More than just Molton Brown? Adam Hampson, at Hampson & Partners, takes a close look at what it takes to make a better brand and effective website.

Picture this. A patient steps into the bathroom at a dental practice and there on the sink is a bottle of Molton Brown handwash. As a statement about how contemporary, exclusive and unique the practice is, it is understated and affordable. It’s just that patients in the practice down the road are washing their hands with Molton Brown hand wash too.

This ‘design-by-numbers’ approach is all too often seen on dental practice websites. However, better marketing techniques, a better standard of competition and patients’ higher expectations of dental websites mean that more and more clients are seeking to break out of the template and are coming to us to redesign, modernise and improve their websites.

The first step is the most important
The first step to creating a great website is finding the right design agency. You need to like their work and how they work. Are they easy to reach and quick to respond? Do they have experience of working with practices similar to yours? This is key. After all, your website is more about your patients’ aspirations, fears and wishes than it is about you.

By taking the time to look at other websites they have designed, you can get a real sense of what they can help you achieve. Unique designs that reflect the personality of a practice are a good sign of an agency’s creativity and ability to understand their clients.

Know what you want from your website
When you start thinking about a new website, it’s easy to jump straight into the design, but a great website needs more than good looks – it needs a purpose too. Do you want it to reflect your brand and key selling points, and help build your reputation? Do you need a website to attract new patients and retain existing ones? Is it simply an electronic brochure?

Think of your home page as a department store window – new patients will look at it before deciding whether to come inside and make an enquiry, existing patients will keep an eye out for special offers, and patients registered elsewhere might be looking for one-off treatments, such as Cosmetic work, Orthodontics or Facial Aesthetics, for example. There may even be other practices that are happy to refer their patients for specific specialist treatment. Your home page has to show at first glance that you can respond to these needs.

Break out of the template
When dentists follow a template approach to web design, how can patients be expected to choose between them? After all, most practices provide similar treatments, with similar equipment and teams with similar skills. It can be difficult to really separate yourself from other competing practices in your area. Your brand needs to be unique to you, to reflect your practice and be true to your patient experience. It is an asset to the business because it shows what makes your practice different.

In striving to appear on Page one of Google along with other dentists in your area, it is vital that you look and feel unique, and of a better quality, to new patients. Everyone wants the best price but we also want the best quality for the money we’re prepared to spend. Most of us might click through to a few websites before making an enquiry. Having a well designed and original website at position two, three or four on Google is better than looking bland, similar, or the same as everyone else at position one.

Look at your bounce rate in your Google Analytics and this will tell you how many people are finding your website and leaving almost immediately. Then ask yourself, why?

Keep your copy clear and simple
Your site has to work hard to win your readers’ attention and even harder to keep it. The right tone and words are essential in establishing your brand. Does the copy present the benefits in an engaging way? Does it convey your expertise without too much detail? Does it give an insight into the patients’ experience at your practice?

Often dentists make the mistake of saying too much. Don’t bore and confuse your potential new patients. They assume you know what you’re doing; you don’t need to prove it by going into detail about what a crown is. If the occasional visitor is reading all that detail, then the chances are they’re shopping around and fact-finding. You need to show that you are there to answer patients’ questions and to book a consultation. That’s where your business will grow and not as a dental Wikipedia.

Remember the three second wow factor!
Websites have just seconds to convince patients to spend a few minutes looking around and to hopefully make the enquiry. Fail to hook their interest in or to meet their expectations and your bounce rate will do all the talking. Are you saying what you do, who you do it for and why patients should choose you in seconds? The right images are priceless when showcasing your practice. After all, your interior is unique to your practice – other practices can’t use it – making it unique to your brand. Use these to try to convey your brand experience.

By staying away from the generic stock pictures we see all too often in favour of carefully chosen images, you can effectively demonstrate why your practice is the right choice. The best approach is to search cleverly for images, be creative in communicating your brand and budget for some better pictures by a photographer.

Devise a targeted marketing strategy
Many practices don’t have a huge budget for design and marketing, but money well spent from the outset could benefit you significantly further down the road.

It is easy to get seduced by the next best thing in marketing or by what your competitors are doing, but the practices that are most successful at promoting themselves are the ones that seek to understand how their target patients communicate and respond to what’s around them. There’s no point spending thousands on marketing aimed at younger audiences if your patients are typically over 50 with a high disposable income. You must always keep your target audience in mind.

Play to your strengths
Remember that when looking for a dental practice, patients want more than just Molton Brown in the loos. They aren’t paying your dental fees for their hands to smell nice; they want a practice that is distinct from its competitors and offers them a high standard of dental work and care.

Every practice has its own unique strengths, the things that keep patients coming back time and time again. The trick is to play on these strengths and communicate them. A patient’s relationship with your practice often begins with your website showing them what their experience will be before they even call. Engage with them from the outset and the chances are they will pick up the phone to make an appointment.

For more information and help with designing your branding or website, contact H&P on 0115 9215848 or email