Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tracking Your Paid Advertising (PPC)

It’s one thing to spend lots of money on paid advertising on either Google or Facebook, it’s another thing to know if these things are working or not.

Tracking is extremely important, here’s an example.

A client wanted to run an advert campaign on Facebook and Google but didn’t know which one would be more successful, they wanted to run campaigns for dental implants and orthodontics.

We set up both Google and Facebook ad campaign and directed visitors to the relevant pages on the client’s website.

Running paid advertising (PPC) in itself is just ‘presence optimisation‘, in other words getting more people to the website. What’s also important is ‘conversion optimisation’, in other words getting more people to convert… And it is this that we monitored.

The campaign monitoring is set up in two halves:

  1. The advert itself on either Facebook or Google Adwords pushes campaign data into Google analytics by using Source, Medium and Campaign tracking.
  2. Google analytics has goals set up which are triggered via these campaigns.

On the client’s website they had 3 conversion mechanisms that we were tracking:

  1. A request an appointment form, we know that a new patient appointment is £55 so we can allocate this amount each time the form is triggered.
  2. A discounted dental health check available online only, we know that this appointment is worth £25 so we can allocate this amount each time this form is triggered.
  3. A free consultation, we know that patients that book for these tend to go ahead so we allocated an arbitrary £200 each time this form was triggered.

Each time the form is filled in it bounces the user off to a ‘thank you’ page, this thank you page is then set up in Google analytics as a goal with the necessary amount allocated against it.

Because the adverts are sending through data such as ‘Facebook’ or ‘Adwords’ and ‘Implants’ or ‘Ortho’ This can then be pulled out as a Google analytics report and we can see visitor data for each of these.

Facebook versus Google PPC


Because Google analytics can then multiply the number of times the goal was triggered for each campaign and source we can then extrapolate the value of each and compare this to how much we have paid.

Here’s what we found for the past 30 days:

Campaign results of Facebook and Google PPC

The question now is, what would you do with these results?

Here’s a summary of how the process work.

added tracking codes to adwords cmapigns--utm_source=Adwords&utm_medium=PPC&utm_campaign=Implants-utm_source=Adwords&utm_medium=PPC&utm_campaign=Ortho (1)

Imagine you were a patient visiting your website, is this what you would think?

Potential new dental patients visiting your website (and indeed any of your online marketing activity) need to find it usable, in fact Google uses usability as part of its search algorithm… The more user-friendly your website is, the higher it may rank.

If you want to know how to make your dental practice website (and other online marketing channels) more usable from a patient’s perspective, read on…

Imagine you are a patient visiting your website, it’s important you put yourself in the shoes of a patient… Not wearing your own shoes as a dental professional!

Think about the mindset of the patient, think about how they would have ended up on your website, think about what they might want from your website.

The stages of buying

When someone visits one of your online marketing channels they will certainly be in one of these stages of buying:

  1. Problem recognition
  2. Information search
  3. Evaluation alternatives
  4. Purchase mode

Let’s look at each of these stages of buying and what you could do to assist your potential new patient in each stage.

Problem recognition

download (1)A person that lands on your website in this stage of the buying process will have just realised that they have a problem. They may have had someone comment on their crooked teeth, they may have just been out for a meal and got food stuck between missing teeth or may have now decided that today is the day they are going to start doing something about their dental health.

Once someone has identified that they have a problem that they will begin searching for a solution, patients in this stage of the process may be searching on Google for phrases such as:

  1. How to straighten crooked teeth
  2. Ways to replace missing teeth
  3. How to stop my gums bleeding

A person at this stage of their problem-solving/buying process may not be thinking about treatments, they may not be thinking about Invisalign, Inman aligner, dental implants or dental hygiene… they probably are not even ready to research and gather information about these alternatives, they are simply looking for a solution to their problem… So what could you do on your website?

Image by Salvatore Vuono

Image by Salvatore Vuono

This is where a dental blog comes in exceptionally handy. You can title blog posts around their search phrases “how to straighten crooked teeth”, within these blog posts we are simply helping the patient identify that they have a problem and that it can be solved. You may find that a patient in this stage of the buying process immediately moves into the information search phase.

We can help patients in this problem recognition stage by providing them with useful and relevant information and content, your blog is an excellent way to attract these people to the website and you can help them move into the information search phrase by offering them a free information pack.

The preferred technique is to allow them to download a free guide relating to their specific problem “All of Your Options to Replace Missing Teeth” in exchange for an e-mail address. Collecting e-mail addresses allows us to gently build a relationship with these people in the long-term as they move through the various buying stages. Information about creating an e-mail marketing campaign.

Information search

A patient in this stage of the buying process may have already identified specific treatments to help with their problem. They may be searching for:

  1. Invisalign braces in << geographical location>>
  2. Dental implants in << geographical location>>
  3. Dental hygienists in << geographical location>>

In the information search phase a patient is gathering detailed information about all of their options from both a treatment prospective and possibly a specific dentist perspective. When a patient lands on your website in the information search phase we need to offer them:

  • Relevant dental information, specific to their information search
  • An incentive to request an appointment which will help move them to the next buying phase

Relevant dental information can be provided by way of the free guide mentioned previously, always in exchange for an e-mail address. An incentive to request an appointment seems to work best if this is offered as a refund of the patient’s initial assessment. Again, offering this on the website as a download in exchange for an e-mail address works best, it allows the person to feel as though they have partially solved the problem whilst on the site as they now have a voucher entitling them to a refund of their initial assessment.

Evaluation of alternatives

At this stage of the buying process the patient will have decided that they want to straighten their crooked teeth or replace missing teeth, they may even have decided on the specific treatment they desire (clearly only a clinical assessment can verify this for sure). To allow a patient to evaluate alternative dental practices we need to:

  1. reduce risk
  2. increase trust

These are the two key deciding factors which allow a patient to decide which dentist to you attend. you can reduce risk and increase trust by demonstrating that you care for the patient above and beyond any monetary transaction, offering them a free download as already mentioned goes some way to doing this. Your active social media stream can also demonstrate that you are low risk and trustworthy alternative.

