research from Webvisible and Nielsen.

This disparity between how business owners act as consumers, and how they market their own services, is termed The Great Divide.

The generosity of strangers

Another trend is the use of third party review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Health Grades, etc.

Manage Smarter’s 9/09 Issue reports that 83% of online shoppers said they were interested in sharing information about their purchases with people they know, while 74% are influenced by the opinions of others in their decision to buy the product in the first place.

Perhaps more surprising is the online role complete strangers can play in a web surfer’s purchasing decision. North American Internet users trust recommendations and opinions posted by unknown consumers online more than advertisements on television, on the radio, in magazines and newspapers, or in other traditional media*.

*A. C. Nielsen Online

70%
of Americans say they consult product reviews or consumer ratings before making a purchase, according to an October 2008 survey by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, a research and consulting firm.

Source: Business Week, October 2009

Priority one: Blogging

If you don’t yet have a blog, get one. It’s one of the easiest ways to get noticed by search engines.  And, be sure the blog is linked to your website so your efforts yield maximum SEO Benefit.  In general, limit your postings to 1200 characters or 200 words, and be consistent with your rate of postings.  Search engines prefer to see a steady stream of posts than they do a spate of postings followed by inactivity. A good way to prevent this is to ‘bank’ a series of articles so you don’t hit a ‘dry spell’ of inactivity.  Also be sure to use appropriate tags.

You will likely find the need to expend more effort initially to effectively set up both the look and feel, as well as content of your blog, then shift into ‘maintenance mode.’

Priority two: Encourage positive reviews from your patients

Make it easy for your patients to post reviews of their favorable experiences with your practice on Google Local, Yelp, Angies’s List, Merchant Circle, and Health Grades, or a number of other sites.

“From an SEO standpoint, Google Local is best” says Adam Spiel of Pro Host Management, a Boise, ID-based I.T. consultancy.  First encourage, and then demonstrate the process, of submitting reviews, so your patients will do it.
And, if you do receive a negative review, it’s most often best to ignore it.

“The key is to ensure that the majority of reviews interested parties find are positive. Then, you don’t need to sweat it if one or two are less than flattering. In fact, it may actually add to the credibility of the reviews if not all of them are glowing.” continues Spiel.

It’s also important to have the positive reviews rank above any negative.  While not easy, it is possible to accomplish this, in part, by working with a group which optimizes its own website, based on your practice name (such discussion is beyond the scope of this article.

You can also consider setting up accounts with Yelp and Angie’s list to advertise there, as well as permit more flexibility with respect to responding to any less than flattering reviews.

Priority three: Post articles, video and press releases

Regular posting to other sites, with reference to your website address, helps create back links, which, in turn helps increase your website’s position on the search engine results page (S.E.R.P.) when people are searching for you by name, practice name, or for a high quality dentist in your area.

Upload your articles, videos, and press releases to article and video directories and press release syndication websites.  Among the better known of these are: YouTube, Facebook, ArticlesBase, PRNewswire, and EZine Articles.

To derive maximum benefit, be sure you understand how to structure your message and where to use and properly place keyword tags and your website link.

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Priority four: Manage social networking sites

Most practices are well served by creating and maintaining accounts with YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, but there may be additional sites to consider, depending on the characteristics of your target audience.  To help identify such sites, Google a phrase like “social networking site demographics.” Facebook also offers an advertising option which, depending on how it’s structured, and the demographics of your area, can be a profitable venture.

Set up your “Calendar of Events”

Pro Host’s Spiel suggests a ’30-30-30’ Plan, characterized by first identifying the thirty Top Questions your target audience would have and want answered about you and your practice. Next, provide answers in the form of thirty articles and thirty videos (don’t worry about a highly polished production, as too much quality can actually lower the perception of credibility).  Then distribute those articles and videos to those sharing sites, which most closely match your desired demographic.

Launch!
The final step is to update your chosen social networking sites which, as they are discovered by your target audience (and search engines), will allow their Top 30 Questions to be answered by linking back to your website.

Regular posting of content to various sites can be time-intensive. One way to minimize the time commitment is by using what are termed aggregator sites. Such sites e.g. www.Ping.fm permit you to submit the same posting to all your sites simultaneously.

Ongoing Priority: Keep Alert(s)
Success with E-ORM means knowing what’s happening online.  This is important because, as noted above, you are not the only one involved with forming your online reputation.

One such tool is Google Alerts, but there are many more.  To find these, use your browser for results for the term ‘free online monitoring tools.’

Effective scheduling and prioritizing of the tasks required to establish and maintain a positive online reputation can yield big results for your practice.  Just be realistic and don’t panic if you should, from time to time, fail to keep to your schedule.  As you become comfortable with the concepts and process, you’ll find that E-ORM can actually be a lot of fun!

Daniel Bobrow, MBA, is president of the American Dental Marketing Company, a dentistry marketing and patient communications consultancy. He is also Executive Director of Dentists’ Climb for a Cause™. Readers interested in learning more about integrated marketing and patient communication products, systems and services are invited to contact Mr. Bobrow at 312-455-9488 or DBobrow@AmericanDentalMarketing.com or visit AmericanDentalMarketing.com.

Sources
For another great article showing more local business stats – click here

And then these are a great websites with social media, user reviews, ecommerce and SEO stats – Bazaar Voice. Socialnomics.

