By Maddie Langston, IDOC Practice Marketing Consultant
As a marketing consultant, I often field questions from optometrists in private practice regarding the best tactics to use to increase the number of new patients. I understand the concern! While some well-established practices enjoy seeing lots of new faces each month because of referrals from friends and family members, some newer practices are faced with the real challenge of establishing brand awareness and so their concerns are understandable. Marketing budgets can be tight, and many have been disappointed with lackluster results in paid advertising. Any paid advertising must truly pay off as there is no money to waste.
All that said, there is another group of people I’d like to talk about who need attention in your 2019 marketing plan: your current patients. Your current patients may only visit you once a year, so even the impeccable experiences you work so hard to deliver are few and far between. It’s important to regularly "touch base" with your current patients for a few good reasons:
To stay top of mind with them for eye care and eyewear, not only for themselves but also for their friends and family. If someone asks them, "who do you see for eye care?" you want to ensure they think of you.
To educate them on additional services you provide at your practice which they may not understand – particularly the specialties.
To compete with the constant barrage of advertising on Google, Facebook and Instagram from online retailers.
Consider thinking about how often you interact with existing patients. You may be surprised to discover that the only time you communicate with them is to remind them of their next appointment – nearly a year after the last one – with no touchpoints in between. That can be a real miss in a good marketing plan because they are already familiar with you and your team and there are cost-effective ways to communicate with them throughout the year which you already have in place.
One nice way to maintain visibility with current patients is to encourage them to follow your practice on Facebook and/or Instagram with a contest – "follow us and enter to win". The prize doesn’t have to be expensive! Partner with a locally owned restaurant and give away a gift card for dinner to the winner. This is a great way to increase your following and creates the opportunity to stay in front of them throughout the year with nice content.
Another way to tell your patients how much you appreciate them is by implementing a "patient of the month" program. Pick a patient each month who is your idea of a "model" patient and ask the staff to weigh in on the choice. Reward them with a gift basket or small prize. This is an excellent use of your marketing budget! You can also share the details on social media, with their authorization, to reinforce to your followers that your practice really does care about patients.
If you have a good email program, consider sending out quarterly campaigns which provide good information for them. Educate them on additional services at the practice. Let them know about the brands in your optical. Big retailers email often, but quarterly is a good cadence to start with if you haven’t been in the habit of sending out marketing campaign emails.
As consumers (myself included) continue to spend an incredible amount of time online through mobile devices, it’s more important now more than ever to reinforce the relationship you have with your current patients. I encourage you to think through new ways to touch base with them throughout 2019.
Maddie Langston brings extensive experience in marketing and sales administration and has developed strategies to drive sales for various industries. Most recently, Maddie developed marketing programs for a national network of independently owned auto repair service centers. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Liberty University. Maddie and her husband Jim have a teenage son and two beagles. She enjoys reading, watching documentaries and hiking in her spare time. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.