Patient testimonials on your website, especially video testimonials (as these are hardest to fake) will go some considerable way to reducing risk and increase in trust. Showing photographs of the team including your GDC registration numbers also demonstrates that you are trustworthy practice (As well as being compliant).

Offering a refund of initial assessment also reduces risk for the patient, you then have their e-mail address and can then continue to build relationships with them gently and slowly.

Purchase mode

Once the patient is in purchase mode you need to ensure that your website has the relevant calls to action in place. If you have followed this process from the beginning and allowed the patient to download some information when they were in the earlier information searching modes then we can begin to send e-mails talking about how you can help.

My recommendations to ensure patients that are ready to purchase take action are:

  1. Place a call to action on every page of your website
  2. Have a request an appointment facility on the website (this does not necessarily need to be booking an appointment)
  3. Having a website which is responsive with a ‘click to call’ phone number in case this person is visiting from a mobile phone
  4. Having an ability for a patient to make a general enquiry to the website if they have any further questions


Understanding the buying process and ensuring that you have the possibility for a patient to engage with you at each stage is critical if your marketing is to be effective. You can’t assume that everyone that lands on your website is ready to book an appointment, if they are not, what have you done to help them?

More help and advice on making your website more useable

Lowe cost dental marketing logoWebsite audit

How useable is your website and could it be improved? This comprehensive website audit will give each of the five key areas of performance a rank so that you can take action.

What’s included in the audit?

46 individual elements of a successful website will be assessed and ranked in the following key performance areas:

  • Findability
  • Usability
  • Shareability
  • Effectiveness
  • Longevity

Within each of these Key Performance Areas I will rank 46 Individual Elements, each element will be given a score.

traffic light warning

These 46 individual elements will then come together to give you an overall score for each of the key performance areas.

You can then see which area of your website needs the most attention to ensure you get the maximum return on anything you spend.

What do you do with the audit?

Once the audit has been completed you can either make the changes yourself, send them to your web designer for their opinion or contact me and I can make the changes for you as part of my Light Package – I’ll then refund your £35 audit fee.

The audit forms the basis of the overall Light service. When you ensure these five key performance areas are performing to the maximum and you have an active, engaging and effective social media stream you will find that your marketing efforts begin to work 24/7/365.


Mark Oborn light website audit

Featured Image source hywards at

Dental virtual reality

Virtual Reality for Dentists

As regular readers to my blog will know my focus in dental marketing is not to go out and out selling dental treatments… Rather, it is to gently inform and educate patients about their dental health by reducing risk and increasing trust.

When you demonstrate that you are a low risk choice and are trustworthy you become an easy option for a new patient to choose. Your marketing then becomes effortless and off the back of that your business succeeds and profits flow.

Everyone is looking for new ways to increase trust and reduce risk, one of the best ways is reviews from happy patients and a hot second is allowing the patients to actually see inside the practice and meet the team beforehand – you know, those funny sliding images that many dental practices have on the homepage!

Think about it now, how about if you replaced those sliding images on the homepage with an interactive tour of the practice! The patient would be able to see how much time and effort you have put in to creating a warm and friendly environment, you would immediately increase trust and reduce risk.

I’d like to introduce you to a good friend of mine, Luke Woods. Luke is a Google Certified photographer specialising in virtual tours and virtual reality, read what he has to say about how this can now be used in your dental practice.

================= Luke writes:=================

official text

“We search with words but respond to pictures”Google virtual tour facts

Hello everyone, thanks Mark for giving me the opportunity to reach out to the world of Dentistry. I have spent a couple of days conducting some research here in the UK and consulting my colleagues in Canada for qualified opinion and facts about how a Virtual Tour window into your practise can not only answer a lot of questions but calm and reassure any patient concerns to a hugely wider audience. I assume everyone knows what we talking about here? We all know Google Street View? the thing on top of a car that captures everything ready or not – grey sky or blue. Well, for 3 years there has been a program contracting established professional photographers like me to come into businesses and capture the very best of your business space for all the world to see.

Seeing is believing – click to see on Google

These Virtual Showrooms are great for welcoming in clients from website to waiting room, here’s an example of a virtual tour at a dental practice.

Dental virtual reality


In the past two years since I have been working on the Google program I have captured some truly beautiful spaces and it seems that with all industries- progress is consumer driven. People in general are becoming much more familiar with using the internet and their mobile device to not only shop but to verify and answer any doubts they may have especially before entering into a big spend. Hotels and restaurants are examples that most people have seen here in the UK but why not clinics of all kinds? A year ago it was the same in Canada and the USA and in the last 12 months a lot of practises large and small needed to show just a little more than a few flat photos or have a Hollywood Commercial – a Virtual Tour fills that gap nicely – people can view in silence at their own pace and really connect with where they will be treated – I call this the Clinical Barrier and you can be among the first to gain that valuable patient trust.

For me there are several areas where I start to wonder “what it is like ?” I know if I could see the clinic I would feel a lot more at ease the first time. Knowing the layout too is a difficulty many can be helped to overcome and getting lost can be embarrassing. Right from the car park if possible to seeing the doorway on the street, knowing what the reception looks like -seeing a waiting room where we all sit waiting for that peak anxiety moment – hearing our name – all this gives us that which cannot be put into words so easily – that feeling that says – “It’s Okay”


Google statistics

Things are moving fast these days and I am now working with a Google team developing Virtual Reality – many Dental Surgeries have comforting features – for children, a play area or room perhaps? It’s not just the younger generations that are looking – the biggest growth group is currently 54-65 year olds and 39% of people over 55 have smart phone and can check out things for themselves quite well. For all patients there can be no better experience than to preview the very chair you will be treated in – a full 360 degree view right from the chair.

