A major growth problem for many eyecare practices is getting new patients through the door. And, with busy schedules it can be hard to brainstorm ideas for new marketing tactics that will bring in new patients. In such a competitive market, differentiating, or standing out at all, is a huge advantage for creating business through your optical marketing strategy.
The best optical marketing strategy begins with the approach that you and your staff take to patient care. If you strive to anticipate every one of your patients' eye care needs, and go above and beyond their expectations, then you're much more likely to make an everlasting impression that will inspire loyalty, delight your existing patients, and generate word of mouth referrals for your practice.
Many large corporations and businesses rely on traditional methods of advertising and marketing to help their brand grow, and to keep business efficient. With the average optometrist spending approximately 1% to 2% of gross revenue on advertising and marketing, practices must be more creative and result driven with their marketing strategies. These 4 cheap and effective marketing ideas could be the spark your practice needs to see increased growth this year.
If you're an eyecare practice in a rural area, maintaining a strong sense of community is a great way to build your customer base. Cost effective ways to create this bond and increase word of mouth is sponsoring local events such as a 5k run/walk, hosting educational classes at schools, or even a little league baseball tournament. The opportunities are nearly endless as any community or charity event going on will be a great way to build positive brand awareness. When you or your staff volunteer at different events, try to keep consistency and increase brand awareness by wearing shirts with your practice's logo on it.
Sports teams may welcome your practice as an eyecare consultant to help raise awareness of eye protection. Take the opportunity to speak with coaches or league commissioners at all levels of the sport from semipro to little league. This is a fun way to get involved with an audience that most OD’s haven’t thought of communicating with yet. Patients who are coaches or athletes could be a good starting point to getting your foot in the door.
Signing up and being active on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is completely free, other than the time it takes you to post and manage the content on your pages. Maintaining up-to-date social media pages for your practice is a way to stay connected with current and future customers, and is a great medium for showing some brand personality and having a little fun with your patients. Photography or selfie contests, promoting new products/services, or just getting a conversation started are all ways to connect and promote your practice’s brand online.
Remember, people like doing business with people that they like, so if visitors can connect and build a relationship with you online, it's likely that you will be top of mind when they are searching for an optometrist. Be sure to pay attention to your Facebook or Instagram Business accounts analytics pages to look for engagement patterns that emerge when targeting audiences of different ages, locations, and time zones.
Your current patients may be the most powerful marketing tool you have in your arsenal. If your practice is struggling, make your current patients the primary focus of your initial marketing efforts. If you treat your current patients right, their recommendations to family and friends may do more to build your practice than you could ever do on your own. A questionnaire on any new patient paperwork is a good way to keep track, and reward, the patients who generate word of mouth referrals for your brand. Sending gifts to patients who refer maybe more than 3 people is a good way to show your appreciation.
Even if you are relying on word of mouth marketing, you should still develop a brand that best reflects how your personal practice operates and ensure that everything you and your staff do supports your brand. Strive to be consistent, accurate, and always deliver the level of patient care that is promised and promoted. The gifts don’t have to be expensive; the gesture is what's important. People like recognition, but most importantly they love to get things for free.
Senior centers, assisted living facilities, and retirement homes are places where you can speak and provide practical health information on cataracts, glaucoma, and other common age-related eye complications that senior patients experience. Creating an outreach program with senior citizens will get you further involved with your local community and help create awareness of your practice for an audience who isn’t as active online.
A major factor to every successful marketing program is tracking your response rates and return on investment over time. Watch your sales, new customers, and the demographics of those customers to help evaluate if your outreach programs are worth the effort, time, or budget spent on them.
Marketing, whether it’s simply through word of mouth or through creative outreach programs, doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money or cause you to stress. Marketing is simply influencing the choices of your patients by demonstrating the value of your service. Marketing to potential new patients shouldn’t be seen as a tough sell, but rather a welcome invitation to get them the professional care you know you can provide.
For deeper guidance on marketing your optometry practice, read our ebook on running your practice like a small business.