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Marketing Insider: Emergent opportunity

With the economic prosperity of the eighties, and advances in esthetic dentistry and technology, many dentists became of the opinion that treating new patient emergencies was a waste of the dentist’s and team’s time. Symptomatic of this is what one heard when calling such a dental practice after hours: “If you are a patient of record with an extreme dental emergency you may call xxx-yyy-zzzz.” New patients were deliberately discouraged from calling.

With the economic prosperity of the eighties, and advances in esthetic dentistry and technology, many dentists became of the opinion that treating new patient emergencies was a waste of the dentist’s and team’s time.

Symptomatic of this is what one heard when calling such a dental practice after hours:

“If you are a patient of record with an extreme dental emergency you may call xxx-yyy-zzzz.”

New patients were deliberately discouraged from calling.

Today, many practitioners have been reminded and recognize that emergencies represent a singular opportunity to establish a solid, long term relationship with a new patient.

William McCune, whose practice Creekside Dental is located in Buffalo Grove, IL says: “When I started in ’87, I built my practice on needs, not wants, and the most commonly expressed need is a need to be relieved of pain.  I can think of no better way to win a patient’s trust than to relieve their discomfort. That’s all the more true if they already have a dentist, but that dentist will not or cannot see them.”

To illustrate the positive impact welcoming emergencies can have on a practice, McCune shares that, in one week in March of this year, he performed more root canals and other emergency treatment than he did in an entire quarter last year “…because I am not shy about letting my patients and my community know I am here to serve their immediate needs.”

Among the techniques McCune employs is adding variations of the term ‘dental emergency’ to his Google adwords campaign, and including a telephone number in the ad:

With the economic prosperity of the eighties, and advances in esthetic dentistry and technology, many dentists became of the opinion that treating new patient emergencies was a waste of the dentist’s and team’s time.

Symptomatic of this is what one heard when calling such a dental practice after hours:

“If you are a patient of record with an extreme dental emergency you may call xxx-yyy-zzzz.”

New patients were deliberately discouraged from calling.

Today, many practitioners have been reminded and recognize that emergencies represent a singular opportunity to establish a solid, long term relationship with a new patient.

William McCune, whose practice Creekside Dental is located in Buffalo Grove, IL says: “When I started in ’87, I built my practice on needs, not wants, and the most commonly expressed need is a need to be relieved of pain.  I can think of no better way to win a patient’s trust than to relieve their discomfort. That’s all the more true if they already have a dentist, but that dentist will not or cannot see them.”

To illustrate the positive impact welcoming emergencies can have on a practice, McCune shares that, in one week in March of this year, he performed more root canals and other emergency treatment than he did in an entire quarter last year “…because I am not shy about letting my patients and my community know I am here to serve their immediate needs.”

Among the techniques McCune employs is adding variations of the term ‘dental emergency’ to his Google adwords campaign, and including a telephone number in the ad:

The tactic entails bidding for the terms an emergency patient might use, and including a telephone number in the resulting ad, making it quick and convenient for the patient to reach the practice. This can have the added benefit of reducing your outlay for paid search because Google does not charge for impressions, but only clicks, to your website (hence the name pay per click). So, if someone calls, instead of clicking, no fee is assessed.

Emergency patients also represent an opportunity to diagnose and deliver complete as opposed to ‘patchwork’ dentistry.

Pain is not the only thing that can hurt

Dr. John Cranham, Clinical Director at The Dawson Academy, who practices in Chesapeake, VA, says: “Sometimes front desk people assume there must be pain for there to be an emergency. It can also be esthetic. Consider a patient who breaks a tooth just before her wedding. To her, that’s an emergency.”

According to Cranham “The emergency appointment is an opportunity to educate your patients about your philosophy and commitment to complete dentistry. Be sure to have, and promote, a policy which states your commitment to seeing patients with an emergency as soon as possible.”

Avoid tunnel vision

Not withstanding such innovations as CAD CAM dentistry, it’s important to recognize that, if the emergency is not a patient of record who you’ve seen regularly and, therefore, whose dental history you know, delivering a permanent restoration is probably inappropriate. Only a comprehensive exam will determine for example, if the tooth is compromised in other ways. You can do a quick, but effective, ‘fix’ using e.g. a composite resin, without a permanent restoration. Once you’ve addressed the immediate need, use the appointment as an opportunity to perform a general assessment.

Cranham continues “Dentists sometimes miss the boat when they do not recognize that an emergency represents a pivotal point during which the patient’s perceptions of the practice are formed.  If you want to establish yours as a practice focusing on comprehensive care as opposed to ‘patchwork dentistry,’ avoid tunnel vision: do not recommend a permanent solution without a thorough evaluation of the patient.”

Train the team

Your dental team will likely be the first to connect with the emergency patient, so they need to thoroughly understand, and be able to effectively communicate, the practice’s policy with respect to emergency appointments.  They also need to be adept at conveying empathy and determining what constitutes a true emergency.

Dentists have lives too

The extent to which a doctor is willing to meet a patient after hours depends, of course, on a sometimes ‘gut’ assessment of the patient’s situation, as well as desire to grow the practice.

Dan Marut, DMD owner of Today’s Dentistry, a private practice based in Ashland, OR, and Founder of Complete Dental Plan says “Balancing ones professional and personal lives can be a challenge. Establishing an emergency protocol helps when the inevitable emergency calls. I always ask myself, ‘If it were me or my family, what would I do, and what would I want done?’.”

If the emergency is not a patient of record, a decision should be made on a case by case basis. Active listening is a key skill in helping identify the true extent of emergency.

