I just participated in a fantastic optometric meeting in Dallas and the doctors in attendance were very open to sharing their ideas for practice building. We attended some excellent lectures and we had very strong breakout groups. I took a lot of notes and I'll share some ideas that prove the point that little things mean a lot.
The best form of marketing for independent eye care practices is often in the thoughtful little touches that convey an image that you care. Specialty advertising that places your practice name and logo on gift items is a great way to build patient loyalty and brand awareness. Gifts with your logo create buzz among your patients and with other businesses in your community and promotes referrals. Successful practices are built on word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are a few ideas from the meeting I attended:
Big tipper with free pens. One doctor said he has become well known in his community by having breakfast or lunch in local restaurants and always leaving a large tip for the server. He also gets to know the server's name and makes sure he/she knows his name. He leaves a $20 tip even if the cost of the meal is small and he leaves two business cards and two pens with his practice name and logo. Waitresses always need pens!
Local businesses and gift basket. A doctor pays attention to any new business opening in town and she and her staff take a gift basket with cookies and free gifts from the practice, such as key chains, coffee mugs, pens, eyeglass cleaning cloths, etc. This doctor is also active in the chamber of commerce. The employees of these businesses often become patients and they refer many of their customers.
New patient welcome. One practice gives every new patient a special gift when they check in as a welcome to our practice. They use a coffee mug that is filled with small eye care items and logo gifts. The receptionist directs the new patient to the free coffee bar in the reception room to fill the new mug with coffee.
Gift card at bakery — only pay if used. Many practices use $5 Starbucks gift cards for thank you gestures or other purposes. A doctor said she prefers to arrange with a local bakery or coffee house to print up special cards that can be redeemed for $5 and the bakery sends her a bill for all those that are used. The advantage is that she only has to pay for cards that are actually used instead of paying for all the pre-valued cards in advance and many of them are never used.
Keurig beverage. Keurig coffee makers that brew a single cup of hot or cold beverages are all the rage this holiday season. Many practices are installing them in the reception area and offering their patients to select from an assortment of flavors in K-cups.
Eyewear dispensing. Many practices make a show out of dispensing glasses and contacts by presenting the items on a nice tray with free care products and a special chocolate candy and a nice carrying bag.
Movie tickets. One practice I know gives away two movie tickets to every patient who refers someone new to the practice. If the practice also advertises in the coming attraction promotions at the same theater, the effect is enhanced further. The referral reward is not mentioned in advance; it just comes as a nice surprise. I think offering cash or gifts in advance for referrals can seem a bit tacky (I know it's popular, but I don't care for the image).
There are many other ways you can give a small gift to say thanks for the referral, welcome to our practice or we appreciate you as a patient. We have to spend money to make money!