OR WAIT 15 SECS
Value Defined? We all want and deserve to receive value for our investment. Value can mean different things to different people. One might value getting his or her website up and running quickly, while another might be more exacting and patient. One practice might value appearance more highly than function. Still another might prefer quantity over quality of website visitors. Whatever your preferences, know what constitutes reasonable expectations, not only from your finished* product, but also from the process.
We all want and deserve to receive value for our investment. Value can mean different things to different people. One might value getting his or her website up and running quickly, while another might be more exacting and patient. One practice might value appearance more highly than function. Still another might prefer quantity over quality of website visitors.
Whatever your preferences, know what constitutes reasonable expectations, not only from your finished* product, but also from the process.
*In reality, your website should be viewed as a living and evolving instrument in a number of respects.
To help ensure error-free implementation, someone must take responsibility for coordinating all tasks and resources. Be careful about "promoting" say, your schedule coordinator to the role of website coordinator. If you do choose to manage the process internally, be certain the person to whom you assign this important responsibility is competent, and has the time and resources to take on the challenge.
Confidence and Competence?
It is reasonable to expect that whomever you retain to design your website demonstrates competency so your site is delivered on time, on budget, and as specified. This means your designer will ideally have experience in the dental field, or at least be able to show you sites he has created for other clients, which possess the aesthetics and function you require.
In general, the firm you retain will listen as much as they talk about your website design because, only by listening will they truly ‘get,' so they can deliver, the appearance and function you desire.
Look ‘n Feel?
In choosing your website’s content and layout, imagine your website from the perspective of all who might view it: your current and prospective patients, your team, the media, and yourself.
Most practices are primarily concerned with how their site is perceived by current and prospective patients. If you want your website to be used by patients of record to: ask questions, request appointments, learn more about proposed treatment, receive appointment confirmations, take surveys, offer suggestions, complete paperwork, etc. be sure the firm is experienced with handling such ‘back-end' functions. Most websites lack a means for capturing contact information on prospective patients, and an automated means for communicating with them during the ‘gestation period' when they metamorphose from ‘tire kicker' to ‘trigger puller.' As most first-time website visitors fall into the former category, this is an important success component that should not be overlooked.
General Design Considerations?
Secure your domain name Careful consideration should be given to naming your site. If you have already established a strong practice brand, the name of your website will closely match your practice name. If you select a URL matching your personal name, remember that, when it comes time to sell the practice, your successor may not value it as highly as you do. Be sure to consult an attorney, or perform a comprehensive name search, to confirm you have the legal right to use your chosen name.
In structuring the layout of your site consider not only the format of your home page, but also any ?‘landing pages.' You’ll want a landing page for each of your services as well as a(n):
•Meet the Dentist(s) Page
•Meet The Team Page
•Schedule an Appointment Page
•Unique telephone number so you can track and calculate the return on your website marketing investment
•Form visitors may complete to receive a report on a topic of interest and relevance to them
•Automated direct response communications campaign (more on this in an upcoming article)
•Easy to use CMS (content management system)
•Cost-effective hosting solution, report system, and reliable technical support
Who should build your website
Look for a firm that
•Specializes in the Dental field
•Guarantees delivery within a reasonable timeframe, although you must be an equal partner in? this process.
•Is able and willing to test your existing design for efficacy.
•Offers robust, but user-friendly, reporting
•Will assist with selecting and securing an appropriate name for your website
If you get the sense the firm’s representative is reading from a canned script, you may expect to be treated as a commodity, which probably is not what you want. In general, trust your gut.
Pay Now or Pay Later?
We usually get what we pay for. In choosing who should build your web presence, be wary of the ‘free lunch.’ This can happen when the practice chooses to have a friend, relative, student, or someone else perform the project ‘for free,’ at a greatly reduced rate, or 'on trade.' Human nature being what it is, the person who agrees to these ‘terms' will prioritize accordingly. More than one practice has been dismayed to learn the ‘deal’ they made resulted in inordinate delay, an inferior delivered product, or both.
The Post-Purchase Experience?
Rest assured that, once your website goes live, you will want to make changes to it. You might even experience ‘technical difficulties' from time to time. It can be a frustrating experience not to have these concerns and requests addressed to your satisfaction, or within the promised time frame, so ask for references and specifically ask what their experience has been with post-purchase service. ??Caveat Emptor?Tim Healy of TNT Dental warns “If you haven't received correspondence from companies with names like Liberty Names of America or Domain Registry of America, you probably will. Don't let the “domain name expiration notice” fool you. Although the expiration date of your domain name may be real, it is NOT a real invoice. The document looks official, and leads many intelligent individuals to send a check for domain name renewal.” This is a form of "slamming," which changes your service to another company without you realizing what you have done. Sending a check to such companies constitutes legal "permission" for them to change your service.
To protect yourself from having your domain slammed, “Know who your registrar is, and if you're not sure, visit www.whois.sc, type in your domain name, and the name of your registrar will appear.
Check it out (and off)?
Here's a checklist to evaluate your site's performance, and to help judge when your new website is ‘ready for prime time':
•Navigation bar at top makes pages accessible and easy to find
•Site Layout is organized in a familiar pattern with important section at top and left and main content in? center
•Professional and clean Look ‘n Feel ?
•Page Width not more than 800px (max printable width)
•Contact Information is ‘above the fold' for quick viewing and access ?•Quick load time e.g. not too much use of Flash and other animation, which is also a distraction to visitors
•Interactive features e.g newsletter sign up, free consultation, etc. allows practice to efficiently build? prospective patient contact list
•Free offer for visitor to further encourage completion of a Form
•Means to capture site visitor contact information
•Follow-up aka drip marketing system to communicate with registered site visitors
•Site ranks in top results in Google for city and ‘dentist' demonstrating ‘relevance.' Goal is to rank in top 3? results as these listings receive over 80% of clicks.
•City name is included in the title bar
•Site meta information included (such as keywords and description) to assist with search engine? marketing
•Important words should be in text, not graphical images, which search engines cannot understand.
•Pay-Per-Click (PPC) program in place, at least until the site is optimized for ‘organic results’, and uses? 'best practices' i.e. are managed by a firm certified to manage the program offered by that search engine.
•Links for specific services send visitor to specific landing pages where the visitor quickly finds what they? are looking for
•Analytics are easy to access and interpret
Fortunately, and unlike, say, printing, where one has either to pay to redo or ‘live with’ errors, websites, are quite forgiving. This means that, should you change your mind, most changes to your site are easily made. It also means your site does not need to be ‘perfect’ to launch. Applying the same care and attention to detail that you use in planning and delivering treatment will serve you in this process as well.
The next Article will focus on website marketing, that is, attracting qualified visitors to your website.
Daniel Bobrow, MBA, is president of the American Dental Marketing Company, a dentistry marketing and patient communications consultancy. He is also Executive Director of Dentists’ Climb for a Cause™. Readers interested in learning more about integrated marketing and patient communication products, systems and services are invited to contact Mr. Bobrow at 312-455-9488 or DBobrow@AmericanDentalMarketing.com or visit AmericanDentalMarketing.com.