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This is a guest post from Chris Rosati of ProfitableMD.

A client recently asked us to evaluate and recommend a vendor for their business. It took us less than three minutes to knock one company off the list….we just looked at their website. Their website first impression was terrible!

In this example, we were looking for a healthcare billing service, and knew it had to be one that stays ahead of the changes in healthcare billing. Since this company’s website looked like it had been done in 1995, we had no confidence that they’d updated anything else related to their business since then. And there was no content on the site to suggest otherwise. We clicked on three pages and left. Website first impression? FAIL!

So how do you create an effective website first impression?

Regardless of your product or service, an effective website: looks professional, conveys expertise and captures visitors’ information.

Looks Professional.

It’s great that you had your co-worker’s 4th grader build your site when you started your company 20 years ago. But now your site is what often makes that critical first impression. There’s no reason not to have a professional looking site today. It’s just not that expensive. When ResponsePoint builds websites, they always start by asking clients to show them three sites they really like. More often than not, they can build something comparable for a lot less than they thought.

Conveys Expertise.

Just saying you’ve been in business for twenty years is not enough. At any given time there are at least a dozen initiatives/obstacles/technologies that have a huge impact on your industry. Let your prospects know you’re at least aware of some of them! It doesn’t have to be a big endeavor. Write a blog or post a link to a timely article. And do it no less than once a month.

Captures Visitors’ Information.

You cannot follow up with your visitors, if you don’t know who they are. If your site basically says, “Read what we do. Then email us and we’ll send you a contract,” then our reply is, “Ummm. No thank you.” But offer me something of value and I may just give you my info to access it. It could be a free evaluation. Or an invitation to a webinar. Or a free report like ProfitableMD’s Adapt or Die: The Evolution of Medical Billing (see what we did there?!). If it’s appealing enough, you’ll get your visitor’s information. Now you can follow up, build trust and win their business.

While the example above was for a billing service, we’ve seen the same mistakes made by companies selling EHR, consulting services, revenue cycle management systems, technology services, and so on. Your website is the first date in the courtship of a prospect. You have to look your best, you have to sound smart and, most importantly, you have to ask for their number so you can schedule the second date!