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6 keys to creating a powerful online impression—and attracting more new patients

Feb. 10, 2022
"Wait, what?" That's the reaction you want from prospective new patients when they look at your website. But with only seconds to make a first impression, how do you make that happen? Sean Hamel lays out the steps to getting noticed online.

You have only seconds to make a first impression. It’s even more difficult online with so many people clamoring for attention. You have an estimated three-second window to break away from the “white noise” and get noticed. It sounds almost hopeless that you'll be able make an impact powerful enough to drive new patients to you in such a short amount of time. But if you know how to speak directly to the heart of your ideal dental patient, you can make the most out of every second—and inspire potential new patients to pick up the phone and call you.

It’s human nature to judge a book by its cover; we make snap judgments based on gut feelings, whether we have facts or not. As well, we have been conditioned to be highly entertained. So how do you get a “Wait, what?” reaction out of your desired audience to compel them to stop and pay attention to you?

There’s a formula to make the most out of every second and create a powerful first online impression that grabs attention and drives people to action:

  • Show clear intent
  • Make a compelling hook
  • Be different
  • Tell a story
  • Offer a promise of transformation
  • Easy and clear call to action

Clear intent

Effective marketing is focused. You’re not trying to get everyone’s attention—if you were, your message would be weakened (and more likely ignored). You need to have a clear picture of the ideal patient you want to attract. What type of services are appealing to this ideal patient? When you know who you most ideally want to serve, this focus strengthens your messaging and provides clarity to all your marketing choices.

Related reading:
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For example, if you want to offer more dental implants, most of your clients will be around retirement age. Knowing this is your demographic, using stock photos of young families and loud childish colors wouldn’t make much sense on your website or social media. Your messaging would likely be ignored by your targeted group because they’d assume you are not for them.

Once you know your who, you next need to know how to speak to them to catch their attention within a three-second window.

Compelling hook

How do we stand out from the noise? Great copy—a hook—is a message that grabs attention and appeals to your audience’s emotions or curiosities to trigger the “Wait, what?” response. Its sole purpose is to get attention and guide them to the next line or image. Each line or image must be methodically placed to hold attention to guide them along so they click your ad, read your post, or scroll through your website and pick up the phone.

A compelling hook is less about wittiness and more about effective research. Before even trying to create a compelling hook, you must first know your ideal patient well.

Think of your ideal patient, what they might be into, what makes them feel comfortable, what they want, and what their motive is for seeking dental treatment.

For example, say you are a pediatric dental office in a great location near a school. Maybe this is one of your most differentiating marketable assets. You research your ideal patients and learn they choose you because you are close to their kids’ school. So the logical reason is proximity to their school. The emotional reason is that they’re busy, tired parents and you make their life easier. You save them the time and hassle of driving across town.

Reviews are a great resource for market research into your ideal patient. Observe the way your ideal patient speaks and what they value or don’t like about an experience. Read reviews from competitors. Hint: two main triggers in dentistry that drive people to take action are avoiding pain and improving appearance.

The office that makes an impression of comfort and ease will come across as the safest choice and will be most appealing to those in the pain avoidance group. When you understand your patients’ motives and desires, connect with them on that level and avoid sounding like a lecturing dentist. Be relatable and meet them where they’re at.

Be different

Stand out and get noticed by breaking out from doing the same thing as everyone else. Being different sounds perplexing, but when coupled with story-based marketing it becomes much less complicated. Why? Because your story is like no one else's; it is different and unique to you.

To apply this practically, look at the content of several fellow dentists. How do they engage with their audience? What are your impressions of their websites? Do most look the same? What can you do to be different? If they’re using stock imagery, use real photos, or better yet a video of you, your team, and happy patients. This can help put potential patients at ease. A hook isn’t always words; if a picture can say a thousand words, then video is like ten thousand words.

Tell a story

Story-based marketing, more specifically telling your story in a relatable “human” way, has several advantages. Story speaks to our emotional brain; emotions build bonds that create feelings of trustworthiness and loyalty. Most people have some level of dental anxiety or dread. If you can convey warmth and safety by being a relatable human being, you help put these deep-seated feelings at ease.

If you make a prospective new patient feel safe and comfortable with your online first impression, you increase your conversions and will drive more new patients through your door.

What’s more, story fans the flames of curiosity. Humans are naturally curious creatures who want to know how things turn out; we can’t stand not knowing. Starting with a story is a great hook. Story keeps prospective patients engaged in knowing more about you. It keeps them reading through your website, stopping at your posts, and so on.

Story differentiates you because no one else out there is like you. Not everyone will like you and that’s OK, but the ones who do will have greater loyalty because of feelings of connectedness to you and your story.

Your story isn’t merely words; it's made up of impressions, images, testimony, staff, reviews, what you share, your values, and word of mouth. All these things come together to make up your story. To create a great first impression, share these elements to build your story, pique curiosity, and generate trust.

Convey transformation

Transformation is the hope you provide your patient. It is your value proposition presented to their emotional brain. A value proposition is how your patient will benefit from the services you provide, but transformation takes it a step further. It is what you can do for them to make their life better. How are you going to make their life better?

Perhaps you’ll make their life easier because you’re next door and not across town, so you'll save them time and reduce stress. Or you convey transformation by offering them the idea that the work you do will make them feel younger, sexier, more comfortable, or more confident.

Provide a clear call to action

After laying all this groundwork, don’t leave your ideal patient hanging; tell them what to do next by providing a clear and simple call to action (CTA). For example, your website should have a CTA to schedule an appointment or consultation.

You may have only a moment but with a clear focus on who your ideal patient is and building your story with relatable genuine content, you’ll become a better communicator, generate loyalty, and market more effectively. By knowing how to meet patients where they’re at, you’ll stand out from the white noise—leading you to greater conversions.