If one asked 10 years ago whether a website was relevant I was the first to suggest no. Yet as the world moves increasingly towards electronic information there is a dire need to have a website for your practice.Your website is actually your electronic calling card. Don't think so? According to ComScore and Internet statistical research company there are 1.7 trillion searches per year and 4.7 billion searches per day on Google! This means that both Google and the Internet have replaced the Yellow Pages as directory sources. Yet the problem today is that from research of our organization approximately one in every four to five acupuncturists has a website.
There are several reasons for this but it tends to come down to the following:
- Acupuncturists believe that building a website is too time consuming.
- Many acupuncturists believe the website is too costly and they lack the funds to develop one.
- Many acupuncturists do not know who to trust or consult with to build one.
- Many do not know how important the website is to the marketing process.
- Some acupuncturists just do not know the correct formula for building one.
In my time consulting with acupuncturists I have experienced the good the bad and the ugly. The issues I typically find are that the acupuncturist does not know how to strategically implement a proper website so anything appears on the website. What must be considered is that the website must be not only online information for viewers, but a method to attract prospective patients to the practice. Believe it or not your website can become a client magnet or client repellent. Therefore you must build a website that creates attraction, allure, and most important – action.
Too many acupuncturists begin the process of a website too tactically. Just like acupuncturists there are too many of them. There is too much competition today along with too much static. According to Pingdom, there are 555 million websites (December 2011) with 300 million added the same year. Placing a website on the Internet will not guarantee success, but being strategic will. The website must be strategically implemented with the vision, mission and purpose of the practice along with the overall marketing plan. Placing a web will never guarantee results but proper planning with a purpose will.
The first step with any website includes the ability to position the website like any product or service. Websites must be considered a part of the integrated marketing communication plan, which uses emotion for allure. Websites with proper positioning are the extension of the brand. After all, people will invest in brands for brands sake. A brand creates a response among the public. Think of brands that you use that create eponymous communication. When you want to copy you Xerox. When you require a personal computer you purchase Dell or Apple. And, if you thirst you desire Coke. These responses create emotion and get the public to act. Therefore when you position your website patients will become attracted because of the brand you emote.
Helping to build the position requires segmenting your market so that you appeal to a very particular niche. It is important to remember that you are competing with another acupuncturist just down the street. They too have websites, they have banner signs and they have curb appeal, but there is nothing that differentiates your site from another, or is there?
Targeting allows you to appeal to a particular niche. The deeper you go the easier it becomes to lock into individuals that seek your expertise.
Review any acupuncturist or naturopath website and they all say the same thing. The site is rift with prescriptive content intelligible to prospective patients. Websites need to consider the output and the results to the client. They must discuss value and the rationale for working with this particular acupuncturist and how s/he can assist the patient.
Patients do not invest in features, but they do benefits. The website messages must be carefully worded with two segments 1) the issues the prospective patient faces (i.e. headaches, muscle ache, stress, fatigue etc.) and 2) informing them what they gain from working with the acupuncturist. So the best methodology is to state the demographic the acupuncturist works with and the results gained from working together.
Ironically for as many words that are written for websites the best words come from current patients. There are too many sites that lack the use of patient stories and testimonials. True the information that you furnish is important, but the single best method to create relationships and prove you are the best acupuncturist to work with is illustrated by your current patient base. Collect as many testimonials as possible in text, audio, pictorial and video form and place these strategically on the site. It is also prudent to provide case studies so that individuals with similar conditions can align with the issue. Simply put, testimonials are the single best method for establishing your value and getting people to invest in you.
Text and Graphic Optimization
Although text and graphics are important to any website there must be enough to tell a story, but not too much to inundate and frustrate. Go with the formula of less is more. This is especially important because there is a new "recipe for success" on the web and this is known as "above the fold." This term was originally adopted for newspapers as it meant the important information seen before the way the paper is folded. Presently web developers use the term as a means to place as much information as possible on a computer screen prior to the reader needing to scroll. Every practice must operate under the acronym of KISS and so must your website. Too many pictures and words will confuse the reader and get them off your page. In fact, typical bounce rates for websites are approximately 88% and the average time on a site is 2.10 minutes. As you can see the right words and pictures need to attract as much attention as reality television does viewers.
Without going into too much technical detail websites are all about the musts. The website must be simple. The website must be somewhat cool. The website must be graphically appealing in other words lots of white space. The website must be simple. And the website must have a purpose and every page and I mean every page must have a purpose. The pages on a website must direct the user on every page. Believe it or not you must direct the reader like a crossing guard directs traffic. Every web page has to create an action that gets the reader to do something. For example, you might request a register for your newsletter, obtain information or simply schedule an appointment but if you don't, then don't leave it to the reader to decide.
It's All About Action
Just to reiterate, all pages must have an action step. This is so simple but so easily missed. Similar to the fable of the Pied Piper that led the mice you must lead your target prospect down a path. Imagine your website as a store, individuals come to the front door and then begin to stare at the shelves and racks present. If there is something of interest they will migrate toward it, if not that then something else. However, along the way you tell them a bit of the inventory and they become more interested. This is the same purpose with the page based action step.
The Database and the Option
Since the purpose of a website is meant to attract attention and provide initial information the least you can do is obtain something in return. While 90 percent of most acupuncturist sites do not offer something this simple you must. Design a very simple practice magnet. This can be as simple as a free article, a free audio from one of your seminars, something that provides enough value for someone to reciprocate and provide you with a name and email. There is some psychology here. Typically when you offer something to someone they are more likely to reciprocate but the offer must be emotionally appealing while offering great value.
The Success and Perfection Formula
The website is planned it is ready and you have made the adjustments I mentioned but, many will attempt to change words like you change answers on a multiple choice test or others will alter images and fonts because they do not look just right. Stop seeking perfection, there is no such thing. When you are ready to launch then launch. Do not worry about any unsolicited feedback. After all if a word is a wrong, missing or inappropriate at least someone is reading it! There are too many pundits on the Internet willing to offer their "two cents." Become empathetic to unsolicited feedback and acute to your changes.
What Gets Measured
Perhaps the most vital piece of information of any website is what the statistics state. I suggest using tools such as Google Analytics to review your visitors your downloads and your subscribers. I also suggest looking at keywords and phrases to ensure you are appealing to your target. Remember what gets measured get repeated so reviewing your analytics will allow you to make instant changes for long-term success.
Ultimately the best practices are to continually review and update your site. Similar to the seasons, things needs to change so remain on top of new techniques, new markets and newer downloads. Ignoring your site is similar to ignoring your marketing but remaining strategic and focused will provide long-term patient volume leading to longer-term revenue success!
Drew Stevens, PhD works with acupuncturists that desire to dramatically accelerate patient volume and revenue. He is the author of 6 books including his most recent Patient Acceleration and writes frequently for acupuncturists and natural path periodicals. He can be reached at 877-391-6821.