Emergencies welcome

To attract emergency patients, you’ll want to include reference to them in your promotional strategy. Consider the following:

  • As part of your referral marketing protocol, suggest your team use the following verbiage when checking out a new patient, whether or not it was an emergency visit: “We’re glad we were able to help you today.  Relieving pain is obviously an important part of what we do.  But even more gratifying is when we’re able to help people avoid discomfort before it arises.  So if you know anyone who is not currently under the regular care of a dentist, I hope you’ll give them my card and share with them how we helped you today.  Prevention is always preferable to, and less costly than, treatment.”
  • Emphasize the importance of prevention, but also your willingness to treat emergencies in your newsletter (both print and Email-based)
  • Your on-hold message should convey your readiness to treat patient emergencies, as should your outgoing message (unlike the example referenced above)?
  • If you know that a patient is planning to travel in the near future, encourage them to receive an examination prior to their departure.  Of course, not all patients will come in for a check-up prior to an extended trip, so consider incorporating this suggestion into your printed and electronic communications.  You can even include tips for what to do in the unfortunate event your patient needs dental care while out of town.

Remember too that, even if the patient you treat does not become a permanent part of your practice, as might happen if the patient is only visiting the area, if you deliver great service, that news could well travel around town (to the limo driver, concierge, restaurateur, meeting planner, the visitor’s host(s), etc.). Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool too. You never know whom an out-of-towner will tell about their positive experience with your practice in their time of need.
About the author

Daniel Bobrow, MBA, is president of the American Dental Marketing Company, a dentistry marketing and patient communications consultancy. He is also Executive Director of Dentists’ Climb for a Cause™. Readers interested in learning more about integrated marketing and patient communication products, systems and services are invited to contact Mr. Bobrow at 312-455-9488 or DBobrow@AmericanDentalMarketing.com or visit AmericanDentalMarketing.com.

AIM MarketingMarketing Insider: Emergent opportunity
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Want to increase your net? Cast a broader one!

As the distinction between oral and overall health continues to blur, the opportunity to develop patient referral sources from both within and outside of dentistry continues to expand. Referrals from health professionals outside dentistry

As the distinction between oral and overall health continues to blur, the opportunity to develop patient referral sources from both within and outside of dentistry continues to expand.

Referrals from health professionals outside dentistry

Dental specialists have long known the value of cultivating relationships with their general practitioner colleagues.  G.P.s have similar opportunities to connect with colleagues outside of dentistry, the public at large, and even fellow dentists if they offer a service their colleagues are unable or unwilling to offer, or in other ways demonstrate ‘added value.’

Dr. Allan Gross, president of bizcentsfordocs says “Most dental specialists are not comfortable referring potential new patients to just one general dentist considering the relationship he/she has with others.  There is (however, potential) within the medical community.”

Gross relates one example where a dentist noticed a local physician offering alternative medicine.  “The dentist had not placed amalgams for years and thought this doctor might be interested in meeting him.  The doctor was so excited…not only did he become a patient, he sent over 80 patients to his office in a period of less than one year….and how much did that cost in marketing? About 2 hours of his time.”

Other ways to encourage physician referrals is to contact each patient’s physician to receive additional information about anything revealed during the initial medical history, or if any change in status is observed.   In this way, the practice becomes known for its thoroughness and concern for the patient’s health.  This message is not lost on the physician’s team either.

Sleep Apnea care wakes up your referrals?

Treatment of sleep apnea and related conditions is one of the fastest growing areas of oral health care.  According to Philip Goduco, DDS of Goduco Smiles, “I set up lunches with both physicians and dentists, the latter starting with my list of dental school classmates, and continuing with those I know who do not care to affix the oral appliance. I also contact the sleep labs, either directly, or by calling my physician friends and acquaintances. It’s also possible to search the Internet for ‘sleep centers, sleep laboratories’, and so forth.”  Goduco then sets a time to meet, not only with the doctors, but their technicians too, to let them know he is “…looking for a center to which to send my patients to have two studies done; one to establish a base line, and one for titrating the oral appliance.”   Goduco also lectures on the topic, which is another valuable way to create awareness and enthusiasm about his service.

While there is an investment of time and money required to become proficient, Dr. Goduco considers it to be one that has already paid off, and whose return will only increase over time:

Do well by doing good?

Dr. Gross says “There are many ways to be embraced by your community.  A food drive at Thanksgiving, a toy drive at Christmas, a blood drive (have the van in your parking lot), a walk/run charity event that can be co-sponsored are just a few ideas and opportunities that can build your reputation as one who is committed to your community on many levels.”
Promotion is accomplished both inside and outside your practice. Internal promotion channels include:

  • On Hold Message
  • In-Office Display Items e.g. Posters, Lapel Buttons, etc.
  • Fund raising web page
  • Social networking sites
  • External tools include:
  • Press Releases
  • Personal Networking
  • Social networking sites
  • Fund raising web page

For an example, visit smiletree.org

Rally the troops?

Consider a team meeting whose topic is identifying ways to communicate to the health community how your practice demonstrates its commitment to collaborative care (and why, therefore, your referrals will be made to look good in the eyes of those they refer).

Seek out opportunities to exchange information with fellow health care providers and act in a collaborative way to better and more efficiently deliver care to those patients you have in common.  Once that bond is established, just watch the referrals build.

