How Not to Market Your Dental Practice (or any other business) Online

I spend a lot of time talking about Internet marketing.  A lot.  I’ve had conversations with complete strangers at bars — they find out what I do and want to know the inside scoop, as if there’s some magic bullet that I’ll share when they buy me a beer.  (That’s mistake number one — I prefer vodka.)  The truth is (whether you want to believe it or not) there is no one thing you can do to magically make your site rise to #1 on Google overnight.  No matter how many Internet ads tell you otherwise.

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I blacked out the domain to protect the “innocent.”  Do you think it is 80% of of $27.99 or is the discount already applied?

There is a whole list of things that goes into making a site rank higher for specific keywords.  Even Google Adwords, which is an “easy” way to get on the front page of Google, are now about as complicated as trying to fly a 747.  (Well, maybe a Cessna.)  I recently setup a Google Adwords account and started running a campaign around keywords related to IT support.  I just wanted to see whether or not the average business owner could do it themselves.  I’ll be talking about that in a future post.  In the meantime, let’s take a look at how not to do it.

dentistinbloomingtonThis is just a screenshot of a Google search — dentist bloomington, il.  This is a pretty common search.  In fact, Google says that there are 260 searches (on average) each and every month for this exact phrase.  I’ve included a thumbnail here — click on it and it will pull up the full sized picture.  Go ahead and do it now.  Take a look at the full page and see what you think.  Then, we’ll dissect the page and I’ll point out a few things to you…

Ok.  Pretty normal search results, right?  What did you think?  Anything jump out at you?  Before you go on, pick the dentist you would most likely click on first.  Don’t tell me who it is…  now, put it back in the deck, but remember who it was.  Got it?  Ok… let’s take a look at this from my viewpoint.

my thoughts on dentistinbloomington

This is the same search results, but all marked up with my incredibly high-tech red pen (courtesy of paint.net.)  Right off of the bat, I’d say that Aspen Dental is a winner here.  Even though this is a paid ad, it is well done.  It has calls to action and easy, informative links for potential patients to find exactly what they need.  Of course, since it is an ad, we know it is not getting the most traffic on the page.  But, it’s well done, nevertheless.

AffordableDentistry, which is getting the lion’s share of traffic as it is the first local result, is missing a crucial opportunity.  Their listing is missing all details other than the most basic information.  On top of that, they only have one Google review.  It isn’t terrible, but it could certainly be better.

The next two links just amuse me.  One is to the Pantagraph, which is the local paper.  The other is to Superpages.  My thought is that you’re not clicking on either one.  You know they’re both just going to be a list of all the dentists, which is what you theoretically have in front of you right now.  Why would you go to a different list and start over?  Am I wrong?  Is this where’d you go?

The other local listings (Hershey Plaza and Redbird) are what’d you expect.  Basic listings, but with enough relevant information to let you do your research.  More reviews would be ideal, but that’s typical.

The ads along the side, on the other hand, are amazing (like Battlefield Earth with John Travolta was amazing).  The list of “affordable dentists” with the toll-free number screams “local dentist,” right?  Of course not.  But, there it is anyway.  And, if you were to click on it, I bet you would find many practices that are spending hard earned money on this wonderful marketing idea.  (Maybe the $27.99 ad above makes more sense now?)  The next looks like a generic link to the Yellow Pages.  Oh boy! Oh boy!  That’s going to be helpful.  But those aren’t the best by far.

Bloomington Dental Clinic — Dr. Gene Brewer.  This is a decent ad.  He’s obviously local.  Sounds like a nice family practice.  Why not click on this?  Why not, indeed?  Of course, if you do, you’ll find that, while this dentist is a local dentist in Bloomington, he is in Bloomington, Indiana, not Illinois.  I checked out his site.  It’s powered by YP Marketing.  YP, you say?  You probably guessed it — Yellow Pages.  Now, based on the amount of ads here, I can tell that those clicks are pretty pricey (Google Adwords is an auction type marketplace where #1 goes to the highest bidder).  Even if they were dirt cheap, I bet Dr. Brewer wouldn’t want to be spending that money on people in Bloomington, Illinois.  This is why it pays to hire experts to help you with online marketing.  But, we’re not done yet.

Skip down a couple and you see an ad for “Dentist Bloomington.”  This ad is not great.  That domain is especially troubling.  It doesn’t look good — it looks scammy.  Spammy.  Some word that ends in “ammy.”  And it is bothersome to me, as a custom domain costs around $12.  If you’re going through the trouble and expense of marketing online, why not spend the extra $12?  And the “yp” in the domain… want to take a guess?  I bet you got it on your first try.  The best part?  (And the reason that this might be my new favorite item on this whole page, he said sarcastically.)  This dentist is also in Bloomington, Indiana.  So, two of the dentists advertising on this page (and the two using the YP online marketing service) are both in Bloomington, INDIANA.

