Optometric Management Tip # 349   -   Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Readers Respond: Tips for Attracting New Patients

My topic two weeks ago was about attracting new patients and I asked readers to share any strategies they have found to be successful. I received quite a few emails and I extend my sincere thanks to those readers who took the time to help their colleagues through this venue. As promised, I will share your tips on this somewhat difficult management challenge.

Echoing my thoughts

Many reader emails agreed with the premise I expressed in tip # 347, that the best way to attract new patients is through word of mouth referral from happy, loyal patients. To that end, some readers went on to describe the tactics they use in their practice to build loyalty and stimulate more word of mouth action. Those efforts are the very core of practice building.

Many of you also shared your success with cultivating referrals from other health care practitioners, which was another focus of the article. Your emails do much more than simply confirm the concepts I present, although that alone is valuable, but they also provide nuances and twists that improve on the strategy. I'll share your best ideas below.

Readers' marketing tips

Here are some of the ideas you presented. All of these tips won't appeal to everyone, but see if there are some that will work in your practice.

Making the extra effort

An OD who opened his practice just three years ago shared his approach to practice building. This is an excellent review of the little things that make a difference.

I have two staff members that give great customer service. We take pride in treating our patients well, from the phone encounter when they schedule an appointment to smiles and greetings when patients walk in the door. During their experience we get to know their lifestyle needs to make appropriate recommendations. It's also very important for the doctor to talk about PALS, AR and other lens options (in the exam room) as this transitions well when I hand patients off to the optician.

Every new patient receives a “Welcome to Our Practice” card in the mail and we also mail a “Thank You for Referring” letter to those that referred a patient to us. Some patients that have referred us many patients receive gift cards and even fruit baskets delivered to their office so their co-workers are aware how well we treat our VIPs.

I also participate in various health fairs and work with companies that are doing open enrollments for health plans. The doctor should make time to go with an assistant. People are very impressed when I'm there and take the time to chat with them; this alone has brought me many patients. I may even do a quick screening at my booth as well, nothing fancy but enough to encourage them to come in for a full eye exam.

We encourage patients to bring in their family members and we offer discounts to family members without insurance. We also have visited local businesses in the area to let them know where we are, what we do and give out discount cards for our products.

I have been part of a local networking group for the past couple years that meets once a week. We have about 50 members who are business owners. I send my assistant to represent me, but I also make an appearance from time to time as well and give presentations to the group about my business.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management