Article Date: 12/1/2010

Time to Unplug and Reach out?
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Time to Unplug and Reach out?

Revisit the “old school” to get the most out of your marketing program.

Gary Gerber, O.D.

Is it time to unplug your marketing? While I advocate Internet-based marketing, I think it's time to revisit some basics of other “forgotten” methods that can still work for your practice.

Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites, along with search engine optimization, are very hot topics right now — as they should be. As we are a wired society, O.D.s must pay close attention to all aspects of their web presence.

But, don't forget that an “antiquated” snail mailing can still work wonders. And realize that people still watch TV, have telephones and listen to the radio. A consistent message, delivered via multiple channels, usually pays the highest dividends. So, while it's not always easy to get someone reading a direct mail piece to visit your website or to get a TV viewer to call your office, that doesn't mean you should put all your marketing dollars in the online basket.

The “direct” approach

Under the heading of “zigging while others are zagging” consider a new low-tech approach to your marketing by revisiting direct mail. One advantage is that, unlike e-mail, it's a bit more work to “delete” it. Yes, it can go straight into the recycle bin, but it requires that it be handled first, and if the message on the outside is captivating enough (just like the subject line on an e-mail) you stand a chance of it being opened — especially when you mail to your own patients.

As with e-mail, improve your open rate by testing various messages. For example, if you want to send an e-mail to prospective patients about an upcoming trunk show, you could experiment with various subject lines and messages (for example, “offer” vs. “no offer”). If you had a list of 5,000 people, you could send two test messages to 100 people each and track the open rates. Direct mail can be used the same way. Instead of sending out all 5,000 pieces at once, test various messages with a smaller subset of prospects. In fact, the very concept of testing e-mail open rates has its origins in direct mail.

On the air

Test TV and radio in reverse. That is, use your existing patient base and e-mail them a test ad for an upcoming radio or TV campaign. Using your own patients as an ad hoc online focus group can increase the response rate of your advertising. You'll also get a good feel regarding how to parse your marketing dollars between wired and unwired media.

Once you've experimented with various wired vs. non-wired techniques, you'll get a sense of what messages work best in which media. Usually a well thought out mix of media is your best bet. Be aware, however, that some patients have very strong preferences. So, ask your patients how they would like to be communicated with in the future — and of course, measure those responses. For example, if your current recall system is snail mail-based, ask patients if they'd prefer to continue with that vs. e-mail or text messages. However, once you make a change, make sure to measure the results. While patients might say they prefer to be contacted via text instead of snail mail, they might not necessarily respond as actively as with snail mail.

What's old is new again and what's new can be mixed in with what's old. OM


Optometric Management, Issue: December 2010