By Grace Frank
Clearly, dentists are as aware as anyone of the importance of online tools and social media in growing their practice.
The basic purpose of marketing, after all, is the same regardless of business or medium. You build your brand by grabbing the attention of passers-by, engage them with news of what you have to offer, and follow through with gentle inquires as to their current needs and future wants. Then, with a hefty dose of skill and luck, you convince that passer-by to buy your service and, ideally, keep coming back for more.
But how—and how well—dentists are using online tools in the pursuit of marketing success is as varied as the profession itself. Here’s a look at a few worthy website efforts:
• Building the Brand. The homepage for Ferguson Dental Associates in Montclair, N.J., is both calming and confident. It opens to an easy-on-the-eyes backdrop that quietly announces professionalism rather than screaming availability. Its large, black-and-white photo of the practice speaks of family and old-fashioned courtesy.
But there are plenty of modern conveniences, too. There’s a pull-down menu that includes the practice’s mission statement (philosophy), FAQs that subdivide into two groups—one for adults and the other for children—and a blog dating back several years that mixes community-friendly news (sponsorship of a high school fun-run) with helpful advice (pacifiers and oral health). A link for scheduling appointments collects a fair amount of information while inviting patients to choose days convenient for them.
• Engaging clients and gathering information. Ferguson does well here, too, with the FAQs for adults ranging from common (gum disease) to unexpected topics, like the reasons for those requests to update your medical records. The homepage includes a contact form that’s clear and large, ideal for smartphone inquires, plus a right-column link for dashing off an email.
But Downtown Dental in Los Angeles, with its rotating views of pretty people and emphasis on cosmetic dentistry befitting this image-conscious city, goes further. A complete new patient registration form is available online; the contact page includes not only directions and an email link but also a QR, or quick-response, code for smartphones; and its long list of services available (a dozen) can be matched with before-and-after photos of patients’ teeth.
The right column also includes a freebie for new patients. It’s a small gesture, perhaps, but repeat studies show that people respond to free offers.
Downtown Dental was the only one of more than six dental sites viewed with an active Facebook, YouTube and Twitter presence, and numerous patient testimonials.
• Convincing customers to become long-term clients. Here, your skill and luck probably outweigh the power of all online tools together. But happy clients are usually repeating clients, so focus on those earlier points to get to this point. Substance, professionalism and functionality count, as do little touches that integrate your practice with your community.
Remember Ferguson Dental’s blog and local sponsorship?
Orlando Family Dental in Florida uses a pop-up box to initiate an online chat, and it offers a Spanish-language version of its website with a single click. That extra touch undoubtedly goes a long way in winning notice among that city’s Spanish-speaking population, especially among older residents with scant schooling in English.
And every website viewed gave a physical address for the office, a requirement under the federal CAN-SPAM Act.
Good practices, all in all.
Grace Frank is a freelance editor and writer, and the owner of Frank Communications, www.frank-comm.com
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