As you may already know, internal marketing is concerned with communicating with patients of record, while external marketing has as its goal establishing connections with prospective patients.

Some marketing tactics work on both sides of the proverbial fence. For example, on hold messages are heard by both current patients and first-time callers.

Another, more recent phenomenon, is prospective patients searching the internet for a given practice or practitioner by name. They’re not yet your patient, but they’ve heard of, and are interested in learning more about, you.

To see the extent to which this phenomenon is affecting you right now, open up your favorite web browser and search for your name and practice. In all likelihood, the top-most listing on the result page will be your website (that is, if you have one). Below or above it will be a selection of review and directory sites.

My colleague Frank Higgins notes:

“As the ‘social web’ has grown, websites have evolved to allowing users to add their own content. This has quickly become the “holy grail” of big websites in that the community is growing the website by generating and adding content for them. The review sites in question here love reviews; good, bad or otherwise, they love them (beacuse it means) more words and terms for the Google search engine to find them by.”

They love it because the more traffic they have, the more they can collect in ad revenue.

The challenge is that what shows up on these sites when someone does a search is not under the control of the dentist. If the ratings are average (or worse), even if based on the experience of only one or two patients, it can taint the dentist’s reputation. This may well encourage a prospective patient to look elsewhere.

In this case, no news is NOT good news. If there are no reviews for a practice, the prospective patient will probably choose one of the practices that presents with a ‘superior’ rating, however subjective or statistically insignificant it may be.

Bottom line: you need to manage and monitor your online reputation.

There are a few ways to skin this cat.

First, control all the search engine results “real estate” when someone searches using your name, and/or at least ensure there are far more good than bad reviews. Your blog should help with this.

Next, register on the high profile social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc. In time, these will float to the top of search engine result pages (SERPs) when someone searches for your name, well above the directories and review sites, which is the main point of this exercise.

Another key to successful reputation management is to encourage your patients to post positive reviews with the review sites. As part of your new patient enrollment process, in fact, following every appointment, you can send a post appointment satisfaction survey to your patients in which is included a link to a review site such as Yelp or Angie’s List, so they can post a comment or two while it’s fresh in their mind.

To be kept apprised of what people are writing about you, set up Google Alerts with you name and that of your practice. that way, when something related to your practice is indexed by Google, you will be notified, and be able to take any necessary action, such as respond to or address any concerns expressed by a patient.

Web surfers looking for dentists by name are increasing by leaps and bounds. Monitoring and responding to what they read is a key component of your Reputation Management Strategy so be prepared, and prosper.

by Danny Bobrow

 
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