Article Date: 11/1/2004


Do the Yellow Pages Bring in the Green?

QUESTION: Our practice is updating our listing in the Yellow Pages and we're considering upgrading to a larger display ad. Do you think it's worth the extra money?

ANSWER: Before you lay out big bucks for a display ad in your local telephone directory, poll your patients.

Add a question to your new patient registration form to find out how patients heard about your practice. Did a family member or a coworker recommend your practice? Did they choose your name from an insurance company's provider directory? Or did they see your single-line listing in the "Optometrists" section of the Yellow Pages?

O.D.s at one practice I know found that very few of their patients -- less than 2% -- chose them from the Yellow Pages. They decided a bigger ad probably wouldn't attract many new patients to their office.

Once you compile the results of your own survey -- and your results might be different -- you can make an informed decision about upgrading your Yellow Pages listing.

Irving Bennett, O.D., Sarasota, Fla.,

Same Time Next Year

QUESTION: I'm doing a fairly good job of attracting new patients to my practice, but how can I keep them coming back for annual check-ups?

ANSWER: Several years ago, I decided I could get a better return on investment by focusing more on my current patients than by extensive external marketing to attract new ones. To keep my patients coming back, I established a three-prong recall system.

1. Pre-appointment. Naysayers will tell you this method rarely works, but I believe it does -- if you back it up with positive reinforcement in the exam room. Patients will return for annual check-ups when they know you're interested in keeping their eyes healthy, not in selling them a new pair of eyeglasses.

One year is a long time for someone to remember an appointment for a check-up, so we confirm all our appointments a day in advance. Some O.D.s call twice: 1 month before and again the day before the appointment.

2. Mail reminders. If a patient doesn't want to make an appointment a year in advance, we have him fill out a postcard as he checks out. My receptionist saves these card, by month, in a special file to be mailed out 11 months later. Patients I saw in November 2004 will receive reminders in October 2005.

3. Computerized backup. Finally, we prevent patients from falling through the cracks by using the recall function on our scheduling software. For example, we print a list of patients who are due to return for their annual exam in November 2005 and compare that list against all the reminder cards in our November 2005 file. We then send a reminder card to anyone who appears on our list but doesn't have a card in the file.

Reminders are important, but I still think the best way to keep patients coming back every year is to offer them quality eye care and personal service.

Ernie Bowling, O.D., Summerville, Ga.,



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Optometric Management, Issue: November 2004