I wrote about developing your marketing team last week and this article will outline some marketing strategies and tactics that you should consider. Most optometric practices can benefit in a major way by attracting more patients, so marketing is well worth the staff time and expense. It is smart planning to place your marketing projects on a 12 month calendar, so your practice is always doing something.
Forget about your personal opinion of social networking sites and understand that when used as a business development tool, they are very successful. I think the two most valuable sites for optometric marketing are Facebook and Google Plus, so be sure your practice has an active account with those platforms. If you are not familiar with those two networks, google them and read about them. Open a Facebook business page and claim your business on Google (they are free). Of course, there are many more social media networks, such as Instagram, YouTube, Yelp!, Twitter and many more, and once you are adept at working with social media, you can join as many as you wish.
Having an account that is basically inactive does not take advantage of the big opportunity available in social media. Appoint a staff member to post photos of your practice, write descriptions of your services, ask patients to like your Facebook page, and post items of interest on your page. Working your social media sites organically in this manner is free and it will result in more business, but it reaches a fairly small number of people in most cases.
If you want to take a big step up in your marketing plan, consider paid advertising on Google and Facebook. Generally, you only pay when a person clicks on your ad and you can set the daily maximum cost. You control many parameters for the target market which makes these programs very effective on a local basis. To find out more, just google Google AdWords or Facebook ads.
This is a general category of marketing that includes social media to some extent, but also moves into these areas:
Email blasts to your patient base sent by your practice.
The use of a communication firm like Solutionreach, Websystem3, Demandforce, 4PatientCare and others.
Online deals like Groupon.
Surveying your patients after every exam, which can parlay into online reviews.
Practice newsletters sent via email.
Appointment confirmations via email and text.
Using various media to communicate with your patients and the general public is only effective if you have something of interest to talk about. Running promotions, like a discount on products or services, is one way, but you should also consider hosting special events:
Trunk or frame fashion show
Open house celebration of some event, like a holiday, anniversary or special accomplishment
Seminars on some aspect of eye care
Screenings or free try-ons of some product
People love local businesses that are involved in the community. This is your big advantage over online vendors and big box stores, so play it up.
The doctor or manager attends community service clubs on regular basis, like Rotary or Lions Club.
The practice is an active member of the local Chamber of Commerce.
The practice sponsors local organizations, schools, sports and charities. This could be providing free products for raffles or buying space on signs, program books and table displays.
One or two staff members attend community events that are hosted by schools, retirement and assisted living facilities, parks and recreation departments, and other organizations. Have a tablecloth with your practice logo, give away free promotional items, provide brochures and answer questions.
Send doctors and technicians to vision screenings at local schools and health fairs.
Recall and reactivation
Review your system for recall notices or preappoint reminders. Also, be sure to have an ongoing method for calling patients who are past due for eye care. See tip #466 for advice on reactivation phone calls.
Website and image
Consult with your marketing team to review your practice name and logo. It may be time to freshen up your image without losing the value you have already developed in your brand. Also, be sure your website looks up to date. If you attract new patients using any of these marketing efforts, most will visit your website to find out more about your practice.
Additional ways to increase patient demand
In addition to the marketing projects I listed above, I like to consider two additional strategies that will increase patient demand and revenue production:
Word-of-mouth referral. This is fueled by excellent customer service, a high level patient experience and convenience in how you do business.
Vision plans. Vastly misunderstood by most optometrists, vision plan participation is very effective at bringing more patients to your practice and all of them are profitable. When managed correctly, they can be quite profitable.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.