Tapping into the marketing opportunities of the internet, almost 40% of laboratory owners now have websites for their businesses. While not everyone sees their sites as a new-business generator, many owners are taking a "build it and they will come" approach and viewing their sites as an important complement to their total marketing package and an effective way to expand their marketing outreach.
"Currently my website is under-utilized by my clients, but I feel as my lab grows it will benefit potential clients. My site has online prescription forms, along with information on the types of cases and customer benefits I offer. Basically I see my website as a media package for potential clients," says Brit Schiner, owner, Two Ocean Dental Lab, Dubois, Wyoming www.twooceandental.com.
Here are eight strategies for maximizing the effectiveness of your website:
Create A Digital Business Card: Your website can act as an extension of your printed business card. Having your lab's contact information, products and services easily accessible with a click of the mouse not only reinforces the legitimacy of your company but also provides a useful resource tool for your clients. "The main reason to have a site these days is to show you exist and are ready to do business," says John Hayes, owner, Legacy Dental Lab, Rochester, New York (http://www.legacydentallab.com"target="_blank)[www.legacydentallab.com].
Maximize Search Engine Optimization (SEO): SEO is the process of improving the visibility of your website in search engines; in general, the higher on the page and more frequently a site appears in a search results list, the more visitors it will receive. Using Google Analytics, Lee Coursey of Russellville Dental Laboratory LLC, edits www.RDL-USA.com to target specific keywords that match the lab's specialty products. "Everyone uses keywords like crown and bridge but are doctors out there actually searching for 'crown and bridge' or are they searching for 'IPS e.max labs' or 'Lava labs'?" asks Coursey, marketing director of the Russellville, Kentucky lab. "We focus on maximizing our SEO by keeping our website full of relevant content and correctly formatted pages. When I spend five to 10 hours a week on this, we immediately see a corresponding number of calls."
Pinpoint Potential Clients: A website can work hand in hand with your other marketing strategies, and provide valuable tracking information. For example, Brooks Dental Lab, a Mattheiss Engineering Co., Pensacola, Florida, sends direct mail pieces via snail mail to targeted geographic areas and then tracks hits on its website from that area. "Our website host captures zip codes which allows us to see if our snail mail campaigns are drawing visitors to our site. When we notice an increase in hits from dentists in a targeted geographic area, we intensify our marketing efforts in hopes of gaining new customers," says Mark Mattheiss, production manager (www.brooksdentallab.com).
Promote Your Expertise: It's useful--and comforting--for potential clients to see the experience and skills your lab has to offer. "We post the names and photos of our employees along with descriptions of their experience to reassure potential clients that highly educated and skilled technicians are doing the work," says Dan Perera, owner, D&L Dental Studio LLC, Penndel, Pennsylvania (www.mydentalstudio.com). Another strategy: post before-and-after photos and case studies so potential clients can see the results of your most challenging cases.
Make Your Client's Life Easier: Knight Dental Group's website, www.knightdentalgroup.com, allows clients to complete their prescription online, include pictures and files, and then track their cases. "Once a client does an online Rx, the system automatically triggers a UPS pick up as well. This has proven to be very valuable for both our clients and our client service department," says Warren Rogers, CEO, president and owner of the Oldsmar, Florida laboratory.
Create an Information Portal: The amount of informative material a website can contain is endless. Products, prep guides, bonding information, MSDSs, technical manuals and answers to frequently asked questions are all valuable sources of information. "Our website enables our dentists to find answers to basic questions quickly; it also provides information about us that they may have not asked about over the phone," says Dan Morgan, operations manager, Brabant Dental Laboratory, Sacramento, California. (www.brabant.com).
Be a Resource to Dental Consumers: By having content for your clients and their patients, your website--and laboratory--will get double the exposure. In addition to having a website for his lab (www.inmanortho.com), Don Inman, president, Inman Orthodontic Laboratories, Inc., Coral Springs, Florida, also has a dedicated site for his flagship product/appliance, the Inman Aligner (www.inmanaligner.com). Featuring a gallery of before- and after-patient photos and intraoral photos for the doctor, the site is designed as a place where clinicians can send their patients to obtain more information. "We get a ton of calls from offices asking for more information because of a patient inquiry," says Inman. Since going live in 2002, traffic on the Inman Aligner site has attracted over 8,000 unique visitors and 275,000 hits per month. The lab also receives work from dentists all over the world including countries like Mongolia, Taiwan and India.
Embrace Social Media: Social media is proving to be a useful tool to not only build relationships but also to direct traffic to your website. "We use Facebook to drive potential clients to our website and develop deeper relationships that strengthen our business. This allows us to get in on discussions with customers, potential clients and other key players in our industry," says Jim Thacker, vice president/business operations, Utah Valley Dental Lab, Provo, Utah (www.utahvalleydentallab.com).