In case you are wondering…

directions 3 hours and 40 minutes seems like it might be just a tad too far to travel for a teeth cleaning.  But, maybe that’s just me…

So… I’m curious.  Who did you pick?  If I were looking for a dentist, I would click on Aspen Dental’s ad first.  (I’m not taking into account what anyone’s site actually looks like — just addressing which sites you would look at first.)  Ads aside, I would skip to the Hershey Plaza Dental Center.  From there, to Redbird.  It is very possible I would look at Dr. Brewer’s site, too, although I wouldn’t drive quite that far for my appointment.

The lesson for today?  You can do your own online marketing.  You can hire someone who claims to be an expert in the field.  Or, you can get your money’s worth and hire someone who knows what they’re actually doing.  Ask for references and examples.  

The opinions in this blog post are mine and mine alone.  They are based on common sense and the Google Search I did on 4/19/2013 at about 10:00pm.  They in no way reflect the opinions of Mavidea.  All information provided is provided for information purposes only. Information is presented “AS IS” and “as available” basis with no warranties, and confers no rights. Information is subject to change without prior notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct or up-to-date.   (And that’s called covering my butt.)

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Things Are Gonna Change. I Can Feel It. (And I’m Ok With it.)

It’s been awhile since I have really updated this blog.  And rule #1 of blogging is never call attention to the fact that you have a lapse in your updates.  Hmmm… I take that back.  I just did a quick search for “worst blog ever” thinking I would find something funny like, “don’t make fun of a Kardashian” or “never wear a tinfoil hat while typing.”

Instead, all of the references I found save one are authors calling themselves the worst blogger ever.  Which seems weird to me.  If you don’t have the confidence to pitch it out there and subsequently own it, why take the time to write it at all?  And that brings me to today’s topic.

One of the reasons it takes me so long to get new blog posts up is because I specifically look for things that are very sanitary.  I don’t mean that they’re cleaner than this…whatever it is (it came up in a Google search of “world’s cleanest bathrooms”).

I tried looking this up.  Mc Clean bathrooms returns a list of remodelers here in McLean County.  Mc Clean Brussels gives me information about Don McLean performing in Brussels on April 21st.  So…. if I have a reader in Brussels – feel free to let me know.  Is it a bathroom?  If so, what is with the turnstyle?  (All I can think of is a scene from the movie, PCU, which takes place at the big party.  They’re trying to raise money to save their house and “Gutter” is manning the bathroom door during the party, letting people know it’s $2 to stand and $5 to sit.  If you haven’t seen PCU, it is definitely worth checking out if you like stupid comedies a la Tommy Boy, The Hangover, and the like.  If you’re easily offended, I would stay away.  It gives us some great education (along with some great one-liners) such as this one:  Never wear to a concert the shirt of the band you are going to see.)

The Point, O Swami?

Right.  The point.  I got distracted by bathrooms and movie quotes.  Actually, that happens to me a lot.  I’m not going to lie.  I’m pretty confident that I could communicate in nothing but movie quotes if I were forced to.  Although why I would be forced to, I cannot imagine.  Maybe a Monty Hall challenge?  (Even in a paragraph entitled “The Point”,” I can’t seem to get there.)  The point is that I like to have fun.  And it is seldom fun to write a blog post that is very sanitary.  Sanitary is usually blah, which the opposite of fun.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s consult some dogs and kids on the topic.

Based on these examples, I think it is clear – fun is not always clean.  (I think I also just proved that I relate to kids and dogs.  And I’m ok with that.)  So, by not having fun, my blog was becoming a chore.  A bore.  A snore.  Wow.  Who knew that all these words ending in “ore” were negative?  Thus, procrastination sets in.

I don’t want to procrastinate.  I love telling stories to people.  I do it all the time.  Sometimes, in excruciating detail.  Whether they like it or not.  I have a decent sense of humor and sometimes, people laugh at my stories.  (Whether I want them to or not.)  Occasionally, they chortle.  Possibly even guffaw.  It’s not unheard of to get a snort here or there.  But (cries my tiny inner professional voice), this blog is about helping business owners understand technology and marketing.  And technological marketing.  Technomarketing.  Is that a thing?  Did I just create it?  A Google search says, “no.”  It’s a company in Virginia.  Oooh… but a Google search also says that “technoloketing” is a vast open territory waiting to be claimed.  And just like that, my ADD created something new.  WOOHOO!!!  That’s it.  I don’t care if it sounds like something that Hogan would have taken advantage of in order to sneak out of Stalag 13.  It’s mine now.  Technoloketing.TM

So… What’s Changing?

