Article Date: 2/1/2012

Marketing the Practice: Your Most Important Job
o.d. to o.d.

Marketing the Practice: Your Most Important Job

You can deliver excellent products and services, but without effective marketing, how will anyone know?

By Walter D. West, O.D., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor

It's no secret that owning your own practice involves many responsibilities. To begin with, you're in charge of quality assurance, providing quality products and professional service. Second, you are your own chief financial officer and, therefore, responsible for maintaining sufficient cash flow to meet the financial responsibilities of your practice. Also, you are in charge of human resources, which includes the hiring, training and managing of your employees. In addition, you're the chief information officer responsible for decisions regarding how all your practice information, including patient records, is maintained. But your responsibilities don't end there: You are also the chief marketing officer, responsible for the internal and external marketing for your practice. This is, arguably, the most important job you have. The reason: Without fulfilling this role, you'll neither attract nor retain patients, making the other aforementioned responsibilities null in void.

So, how can you effectively market your practice? I've found that the following two action steps have been successful in attracting patients, increasing patient loyalty, patient referrals and practice revenue:

1. “Know” your patients

Pay daily attention to and make note of who your patients are. In other words, note their ages, eye health issues and hobbies. Armed with this information, you can then craft marketing programs that can yield big returns.

For instance, if a majority of your patients enjoy outdoor activities, you could market polarized sunwear. Not only will your patients appreciate the fact that you can provide them with these lenses, but they'll also tell their friends about it, which will garner you new patients.

Another example: If you find that most of the patients you've been seeing lately are elderly, you could craft a marketing program that highlights age-related eye disease and your ability to effectively manage it.

2. Become “social.”

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Bebo, among other social networking sites, are not a passing fad. These sites are the way people, including your patients, communicate with one another. Therefore, join one or more of these sites to let your current patients, in addition to prospective patients learn about how your practice can benefit them.

3. Share the load

Between branding, advertising, social media, search engine optimization and everything in between, marketing your practice can be a fulltime job, and the optometrist who believes he/she can manage their own marketing, while also effectively managing all other components of their practice, is likely to be disappointed with the results.

So, if you've sought professional advice from, and engage the services of professionals for the management of the other aspects of your practice, I suggest you approach marketing your practice in the same manner — if, that is, you'd like to experience the same level success. OM

Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: February 2012, page(s): 4