I Found Your Office on the Internet!
New patients are the lifeblood of a dental practice. While retaining patients-of-record is essential for a successful office, getting new patients in the door will always be a major component of practice progress. Patient referrals, direct mail, and even the “old stand-by” yellow pages can still be effective - but the Internet has emerged as the prime driver of new patient contacts. Today we look for everything on the Internet. Want to find the closest restaurant that serves fresh seafood? Go to Google. Need an address for a store location? Go to Google Maps. Want to buy a used bicycle, a new car, or an antique butter churn? Try Craigslist. Need airline tickets? Travelocity.
The web has everything. You can find out how to pronounce words and phrases and actually hear them pronounced, translate newspaper articles from one language to another, and search out images for everything from space photos to insect habitats. The Internet is “the place” for it all. Some young children have actually never even seen an encyclopedia or dictionary in printed form.
So, what does this mean for those of us in the dental profession? It means that our online presence is vital in providing our patients and potential patients with information about our offices and what we have to offer. Websites that present limited details about a practice lose out to sites that are dynamic, organized, colorful, and filled with articles and illustrations. Successful practices need a website that gives potential patients more than just an office address and phone number! Website articles of general interest, such as how chronic diseases are related to oral conditions, or why dentists take x-rays, or important tips on child tooth care, encourage potential patients to read on. As they read about topics that are of interest to them, they are also learning more about why dentistry is important in general, and ultimately what your office can do for their families. We all know that women are the primary decision makers when it comes to family health care. Women investigate and look for information before making these decisions, and today they look for that information on the Internet.
For example; last week I had two new patients, in one day, tell me that our office website had convinced them to set up appointments for their families at our practice. I asked one of the women how she had gone about her search. She explained that she had looked for dental offices that were close to home, then looked at individual office websites, read one of the articles on our site that was of interest to her as a mom, looked at the photos of the dentist and staff, and finally…decided to give our practice a try. The second patient explained that she wanted to find an office that offered new technology. She had heard about “one-visit” crowns and thought she might need a crown when she began her search. She told me that the last time she had a crown placed she had been forced to wear a temporary for three weeks and had not liked the experience. Our website features information about single visit crowns and that caught her eye. An article on crowns and onlays that appears on the site cinched the decision.
It is obvious that Internet searches can be vital in driving new patients to a practice. It may be time to give your office website some attention to see if it’s reflecting the image and professionalism you want to convey. Some tips:
Pictures are very important to an attractive and compelling website. Before and after photos of successful cases can advocate strongly for your practice. Pictures of a lovely treatment room, reception area, and photos of staff members and the doctor round out a vision of what potential patients will see when coming to your office.
Content! Articles and stories make your site interesting and your practice worth investigating. Put together several short articles on topics of general interest and change them frequently. If you are not a “writer” then delegate the task to a knowledgeable staff member. If this is not practical, consider purchasing articles designed for website display, such as the ones from McKenzie Management HERE. Remember that you may not just “lift” articles from copyrighted sources without permission.
Toot your own horn! Be sure to list accomplishments or distinctions on your website. If you are a member of your local or state dental association, mention it. If you have been published in a journal, tell about it. If you have volunteered for a dental mission or free dental clinic, explain how these work and what treatment you provided. If staff members have distinguished themselves through community service, athletic events, awards, etc. then be sure they are recognized on your site. Existing patients like knowing that your office is involved, interesting, and one of the best. Potential patients want to come to a practice that stands out from the pack.
Once a new patient arrives at the office, you and your staff have the chance to impress them and make sure they want to come back. No one can dispute that the first appointment is extremely important and first impressions can be lasting ones. No amount of advertising, promotion, or website attractiveness can overcome a poor new-patient experience. However, getting patients in the door in the first place is a huge part of the battle. Don’t neglect your online presence. It is a vital component in our increasingly web-based information society, where so many patients will tell you: “I found your office on the Internet.”
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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