Strength in numbers

While you might ‘get lucky’ and receive as many referrals as you can handle from a single source, it’s more likely you’ll need to develop and cultivate several sources.  I built my dental marketing practice largely by networking over the years to where now hardly a week goes by that I do not receive a referral from one of dozens of sources.  Did every attempt at establishing a referral source result in success?  No way!  Were I to venture a guess, I’d say that one of every 25 to 50 attempts bore some sort of fruit.  And sometimes, it took many years for that to occur.

The medium IS the message?

Realize that it’s not always what you say; it’s how frequently you say it, and that you say anything at all.  For example: if you regularly communicate with your patients, referral sources, the media, etc., the very fact you are reaching out to them reminds them of your existence and, with hope, reinforces your brand identity (just don’t overdo it or you’ll be perceived as a nuisance – in my experience, dentists more often err on the side of too little, as opposed to too much contact, however).  What you are sending to them becomes almost incidental.  How often has someone responded to a letter or telephone call asking you about something completely unrelated to what you sent or said?  It’s happens to us almost daily, and you can bet we don’t care why they’ve called, only that they’ve called!

Cultivation keys?

Gross recommends sending flowers or candy throughout the year as a “…thank you for everybody in the office to see.”  This is a small expense to pay to be noticed and appreciated, not only by the referral source, but quite possibly by its patients.

In general, the successful referral program:
1.     Develops over time
2.     Is a ‘numbers game’ in that the more you attempt, the more successes you have
3.     Involves a learning curve in that the more you attempt, the more proficient you become
4.     Draws from a number of varied sources
5.     Makes your referral sources look good in the eyes of its patients
6.     Makes your referral source’s job easier by e.g. providing timely and complete feedback on the status and treatment of the referred patient
7.     Automates the process to the extent possible e.g. through social networking sites, without ever losing its ‘personal touch’
8.     Is reciprocal

The sooner you begin reaching out beyond your patient base, and perhaps your comfort zone, the sooner you and your practice will reap the benefits.

Daniel Bobrow, MBA, is president of the American Dental Marketing Company, a dentistry marketing and patient communications consultancy. He is also Executive Director of Dentists’ Climb for a Cause™. Readers interested in learning more about integrated marketing and patient communication products, systems and services are invited to contact Mr. Bobrow at 312-455-9488 or DBobrow@AmericanDentalMarketing.com or visit AmericanDentalMarketing.com.

AIM MarketingWant to increase your net? Cast a broader one!
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Success with web-based marketing, Part III

Success at web-based marketing means implementing strategies, both conventional and Internet-based, which direct qualified prospective patients to your website.  It also means having a website that encourages visitors to willingly share with you their contact information. Finally, it means giving the market segment we call Caterpillars and Tire Kickers the means and motivation to remain in communication with your practice. This represents an especially fertile opportunity for practice growth because few of your colleagues bother to keep in touch with this market segment. By capturing visitor information and communicating with them over time, you are, in essence, bringing your website to them, offering you the potential to dominate this highly profitable market segment.

Remember: today’s Tire Kickers are tomorrow’s Trigger Pullers!

Generating the Qualified Patient Lead (QPL) and Converting them into a Patient

As we have discussed, a good looking website and qualified visitors are certainly necessary, but insufficient, to success with web-based marketing. Even if your Internet Marketing Performance Assessment (IMPA) confirms your site is doing a good job attracting, and impressing the visitor with its content, it must also generate Qualified Patient Leads, that is, motivate them to contact you or, at least, request to be contacted by you.

Of Tire Kickers and Trigger Pullers?Studies* have shown that first-time website inquiries may be classified as follows:

  • 20% will take action immediately (we call these the ‘Trigger Pullers’)
  • 20% will not buy at all (the DNRs for ‘do not resuscitate’)
    and
  • The remaining 60% will buy from someone within 12 months. We call this group the ‘Tire Kickers.’

Many people are surprised to learn that this third category is every bit as important as the first, because, if they are treated correctly, they represent a highly profitable source of new patients. The key is to run the race at the patient’s pace.

Generating The Qualified Patient Lead (QPL)

The homepage of your website needs to cater to the Tire Kicker as well as the Trigger Puller. For those visitors who are ready to appoint, be sure you have a Request an Appointment Form on your Home Page and a Unique Telephone Number. Both allow you to track the new patient as originating from your website, which aids in evaluating your website marketing investment.

Converting Tire Kickers into Trigger Pullers

To capitalize on this segment of your market, your website must offer opportunities for the visitor to learn about your practice without having to commit to a visit. Offer special content conveying a high perception of value to your website visitors. In so doing, you convert anonymous surfers on your website into valuable QPLs. To achieve this use sign-up forms and graphics on your home page and throughout your website encouraging visitors to complete a Form to receive information of interest and value e.g. special reports, audio and video emails, tips on achieving and maintaining optimum oral health, etc.

Next Steps

Once you have delivered on your first promise to the QPL, that is, the Special Report, continue to deliver timely, valuable, and frequent (but not too frequent!) communications. This is often referred to as your drip marketing campaign.

Here’s a sample schedule:

  • Day One – E-mail Special Report
  • Day Five – Audio Post Card
  • Day Fourteen – Email #1
  • Day Twenty-Eight – Video Postcard
  • Day Forty-Two – E-mail #2Day Fifty-Six – Email #3
  • Day Seventy – Mail Invitation: Special Offer
  • And so on for the rest of the year…

We recommend a combination of invitation and post card style mailings. The design should be similar, so you reinforce your practice brand in the mind of the QPL. The key to success with this is memorable simplicity.

