While it’s possible to purchase just about anything online these days, some businesses will remain reliant on real world commerce. From dentists to chiropractors some will always require the physical presence of patients, however, much some patients might resist. However, this doesn’t mean that these businesses can ignore the need to have a web presence. Every business today, even the smallest, seems to have a web presence, and for those in the health industry it’s just as important to be easily found online. So what are the advantages and what should you consider when creating your virtual practice front?
Key Benefits of Going Online
The chances are that your competitors will have a website; if they don’t yet they most likely will soon. Keeping an eye on what the competition is up to is a well-established business process and as more health practices go online, the more urgent the need is to do so for those that haven’t already.
Consumers of all types, including patients, like the flexibility that the web offers in terms of choosing a service of any kind. For businesses it gives a twenty four hour presence even if they are not physically open twenty four hours a day. The opportunity to browse potential providers out of hours and make contact by email simply makes it easier for your patients to find you.
In today’s always on world, if you don’t have an email address, then frankly you don’t exist. For chiropractors, and other practices, having a professional looking email address is essential. Hotmail addresses will just not do on the professional front and having a domain name which allows for multiple email addresses adds that professional touch.
One handy tool you can build into your website is the option to take part in a survey. While this can be done in the real world, the chances of people filling in the form, and actually remembering to pop it in the box at reception are limited. Online surveys of your customers can be valuable. They often have a greater reach and can highlight areas in which you could improve your service or those areas that are working well.
Newsletters are also another feature that can be useful in interacting with your customers. Keeping your services in the forefront of your patients mind is a good way to generate business (and often word of mouth referrals). Newsletters can be produced in house, or by specialist service providers and needn’t take up valuable time.
Do I Need Global Reach?
Once up and running a website is not necessarily going to take up much time to manage. In some senses it’s a form of permanent advertising with relatively low costs. It can be combined with other forms of advertising – mail shots with your web address details included – to extend your reach and find new patients. Although you’ll have access to an audience of millions around the globe, it’s unlikely you’ll have people flying in from abroad. However a web presence does often have a positive impact on your patient list, drawing in clients from further afield. This can be especially useful for specialist practices.
Testimonials, reviews and comments are useful on many levels. They give you a good idea of how you’re performing and also encourage confidence in your services in new or potential customers. Reviews, news and testimonials can be placed on your site regularly, and these are great ways for potential patients to get a feel for what you do and how well you do it!
Managed Services and Tailored Packages
If you run a dental practice or chiropractor service, the chances are you won’t be a web design or web marketing expert. Although you can take the DIY approach it’s wise to consider hiring a professional company to do so. In addition to the website itself, which needs to look professional, you should consider how to manage various functions of the site. Many firms offer a full management services and some, like Perfectpatients.com offer bespoke services for the medical sector that include SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) services, newsletter production and are experts at creating content that ‘works’. Basic principles to creating effective websites should include all of these aspects and while you may be able to manage some (newsletters for example) others may need a little expertise. Creating effective websites is an art in itself and using professional firms to create and manage them is a cost effective way in which to build your online presence and your offline patient list!
[box]Ben Grant is a freelance writer who works in online and offline marketing. For even the most offline of businesses he believes an online presence can be a useful tool.[/box]