Dental Strategies For Success library
Follow-Up Marketing: Using Your Website to Convert Prospects to Patients
A recent survey showed that 78% of dental practices have a website, with 50% having one for five or more years. Clearly, most dentists believe in the importance of having a website presence.
This same study showed, however, that most dentists do not feel their website is as useful to their practice as they would like it to be. The key to making your website more valuable is transforming it from a static source of information into a marketing tool that both captures visitor information and communicates with them during the conversion from site visitor to practice patient.
But first, it’s important to understand the three basic functions of a successful website.
The Three Keys
From a new patient enrollment perspective, there are three things a website must do to be productive for your practice. Your website must (1) attract new visitors, (2) capture the visitor’s attention AND contact information, and (3) establish an ongoing dialogue with the visitor that forms the foundation for a practice-patient relationship.
Key #1: Attracting the Visitor
There are two primary ways to attract visitors to your website. The first is by using the Internet itself through proper keyword placement and linkages. Savvy web developers understand how to structure, populate, and link a website so that, as people search the Internet for a dental practice that is both conveniently located and offers what they need, the dentist’s website ranks prominently in the results of the keyword search.
Another way to attract visitors using the Internet is by paid search, also called pay per click. The major search engines, including Google, Yahoo, and MSN, all offer this option. In fact, it is their primary source of income. Just be sure you or your web specialist are certified in management of such programs because, as with most things, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it, and the wrong way can be costly indeed.
Key #2: Capturing the Visitor’s Attention
Once a web surfer lands on your site, it is important that they are favorably impressed with the site presentation and predisposed to learning more. Your website is a virtual representation of your practice, so you will want to be certain the ‘promise’ your website offers is consistent with what the website visitor may experience as a patient of your practice. You also want to provide valuable information about general dental procedures and results to gain the visitor’s attention and keep them focused on your site. Most importantly, the value-added information you provide should be offered in exchange for the visitor’s name and email address so that you can establish an ongoing dialogue with this site visitor. More on this follows.
Key #3: Establishing an Ongoing Dialogue with the Visitor
Of all potential patients who visit a website, 20% will immediately schedule an appointment, another 20% will take no action now or later, and 60% will make a purchasing decision within the next 12 months*.
What if you could establish a dialogue with this usually forgotten 60% of website visitors, giving them a reason to repeatedly return to your site to consider your services? If your website is designed to not only capture visitor information but also automatically communicate with them over time, you are positioned to capitalize on a significant opportunity to grow your practice.
The goal is this: once a visitor has shown interest in your practice by visiting your website, you want to keep your practice brand in front of the prospective patient until they decide the time is right to begin a relationship with your practice. In other words, your website must have a means to capture visitor information, and automatically and repeatedly communicate with them. Without this tool, your website is ill-equipped to capitalize on the majority of visitors to your website.
So the challenge lies in automating the visitor contact process. A quick warning here – this can be complex to set up and requires an ongoing commitment on your part to manage the program. But “follow-up marketing” has been proven successful time and again, providing a measurable return on investment in both number of patients and cash flow, and is completely manageable with assistance from an experienced marketing professional.
Making It Happen
Setting up a visitor follow-up program first requires that you build an archive of articles or reports perceived to be valuable to potential patients. These can be created by a marketing professional or acquired (with permission) from various professional sources.
You will also need form-generating software, customer relationship management (or database) software, and the services of a savvy website programmer. It is critical that your software package includes the ability to track the results of your communications program.
And finally, you’ll need someone designated in your practice to review and manage your database on an ongoing basis so you can track the results of your program, as well as respond to any prospective patient inquiries.
Here is an example of how a website visitor follow-up campaign might work.
1. Your website Home Page offers a Special Report to capture the visitor’s attention – perhaps “Special Report for Apprehensive Patients.”
2. When visitors click on the Special Report, they’re taken to a Landing Page that provides more information about the report: “Learn the Secrets of Overcoming Your Fears of Visiting the Dentist.”
3. To receive the report, visitors provide their name, email address and whatever additional contact information they will voluntarily provide.
4. The Special Report is automatically and immediately sent by email to the prospective patient.
5. Over the next 12 months, the prospective patient automatically receives a series of emails, direct mailings, and ‘audio-post cards’ (emails that include an audio clip recorded by the dentist or staff member). The tone of the contacts is professional and informative, never ‘salesy.’
6. Requests to schedule an appointment can be sent by the prospective patient either by email or telephone.
7. The dentist or website manager logs in periodically to review Status Reports that show, among other things, which visitors (and how many) are requesting which Reports, and how many visitors are converting to patients.
Note that for this program to work, it is important that you designate a staff member to consistently and frequently check the database and email system. If you follow through with this program, you will notice a significant jump in patient conversions and income.
Incidentally, if your website does not have such a follow-up communications system, you're far from alone. According to one industry publication, over 99% of dental professionals do not consistently follow up with their potential patients. And this is the main reason that automated website visitor follow-up represents such a unique opportunity to grow your practice. It’s a proven method that puts your website to work converting patients for you – and you’ll likely be one of the first to take advantage of it in your Service Area.
With advance planning, commitment, and guidance from some of the many website marketing professionals available to help, you can make it happen!
*Garner Research Group and IVJR Group, 2006
Statements of opinion not necessarily endorsed by ADA Member Advantage, ADA Business Enterprises, Inc., or the American Dental Association, or any of its subsidiaries, counsels, commissions, or agencies.
Daniel A. (Danny) Bobrow, MBA is president of American Dental Marketing Company and executive director of Dentists' Climb For A Cause. American Dental Marketing Company specializes in web-based and other marketing strategies for dental practices. Mr. Bobrow may be reached at 1-800-723-6523 or DBobrow@AmericanDentalCo.com.
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