10 for 10: How to Market an Eyecare Practice

Welcome back to the second installment of our new blog series, 10 for 10: Ten Questions for VisionWeb’s Tenacious 10! Here, you’ll meet 10 of VisionWeb’s Chiefs, Directors, and all around awesome folks! Learn about our company personality, upcoming projects, the executives’ takes on industry trends, and much more! 

Series 2: Heather Smith, Director of Marketing

Heather SmithBoy, are you in for a treat today! Meet the brains behind VisionWeb’s marketing strategies, the Director of Marketing, Heather Smith! We may be a bit biased, but we believe she is a Colonel leading a marketing revolution in the eyecare industry! And, we aren't the only ones who think Heather is spectacular! Vision Monday selected her as one of their Most Influential Women in Optical 2012! So, get to know Heather behind the scenes! Bonus: You’ll get insider tips on how to market your eye care practice from our expert, Heather!

1. So, what exactly is your role at VisionWeb?

I’m the Director of Marketing. My team essentially functions like an in-house marketing agency. If you see it and it’s VisionWeb, we produced it!

2. What is the one piece of advice you have for eye care practices who want to market themselves better?

Marketing for opticians and optometrists should be fun, not tedious. If you aren’t excited about the marketing that you do, you can’t expect your audience to get excited about it either. I think that businesses, especially those in healthcare, get nervous that showing their personality or having fun in their marketing will come across as unprofessional. So, they shy away from things like social media (like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube, Google+, or Blogs) because they don’t think patients will take them seriously if they are too accessible or if they show that they are “real” people. Patients and consumers are so much smarter than that! They want to feel engaged, and the best marketing makes them feel that way.

Look outside of your industry! I think it’s always interesting to see what other businesses or industries do to market themselves.

3. Would you recommend incorporating online or offline media in an eyecare practice’s marketing strategy?

Yes and yes! I don’t think a practice should limit themselves to just one type of media. The reality is that patients today are spending more and more time online. They expect to be able to find a website for a business, and they want the convenience that the Internet affords them. So why not incorporate email marketing, websites, social media, etc? It’s easy for you and for the current and future patients. However, I still have a deep appreciation for “traditional” communication.

For example, I always love it when I get a birthday card from my doctor’s office, and that is absolutely marketing. In my opinion, customized messaging like that is some of the best marketing because it makes me feel appreciated and engaged! I think that the important thing to consider for both online and offline strategies is what is actually going to capture the attention of your target audience. Don’t count one strategy out over another, but don’t feel like you have to have a presence everywhere “just because”.

4. With so many social media platforms, how do you choose which are best for a practice?

The best platforms for your practice are the ones that your patients actually use, where you can share information they care about, and the ones that you can actually put the effort into maintaining. If it doesn’t meet that criteria, nix it. The number one thing to know about social media is that it’s only good if you’re social and interactive. So only use the ones that will fit with your practice. If your patients don’t use Twitter, why bother putting the time in to maintaining it? We certainly don’t use every social media community! We only use the ones that we can have meaningful interactions on.  

5. Tell us a little more about rebranding VisionWeb! Why a rebrand and what excites you most about it?

VW Logo

VisionWeb has evolved significantly since being introduced to the industry in 2000, both in the breadth and depth of our service offering and in the ways we interact with our users. Yet until now, the visual representation of our brand has remained virtually unchanged. We made the decision to refresh the VisionWeb brand and website to better reflect who we are as a company today, and to be a better representation of VisionWeb as we focus on continued growth. We’ve come a long way, but we’re not stopping any time soon! It’s exciting because it creates so much energy when you refresh a look and introduce something new. We just couldn’t wait to share it with the industry.

6. When marketing for VisionWeb, do you normally utilize tried and true methods or try to take new approaches? What has been most successful in the past?

Oh we definitely like a little of both! There’s nothing more boring than doing the same thing over and over, so we’re constantly trying to find new and innovative ways to reach the market.

One of the things that’s been the most successful for us was to stop and really ask ourselves, “How can we help the practices that use our services?” Then, we decided that instead of thinking about the features and benefits of VisionWeb, which we know our users are smart enough to figure out, we focused on creating content that they could really use in their practices. So we started putting together ebooks, and writing our blog, and sharing content that other people in the industry are putting out. Some of it is closely related to the services we offer, some of it just useful information that doesn’t relate to us at all.

The point is, we focus  on the customer and their needs. Hopefully they see us as a resource for their practice, because that’s truly what we want to be. Rather than shoving that down their throats, we decided to prove it, and the response has been great.

7. What do you anticipate to be the biggest marketing trend of the year?

The pairing down of social media. That’s not to say that I think social media is going away, not in the least. However, I do think businesses are realizing that not all social media platforms are created equal when it comes to the benefits they will receive from using them. For a while, it seemed like everyone felt like they had to be everywhere; Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, FourSquare, Quora, Blogs, Pinterest…the list goes on. I think businesses are finally going to say, wait a minute, I don’t need all this and my target audience doesn’t want to see me on all this.

8. Would you recommend eyecare practices jumping on this bandwagon?

Absolutely! Practices are busy. Who has time to focus on every social media platform when only a few yield results for them? If the platform isn’t giving you what you need, don’t be afraid to kiss it goodbye.

9. Since you’ve been in the industry, how have marketing strategies changed overall?

Marketing has gotten so much smarter. It used to be about generating as many impressions as you could, just blasting information out over and over until you could get it to stick. Now, it’s about making meaningful engagements and creating lasting impressions. Everyone has been over-stimulated with the “Look at me! Look at me!” types of marketing messages, so we’ve all learned to tune it out.

Customers today are harder to get! To capture their attention, businesses have had to stop focusing on themselves and start focusing more on the customer. And they can’t just say that they care about the customer, they have to prove it by being more accessible, more engaged, and offering up content that the customers can use. It’s been a big change, and it’s going continue to become more important and marketers will have to stay on their toes, but I think it’s been the best change. Even better than the rise of social media.  

10. What do like most about working at VisionWeb?

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I love the fact that this company embraces innovation and encourages employees to do the same. We’re not afraid to try something new or go out on a limb. We’re constantly trying to find ways to do things no one else is doing in our industry. Our management supports us all the way, and they give us the freedom to bring new ideas to life. Plus, we have a lot of fun. That’s a pretty powerful combination, especially for a marketing team.

Heather is definitely as cool as they come! Not only is she kind and caring, but she is a leading innovator behind marketing in the industry. Heather is always striving to think outside the box, and it shows. The marketing team here at VisionWeb salutes this leader of the marketing revolution.

Stay tuned for the next installment of 10 for 10! In the next series, we interview VisionWeb’s Director of Customer Relations, Juanita Burke.

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