Thursday Troubleshooter: The dental practice's website is completely out of date. Help!

This practice manager is frustrated that the dentist does not think the practice's website is important

Sep 4th, 2014
Bad Dental Website

QUESTION: I’m a practice administrator. My dentist, who’s in his early 50s, is dead set against having more than a one-page website. We cannot update the website ourselves, and we cannot do anything regarding social media from the website. I’ve been in the dental industry more than 30 years, and while this is new to me, too, I think the website is important for our practice. He says we’re doing just fine as we are, and to be fair to him, our schedule is pretty full and the practice is making a profit. He plans to sell and retire within five years. How can I convince him to expand the website and pay more attention to it?

ANSWER FROM WAYNE KERR, DDS, MAGD, kerrspeak.com:
In a recent webinar, Fred Joyal, founder of 1-800- DENTIST and now CEO of Futuredontics, remarked that online research to find and evaluate a dental practice was the preferred choice of 55% of people seeking an appointment. Surprisingly, many viewed a practice's website as a representation of its
quality of care.

Having a professional and attractive website is a must in today's changing and challenging marketplace. Not only does it provide specific information for a potential new patient, but it provides a marvelous opportunity to highlight the members of the team and the skills they bring to the practice.

The Pride Institute offers an excellent publication called "New Methods and New Models for New Marketing," which can provide valuable insight and direction to your employer on this issue. A word of warning – many doctors who plan to retire within three to five years begin to "coast" and slow down, which devalues their practice and makes it less desirable to potential buyers. Not wanting to change the status quo could be an early sign that your practice's peak productive years are already behind you.

ANSWER FROM BRUCE CASSIS,Cassis Dental Center:
Today is no prediction of the future, just what's happening today. A buyer, or more certainly a practice broker, will devalue the business from the standpoint of not communicating well with current or potential patients. This is the time to worry and plan for busyness, not when you’re not busy. A vital presence on the web is essential, not optional.

ANSWER FROM KRISTIN NICKELLS, Nickellsilver Business Solutions:
There are three good reasons that a one-page, static website with no social media will suffice:
1. You only want to reach 50% of your patients – The number of patients who want to be contacted via email and texting, and for whom little or no website presence means you are invisible and out of mind, gets bigger every year. Do you care about reaching those patients?
2. You don't ever lose patients and therefore do not need to replace them, ever – Ask around. When most people are looking for a new dentist, where do you think they look? If your practice is doing all right and seems to be booked, good for you. Are you sure you don't want to attract any new patients?
3. Good enough is good enough – I can recall a time when dentists scoffed at digital X-rays, or computers for billing, because the old ways were good enough. Heck, I can recall the resistance to getting rid of spit bowls! Websites that are not interactive in some way (blogs or some updated content), current, and updated regularly are the spit bowls of the web world. Static and passive websites send a clear message that you are not current. Savvy web users will likely ask themselves what else is not current in your office.

ANSWER FROM JILL TOWNSEND,LetJillWriteIt.com:
I’m surprised at how often I run into similar situations in my work as a website consultant and copywriter. It reminds me of the days when we questioned if the fax machine would ever take off.

Reading between the lines, I wonder – how much are you paying for that one-page website, and are you bound by a contract to keep if for a certain length of time? It’s my experience that doctors can get locked into expensive monthly contracts for what is basically a name and address listing. If you do have a contract, find out when it ends and then use that information to approach your doctor about developing a “real” website when the contract runs out. You can get a professionally designed dental website for less than $3K, one you can update yourself if you choose.

I would then recommend broaching the social media subject again, and point out that websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ are free and excellent sources of community outreach and involvement. Explain to the dentist how you plan to keep those sites updated. Start with just one and work your way up. Social media does not have to be labor intensive or time consuming. (Check out my colleague’s excellent site, www.ritazamora.com.)

If none of these suggestions work, remind your doctor that his practice will have much less value when he tries to sell it if he does not have an active and established social media presence. Maybe the real “bottom line” will convince him.

ANSWER FROM SHELLEY RENEE, Shelley Renee Consulting:
While it’s common for a dentist nearing retirement to begin “coasting” along, it is not wise. Armed with the knowledge that your doctor wants to sell in five years, you could appeal to “what’s in it for him” by linking the updated website and social media with increased practice value. This is a time to ramp up the practice image and new patient flow. A polished and interactive website sets the tone and creates first impressions. It will be well worth the time and money to do right. Compared to other technology, a new website can be a relatively inexpensive way to stay current. Help the doctor see that this investment will come back to him many times over. This is the perfect time to start showing a vibrant and patient-centered practice, one that will appeal to patients and buyers a like.

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Send your questions for the experts to answer. Responses will come from various consultants associated with Speaking Consulting Network, Academy of Dental Management Consultants, or Dental Consultant Connection. Their members will take turns fielding your questions on DentistryIQ, because they are very familiar with addressing the tough issues. Hey, it's their job.

Send your questions to megk@pennwell.com. All inquiries will be answered anonymously every Thursday here on DIQ.

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