Emails should include links to your photo gallery, testimonial pages, and other compelling reasons to keep in contact with you, such as attractive Special Offers. Audio postcards are colorful emails that also include a recording of your or a staff member’s voice. This is another way to subtly create a sense of familiarity and comfort in the mind (and emotions) of your QPL.

Communications should continue for up to a year, as it can take that long ‘for a caterpillar to metamorphose into a butterfly’.

By regularly and professionally following up with your website visitors, you have positioned yourself as a trusted expert in the field so, when they do decide the time is right, it’s you they’ll call.

By the way, if you already have a website, all you need to do is add contact forms to it then, just feed the visitors who complete the forms into your communication campaign.

Daniel Bobrow, MBA, is president of the American Dental Marketing Company, a dentistry marketing and patient communications consultancy. He is also Executive Director of Dentists’ Climb for a Cause™. Readers interested in learning more about integrated marketing and patient communication products, systems and services are invited to contact Mr. Bobrow at 312-455-9488 or

DBobrow@AmericanDentalMarketing.com

or visit

AmericanDentalMarketing.com

AIM MarketingSuccess with web-based marketing, Part III
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Marketing Insider: Success with web-based marketing, Part II

In this Article we tackle the second key to a successful website, namely, attracting the visitor. Before your website can encourage patients to visit your office, they first must find your website. For this to happen, you need to position yourself so that, when people and businesses in your community are searching for dental care, it’s your website, or a page within your site, that they find. Access Paths

In this Article we tackle the second key to a successful website, namely, attracting the visitor.

Before your website can encourage patients to visit your office, they first must find your website. For this to happen, you need to position yourself so that, when people and businesses in your community are searching for dental care, it’s your website, or a page within your site, that they find.

Access Paths

A simple way to attract people to your website is to include your website address (URL) everywhere prospective patients will see or hear it: on stationery, business cards, external signage, your on-hold message and, of course, on all conventional marketing channels such as: direct mail, TV, radio, billboards, etc.

Another way to get your website noticed is via online search . Online search is sub-classified into free (also called organic) and paid (sometimes termed pay-per-click) search. The advent of social media (Facebook, My Space, You Tube, etc.) is a relatively new and increasingly robust source of website visitors.

The goal all methods of online search is to get your website ranked high on search engine listings when the web surfer looking for dental care enters words or phrases (called keywords and key phrases) that are a match for what your website offers.

Online search, while not new, is assuming an ever greater “local” character. It is also rapidly gaining in importance. Even analysts who work for the Yellow Pages reported way back in 2006 that individuals used the Internet 70% of the time vs. only 30% for the Yellow Pages when searching for a local service.* That percentage will only increase in favor of Internet Search.

*Targetemtm

Pay To Play

A reasonable question to ask (and have answered) is: Should I employ a pay per click strategy and, if so, what should my investment be?

Anyone is permitted to manage a pay per click program. However, it can be a complicated and tedious process to build, maintain and update the list of terms that reference your site. More important, if managed by anyone other than an expert, it can be unnecessarily costly, especially when the wrong terms are selected and the price paid for the correct terms is too high.

When done by a professional, high quality patient leads are captured by purchasing ads with Google®, Yahoo®, Bing® (formerly MSN), and perhaps other search engines. This lets you target people within the desired radius or other boundaries of your office who are searching for the dental services you offer. These are qualified prospective patients by virtue of the fact they have taken the time and effort to find you.

Your goal with a pay per click campaign is to maximize qualified site visits by directing local individuals and families searching for dental care right to your practice website.

When a potential patient searches for, say ‘(your city) dentist’ on a search engine, your site must show up at or very near the top of the SERP (search engine result page).

This was always important, but never more so than now.  Just ask yourself how often you click past page one of search engine results and you’ll get the idea.  And you’re not only competing with your esteemed local colleagues.  There are: dental product, search directories, specialists, insurance companies and more with which to contend.  As many of these represent large commercial interests, they have, often on staff, professionals specifically trained in search engine marketing.

The bottom line on paid web advertising is that it can be a great way to quickly get your website noticed. Even if your site already ranks high for certain search words and terms, it can also help get you ranked more highly for additional terms and phrases of relevance. The only way to know is to try it. Fortunately, there should be no lengthy commitments and you should be able to increase or reduce your monthly outlay with a single phone call or email. NOT JUST WHERE BUT WHAT !!

Web Marketing, Take 2

At the core of…sites qualifying for this moniker are simple, yet compelling designs with well-chosen visuals, and…tools that let users interact with, and construct content in, unique ways. In addition to creating useful sites, the principles behind 2.0 can be used to increase organic traffic to your site, retain visitors and convert those visitors to customers, hence, Web 2.SEO.

Incorporating a well-structured Web 2.0 design into your site will improve search rankings through both improving the informational architecture of your site (cleaner, simpler code makes your site more easily indexed)…(it)…also improves the probability that high-quality sites will link to you. A simpler, more streamlined design will make your site easier to read for engines and users as well…Now, more than ever, you can please both “search bots” and visitors by keeping Web 2.SEO principles in mind when designing your site.

Getting visitors ?With limited space on a site, especially ‘above the fold’ (what a visitor sees without having to scroll down), you should aim to maximize the effectiveness of the visual communication: each graphical element should convey a message, and the textual content should be concise. The more logically organized your site is, the easier for both search bots and web visitors to find relevant information.

