Article Date: 1/1/2009

My Marketing Epiphany
reflections THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

My Marketing Epiphany

To attract and retain patients, market the most unique aspect of your practice — you.

JASON M. SELIGMAN, O.D.
RIVERHEAD, N.Y.

Three years ago, I took over a practice. To retain its patients and attract new ones, I spent thousands of dollars on print advertising, direct mailers, promotional giveaway items and even a TV commercial. To determine which of these marketing methods, if any, were the most successful, I asked every patient: "Why did you choose us for your eye care?" Ironically, the most common answer didn't include any of the marketing methods on which I'd spent my hard-earned dollars. It was word-of-mouth referrals!

Although I knew that this marketing method played somewhat of a role in attracting and retaining new patients, the fact that it had the greatest impact on a patient's decision to see me was an epiphany. That's when I realized that self-promotion is the key to growing a practice. What sets me apart from my colleagues who dispense the same exact box of -2.00D contact lenses is the way in which I go about dispensing them. In fact, focusing on self-promotion has enabled me to increase eye exams by 40% from when I took over the practice.

Dr. Seligman, pictured with patient Melany Duford, seeks to make his eye exams a memorable experience.

Self-promotion: the magic three

I've discovered that the following three elements are crucial to effective self-promotion:

Friendliness. Because a patient's first encounter with a practice is with its staff, I've explained to my staff that I expect them to greet all patients with a smile and to be kind and helpful both in the patient's presence and via phone. They've complied, as they realize that patient flow affects their jobs. Once the patient is in my exam chair, I carry on my staff's demeanor. By treating every patient as a friend, I've not only instilled patient loyalty but have acquired a slew of new friends through them.

Enthusiasm. When you perform thousands of eye exams every year, it's hard not to act bored. But, I realize that patients pick up on this and often don't think it's the eye exam that's boring me. So, I've made a conscious effort to act enthusiastic and interested during each and every exam. One way I've done this: I briefly explain what, specifically, I'm doing during each portion of the exam and why it's important. (Despite what you may think, this doesn't take a lot of time.) My patients always make a point to thank me for being so informative and nice.

Gratitude. Once I complete an exam, I always say: "Thanks for coming to see me today," or "Thanks for referring your (friend, family member, co-worker, etc.)." These statements make patients feel valued, which makes them loyal to me and prompts even more referrals.

A visual reminder. Before patients leave my exam room, I always hand them a piece of paper that includes my head shot; practice contact information; office hours; a brief biography, the eyecare services I provide and the statement "referrals are greatly appreciated."

Self-promotion isn't only the most successful form of marketing, it's also the most cost-effective — something to keep in mind considering the current economic climate. All you need is a benevolent attitude and a home computer program to create your sheet of paper. Used together, you're likely to attract and retain several new patients. I did. OM


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Optometric Management, Issue: January 2009