Imagine a scenario in which you’re “speed dating” for new patients. In a room full of dentists and patients, you have 120 seconds to let each patient know that you are the dentist for him/her. You have two minutes to become the perfect fit and earn a new patient appointment. What would you say? How would you act? What would you wear?
This situation is not far-fetched. In fact, it accurately demonstrates the communication time you will have with potential patients who visit your website.
Questions Web Visitors Ask
How can your website convert visitors to new patients? Consider the questions your website visitors are asking in their minds. Do you know what those questions are? You might guess a few, but probably not all. Some might even surprise you.
Your website should answer the following 25 questions in easy-to-understand, personal, comfortable language that draws the visitor in until, finally, he or she calls your office to book an appointment.
- Who are you?
- Where are you located?
- Are you a real business?
- How big is your business, or how small?
- Are you the right service/product provider for me?
- Why should I trust you?
- What do patients think about you?
- What makes you the best?
- Why do patients like you?
- Does anyone not like you?
- What makes you different from other doctors?
- What does your office look like?
- What do you and your staff look like?
- Will I feel comfortable in your office?
- Is your staff nice or will they make my visit difficult?
- Are you conservative or will you try to sell me things I don’t need?
- Are you good with kids?
- Will I feel good or bad after my appointment?
- What have you done for others like me?
- Why should I choose you?
- Will you really listen to what I say?
- How can I be sure that I won’t be just another case to you?
- Will you file my insurance?
- What do you charge?
- How and when will I need to pay you?
How to Answer the Questions
Who are you? This question should be answered on the homepage. Your logo, practice name, tagline, and images should let visitors know that you’re not only a dentist, but you’re THE dentist who will make their family healthy and happy.
Where are you located? The web is global. While your SEO plan may be local, you might show up in searches hundreds, even thousands, of miles away from your office. Long-tail keywords in blogs could lead a Russian with a toothache to your website. Placing your address, in live text, at the top of your website will accomplish three things. One, it will let visitors know where you’re located. Two, it will tell Google where you’re located, which ties in to local SEO and Google+, and that ultimately ties in to your SEO strategy. Three, hopefully patients who are not in your area (and would never travel to your office) will leave the site quickly so that your traffic data isn’t skewed. If you aren’t a good fit for a potential patient, it’s best for your marketing research and data if that patient leaves your website promptly.
Are you a real business? The Internet has a reputation of connecting consumers with scam artists. Your website must immediately convey that you’re a reputable business and licensed dentist. Having a Google+ Local map will logically validate your business in the minds of consumers, but seeing your face and your office provide an emotional connection to you as a human being. Photos of the dentist, staff, and office are imperative for immediately establishing trust with website visitors.
How big is your business, or how small? Big is not necessarily better, especially when it comes to personalized care. While some patients prefer the technology and convenient evening/weekend appointments offered by large dental offices, others crave the relationship they’ll build with their future dentist. Whatever size your office is, your website should highlight benefits to the patient.
Are you the right service/product provider for me? Your website should make your ideal patient feel as if the entire site caters to his questions and concerns. To accomplish this, even the most experienced marketing professional needs to understand your target patient. What is your ideal case; what does that patient look like, and where does he go, what does he do, who does he talk to? Your website must focus on catering to the ideal patient you describe. In return, the site will appeal to the right type of cases for your practice.
Why should I trust you? This is a biggie. In 2012, a survey by Bray Leino revealed that 88% of people have a very high level of trust in their dentists. Twenty percent believe that their relationship with their dentist is more valuable the relationship with their doctors. Just over two-thirds of respondents base checkup frequency on their dentist’s recommendations. To show potential patients that you are worthy of their trust, include your photo on the homepage of your website. Provide testimonials, along with patient photos. In short, make it personal. Make your website leave an impression that they can trust you.