Specifically:

  • A simpler 2 or 3-column, central layout structure will convey a simpler, bolder message that communicates more clearly with your visitors. The central column is the ideal place for your key message, with highly targeted and compelling text.
  • Use your top header section to clearly present your site and navigation options to draw in your visitors with a bold, opening statement on what they can find on your site.
  • Keep your navigation simple: this will create a logical structure for your visitors, and translate well into a clean sitemap, which search engines can use to index your site.
  • Local, Local, Local ?Search engines have recently begun to focus more of their attention on their local search directories. As noted earlier, Local Search is growing exponentially, and so is your need to be sure the search engines know the location of your practice, and the community to which it caters.

Whoever markets your website should be adding it to the local search engine maps and directories. Our company had, until recently, used a list of local web directories we compiled over the past years to be sure our Clients’ sites were listed locally. We have now discarded that list as we found a resource that is constantly updating its listing of local directories.

Here it is:http://www.locallytype.com/pages/submit.htm#localsearchenginesus
Google also recently announced its commitment to helping consumers locate and compare local services of all kinds.

Here is an excerpt:

Find and compare local businesses
Many people come to Google.com to navigate the web, but are you aware that you can use it to navigate the real world as well? Over the past few months, we’ve been hard at work making it easier to find and compare local businesses and services right from the standard web results page.

Here’s what we’ve come up with:

From now on, you’ll see this every time you search for a place, business, or other local information. In addition to providing the basic contact information and map locations for several choices at the top of the page, we also show ratings and provide one-click access to reviews on the search results page so that you can make more informed decisions about where you want to go.

What it means for you is, if you are not listed in their local business directory, you may not receive a prominent placement at the top of Google’s search results.

To test it out, type your city, state, and service in Google and you’ll see the map. The businesses that are in this local list are the sudden recipients of a huge gift from Google – qualified and desirable traffic to their site.

A recent article in Clickz.com cited a keynote address by the Internet media and marketing, managing director for Piper Jaffrey who had some interesting points, among these that local search was second only to e-mail in importance on the web. He continued that satellite mapping will become an integral part of local search marketing.

Two Down, One To Go ?While a good looking website and even high traffic are necessary, alone they still cannot guarantee success. The next key link in the success chain is what happens once the patient finds your website, and that is the topic of our next Article.

Whatever your preferences, know what constitutes reasonable expectations, not only from your finished* product, but also from the process.

*In reality, your website should be viewed as a living and evolving instrument in a number of respects.

Accountability

To help ensure error-free implementation, someone must take responsibility for coordinating all tasks and resources. Be careful about “promoting” say, your schedule coordinator to the role of website coordinator. If you do choose to manage the process internally, be certain the person to whom you assign this important responsibility is competent, and has the time and resources to take on the challenge.

Confidence and Competence

It is reasonable to expect that whomever you retain to design your website demonstrates competency so your site is delivered on time, on budget, and as specified. This means your designer will ideally have experience in the dental field, or at least be able to show you sites he has created for other clients, which possess the aesthetics and function you require.

In general, the firm you retain will listen as much as they talk about your website design because, only by listening will they truly ‘get,’ so they can deliver, the appearance and function you desire.

Look ‘n Feel

In choosing your website’s content and layout, imagine your website from the perspective of all who might view it: your current and prospective patients, your team, the media, and yourself.

Most practices are primarily concerned with how their site is perceived by current and prospective patients. If you want your website to be used by patients of record to: ask questions, request appointments, learn more about proposed treatment, receive appointment confirmations, take surveys, offer suggestions, complete paperwork, etc. be sure the firm is experienced with handling such ‘back-end’ functions.  Most websites lack a means for capturing contact information on prospective patients, and an automated means for communicating with them during the ‘gestation period’ when they metamorphose from ‘tire kicker’ to ‘trigger puller.’ As most first-time website visitors fall into the former category, this is an important success component that should not be overlooked.

General Design Considerations

Secure your domain name Careful consideration should be given to naming your site. If you have already established a strong practice brand, the name of your website will closely match your practice name. If you select a URL matching your personal name, remember that, when it comes time to sell the practice, your successor may not value it as highly as you do.  Be sure to consult an attorney, or perform a comprehensive name search, to confirm you have the legal right to use your chosen name.

In structuring the layout of your site consider not only the format of your home page, but also any ?‘landing pages.’ You’ll want a landing page for each of your services as well as a(n):

•Meet the Dentist(s) Page ?

•Meet The Team Page ?

•Photo Gallery ?

•Schedule an Appointment Page ?

•Unique telephone number so you can track and calculate the return on your website? marketing investment ?

•Form visitors may complete to receive a report on a topic of interest and relevance to?  them ?

•Automated direct response communications campaign (more on this in an upcoming? article)?

•Easy to use CMS (content management system)?

•Cost-effective hosting solution, report system, and reliable technical support

Who should build your website?

Look for a firm that:

  • Specializes in the Dental field
  • Guarantees delivery within a reasonable timeframe, although you must be an equal partner in? this process.
  • Is able and willing to test your existing design for efficacy.
  • Offers robust, but user-friendly, reporting
  • Offers references
  • Will assist with selecting and securing an appropriate name for your website

If you get the sense the firm’s representative is reading from a canned script, you may expect to be treated as a commodity, which probably is not what you want. In general, trust your gut.