There are also Search Engine Marketing advantages that are very real not promised and rarely delivered – without going into too much detail – everyone searches on Google these days – a website is not hosted in Google – these are, helping to get you found in local and voice search fast   “As seen on TV” 🙂

I would be delighted to hear from and help all of you lovely people who have looked after my white toothey treasure all these years.

My best, Luke Woods.


To find out more about having a virtual tour of your practice please contact Mark on 0845 259 1232 or email info@markoborn.comStudy on virtual tours

Dental Online Bookings – Responses From Appointmentor, Toothpick and Denticon

I had some really good feedback on my recent blog post about online booking systems for dentistry. I therefore decided to put an open letter out there to any of these companies allowing them to respond and review their own products. I asked 4 specific questions of these companies regarding the concerns that I have, here are those responses (From Appointmentor, Toothpick & Denticon) exactly as these companies replied to me.

Just to note that I have VERY specific concerns, not about online booking as a concept, but about it’s current implementation – the concerns I have are:

Does the person booking stay on the practice website, if not why not

I do not like the idea of working hard to get a person to your website then loosing them off your site to book. I would like to see FULL and seamless integration in to your website.

Do you run a searchable directory that allows people to book with competitors &  If you do run a searchable database how do you stop patients booking with competitors instead

I do not want to be promoting what could essentially be a directory of competitor companies. If you loose a web visitor to an online booking company website then that person has the ability to book with another practice.

How do we add the ‘booker’ to an automated email system which thanks them for their booking and adds them to an ongoing email list?

Every time a person interacts with your practice it is an opportunity to motivate and inspire them to refer you to their friends. I want to see automated branded follow up emails to online bookings with social sharing functionality AND patients added to an ongoing communication campaign e.g. Thank you for coming to see us etc – think Amazon!

Is there a requirement to place a link from the practice website to yours? If so why?

I do not like the idea of placing a link from YOUR website to the booking company, this will tell Google that their website is more important than yours and could end up with them outranking you in the search results… if they also work as a directory that is a double negative for you!

And so.. on to the responses, in no particular order…




1. Does the person booking stay on the practice website, if not why not?

There is an option for the person to stay on the practice website and we have used this for certain clinics who use the booking this way . Its can slow down the booking experience and is challenging to deploy for some websites due to the variation in design and technology that practices use. Mobile websites for dental practices are in their infancy and most practice websites are not mobile friendly. These are the real challenges of today world.

It’s worth noting that over 50% of UK dentists do not have a GDC compliant website.

Managing and updating a practice website is a service that web developers certainly do and we work with the major suppliers to ensure both the practice gets the most out of online bookings and new patient acquisition.

In fairness Mark ,you have actually inserted the booking link to practices across the UK. They have seen an uplift on new patients and are really behind Toothpick.

[Ed:I have indeed placed these links upon request of the dental practices]

2. Do you run a searchable directory that allows people to book with competitors?

Toothpick is aiming to address the concerns the OFT have raised last year , largely that patients have little idea of what dental services are available to them. 50% of the UK population do not regularly attend the dentist and over 10% in emergencies only. Our A and E departments are at bursting point and 111 the new telephone service for non emergency health related matters are unable to manage demand. We have a terrible reputation globally for poor dental health and are the butt of jokes for most Americans. This is unacceptable in 2013. Toothpick has a huge challenge in making it easy to locate and book a dentist as currently it can be very difficult for patients ue to the constraints and limitations of the current system. Zocdoc launched the same service in the USA 4 years ago and had the same initial concerns within the market fighting ultimately what people expect from a modern consumer market . To be able to make an informed choice about who they see for the dental health.

These services are available in Most of Europe , why should the UK be any different We launched 6 months ago and no have almost 2000 practitioner live. We have ambassadors from fully NHS to fully Private practices. 50-100 dentists are joining Toothpick a week and bookings are growing exponentially, with almost 50% when the practice is closed. They would happily speak to you about the positive impact its had on their business if required.

You would not  consider booking a 2 day stay in a hotel now without seeing pictures of the hotel , reviews from trip advisor . So why should finding a dentist be any different ?

3. If you do run a searchable database how do you stop patients booking with competitors instead?

Absolutely – if a patient finds a practice website and are willing to book an appointment , they are directed to the booking pages of that practice and cant search elsewhere so there is nothing to worry about.

4. How do we add the ‘booker’ to an automated email system which thanks them for their booking and adds them to an ongoing email list?

Automatic email confirmations are sent to the patient with links to the practice website etc

If the patient opts in to receive more information from the practice , consent should be sought in the first instance and then managed either through a mailing company or via the practice management software , its really simple

5. Is there a requirement to place a link from the practice website to yours? If so why?

No , see the rationale answer to question 1 


Appoint Now ! Denticon and online dental appointments


Denticloud is the agent in Ireland and the UK for the localised version of the PlanetDDS cloudbased  dental practice management program , Denticon .

Denticon is a powerful practice management program and allows patients to book directly online through Appoint Now !

The AppointNow ! application is available free of charge to Denticloud clients who use Denticon as their practice management program .

Appoint Now ! allows the practice to place an online booking request button on the practice website or Facebook page .

Online booking process using Appoint Now !

The patient stays on the practice website after clicking on the online appointment request button , and can book an appointment directly from the website . This appointment is then automatically entered in the Denticon schedule .

When the appointment is made , a confirmation email , with directions to the practice is sent to the patient.

The practice also receives an email informing them that a patient has made an online booking . This gives the receptionist an opportunity to call the patient ,confirm the booking, and introduce the practice to the patient .

