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Primer on Web-based Directories
Jeff Pasternack

For a long time now I've been going on about how physicians should be using the Web as a means of advertising their practices. In the past we've covered how to design a Web site, design a search engine friendly site and paid-inclusion ad campaigns. Today, for your reading enjoyment, I'm going to discuss another type of effective, Web-based marketing that you should consider for your practice. But first, a story.

I have a...uh...friend, who's wife, bless her brutally honest soul, often teases me, I mean, him, about his back hair. With the holiday season fast approaching, thought that he might give her his back, sans hair. Being ignorant on the issue, he turned to the web and found all sorts of interesting sites. His favorite was one that sold a $645 comb that has a built in laser. Witness the marketing schmaltz:

“Through the scientific principles of photobiotherapy, Low Level Cold Beam Laser therapy progressively improves the quality, strength and thickness of your hair over time.” Right. Hand me another platter of antelope sick because I've spared you the rest.

Another site he came across was Along with being chock-full of helpful information about the procedures and having before-and-after photos, it also contained a directory of hair removal clinics organized by state. A click or two later and he had an appointment set up for his obligatory “free consultation.” Would people get excited if the IRS offered a free consultation?

Anyway, while this friend decided that, although he loved his wife dearly, perhaps more than life itself, he didn't love her more than the $1,400 the procedure would cost and he figured (perhaps rightly) that he'd get more mileage if he spent $300 and treated her to a day at the spa plus $300 on an anklet. If the history of husbands ever held such a remarkable display of husbandric wizardry, I have yet to hear of it.

Truth be told, web-based directories do serve as a valuable repository of information for consumers and a viable source of referrals for medical centers that provide services in a highly-competitive marketplace. Here's how the business model works.

We all know that television, radio, yellow pages and newspaper advertising are increasingly expensive and it can be difficult to track the business that comes from these sources. And yet, it isn't uncommon to hear of a practice spending thousands a month on these “traditional” advertising mediums. Web-based directories, however, cost very little by comparison and the referrals that come from them are measurable. For about $200 a month, in fact, you can be listed in a directory and know, specifically, who they referred.

For example, on, once a prospective patient zeros in on a provider, they can submit a form to request more information. The form is sent immediately to the doctor's office and the staff can respond by email or phone as requested by the prospect. “That first staff contact is key as it serves as the prospect's first impression,” said Leah Louis, who owns “We work with our clients and help them formulate a contact protocol so that they are most likely to convert the lead into an appointment,” she concluded.

Many people who come through directories are pre-qualified as leads in the sense that they've already performed the basic research. After submitting a request form, my friend received an email that introduced the practice, highlighted their differentiators and told him that a staff member would call in 24 hours. As he was already familiar with the treatment jargon and costs, his call with the staff was very efficient. Even though he chose not to go ahead with the procedure, from the practice's perspective, he's another local person to add to their marketing database for future direct mail campaigns.

Another benefit of directory advertising is that the directory takes on the cost of marketing and ensuring that its pages rank high in the “organic” search results. That's the part of the search results that are not paid for: the real search results, if you will. Directories can spend thousands a month on search engine optimization and compete for search result placement at a level where an individual practice wouldn't find it economically feasible.

“We find that people who are searching for health care information tend to perform a generic search first and then drill down to finding a local provider. We spend a small fortune every month to ensure that our directory and information repository ranks consistently in the top search results. In turn, we're able to deliver a consistent amount of referrals to our 300 directory participants,” said Louis.

I tried talking to a couple of people listed on and but, oddly, no one wanted to be quoted. In fact, the lady who spoke at me from Boca Laser Center should win an award for having the most nastiest way of saying “I don't want to talk with you.” Six calls later, though, a nice guy agreed to speak with me on the condition of anonymity.

His average sale is $800 and he receives two or three leads a week with one resulting in an appointment. Once in the door, 85 percent become patients. So he spends $300 a month for a listing and earns $2400 in business. Nice! That said, I wonder how many practices spend $300 on a phone book ad and receive the same return on investment?

Participating in a directory doesn't absolve a practice of the responsibility for having its own Web site and doing a paid-inclusion ad campaign for regional business. Directories appear to serve as a valuable resource for patients seeking information about certain procedures and if you provide those services, then its probably worth the $300 to see for yourself.


Jeff Pasternack is the president of Dynamic Consulting Group, a franchise partner of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and author of the TechnoPeasant Review.
If you have questions or comments about this column, please write to him at