Most optometric practices do very little marketing. There is very little budget for it and there is no time to work on it. I understand the dilemma; indeed many marketing projects end up as a break-even proposition after you deduct the costs of the promotion, the discounts provided, and the cost of goods. So here is a new two-prong approach: 1) Concentrate on the many free and nearly free marketing opportunities that exist and 2) Appoint a marketing director.
I'll list some ideas below, but to make them work I advise that you delegate the entire process to a marketing specialist. If your staff is currently very busy with other duties, consider hiring a new employee with the marketing job description. Most practices will split the Director of Marketing duties with other tasks, but you need someone dedicated and interested in marketing.
Director of Marketing
I believe this new job position will more than pay for itself by driving new patient demand and generating additional revenue. Don't worry about how many hours per week the employee will devote to marketing; you can figure that out as you go along. Hire or appoint a full time employee with the understanding that the marketing role will be part time and other duties will include the front desk, pretesting or optical dispensing. A full time schedule allows some marketing work to be done every day and it allows the marketing director to be available to follow-up on tasks and accept return phone calls. Marketing projects need ongoing attention.
Keep in mind that four good things happen when you hire a new employee:
Customer service improves.
You will delegate more.
Productivity increases (see more patients per day; sell more to each patient).
Performance by other employees improves.
Hiring a new employee often jump-starts a practice and helps it grow; even more so if the marketing effort is increased in the process.
Here are some characteristics to look for when appointing a marketing specialist:
Training or experience in sales or marketing
An expressed interest in sales and marketing
A friendly outgoing personality
Good presentation skills
A flare for design
Excellent computer skills; use of social media
Once you have someone dedicated to marketing and sales, all kinds of ideas will pop up. Here are a few to get you started:
Social media coordination. It takes ongoing effort to make your Facebook business page work for you. Hold promotions and post interesting status updates for your growing fan base of “likes”.
Pay attention to printed materials. Design a brochure, develop a welcome folder, make new patient handouts. Redesign your practice logo and use it everywhere.
Work with a web design firm to finally get a great website. Invest here.
Coordinate staff programs like a staff appreciation luncheon, hold a contest with teams selling second pairs, have some training sessions on sales techniques.
Call on school nurses and principals to talk about vision care for students; join a program to help kids who can't afford eye care or start your own.
Host a fall frame fashion show with the help of reps.
Improve the merchandising in optical with new displays, brand awareness, sunglasses, and point-of-purchase materials.
Work on tools to help your staff sell full year supplies of contact lenses and to improve your own online contact lens ordering portal.
Work with an online communication company to send email thank you messages and birthday greetings. Increase the number of online reviews you get from patients.
As you can see, there is a lot to be done and you need a dedicated staff member to embrace it and make it happen. There is not much cost to any of these projects but patients will notice, word-of-mouth referral will increase and staff morale will get a boost. Stop waiting for patients to find you on the list of vision plan providers.
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.