Online Patient registration

The patient is also directed to the practice online registration area on the website ,and this allows the patient to fill out their medical history and Dental /Smile analysis questionnaire in the comfort of their own home .

This serves two purposes , the first being that it saves time for both the patient and the practice at the first visit & secondly , allows the practice to preview the patient profile before the visit and use the information to ensure the patient experiences a great patient journey . On arrival the patient signs the medical history using a signature pad attached to a tablet or computer at reception and is then ready to be seen by the dentist. .

Advantages of an online booking system that integrates fully into the practice diary .

There are a number of advantages to having the online booking integrated into the practice management software and linked directly to the software diary , including keeping the patient within the practice website during the online booking process.

However , with AppointNow ! , the huge advantage is the integration with the hugely powerful Denticon diary . The diary is a key component to successfully managing and maximising your practice.

The Denticon diary allows

1) Templating of the diary to schedule procedures at particular times , to ensure efficient use of the dentists time by booking highly productive treatments at the start of the day when the dentist is performing well . This also means that the practice knows that production targets can be reached early in the day , and other less productive items can be booked for later in the day.

2) Templating also makes it easier for the receptionist to book the schedule properly , as the receptionist can use the find a slot by production type , and the system will find the next slot available for endodontics , or whatever production type is specified .

3) Templating also allows for sharing of high end equipment between surgeries , by templating certain times for its use on the schedule in each surgery .

4) The appointment slot itself can also be templated to allow the dentist to maximise his chairside time. A forty minute appointment can be divided into:

  • a) a ten minute slot to administer local anaesthesia ,
  • b) a second ten minute slot where
  • the dentist is free to leave the surgery and check on a hygiene patient , and
  • c) a twenty minute slot to complete the procedure during which time the dentist isrequired to stay in the surgery for all of that time .

5) The appointment slot expands on the diary screen to give full details of the patient , the treatment planned for that visit and the value of that treatment .

6) The production view of the diary will show the total value of all the appointment s . This helps staff to learn how to reach targets and how to book effectively to reach those targets

7 ) Each appointment slot also allows the practice to track the patients journey through the practice . Prior to the appointment the patient can be marked as confirmed or unconfirmed depending on contact with the patient .

Once arrived , the patient can be marked as in reception , in the surgery or checked out .

8) The appointment slot can also be marked as a missed or cancelled appointment .This is logged by the system and allows for reports to be generated on missed and cancelled appointments and for follow up on those patients .

9) Patient recalls are also generated from the appointment diary

10) Lab work can also be tracked using the Denticon diary .

Denticon with AppintNow ! allows a dental practice to offer online bookings without taking the patient to another website , and to continue to use the powerful management tools offered by the software




Let me be the first to say that all the points you have raised are valid. However there is another party to this equation – the patient, the ultimate customer.

We live the Internet Age. The Internet brings about great empowerment and choice. Today the nearest competition is just a Google search away. We cannot assume that by not providing online booking or any other services that the patients are seeking, the patients wouldn’t go to Google and find out someone else who provides facilities and services in a better manner. Similarly, years ago, conversations about products and services used to happen on the company’s own forums and websites. Now these discussions happen on Facebook, on twitter, out there in the open world. The Internet is here, the Social Media is here, and they are here to stay. The most sensible approach now, perhaps, is to embrace the change and make the best use of the opportunities it presents.

Today people do want to have interactive engagements, they want instant gratification with immediate results. They like to have choices and options. People want flexibility and convenience. They really want to know that as customers they are being taken care of in the best possible way.

Health industry is where the ‘Financial industry’ was 20 years ago. Customers would go into the banks to the counters to find out how much they have in their account (the tellers would read out information from a screen to the customers- it was an inefficient mechanism as customers could very well read the information themselves). Hardly anybody does that any more, we go to the ‘hole in the wall’, i.e. the ATM or check information online on our PCs, Laptops, and increasingly, on the mobile devices.

Healthcare is now moving in that direction too. Dental practices that provide online booking have more visibility on the Internet, can be perceived as more accessible (open for business), and, by enabling and empowering the patients, giving them the choices and options, would be seen as taking ‘the patient first‘ approach- for example, If I was going to London for a week-long conference or course, and needed an appointment urgently in out-of-hours situation, the practice that gets my business is the one that allows me to book immediately giving me the peace of mind that I have a confirmed appointment at my convenience with the dentist.

The Email notification forms that initiate a request for appointment from a web page lack this facility (request for an appointment made on Friday evening is usually seen/responded to on Monday morning- that’s simply too long!). The patient can not see the availability and choices in real time. Also, the practice responding to the patient’s email request (from direct email to their address listed on their website or via a form filled at the website – essentially it is the same as leaving a recording voice message on the practice answering machine) cannot provide a confirmed appointment until someone has attended to the communication in the morning. There may not be a slot available by then (or at a suitable time for the patient’s requirement), the patients may have to endure pain or discomfort. They may choose to search and find somewhere else on the Internet. Herein, therefore, lies the problem for dental practices, our clients and yours…

Google has all the practices in the area already listed and available with their phone numbers, as well as their email addresses. Facebook and twitter allow people to comment on the services independently and freely, there is no central control over the chatter.  These resources are very accessible and available within a few clicks. . But then, herein also lies the opportunity…. to come clean, to be authentic, to be transparent and to be a contributor with the patients in their journey for optimal oral and dental health, to be a valued partner in their wellness and well-being   (see the link here, why we chose the name Welltime for our company 😉 )

So let’s now discuss how we can create a ‘win-win’ situation, let us review the 3 key concerns you have raised:

1. The patient journey on your website could be compromised?
The solution: allow practice branding. Allow the patients to have the consistency of experience through same look and feel during their engagement (AppointMentor actually allows that).
This assumes that the patients are already at the practice website.  If they are, then the appointment management system most suitable for the practice is the one that works from the practice’s own website, allowing both new and existing patients to book appointments  (ours does :)).

