3/26/13

A hearing clinic attracts new customers with local web sites

By launching separate sites for each clinic, Sonus triples its new customer count.

Amy Dusto , Associate Editor

Sonus, which operates more than 120 hearing care clinics in the United States and Canada, has tripled the number of new customers visiting its locations and cut the costs to acquire them by 67% since launching unique web sites for each franchise, says Elizabeth Rossini, director of marketing. The sites offer specific content about the franchise closest to a visitor after she selects her location on a map or searches for it by state or ZIP code. The local sites went live last September on a marketing software platform from vendor Strategic Internet Marketing (SIM) Partners, with additional features from Kenshoo Local, a local search marketing platform from Kenshoo Ltd., Rossini says.

Previously, Sonus had a single corporate web site for all of its clinic locations. On SIM Partners’ Velocity marketing platform, it cloned a pared-down version of that web site for each franchise, and then allowed the clinic owners to customize the rest of their sites with their store location information, opening hours, specialist biographies, news and events, Rossini says. Using both Velocity and Kenshoo Local, Sonus built a marketing campaign with custom landing pages, online ads, global search engine optimization and local search optimization to attract nearby customers to the right web sites, the company says.

The Velocity marketing platform also integrates with a clinic’s administrative management system, Rossini says. For example, if a clinic must close early, the change in operating hours automatically pushes out to the local web site when the office updates its internal systems with the change, she says.

The new sites are also optimized for mobile devices.  That’s useful for older clients, who often prefer to set appointments by phone and can use a click-to-call option on their mobile phones, Rossini says. Clients can also set appointments on the mobile or desktop versions of the sites.  

“If a company sells through local stores, distributors or resellers in the physical world, this sort of strategy now is critical,” says Greg Sterling, founder of research and consulting firm Sterling Market Intelligence. “There's all kinds of local search activity that simply goes unaddressed if a localization strategy isn't pursued.” For example, a business may not appear in search results if a customer uses local query terms, such as “ear care near Main Street Sunday.” Localized web sites often appear more relevant to search engines than non-local sites in searches that include such local terms, Sterling says. That lifts them higher in search results, often leading to higher click-through rates, he says. He adds that local advertising that a franchise would use to drive traffic to its web site usually costs less than national advertising, which helps make Sonus’ local marketing more cost-effective.

SIM Partners provides its Velocity platform over the Internet, in a software-as-a-service model. Pricing depends on the functionality and the number of local sites a customer requests, it says. Kenshoo Local charges a licensing fee plus a percentage of a client’s media spend. Rossini would not say what Sonus pays for the new services, but says she’s “getting fantastic value” for her investment.

On top of the web site software, some of the clinics are using another service from SIM Partners to create videos about their offices to put on their sites. For a fee ranging between $500 and $3,500, the vendor produces the video, including hiring a local film crew, it says. A few clinics have made videos over the past six months that feature specialist biographies and patient testimonials, Rossini says. Each took 90 minutes to film inside a clinic.

While Rossini doesn’t have specific data about the videos’ impact yet, she says the clinics that implemented them are reporting positive customer feedback and say they are helping calm nervous customers by showing them what to expect before they come in. She says most of the clinics are planning to make multiple new videos this year.

Topics:

e-commerce technology, Elizabeth Rossini, franchised web sites, Greg Sterling, Kenshoo, Kenshoo Local, local marketing technology, localized web sites, search engine optimization, SIM Partners, Sonus, Sterling Market Intelligence, Technology Update, Velocity marketing platform, video

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