I still want to use this blog to educate.  But I don’t think it needs to be dull in order to do so.  It can be a source of edutainment.  (That one isn’t mine, unfortunately.)  Remember those old PSAs?

Retro Edutainment At Its Finest!!

That’s my new plan.  Educational and fun.  I could, quite possibly, lose some of you.  My sense of humor can be a bit avant garde.  (Honestly, I don’t know if that phrase applies here, but it sure sounds good, doesn’t it?)  The Swami is in the house!  Hop on my magic carpet and let’s go for a ride!  (And let this song be stuck in your head all day.)  Buckle up!  (Do magic carpets even have seatbelts?)

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(That’s French for “let’s go!”)

Cisco’s Favorite Movie Must Be Mo’ Money!

MoMoney

I just finished reading this article about Cisco gear that was deployed throughout West Virginia’s rural government locations. I don’t live in West Virginia, but am outraged at this. Or, I would be outraged if I didn’t see this kind of thing on a regular basis.  (I guess that means I am still outraged — just not surprised.)  In a nutshell, they deployed $20,000 routers where an $800 device was needed.  Overkill is an understatement.

We constantly run into both government entities as well as not-for-profit companies who have been a sold a bill of goods that is far beyond what they really need.  It really is a travesty, since every dollar spent on hardware is another dollar that cannot be spent on the organization’s core mission.  We’ve even run into non-profits who have been charged full price for their software by their IT “partner,” rather than taking advantage of charity pricing available from software manufacturers.  That’s why we always take the time to thoroughly understand the needs of our clients and propose a solution that fits those needs — not a solution that makes the largest profit for us.  Maybe Cisco thinks we’re doing it wrong, but we’re real ok with that.

Here’s the article.

Could you do Without your Post Office Box?

mailboxIn this day and age, most companies provide bills via email. Not all, but that number grows all the time. But, for those pesky paper bills that just won’t go away, I use an online bill paying service. This is a little more than the free bill pay that most banks offer. My paper bills actually get sent to a clearinghouse in South Dakota where they are digitized and put up on a secure website. At that point, I can pay them with a single click or even schedule them to be automatically paid upon receipt. It’s a great service and was especially helpful when I was constantly on the road. This service takes it a step further. Imagine sorting your physical mail as easily as your email without having to open a single piece of junk mail! Sound like heaven? It’s being tried now in San Francisco.

http://venturebeat.com/2013/02/25/kiss-your-postal-mailbox-goodbye-for-5-a-month/

Swami, What the Heck is Office 365?

This is a question I get quite frequently.  As with many Microsoft products, the name is a little confusing.  This is not simply a new version of Office.  It is much, much more.  (I have embedded a video at the bottom of this post that gives you a high level overview of the product for those of you who don’t want to read all of this.)

Office 365 contains several different Microsoft products.  As with most products from Microsoft, there are multiple plans and each has their own set of productivity enhancing tools.  Some of the things that come bundled in Office 365 include:

Microsoft Exchange:

Exchange is the flagship e-mail product on the market.  It allows you to stay connected wherever you are working.  Whether from your PC, laptop, iPad, Android phone, iPhone, or some other mobile device, you have access to your mail, your calendar, and your contacts.  It also gives you the ability to share your calendar with your co-workers, allowing you to easily schedule meetings with any and every one in your organization.  You can also create calendars for resources, such as conference rooms, projectors, laptops, etc.  We even have one setup for our company car!  Each user gets a whopping 25GB mailbox which is plenty for even the most powerful power user.  In addition, you get online archiving, which allows you to store your archived mail in the cloud to access it from anywhere.

Microsoft Lync:

Lync is one of Microsoft’s best kept secrets.  It is, on its face, an invaluable tool for communication, providing a secure, private Instant Messaging client.  (Think AOL instant messenger, but locked down to your organization.)  It provides real-time status on everyone so that you can easily see whether or not someone is available to chat.  But, it is so much more.  Lync provides a platform for making PC to PC audio/video calls, too.  And, if you want to collaborate, Lync makes it easy to share out your entire desktop or simply one application, allowing you to collaborate in real time.

SharePoint:

SharePoint is Microsoft’s answer to the file folder of the future.  Using SharePoint, you can create document repositories that allow users to easily store, manage, and share files.  It is fully secure and permissions are easy to manage, so the only people who can see files are those who should see them.  You can create sites for teams, groups, projects, and departments, making SharePoint an invaluable tool for creating a robust organizational intranet.