However, there is an important general point to be made here. By the time patient has clicked on the ‘I want to book an appointment right now’ button (we just call it ‘Book Now’ for short), they have probably read about the treatments, about the dental team, the testimonials, the fees if any; and have made up their mind. They are now entering a funnel with one task on their mind: To book an appointment as quickly, and as hassle free, as possible. Any good appointment management system would recognize this aspect and automatically remove all distractions, all non-essentials from the process of achieving this task at hand (e.g. if main website has flash or animations or lots of navigation information, once patient has started the booking process, good Online Appointments Management Systems would allow the patients to focus and successfully complete their task, quickly and efficiently). We, for example, put in the colour themes and logos of the practice in the booking pages, but then keep the process focussed on the completion of appointment booking and achieving the results.

The point about booking to happen totally from the practice own websites (i.e. where the patients do not leave the site) is possible using iFrames technology which runs appointment booking process from within the practice own website and web pages. The reasons for the normal re-directing to a central booking application are purely economical- most practices would probably not have the in-house IT resources/ skills to run a secure web server;  having a facility made available in this manner keeps costs down for everyone while enabling a useful service for patients. 

2. We lose the ability to enhance the patient journey after booking?
The solution: allow practices to have automatic customized branded communications after the appointment with patients.

A good CRM system would allow sending branded, customizable letters / confirmation emails to the patients ensuring consistency of patient journey (PatientConnections, our CRM system does it- but what’s more, because it is fully integrated with the Online Appointments Booking system, it does it automatically, since the system knows which patients came to the practice for appointments on that day).

Solutions like this enable better compliance with CQC by sending automated patient feedback survey to the patients- it is generally a good practice anyway for businesses to ask customers what can be done better and what services can be improved. PatientConnections has an extra value added proposition that includes relevant educational articles and special offers from the practice, enabling customer education, up-selling and cross selling facilities.

Finally, feed backs received back from patients (with their consent) automatically are uploaded back on to the practice website, creating fresh testimonials that are useful targeted content for search engines, helping with the SEO process. Plus, if patients already have Google account, our system suggests to them (and makes it easy for them) to post a review in Google Local Reviews, making the practice profile higher and more visible on Google searches; as well as allowing them to easily post positive reviews on FaceBook and Twitter, creating a free viral marketing effect facilitating in attracting new customers.

3. You may inadvertently end up promoting your competitor dental practice.
The existing patients would more likely come to your website directly (or even through Google since their search would include the practice name). Enabling them to book online is a smart decision as it directly facilitates them. The new patients, however, are searching in generic terms for treatments provided in a given area. For that, Google already has it: the competitor’s websites listed on the same page as yours. That is where the battle for SEO with a lot of money and effort being spent is taking place. Having spent that much amount of effort and money on getting the patient to the practice website, it makes logical sense to have essential mechanisms to engage them; make it easy for them to register and book, to pay online and to get a confirmation of the appointments (if, as a practice, we have a customer, shouldn’t we be doing everything possible to retain that customer and avoid circumstances where they go searching on the Internet for other alternatives?).

In summary:

In the end, it’s not about online booking or offline booking, but making sure that our customer’s customer, the patients, win by making their life easier, by enabling them, by providing them choices with ‘top notch’ service).

And our customer wins because more patients come to the practice that has greater visibility and ‘open for business’ / ‘ready and willing to help you’ approach, more patients pay online hence reducing paperwork and FTAs, and reducing the gaps/white spaces in the appointment diary- thereby generating income for the practice through a pragmatic patient-oriented fantastic service.

An important contribution of Online Booking and CRM systems should be in helping the practice staff, the receptionists and practice managers, to cope with the stress of dealing with patients, who might be in discomfort and frustrated because the phone lines are always engaged – or because after 6 pm they can not interact / engage with the practices (I am constantly told by customers who have AppointMentor Online booking system, how relieved they are as now they are able to cope with the 8:30- 9:30 am mad call rush in the mornings….’ Receptionist now have more free time to focus on the patients who are in the practice hence improving quality of services and overall patient experience. They also have an ability to help patients with the continued touch points with through automated feedbacks and follow up communications that helps them with maintaining patient relationships without any additional manual labour).
Online Booking also facilitates tracking of referrals (has the customer come from Google, Newspaper ad, the leafleting activity, or Word of Mouth, i.e. where should your marketing dollars and pounds be spent for more effective marketing). For a lot of practices, the Monthly Recalls are an important source of stable revenue – Auto Recall facility helps automatically send the patients with a Recall link unique to them, the patients can click the link on their smart phone or email, and be taken to a booking page directly ensuring recalls are booked effectively (it saves money and time on postage costs and stationary/printing and posting activities).

My honest belief is that it is a smart and clever business decision to promote your business to existing and new customers through these innovative solutions, using their strengths (for example allowing patients to provide feedback that comes straight to your website, automatically, without a hassle), attracting new patients and facilitating existing ones. I believe practices would win by using these technologies and solutions and will have long term sustainability and business profitability – by focusing on enabling and providing awesome, fandoobytastic, unparalleled service to the patients.

Just my  $0.02



Online Appointment Booking Systems – a Good Idea?

With the modern world becoming more and more integrated into the online world people are expecting to be able to shop online, book and reserve theatre tickets online so why not book their dental appointment online?

My honest belief is that if you don’t offer some form of online reservation system you could be missing out on a great deal of business. Think about it, a person is most likely to be online in the evening when you are closed, if you offer an online reservation system that patient is able to go some considerable way to solving their dental problem right there and then from their computer, phone or tablet.

But watch out, there are hidden problems with these systems.

This blog post may not endear me to some of these online appointment management systems, but my purpose for writing it is not to help them, it is to help you, the people that work in the dental practice everyday.

What are these online appointment booking systems?

