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How to make the most out of your practice’s website

Your website is the first impression you give to potential new clients, so it’s important to ensure it’s optimised for use

23 January 2020, at 9:00am

It’s often said that first impressions count and your website is frequently the first impression that you give to potential customers. If a pet owner has found you through a web search or through a link shared by a friend, then your website will be your first point of contact with them.

Before they even see your practice or talk to your staff, these local pet owners will see your website. You want that first impression to be a good one. Make a bad impression and you lose a potential customer. Make a great impression and you can potentially gain and keep a customer for life.

By helping customers get to know your veterinary business, you are working to establish trust, which is incredibly important in building long-lasting customer relationships, especially in a service industry like ours. A website helps you to build credibility by allowing customers to see what your brand is all about. In addition to showcasing your practice services, you can also tell potential new clients about your team and your mission to care for pets.

There has been a growing trend for some clinics to only use Facebook to establish an online presence and not bother much with a website – which does have some cost saving benefits – but what if Facebook changes their operating methods? It’s never a good idea to build your entire house on someone else’s land. A website is your own sovereign territory online and as such it’s safe from rapacious tech companies who want to get between you and your clients.

The importance of a website for marketing extends to every aspect of your digital marketing strategy. As the backbone of your online presence, nearly every type of communication, content or advertisement that you put online should drive the customer to your website. It’s important that your website gives customers a clear idea of what your brand values are and what types of services you offer.

Let’s start with your social media marketing. Though you use social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram to reach and engage with consumers, you have to have a place to send those customers back to when they want to learn more about your business. Likewise, you can display your social media feeds on your website to offer some fresh content on your home page.

Your website also plays an important role in your email marketing. If you are using email marketing to reach and engage your customers (which you should be, especially as part of your pet health plan), then you need somewhere to send them to convert a sale or further educate.

Your website is the perfect place to guide your pet health plan email subscribers to when you want them to learn more about a product or service that they receive as part of their health plan subscription. You can even guide them back to your website to a specially created hidden landing page with information to help them make a purchase of a specially discounted offer on a promotion.

A website is an intrinsic part of search engine optimisation. When customers use Google to research pet health questions or local clinics, the search engine delivers a list of the most relevant web pages. So, if you want to bring some of this local online traffic to your own business, you need a website to drive that traffic back to. The more optimised your site is for Google, the more chances you have to reach new customers before your competition does.

Google AdWords advertising also needs to link back to your site; this is especially important for referral clinics who rely on detailed search terms for pet owners looking for specific medical procedures.

You could build a new website yourself using one of the popular site builders such as Squarespace, but would you let a web designer do a bitch spay? Of course not! Sometimes in life it’s just better to use a proper professional to get things done right the first time. And your time could almost certainly be better spent doing other things, so it’s worth delegating the design and set up of your website to a professional.

A decent website should usually cost from around £1,000 to £2,000 upwards, possibly more if you have lots of sites or if you are using custom-designed functionality such as a booking system, but you should definitely get a good website for under £2,000 if you shop around.

For most small independent practices, you don’t need to go crazy with a website – a nice, clean and modern design featuring smiling staff photos, opening times, telephone numbers and maps are enough to make a decent website without over-complicating things. Just work with your web developer to design the site user experience to make things very slick and intuitive to use with very fast page load times.

A website is a valuable part of your brand that needs to be nurtured and looked after as much as any other part of your business, so ensure that you take the time to make it as good and as useful as it can be.

Will Stirling is a freelance marketing consultant who has worked in small animal practice marketing for over a decade, consulting on marketing strategy. He now spends his time helping independent veterinary clinics to grow and thrive.

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