What do patients think about you? Word of mouth has always been the most economical and rewarding form of advertising, particularly for healthcare providers. Today, people communicate in person, but also online. In fact, a study by Pew Research in 2013 showed that 85% of Americans use the Internet. Only 4% of Americans whose income exceeds $75K per year are offline. The great number of potential patients who may find you online will see not only your website, but also reviews, or testimonials, about your practice. Yahoo, Yelp, Google, HealthGrades, and other public review sites often show up in the top results for “dentist” plus a city. To appear reputable in the eyes of potential patients, you need great reviews on your website and on third-party sites. Part of marketing involves reputation management, so your website needs to 1) make it easy for happy clients to leave reviews on public sites, and 2) link to positive public reviews about your practice.
What makes you the best? Patient testimonials will go a long way toward making you look like the best dentist around, but you must also highlight your accolades. So many times, professionals worry about appearing egotistical, so they don’t publicize their education, awards, and certifications. Don’t fall into this trap of humility. As a dentist, not a person, you are your brand. Your expertise must be highlighted if you’re going to compete with other brands. Don’t be humble. Be marketable!
Why do patients like you? Again, public reviews and testimonials on your own website will show potential patients what your current patients think of your practice. Consider video testimonials, as well. When a consumer can look into the eyes of your patients and see their genuine feelings for you, that’s priceless. Asking patients for written or recorded testimonials may feel awkward at first, but those that truly like you will be honored to tell the public how wonderful you are.
Does anyone not like you? Negative reviews are inevitable. You cannot control what’s published about you on review sites, even if the words are one-sided or completely untrue. In some cases, bad reviews boil down to a case of mistaken identity. Angry patients, and even unethical competitors, can anonymously post negative reviews about you – and potential patients will see these reviews. All you can do is respond publicly as the owner of the business (you can do this beneath the review, in most cases) and submit a request to the publisher that the review be removed. Your website, then, has an even harder job of converting visitors who’ve witnessed negative reviews. This means, you must have a stellar website!
What makes you different from other dentists? Every patient wants to feel unique, but they also want the joy of knowing their dentist is uniquely wonderful. Thin about what you do or have done that, perhaps, other dentists in your area have not. What are your hobbies? Do you volunteer time or go on mission trips to administer dental care? Do you love animals? Show off your personality on your website. People want to connect with the real you, not a white-coat-wearing, sterile robot of a doctor. Be authentic, and if you’re a genuinely nice person, people will like you. If you’re an ass, well, perhaps you shouldn’t be a dentist.
What does your office look like? Photographs are imperative to making a great first impression. Hire a local photographer and/or videographer to capture the best aspects of your office. If you cannot do this before your website is built, then take photos on your smart phone. With Photoshop and InDesign, graphic artists can make nearly any photograph look professional. Photos of your office are equally important as photos of yourself on your website. Do not take pictures of patients in dental chairs. Instead, have your team members pose – standing with an arm draped over the back of the dental chair, or handing the photographer a clipboard from behind the front desk. You need happy, attractive, real people in your photos. To showcase your office, request that an office tour, or photo rotation of office photos, be placed on the homepage of your website. Also integrate office photos on the About page, and insert an exterior photo on the contact page, with the Google+ map to your office.
What do you and your staff look like? Again, photos are key. Dentists often have many questions about staff photos, though. Do you need a group photo? Should you do an all-staff photo or department photos? What if a staff member leaves? Will you take individual photos? How should everyone dress? Indoor or outdoor pictures? How often do you need to take new staff pictures? Must all the staff be on the website? Do you need a professional photographer? A solid marketing company should be able to answer all of your questions an guide you down the best path for your situation.
Will I feel comfortable in your office? Staff, patient testimonials, and an office photo rotation will help website visitors determine whether they might feel comfortable in your office. The words on your website are also an important factor in giving potential patients a warm welcome. Should your site be written in first person, second, or third? How casual or professional should the tone be? What aspects of clinical dentistry need attention, and how much “fluff” is necessary for marketing? You need to find a great dental copywriter who can develop website content that appeals to your target audience – that ideal patient. Don’t rely on your own preferences in this area. The website is not being written for you, a dentist, but for your potential patients, people who know little about dental care and seek an emotional connection.