The general principle is that various companies are now offering full integration into your software management program. This means that patients are able to search for an available appointment online and then book it. The program will then add it to your appointment management system in the practice..

You can decide which dentists accept bookings this way, which appointments patients can book and restrict patients from booking a full mouth prep appointment with a half hour slot!

Online booking makes the patient feel in control and reduces front of house time in the practice. All around, it’s looking good so far!

How do the systems work?

Most of the current online management booking systems have their own website which is available for Google to crawl and find. In other words, if you type ‘dentist in London’ you may well find many dental practices but also, in time, these online appointment booking directories.

The appointment booking directory websites have formed strategic alliances with various dental practice management systems and it is via this route that they have gained access to the back end of the databases.

What is the problem with these systems?

I have 3 particular problems.

  1. The patient journey on your website could be compromised.
  2. We lose the ability to enhance the patient journey after booking.
  3. You may inadvertently end up promoting your competitor dental practice.

Let’s look at each of those in more detail.

The patient journey on your website could be compromised.

My main concern is the lack of full integration into your website. From what I have seen the online appointment booking systems operate as a simple button from your website. When the patient clicks on the ‘book an appointment’ button on your website they are redirected to the appointment management website.

You have worked hard to get that person to your website, either paying for adverts, referral marketing or search engine optimisation, the last thing I want to do is to lose that person off of your site onto another website – who knows what else they are going to do there!

My preference is to always keep people on your website and get them to engage on your own site without linking to any other site at all. If your appointment management system works directly from your own website without taking visitors elsewhere then perfect, but if it doesn’t think again.

We lose the ability to enhance the patient journey after booking

You know that when you book something online you get that welcome e-mail, or perhaps if you purchase something from Amazon you get a thank you e-mail which is nicely branded and has further calls to action, possibly sharing on Facebook or other ways to engage.

Unless you are integrating your online appointment booking system with some form of e-mail management software you are missing out on this ability to continue to engage with your patients.

There is also something called Post Purchase Evaluation, with people sometimes experiencing ‘buyers remorse’. This is a psychological phenomenon where people regret having booked or paid for something, big companies spend big bucks on reinforcing a person’s decision to buy.

Phone calls, those thank you e-mails again and follow-up messages after a booking has been made are critical to ensure that this new client goes ahead with that appointment. Your follow-up procedure should include reinforcement of their decision ” thank you for booking, you have made a most excellent decision, here is what one about happy patients says about us…”.

The question to ask now is, if a patient books using an online management system what you do to prevent buyers remorse and reinforce their excellent decision to ensure they actually turn up and refer you to their friends?

You may end up inadvertently promoting a competitor practice*

Let’s say someone clicks on the link to book an appointment, they disappear from your website and end up on your own page on a listing directory. Most of these listing appointment booking directory have the ability for the patient to search for another dentist in the local area. Not so great for business after all!

There is also a search engine optimisation problem here. If you are providing links from your website to the appointment booking website then Google will see this as a recommendation. Because you have a link you are recommending the appointment booking website directory, in the longer run this will mean that you are optimising the appointment booking website directory.

Over time this could mean that they out rank you for many of the terms you want to be found for in a Google search.

Who do you want to be top for ” dentist << your location>>”?

Do YOU want to be number one or do you want an appointment booking directory to be number one?

What is the solution?

Here’s my solution. I firmly believe in the concept of online reservations and so this is what I do for my clients.

  • Set up an AWeber e-mail marketing account
  • Create a list in your AWeber account for appointment requests
  • Add a form to your website which encourages patients to request an appointment and asks them for the ideal day and time.
  • Once submitted this form sends you a notification that a patient wants to book. You then need to deal with this in the practice in your usual way.
  • The patient requesting the appointment then receives a custom branded e-mail thanking them for booking.
  • That patient is added to an automated gentle e-mail marketing campaign where we can continue to build a relationship with them, help them with their dental health and suggest that they refer us to their friends.
I totally accept that my option does not integrate with your practice management software and so from this point of view it is a compromise. However I believe this compromise is outweighed by the advantages of sending a patient an automated response and adding them to an ongoing e-mail program where we can continue to engage with them. We are also keeping that patient on our own website and not optimising another person’s website which could be extremely damaging in the long one.


In short, I think online booking is great, but I can only (hand on heart) fully endorse them when:
  • The person bookings STAYS on YOUR website
  • The booking companies don’t run a directory that allows people to book with competitors
  • We can add people to an automated gentle email marketing program after booking
  • There is no requirement to place a link from your website to the booking company, thereby optimising their site for them*
Have you used any online appointment booking systems?
What are your thoughts?



* TECH ALERT: If you do need to place a link to the booking company make sure the link has a rel=nofollow attribute, this will tell Google that you don’t recommend the website you are linking to and any Page Rank that you have will stay on your site and not flow to the booking company site. Your web company will be able to do this for you.

Avoiding the biggest mistake dental practices make with their marketing

What is the biggest mistake dental practices made with their marketing?

Being too aggressive? Often they are, but the mistake is worse than that.

Selling all of the time? Many practices try this tactic to, in my opinion a mistake but again not the biggest one.

Not having a website? Okay, this is a pretty serious oversight but again there is one even bigger than this.

So what is it?

The big marketing mistake

The biggest mistake I see dental practices make is not knowing who their patients are! The typical response to the question ” Who are your customers” when asked over dental practice is ” Everyone!”. BIG MISTAKE.

Are you sure? Do you really want people that are not motivated to look after their teeth, with no ability or desire to spend any money and who are going to moan about you all of the time? Okay, so that is an extreme example I’m guessing not many practices want these type of people… But the point remains you do not want everyone… So who do you want?

Look at the way large companies structure their marketing, they will be very clear about who they are talking to. If you make an attempt to talk to everyone the reality is that you actually speak to know one.