Pay Now or Pay Later

We usually get what we pay for.  In choosing who should build your web presence, be wary of the ‘free lunch.’  This can happen when the practice chooses to have a friend, relative, student, or someone else perform the project ‘for free,’ at a greatly reduced rate, or ‘on trade.’ Human nature being what it is, the person who agrees to these ‘terms’ will prioritize accordingly. More than one practice has been dismayed to learn the ‘deal’ they made resulted in inordinate delay, an inferior delivered product, or both.

The Post-Purchase Experience

Rest assured that, once your website goes live, you will want to make changes to it. You might even experience ‘technical difficulties’ from time to time. It can be a frustrating experience not to have these concerns and requests addressed to your satisfaction, or within the promised time frame, so ask for references and specifically ask what their experience has been with post-purchase service. ??Caveat Emptor?Tim Healy of TNT Dental warns “If you haven’t received correspondence from companies with names like Liberty Names of America or Domain Registry of America, you probably will. Don’t let the “domain name expiration notice” fool you. Although the expiration date of your domain name may be real, it is NOT a real invoice. The document looks official, and leads many intelligent individuals to send a check for domain name renewal.” This is a form of “slamming,” which changes your service to another company without you realizing what you have done.  Sending a check to such companies constitutes legal “permission” for them to change your service.

To protect yourself from having your domain slammed, “Know who your registrar is, and if you’re not sure, visit www.whois.sc, type in your domain name, and the name of your registrar will appear.

Check it out (and off)

Here’s a checklist to evaluate your site’s performance, and to help judge when your new website is ‘ready for prime time’:

  • Navigation bar at top makes pages accessible and easy to find
  • Site Layout is organized in a familiar pattern with important section at top and left and main content in?  center
  • Professional and clean Look ‘n Feel
  • Page Width not more than 800px (max printable width)
  • Contact Information is ‘above the fold’ for quick viewing and access ?•Quick load time e.g. not too much use of Flash and other animation, which is also a distraction to visitors
  • Interactive features e.g newsletter sign up, free consultation, etc. allows practice to efficiently build?  prospective patient contact list
  • Free offer for visitor to further encourage completion of a Form
  • Means to capture site visitor contact information
  • Follow-up aka drip marketing system to communicate with registered site visitors
  • Site ranks in top results in Google for city and ‘dentist’ demonstrating ‘relevance.’ Goal is to rank in top 3?  results as these listings receive over 80% of clicks.
  • City name is included in the title bar
  • Site meta information included (such as keywords and description) to assist with search engine?  marketing
  • Important words should be in text, not graphical images, which search engines cannot understand.
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) program in place, at least until the site is optimized for ‘organic results’, and uses?  ‘best practices’ i.e. are managed by a firm certified to manage the program offered by that ?  search engine.
  • Links for specific services send visitor to specific landing pages where the visitor quickly finds what they?  are looking for
  • Analytics are easy to access and interpret

Fortunately, and unlike, say, printing, where one has either to pay to redo or ‘live with’ errors, websites, are quite forgiving.  This means that, should you change your mind, most changes to your site are easily made. It also means your site does not need to be ‘perfect’ to launch. Applying the same care and attention to detail that you use in planning and delivering treatment will serve you in this process as well.

The next Article will focus on website marketing, that is, attracting qualified visitors to your website.

Daniel Bobrow, MBA, is president of the American Dental Marketing Company, a dentistry marketing and patient communications consultancy. He is also Executive Director of Dentists’ Climb for a Cause™. Readers interested in learning more about integrated marketing and patient communication products, systems and services are invited to contact Mr. Bobrow at 312-455-9488 or DBobrow@AmericanDentalMarketing.com or visit AmericanDentalMarketing.com.

AIM MarketingMarketing Insider: Success with web-based marketing, Part II
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Marketing Insider: Success with Web-based marketing, Part I

 Value Defined We all want and deserve to receive value for our investment. Value can mean different things to different people. One might value getting his or her website up and running quickly, while another might be more exacting and patient. One practice might value appearance more highly than function. Still another might prefer quantity over quality of website visitors.

Value Defined

We all want and deserve to receive value for our investment. Value can mean different things to different people. One might value getting his or her website up and running quickly, while another might be more exacting and patient. One practice might value appearance more highly than function. Still another might prefer quantity over quality of website visitors.

Whatever your preferences, know what constitutes reasonable expectations, not only from your finished* product, but also from the process.

In reality, your website should be viewed as a living and evolving instrument in a number of respects.

Accountability

To help ensure error-free implementation, someone must take responsibility for coordinating all tasks and resources. Be careful about “promoting” say, your schedule coordinator to the role of website coordinator. If you do choose to manage the process internally, be certain the person to whom you assign this important responsibility is competent, and has the time and resources to take on the challenge.

Confidence and competence

It is reasonable to expect that whomever you retain to design your website demonstrates competency so your site is delivered on time, on budget, and as specified. This means your designer will ideally have experience in the dental field, or at least be able to show you sites he has created for other clients, which possess the aesthetics and function you require.

In general, the firm you retain will listen as much as they talk about your website design because, only by listening will they truly ‘get,’ so they can deliver, the appearance and function you desire.

Look ‘n Feel

In choosing your website’s content and layout, imagine your website from the perspective of all who might view it: your current and prospective patients, your team, the media, and yourself.

Most practices are primarily concerned with how their site is perceived by current and prospective patients. If you want your website to be used by patients of record to: ask questions, request appointments, learn more about proposed treatment, receive appointment confirmations, take surveys, offer suggestions, complete paperwork, etc. be sure the firm is experienced with handling such ‘back-end’ functions.  Most websites lack a means for capturing contact information on prospective patients, and an automated means for communicating with them during the ‘gestation period’ when they metamorphose from ‘tire kicker’ to ‘trigger puller.’ As most first-time website visitors fall into the former category, this is an important success component that should not be overlooked.

