Part 1: The New Dentist’s 5-Minute Guide to creating a Year One online marketing plan that is realistic, understandable, and won’t break the bank

By Jill Townsend, for Amy Smith Consulting, LLC

To say that new dentists, or dentists who have been hesitant to enter into the online arena, face a myriad of challenges when opening their first practice is an understatement. The decisions are endless and the choices are often confusing. Should I do this? Or that? How much should I spend, and on what?

I'll leave it to great consultants like Amy to answer many of those questions, but based on a lot of experience working in the "World of Google and Beyond", I can advise you on where - and where not - to spend your online marketing dollars in Year One. 

Things you should spend money (or time) on:

A website with a mobile version, but do not spend more than $3500, including your first year of hosting fees. A company I recommend, Prosites, charges $2500 as a standard set up cost, including a mobile version. (Many state associations get further discounts, use the contact details at the end of this article to find out more.) Hosting fees are $65/month. For this you also get a dedicated account rep who will make content changes for you.

If you don't use Prosites, use their fees as a benchmark. You do not need a $10K custom site, nor should you let Cousin Vinnie design your site for 'free', or use a company that is not familiar and experienced in your field. Make sure you have the option to update the site yourself without additional cost. Beware of dark backgrounds and difficult-to-read or cutesy fonts. They may be appealing to you, but they are very reader unfriendly.

Also, get out of printed 'phone book' mode, especially when connected to a 'free' website. (Usually just one page.) Many of these programs look good at first glance but end up being extremely costly. It is almost impossible for the print world to keep up with the online world anymore, especially in terms of attracting new patients.

On a related note, make sure you understand your obligations with regard to HIPAA and the HiTech Security Act when it comes to your website. Don't fall foul of these laws unknowingly as there are required materials, per HIPAA, that must be on your website. Amy and her staff can guide your through this process.

A good bio on the doctor. FACT: The first page a future patient looks at is the About the Doctor page. Make sure your bio is there for them to read. It should be professional, yet personal, and it should include at least one photo, preferably more.

Professional photos of you and your staff. The second page future patients look at is "About the Staff". (Take group team photos, by all means, but also take these photos individually in case someone leaves.) If possible include photos of you that are more personal - skiing with your family or taking the dog for a walk. Patients are looking for a human being, not just a potential dentist.

A small, select number of domain names. Always buy your own name if you can. Buy a domain name with your town or city in it. Include the type of dentistry you do. Do NOT try to buy every available combination. This is just one way patients will eventually find you. Buy the domain names for a minimum of three years. (Google will take you more seriously.)

The following social media and directory accounts:
  • A Facebook Business Page - and there's good news. People are getting overloaded with posts in their News Feeds, the current advice is not to post more than once a week! (Click here for ideas for dentists on good Facebook posts.)
  • A Yelp Account
  • A Google Places and Google+ listing

There are many, many more online directories and social media sites available to you, but these will suffice for your first year, and all four are free.

Please watch for next month's newsletter, where we will discuss the Year One things you should NOT spend money on.

Resources

Click here for a Prosites Test Drive. Contact Paige Nichols at paige@prosites.com for additional discounts and special offers. Please make sure and mention this article.

If you would like an assessment of your current site and other online marketing materials, please read here.

And if you would like help writing your bio, please check out my website.  

About Jill Townsend: Jill has been working in the marketing and consulting industry for more than 25 years, including a 12-year period in the United Kingdom, serving as the Director of Marketing and Product Development for a multi-national direct mail company. She now provides copywriting and design services for dental and non-dental clients across the country, specializing in online marketing. Her company, Consultant On The Go, provides virtual marketing services to small business owners. She is also the author of the popular e-book, How To Write A Great Bio.