Look at it like this, if you try to appeal to 25-year-old single women you will need to use youthful women in the images, perhaps a splash of pink, softness, girliness and generally appeal to this type of person. If you want to appeal to both men and women over the age of 65 then you’ll need to use appropriate images that they can relate to, perhaps more classy images of country estates, fine dining and quality wines.

The point is, unless you are absolutely clear about who he was talking to you cannot define the images, the wording and even where your marketing goes. You’ll just end up spraying it all over the place with very little effect.

Think back to the 1980s when Yorkie were promoting a chocolate bar, they even went as far as saying “It’s not for girls”. All of the advertising was very male oriented. Nestle have products that were designed for women and Yorkie was designed exclusively for men.

So how do we bring this back to dentistry?

Segment your dental market

There is no set or definite way to segment will categorise your market, and to be honest it doesn’t really matter, so long as you do. Here are a few examples of different ways segmenting your market.

You can segment your local market by:

  • Age.
  • Gender.
  • Socio-economic group.
  • People that have just moved into the area vs. people looking for a new dentist because they are unhappy with their existing one vs People that have never been to a dentist before.
  • Stay at home wives.
  • Women that go out to work and are financially independent of their husbands.
  • Couples.
  • Singles.

The key is to play around with a few different segments, your patient old, young, one particular gender, new to the area, unhappy with their existing dentist, a particular type of person?

Even if none of this makes sense you can segment around treatments that people may want, such as:

  • People wanting to replace missing teeth.
  • People wanting to straighten crooked teeth.
  • People wanting to have healthier teeth.
  • People wanting to have better looking teeth.
  • People wanting fewer wrinkles.

We all know that the antiwrinkle market is generally speaking different to the dental implant market – I have a wholly different type of person going for each of the treatments. I remember being told my marketing module of my MBA the golden rule of marketing is:

“Segment, segment, segment then target, target, target.”

You could even segment your market into:

  1. People that actively want to come to the dentist and motivated.
  2. People that have been told by others that they have to go to the dentist,

Which of these groups will be more motivated to follow your instructions? Which of these groups would you prefer?

Here’s an example of how you can begin to then combine these segments into a matrix. Once you do this you can then ask whether these people hang out, what type of person are they, what motivates them this will then inform the images, where you do your marketing and what type of message you need to put across.

The axes on the matrix provide different segments and the intersections on the matrix itself define each segment. I’ve put some likely characteristics of that segment in white and then some possible marketing strategies in yellow.

segmented marketing in dentistry

Looking at the image above, you could decide that women are more likely to read the local magazines than men hence I have decided that to attract women I will put adverts in the local magazine. These adverts, as they are there to target women, will use appropriate images for women, with relevant wording and associated text.

This isn’t the definitive guide to exactly how you should segmented your market and then how to target, I provided the image above purely as an example of how you can take a few segments, placed them into a matrix and then have an educated discussion about what would motivate each of these particular groups of people.

Once you do this you will realise that you are actually attracting everyone into your practice, but we do it in a smart way with a customised message to each of the segments so that those segments can instantly say “Hey, that’s me”. If the people reading your marketing messages aren’t able to instantly recognise themselves in that message variable for on deaf ears!

If your marketing is falling on deaf ears, you may as well not bother!

How to Develop Your Dental Practice Brand & Marketing

Here’s a great example of marketing & Branding. Windows 8 is just another operating system… just like many dentists think their practice is just another dental practice.

Many dentists I talk to, when asked ‘What’s unique about your practice’ say ‘Nothing, we’re just a regular dentist’.

Microsoft Windows 8 could say the same thing, but look at what they did here… great stuff!

They say:

“We replaced stairs with a giant slide in Bluewater Shopping Centre to make shopping as fast and fun as Windows 8.
Discover a new way of doing things with Windows 8.”


Clearly windows believe in being FAST and FUN. What do you believe in? What’s important to you about what you do?

Then think about how you can represent this in your marketing.

If you believe you are about QUALITY and CHOICE you could hold an event for the local people that allows local jewellery retailers to bring their QUALITY jewellery to the practice for a sale where people have lots of CHOICE about what to buy. *That’s just an example by the way!)

It’s about looking for alternate ways to represent your brand… especially when the brand could represent pain, discomfort and fear... which many dental practices can if we’re honest!

Marketing is not necessarily about talking about specific products and services, it’s about representing your practice in the hearts and minds of the local people so that they understand what you are about, and what makes YOU the dentist to choose.

So, your exercise is as follows:

  1. Write down what’s important to you in single words. (fun, challenge, quality, etc) – If you’ve ever worked with a coach you’ll recognise these as your values!
  2. Relist  them in order with the most important at the top
  3. Brainstorm with your staff what activity could represent values number 1 – write down the answers. Be free and bonkers with the answers… anything goes at this stage
  4. Repeat for the top 3 values
  5. Look for cross over ideas to see if there is commonality between the activities.
  6. Cross off any totally stupid ones!
  7. Develop the plausible ideas further.
  8. DO IT!

The key is to not worry about teeth… focus on what you represent as a company and let the ideas flow.

Oh, and one last thing.

Get off your arse and DO IT!

Search Engine Optimisation and Your Receptionist, What’s the Link?

There are many companies out there that do search engine optimisation, many of them are very good and am sure an equal number, if not more, very bad!

I’ve written posts in the past about the technical side of optimising your website for Google number one rankings and I’m not going to repeat those posts here.

What I want to address in this blog post is the lack of thought that goes into a lot of optimisation, after all what is the point of being number one on Google? I would suggest the point of being number one is to get patients into the practice is it not?

Simply being number one on Google is really only a small percentage of everything you need to do in order to attract the patient into your practice, search engine optimisation (SEO) is the beginning of an entire process of marketing at the practice which may look something like this.