General Design Considerations

Secure your domain name Careful consideration should be given to naming your site. If you have already established a strong practice brand, the name of your website will closely match your practice name. If you select a URL matching your personal name, remember that, when it comes time to sell the practice, your successor may not value it as highly as you do.  Be sure to consult an attorney, or perform a comprehensive name search, to confirm you have the legal right to use your chosen name.

In structuring the layout of your site consider not only the format of your home page, but also any ?‘landing pages.’ You’ll want a landing page for each of your services as well as a(n):

  • Meet the Dentist(s) Page
  • Meet The Team Page
  • Photo Gallery
  • Schedule an Appointment Page
  • Unique telephone number so you can track and calculate the return on your website marketing investment
  • Form visitors may complete to receive a report on a topic of interest and relevance to them
  • Automated direct response communications campaign (more on this in an upcoming article)
  • Easy to use CMS (content management system)
  • Cost-effective hosting solution, report system, and reliable technical support

Who should build your website

Look for a firm that:

  • Specializes in the Dental field
  • Guarantees delivery within a reasonable timeframe, although you must be an equal partner in? this process.
  • Is able and willing to test your existing design for efficacy.
  • Offers robust, but user-friendly, reporting
  • Offers references
  • Will assist with selecting and securing an appropriate name for your website

If you get the sense the firm’s representative is reading from a canned script, you may expect to be treated as a commodity, which probably is not what you want. In general, trust your gut.

Pay Now or Pay Later

We usually get what we pay for.  In choosing who should build your web presence, be wary of the ‘free lunch.’  This can happen when the practice chooses to have a friend, relative, student, or someone else perform the project ‘for free,’ at a greatly reduced rate, or ‘on trade.’ Human nature being what it is, the person who agrees to these ‘terms’ will prioritize accordingly. More than one practice has been dismayed to learn the ‘deal’ they made resulted in inordinate delay, an inferior delivered product, or both.

The Post-Purchase Experience

Rest assured that, once your website goes live, you will want to make changes to it. You might even experience ‘technical difficulties’ from time to time. It can be a frustrating experience not to have these concerns and requests addressed to your satisfaction, or within the promised time frame, so ask for references and specifically ask what their experience has been with post-purchase service. ??Caveat Emptor?Tim Healy of TNT Dental warns “If you haven’t received correspondence from companies with names like Liberty Names of America or Domain Registry of America, you probably will. Don’t let the “domain name expiration notice” fool you. Although the expiration date of your domain name may be real, it is NOT a real invoice. The document looks official, and leads many intelligent individuals to send a check for domain name renewal.” This is a form of “slamming,” which changes your service to another company without you realizing what you have done.  Sending a check to such companies constitutes legal “permission” for them to change your service.

To protect yourself from having your domain slammed, “Know who your registrar is, and if you’re not sure, visit www.whois.sc, type in your domain name, and the name of your registrar will appear.

Check it out (and off)

Here’s a checklist to evaluate your site’s performance, and to help judge when your new website is ‘ready for prime time’:

  • Navigation bar at top makes pages accessible and easy to find
  • Site Layout is organized in a familiar pattern with important section at top and left and main content in center
  • Professional and clean Look ‘n Feel
  • Page Width not more than 800px (max printable width)
  • Contact Information is ‘above the fold’ for quick viewing and access
  • Quick load time e.g. not too much use of Flash and other animation, which is also a distraction to visitors
  • Interactive features e.g newsletter sign up, free consultation, etc. allows practice to efficiently build prospective patient contact list
  • Free offer for visitor to further encourage completion of a Form
  • Means to capture site visitor contact information
  • Follow-up aka drip marketing system to communicate with registered site visitors
  • Site ranks in top results in Google for city and ‘dentist’ demonstrating ‘relevance.’ Goal is to rank in top 3  results as these listings receive over 80% of clicks.
  • City name is included in the title bar
  • Site meta information included (such as keywords and description) to assist with search engine marketing
  • Important words should be in text, not graphical images, which search engines cannot understand.
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) program in place, at least until the site is optimized for ‘organic results’, and uses  ‘best practices’ i.e. are managed by a firm certified to manage the program offered by that search engine.
  • Links for specific services send visitor to specific landing pages where the visitor quickly finds what they are looking for
  • Analytics are easy to access and interpret

Fortunately, and unlike, say, printing, where one has either to pay to redo or ‘live with’ errors, websites, are quite forgiving.  This means that, should you change your mind, most changes to your site are easily made. It also means your site does not need to be ‘perfect’ to launch. Applying the same care and attention to detail that you use in planning and delivering treatment will serve you in this process as well.

The next Article will focus on website marketing, that is, attracting qualified visitors to your website.
 

Daniel Bobrow, MBA, is president of the American Dental Marketing Company, a dentistry marketing and patient communications consultancy. He is also Executive Director of Dentists’ Climb for a Cause™. Readers interested in learning more about integrated marketing and patient communication products, systems and services are invited to contact Mr. Bobrow at 312-455-9488 or DBobrow@AmericanDentalMarketing.com or visit AmericanDentalMarketing.com.

AIM MarketingMarketing Insider: Success with Web-based marketing, Part I
read more