Recently at Breathe Business we commissioned a new website (www.nowbreathe.co.uk). The last time we did this, three years ago, my view was that a website should essentially serve as a ‘virtual brochure’. Now I believe that the game has changed, both for dental practices and for dental practice consultancies, and that your website is essentially the virtual gateway to your business. You should consider that anyone who is interested in the services you offer will visit your site to assess your business.
Your Proposition In my opinion, the first and most important message your website should communicate is known as your ‘Proposition’. This communicates exactly what it is that you offer and who this is aimed at. This message has to clearly differentiate your business from your competition. A lot of dental practice sites fail at this first hurdle. So, go on, have a look at your site, look at the home page, can you immediately tell what your practice offers, to whom and how your practice will deliver this in unique way? Or does your home page simply suggest that your practice is another that offers, “state of the art equipment in a friendly modern environment”?
Unless you are clear about your proposition, your website, and all your marketing messages, will be intrinsically vague (or worse, confused) on what your practice offers and how you and your team deliver these services.
What You Want Your Website To Do I think that most practice owners are unsure about exactly what they want their website to do. They risk getting carried away and waste money by having their sites filled with confusing and irrelevant messages broadcast in complex and irritating formats. Even worse, they sometimes have bland and overly simplistic sites.
In my view, the outcomes you want your site to deliver are very simple. Your site has two essential functions:
- To increase your new patient numbers by ensuring prospective clients who are interested in your services contact your practice.
- To help retain your existing patients by giving them a reason to go back to your site, and whilst they are there, ensure they see your latest marketing messages.
Most dental practice sites, however complicated, pretty or clever, deliver very few new patients. Even their existing patients are finding little reason to visit the site, other than to look for the practice phone number.
Measuring Success In order to discover whether your site is of any real use to you, monitor your site monthly using the Google analytics service. This will help you understand the quantity of traffic that visits your site, how the traffic gets there and what the traffic does when it’s on the site.
If you are collecting sales data on your front desk (and you should be) you will also be able to measure precisely how much of your website traffic arrives at your reception and how much this has cost you per contact.
This data will reveal: 1. Whether enough people visit your site 2. If they take the right action when they get there 3. How many of them contact your reception 4. What happens next?
From our experience of working with clients whose websites are successfully delivering many new interested clients a month to their front doors, I offer you a short guide to the characteristics that make a dental website effective and some suggestions on what to avoid.
Dental Websites That Work Have:
- A clean and simple layout with well thought-through navigation. The site only takes visitors where you want them to go.
- Strong ‘calls to action’ on every page. They suggest to the visitor what you want them to do, such as email or phone the practice for an appointment.
- Appropriate images. They use real people in the photos, not stock images, and the photos of the practices are not ghostly empty but filled with the sort of patients that you want to attract.
- Use interactive techniques, such as video, that engage the visitor with clear calls to action.
- Incentivise visitors to leave information that you can use to contact them or market to them, such as telephone numbers and email addresses.
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)- make sure your site performs well in natural rankings by adopting best build practice. Keep SEO up to date. It takes months to build good organic rankings, use an expert for this, as most SEO is done off-site via building quality links from reputable websites into your site.
- Content that is up to date such as prices, time limited offers, events etc. Do this by having a content management system at the heart of your site.
- Information and re-assurance about the services offered with case studies and believable testimonials.
- A guide to fees.
- Systems to ensure a rapid response (within 2 hours) to people contacting the practice from the website.
What Not To Do:
- Don’t make the video look too slick. Use video to enhance your visitors’ experience, but make it relevant. Use it to introduce yourself and to support testimonials form grateful and pleased clients.
- Don’t be too faddy. You can waste time and money getting sucked into social media with little or no payback. You’re a dental practice, not a chocolate brand!
- Don’t overload your site with Flash (an animation package), as Google still has a limited ability to read it.
- A blog is not as useful as it once was in lifting you up the organic search results. If you are going to use a blog, keep it simple and update it often, at least weekly.
- Don’t think that RSS feeds will help your SEO. Google has changed its search criteria to exclude these. Simply put, avoid borrowing content from other sites; Google will only rank you for your own original content.
In conclusion, make sure that you review your site regularly and when doing this, try and behave like a user. Ask yourself, does it deliver the right proposition, information and reassurance that a new visitor wants and does it make a clear call to action? It’s important that you repeatedly review your website and evolve the site. The web is an organic and flexible media and needless to say, it is changing fast.
Simon Hocken Director of Coaching, Breathe Business
Looking at how your website can drive sales and help boost your competitive edge is just one of the topics we’ll be covering in our Marketing Workshop this April. To find out more, contact the Breathe team on 0845 299 7209 or firstname.lastname@example.org