Web marketing is more than just an online brochure

October 15, 2008

Updating your Web site-not just once, but frequently-offers an excellent opportunity to boost your practice's business by developing new patient relationships using the Internet.

Key Points

Thinking about revising your Web site? You'd better, according to Bill Fukui and Shawn Powell.

Both believe updating your Web site-not just once, but frequently-offers an excellent opportunity to boost your practice's business by developing new patient relationships using the Internet.

"Change is happening on the Internet faster than any other medium," said Fukui, chief operating officer of Page 1 Solutions, a Colorado-based Internet marketing firm. "And if you haven't made changes to your Web site . . . you're absolutely being left behind."

The sophistication of Web technology continues to evolve. More and more people across the country have access to high-speed Internet connections, a fact that greatly increases the opportunity for Web sites to include Flash video. Not only have the computers that people use advanced, but the user demographic has expanded as more and more consumers of all ages become computer and Web savvy.

According to Fukui, medical practices-particularly surgical ones-are migrating toward the Internet as their principal marketing tool.

"Internet is replacing other means of getting information," he said. "People do not use the Yellow Pages anymore. Web sites have become the primary marketing medium."

"You want [Web advertising] to be consistent with your other advertising," Powell said. "You want to have those key phrases, your logos . . . all of that needs to be right there."

But, she added, your Web site should be "more than just an online brochure."

A Web site may be a potential patient's first impression of a practice. From a design perspective, Powell stressed organization, ease of navigation, and content, content, content.

Information dissemination

First, rather than cram every piece of information onto a single page, use multiple pages with links-but watch out for broken links. Nothing will make a visitor to your site hit the dreaded "back button of death" and go to another site quicker than a broken link, she said.

Next, visitors want to find the information they're looking for quickly and easily. Your Web site navigation should be simple and straightforward, with no "secret handshakes."

Finally, you can include fancy graphics and Flash videos, but information for potential patients is what your site is all about. Keep the content relevant and easy to understand.

"They don't want to be entertained," Powell said. "Also, you don't want it to be too sales-y . . . they want to buy, they just don't want to be sold."

Fukui said that, for years, practices considered their office staff to be the frontline tool for connecting to patients and building relationships. You hire good people because your staff is the first thing patients encounter when they call to set up an appointment or come in for an office visit. Today, that first impression is shifting to your Web site.

"Yes, it needs to project a great image. Yes, it has to have good, credible information," Fukui said. "But it also needs to be more than that."

Incorporating a relationship-building attitude into your Web-site design will promote a level of trust to potential patients. After all, you are marketing surgical procedures that intimidate uninformed consumers.

"This is not institutional marketing," Fukui said. "This is relationship marketing. The single greatest opportunity is to earn online business through relationships. People do business with businesses they like and people they like." Powell agreed.

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