Office:

All of these tools integrate deeply with Microsoft Office.  And the E3 plan of Office 365 actually includes a downloadable copy of Microsoft Office Professional Plus.  This version of Office is licensed for 5 devices per user, meaning that if they have a laptop, desktop, and a PC at home, one license covers all of these devices.  (This is a great perk to be able to offer to your employees.)  In addition to the fully downloadable version, you also get access to Office Web Apps, which is a lightweight version of your favorite Office products.  While not as fully featured as the entire suite, it makes it incredibly easy to quickly view, edit, and save Office documents when you are not at your PC.

Because all of these products are based in the cloud, management is as simple as it can be.  No more worrying about buying, managing, nor maintaining servers.  Microsoft takes care of all of that for you.  This is a turnkey product that takes care of itself.

You can read all about Microsoft’s Office 365 product here.

So Many Fun Ways to Mess with Your Neighbors….

But this one would be epic!

fbi

Update on Microsoft Office 365 for Non-Profit Organizations

We’ve signed up quite a few not-for-profit organizations for Office 365 thanks to Microsoft’s charity pricing.  And we’ve talked about it more than once.  But the latest news from Redmond is huge.  If you are a non-profit, and you are:

  1. not yet using Exchange
  2. using hosted Exchange
  3. managing your own Exchange server
  4. totally lost because you have no idea what any of that means, but know that your e-mail could be better

then Office 365 is most likely a fast, easy, inexpensive way to turbo charge your staff.  As you would expect, because Office 365 is a Microsoft product, it integrates deeply with Outlook and Word, Excel, etc.  So it is easy for people to use – even Judy in Accounting, who hates change.

If you are interested, now is the time to sign up.  Every non profit I know (and I work with a lot of them) has one thing in common – there’s never enough money.  Right?  There could always be more.  So, if you can save a few bucks, it’s a very good thing.  And that’s why it is time to sign up.  Microsoft has radically changed their charity pricing.  The new pricing includes all of the features of Office 365, including Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010.  And, as a bonus, that license for Office Pro+ is good for up to 5 devices per user.  Have a CEO that uses a desktop, a laptop, and her PC at home?  She’s covered.  I almost feel like this deserves an infomercial.  It processes words, it spreads sheets, and it makes Julienne fries!*  But wait!  There’s more!

I would love to talk to you to find out if Office 365 is a fit for your organization.  If it is, I’ll help you get signed up and we can offer as much or as little help as you need getting it set up.  In the meantime, we can set you up with a 30 day trial, too.  Try before you buy.  I can think of no other free solution that would impact your productivity as much as this one.  Well… other than volunteer labor.

Shoot me an e-mail.  Swami@mavidea.com  Let me help get you set up and running.  Running stronger, faster, and more efficiently than you can imagine!**

*Office 365 does not make Julienne fries.

** Unless you have a really, really good imagination.

I’ve Been Pretty Hard on the Phone Book This Week…

I realize that I have been a little biased toward the Yellow Pages. After all, I am in a business that competes directly with it. That’s probably why I feel this way. The average person probably uses their copy of the Yellow Pages every single day. So, I thought I would take a look around the Interwebs and see what others had to say. Let’s start with Pete Holmes:

Yellow pages are the throw away internet

LOL – I can sympathize with this. The building I live in gets 9 copies of the book every year. And they sit in the lobby until I finally get tired of them and throw them in the recycle bin.

Let’s check in with Ellen and see what her thoughts are. (The audio is kinda terrible on this video, as someone was recording their TV. You’ll have to turn up your sound to hear her, but it is worth it. Unless you work for Yellow Book.)

What is the Yellow Pages *REALLY* Doing for Your Business?

I talked with a business owner recently who was upset that his competition was above him on Google’s results page.  His exact words were, “I want to be first on Google.  What do I have to do?”

My response was obvious.  “You’ve already done what you need to do.  You called me.”  From there, we got into a conversation about how his business works, who his clientele are, and what kind of marketing he does now.  I bring this up because we had a really interesting conversation about the phone book specifically.  He felt like his phone book ad was still helping his business.  He “gets a lot of leads” from it.  We talked about the leads he gets and they are, unsurprisingly, almost entirely composed of senior citizens. 

Don’t misunderstand.  Senior citizens need to be able to find businesses, too!  And the phone book is a great way to advertise to that crowd.  But not to the exclusion of every other potential client.  In this case, the business owner is running a 1/4 page ad in the yellow pages to the tune of about $700 per month.  He said he is getting a return on that investment, which is great!  But how much business is he missing out on from other groups?  Enough to justify the expense of online marketing?  Absolutely.

