Lost signals

What’s your signal to noise ratio?

Les Jones Marketing and Design Leave a Comment

Imagine, for a moment, that I am a prospective patient in your area looking for a new dental practice.

Of course, I’m a modern consumer, so I’m not an easy catch. I’m looking around a bit – searching online, asking a few friends for referrals and checking out a few websites.

Now imagine that, as I’m doing that, we managed to come face to face.

For a small amount of time, you have my undivided attention, it’s your opportunity to make your pitch to tell me the big messages that you want me to get about your practice – the things that set you apart from the competition and how those things will benefit me.

What would you say to me?

What are the two or three points that, if I get nothing else, I should know about your practice?

Have you decided?

Great…now go to the landing page of your website – because those messages are there, right? Surely, those messages are screaming loud and proud from the screen – clear, succinct and uncluttered?

Or perhaps they’re not.

If you’re website is like the majority of dental websites, those messages will be lost in a sea of noise – in long-winded descriptions of the practice that no-one ever reads, in descriptions of dental treatments that the average (non-dental) visitor doesn’t understand, and in pictures (of front doors, dental chairs and reception flowers) that seem to have no relevance to anyone.

And the result? The visitor quickly bounces to the next website on the results page of their search. Your opportunity has come and gone, the patient is lost.

The lesson here is simple…Less is More.

Your website should provide the key information a prospective patient needs to:

  1. feel that they’re in the right place
  2. make contact

The key to getting your website right is in recognising that it is a means to an end, not an end in itself. It’s role is to connect with your prospective patient in a way that is clear and succinct so that they feel motivated to act on the information they’ve taken in.

Designers refer to this challenge as a ‘signal to noise ratio’ – if the noise is too great, the signals get lost. If the noise is low or non-existent, the signals (messages) come through loud and clear.

“If the noise is too great, the signals get lost. If the noise is low or non-existent, the signals (messages) come through loud and clear.”

The principle is something that you will have experienced many times – like the moment you move somewhere quieter to take a phone call (thus reducing the ‘noise’ interference).

When assembling a new piece of flatpack furniture – where all the instructions are pictures to make things as clear as possible. Or when driving about taking in the instructions of graphic road signs – which have been designed to deliver their messages quickly and succinctly without any language barriers.

The signal to noise ratio is sometimes deliberately used in a negative way – like when you receive the terms and conditions leaflet for your credit card – which is normally written in very small and dense type, so you can’t be bothered to read it – which means the credit card company can slip in a few conditions and escape clauses that might not be fully in your favour.

“Putting the emphasis on clear, benefit-led messages that build confidence in the prospective patient”

So, the challenge for many dental practices looking to attract new patients is to reduce the ‘noise’ as much as possible. That means stripping out unnecessary copy and pictures, reducing the dental speak and putting the emphasis on clear, benefit-led messages that build confidence in the prospective patient.

Log onto your website and take a look with a fresh pair of eyes. How clear are the big messages you want to get across? If they’re not coming through within a second or two, it’s time for a re-think.