Article Date: 9/1/2008

Creativity Attracts New Patients

Creativity Attracts New Patients

By Paula R. Newsome, O.D., M.S., F.A.A.O.
Charlotte, N.C.

QUESTION: As a new practitioner, what should I do to build my patient base?

Answer: When you're used to microwave technology, patience is a difficult virtue to cultivate. I just celebrated 24 years in private practice, but it seems like yesterday that I was just starting out.

So what steps did I take to get my new practice up and running and flush with patients? I built my practice by following three easy steps, and you can use these guidelines to build your own patient base:

Use everyday meetings to spread the word about your practice. I wanted to emphasize primary care, so when I designed my business cards, I kept that in mind. I promoted my intended specialty by using this phrase, "diagnosis and treatment of the eye and visual system."

Whenever I went out — to eat or shop and so on — and I received a service, I gave that person a card with a handwritten note on the back. The note said, "thank you for the good care you provided to me today. Let me return the favor. Present this card at our office and receive 20% off your new eyewear." This approach brought many new patients to my practice.

"Blanket" the region with promotional newsletters. I flooded the market (all surrounding zip codes) with news-letters that emphasized what we did, who we were and the benefits we offered to our patients. We highlighted our competitive advantage. To encourage potential patients to respond quickly to these newsletters, we featured a coupon with an expiration date, but the date and the "deal" were always tied to our goods — not our services. Right from the start, we knew we didn't want to be considered a discounter of services, so we were careful not to plant the seed in our advertising and marketing efforts.

Get involved in the community. Another great way we drum up referrals is by getting involved in the community. While you may not think this brings big returns, it was my community activism that's given me my most loyal patients. Volunteer for those things that you're most passionate about and you're sure to find others who share your interests. The more people you know in the community, the more referrals you'll get.

Making it Happen

Decide what your practice is and what it's not. Determine the most appropriate way to share your message and your services, and see what works for you.

Not every marketing strategy will work. But don't lose faith. If one approach doesn't yield the number of patients you need, try a new tact. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. But you'll get there with time, patience and planning. nOD

Dr. Newsome is a private practitioner and the president of Advantage Vision Center in Charlotte, N.C.

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2008