So, how do you know if the investment you are making in the phone book is really paying off?  Typically, when I ask this question, I hear a few different answers.  The most common one is that the yellow pages can now give you a unique phone number in your ad.  That way, you can track the number of calls that come in.  Based on that number, you can get a rough idea of how much business came your way from your friendly neighborhood phone book.  You can then apply whatever formula your business uses for incoming calls that lead to sales and figure out exactly how much you are making from the yellow pages.  Or can you?  What does that number really tell you?

I came across this article awhile back.  It is quite long, but is a very detailed analysis of how one marketer figured out the answer to that very question.  In this case study, the business owner (a service based business called DrinkMore Water) felt that they were getting a return from the phone book.  They had a custom number, knew the number of phone calls coming in, applied their lead/close ratio to that number and determined that they were making money on the ad.

Once Ben (the marketer who eventually started Blue Corona) got involved, he realized that wasn’t good enough.  He wrote a software program to actually track the details of each and every call.  It was tedious and laborious, but it proved his point quite well.  Here is a graph of the calls that came in on the specific yellow pages number.

calls from yellowbook va

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

If I had to pick one word to describe the performance, it would be pathetic.  From January 1, 2008 to September 30, 2008, DMW has received a total of only 54 calls from the book. Without Blue Corona’s advanced technology, the yellow book sales rep would have used this data to imply that if we typically close 75% of our inbound calls, his book has generated at least 40 new sales (times $400 in annual revenue per account  = $16,000 of sales) – of course we’re going to renew!!”

You can read the entire article here: http://www.bluecorona.com/case-studies/yellow-page-advertising-still-effective#ixzz2CFCyQ3mq

The point here is that unless you are tracking every single call and the outcome, that number provided by the yellow book representative really doesn’t mean a whole lot.  The YP may still be generating you business.  But how much business are you losing out on if you are not paying attention to your online presence?

The Phone Book…. Do Fingers Still Walk Here?

Monday’s post gave us a little insight into where the yellow pages came from and it’s place in marketing history.  The truly amazing thing (to me) is that some business owners still swear by it for their businesses!  This may not be surprising, as many marketing methods are quite old.  For instance,

  • The first American magazine was published in 1741
  • The first recorded billboard rental happened in 1867
  • Radio advertising started in 1922

All of these are still viable marketing mediums today.  But there is no question that technology has played a part in changing how effective these mediums truly are.  Magazines, for instance, are increasingly being consumed digitally.  The popularity of devices such as Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad mean that users can subscribe to any number of magazines without ever getting a single issue in the mail.  And the digital billboard trend continues to replace traditional “static” billboards with digital versions, capable of displaying many advertisements per month in a rotation.  And there is no question that the introduction of television put a serious crimp in radio’s effectiveness. 

The phone book, however, has always been in its own category.  Billboards, radio, TV, magazines, newspapers… these are all ways to get your brand in front of potential customers.  But, the phone book is different.  It is the place that consumers who are ready to buy turn to find the business to buy from.  The people using the phone book are actually looking for a business to spend money with.  It only makes sense to be in there! 

The problem is that the yellow pages, too, has fallen victim to technological progress.  Phone books are out of date as soon as (or even before) they are printed.  They’re not portable (can you imagine having to carry around a yellow pages directory with you?) and they are an environmental nightmare.  And the most important fact about the phone book?  People just don’t use them anymore; the latest statistics show that more than 80% of consumers turn to Google when trying to find a local business

If you’re a business owner who has relied on the phone book, this may be disheartening to hear.  But, cheer up!  This is actually good for your business.  Unlike the yellow pages, Google does not give priority to businesses based on their name.  Zaranti’s Barber Shop has as much chance of being first on the list as Ali Barber’s.  Google cares about content, not about the name.  This means that the playing field online is far more level than it ever was in the yellow pages – a business that can afford to spend thousands of dollars a month can’t nudge a startup business all the way back to page 3 by having a full two-page color ad at the beginning of the listings.  With some help from someone like me, even a startup business can be first in their category on Google! 

If you are lucky enough to own a business with an unlimited marketing budget, then you can afford to do it all.  For those of us who live in the real world, however, we have to pick and choose where to spend our marketing dollars.  Hopefully, you are considering right now whether the phone book is really where you want to spend those precious dollars.  In tomorrow’s post, we’re going to look at an actual case study and get some cold hard facts on what the phone book is worth to your business.

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