  1. Great quality SEO to get more people to visit your website.
  2. An excellent website which is optimised for the maximum number of conversions, which are then tracked and traced from the original SEO source.
  3. A communication system such as Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or phone which allows patients to contact the practice.
  4. A practice team member who is responsible for ensuring that all leads are added to a robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
  5. A team member who is responsible for following up all of these leads, booking patients in who wish to attend and adding those that don’t into a follow-up system.
  6. An SEO company that reviews everything above to ensure that the whole process is working.

Simply employing an SEO company to optimise the website with out thinking in a joined up fashion what happens to those web visitors in their journey to becoming a patient, is really not very helpful.

So if you are thinking of doing some optimisation for your website, draw out a plan which includes all of the points above. Then answer these questions:

  • When a patient calls the practice what is the process for ensuring that they actually attend?
  • If a patient contacts you but does not book, how is this lead dealt with and followed up?
  • When a person arrives at your website, what these specifically intend them to do, and do you make it obvious that this is what you want on your website?

Now you can see, search engine optimisation and your receptionist are inextricably linked and form part of your patient attraction process.

So if you decide that you want to have more web visitors visit your website and think that you want to contact an SEO organisation, you need to ensure that those leads that are generated can accurately be recorded and followed up once they are in the practice, or any money you spend on SEO will be wasted!

An invitation to grow your business further

How would it be if I showed you a way to ensure that ALL your marketing worked more effectively?

Would it be beneficial to you if I showed you a way that you could attract more patients by allowing more existing patients to refer their friends?

Would you be interested in seeing how you could improve communication with your patients, such that they followed instructions after treatment and improved their oral health?

How about a way to increase treatment uptake, would that be of benefit to your bottom line?

As part of my marketing services to allow dental practices to grow, I’ve introduced a 1 day master class in communicting using the art and science of Neuro Linguistic Programming.

This course is the logial next step in marketing your practice to ensure that those new patients trust you, love you, follow your instructions and refer their friends to you… a true practice and business building course.

On this day you’ll discover:

  • How to build rapport quickly to develop trust
  • How to use the NLP communication model to communicate and understand others
  • Using non-verbal communication to commuicate what you want
  • How other people think and therefore how to communicate with them better
  • Understand how people make decisions, particularly purchasing decisions
  • Uncover your own limiting beliefs and find out what to do about them (e.g. I’m not good enough, I’m not worth it, I don’t deserve it)
  • Find out how to set a business/life goal and ensure that you get it – this goes WAY beyond SMART goals!
  • Discover a new world of opportunity once you find out how to use your brain to it’s full potential
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a way to understand your mind and the mind of others, it give you mind mastery to choose a new way of thinking which allows you to communicate better, learn faster and achieve more.
This NLP Taster Day is a 1 day power introduction to NLP and is perfect for:
  1. Prinicipal Dentists wanting to communicate better with their team and set powerful business and life goals
  2. Practice Managers who wish to understand their team and communicate more effectively
  3. Treatment Co-ordinators who wish to understand their clients better
  4. Nurses who want to be able to build rapport with patients and communicate with the dentist better
  5. GDPs who want to build better relationships with their patients and motivate them to follow instructions
  6. Hygienists who wish to motivate patients to look after their oral health
  7. Dental Technicins who want to communicate with the team and understand their cliens better
  8. Any individual that wants to unlock their potential and find out more about what they can really achieve in life
This NLP Taster session is being held at the Hilton Hotel Watford, on 12th September 2012 -12 places have already gone and there are now only 8 places remaining. The minimal investment in yourself for the day is £214 (inc VAT).
The day includes coffee/tea, croissants, a luxury lunch and course notes PLUS 10% discount on any future personal coaching or practice training booked during the day (potential savings of £400 to be made).
Booking is simple, just send an email to with your name and address and I’ll reserve your place, alternatively call 0845 259 1232… or if you are getting this via email simply hit reply…
“I never thought that achieving such massive change was possible in such a short period of time, why have I sent 40 years of my life under such a cloud? Thanks for setting me free Mark” A recent NLP coaching client.

This is your chance to discover what my recent coaching client disovered… book today, because you deserve to open your mind and achieve more…

Paying for Website Links – a Warning

Word of mouth marketing is king.. and Google knows that. You know that if lots of people tell you about a specific book/restaurant/film/dentist then it’s probably good? Google does the same, if lot’s of websites link to you then you must be good right? So if Google sees these links to your site it ranks you higher.

All cool so far.

So how about we approach other businesses and ask if they will put a link to our website from theirs, and pay them to do it? Here’s an email I received today.

I came across your website and wanted to see if you were interested in working with us. I’m an independent online marketing consultant working with a client (a price comparison site) who wants to purchase a sponsored article or guest blog on your websites. If you are interested I can send you further details. If you have any more websites, please list them in your reply.

We will be able to pay by PayPal and the article will need to be up for at least 12 months.

This kind of activity is seriously looked down upon by Google and can contravene their Webmaster Guidelines. If you engage in this kind of activity Google can penalise your site and even wipe it from their searches altogether. There are ways to place paid links on your site for advertising purposes, but ensure you speak to an SEO specialist first to ensure they don’t fall foul of Google’s policy.

My suggestion is to attract these links to your website with high quality content that people want to share to help others.

If you receive emails like the one above I suggest you ignore them (or forward them to your optimisation company to check that you won’t get penalised) and do not follow them up. If Google catches you you could find it a very expensive exercise to get back in to their searches again (you will probably have to pay an optimisation company to undo the bad links and resubmit your site to Google for reconsideration).

Always, always, always use an optimisation company that you trust implicitly and ask for their company guidelines on how they attract links to your website. Clearly the link above has been sent by an optimisation company on behalf of their client looking for a quality link from a good website (mine) – and I bet their client knows nothing about this paid link building activity!