Is your staff nice or will they make my visit difficult? You can convey the kind nature of your staff in pictures and words. Photos of smiling team members are nice, but videos of happy team members explaining aspects of your dental office are even better. Biographical profiles of team members are nice, but testimonials from patients who mention the awesome work of your staff are even better. Also, include a page on your website to explain what a first visit entails. Help the reader understand what to expect at your office, how much time to a lot for the pre-visit paperwork, and what will be required for payment or insurance processing.
Are you conservative or will you try to sell me things I don’t need? Going back to trust, patients want a dentist they can trust. They need to know that you won’t sell them services they don’t need. People do not want a used car salesman for a dentist. How can you let website visitors know that your intentions are pure? Patient testimonials and your own sentiments about patient care and conservative dentistry can help send the right message.
Are you good with kids? This is really a yes or no. If you don’t like seeing kids, don’t mention children in your marketing – on your website or elsewhere. However, if you cater to families and like treating children, let people know. Add a page just for kids on your website – and a page for parents, too. Blog about children’s dental care, how to brush and floss, and dental development. Your website should let visitors know immediately whether you like seeing children or prefer adult care.
Will I feel good or bad after my appointment? We won’t really know the answer to this question until after the appointment is complete, but potential patients need to believe that you’re going to give them a great experience. You’ll have them in and out in no time, but you’ll spend enough one-on-one time consulting with them to understand all of their needs and concerns. You’ll make the emotional, clinical, and financial aspects of dental care easy, hassle-free, and convenient. Your website should make visitors believe that you are the dentist they can trust – that after their first visit, they’ll want to tell everyone about their wonderful dentist.
What have you done for others like me? A before-and-after gallery can become a great patient education tool and help with case acceptance. You’ll need before and after photos of a minimum of five cases. Be sure to include a headshot and patient testimonial if at all possible. A video testimonial is ideal. Take a few moments to write the patient’s story: why they came to you, what their problems were, and how you corrected the problems. This, in addition to a good library of patient testimonials and/or videos, will show website visitors that you’re not all talk – you’re a great clinician, as well.
Will you really listen to what I say? Telling people that you’ll listen to them does not mean they’ll believe you really will. Focus on patient testimonials and case descriptions in your before-and-after gallery to show website visitors that your current patients were listened to. In addition, your copywriter can develop a tone that makes readers feel that you really care, and that you’ll listen to what they say.
How can I be sure that I won’t be just another case to you? Again, this isn’t something people will believe because you say so. Your website text, photos, and testimonials can send the message that patient individuality is important to you, but promptly answering emails, phone calls, and messages will prove it. Your staff should be trained to make every patient – and every potential patient – feel uniquely important.
Will you file my insurance? Dentists like private pay, and for good reason. However, the average working Joe does not have 5K sitting around to spend on dental care. Yes, dental care is important to overall health. Yes, neglecting dental care could cause serious quality of life and health problems. Still, out-of-pocket cost today is an issue for many people. An experienced copywriter can take the facts about your financing and insurance options and position them in a positive light. Potential patients need to know what to expect, and part of meeting that need involves answering the hard questions about insurance and financing.
What do you charge? Don’t publish your fees. Communicating your service fees to potential patients does not mean that you must publish the actual prices. Instead, let readers know that for the quality service, materials, and care they’ll receive in your office, you charge fair prices. Let them also know that you can discuss financing options or phased treatment plans, if necessary, to make quality dental care fit their budget. Tell them that when it comes to healthcare, cheap alternatives aren’t the best investment. Instead, long-lasting, quality dentistry is the wise, and often less costly, choice.
How and when will I need to pay you? Again with the money? Yes. Money is important, unless you only cater to the independently wealthy. Patients need to understand from the beginning that you will expect payment, either their copay or full payment, at the end of their visit. If you neglect to tell patients this up front, you run the risk of creating disgruntled customers – and that leads to bad online reviews. Don’t take the risk! Set clear expectations of what you need, and listen to their expectations of you. Establish trust on this foundation, and you’ll enjoy the many benefits of long-term patient retention.
Why should I choose you? Everything we’ve touched on to this point should answer this question. You need to be aware that the question exists in the minds of your potential patients. As you develop a website to give people an inside peek at your practice, don’t forget the question that all potential patients are asking: why should I choose you?