Optical practices operating in today’s dynamic business climate would likely have noticed an even greater shift in the media landscape and its impact on consumer behaviour during the past 12 months. We know most small business owners struggle to find enough time in the day to implement change to stimulate practice growth, so we’ve prepared a short list of things to prompt you into action to defend your patch, try new things and grow your practice.
Start with “why?” and refresh your message every year
Your optical service offering is unique and forms part of a recurring cycle of eye care for your current patients. But you have to respect the power of choice, and patients can stray to other providers, if only for curiosity’s sake. Why are you the most suitable eyecare provider for your current patients and why would patients be worse off going elsewhere? Answering this question will give you and your team absolute clarity about why you are in business and should come across in everything you do, especially in marketing and patient communications.
Be in the business of running campaigns
We understand that many practices owners come from clinical backgrounds and that business skills are a work in progress. One of the driving forces of today’s retail landscape is that consumers are attracted to new offerings, new technology and modern service models. When was the last time you communicated a particular offer to your patients?
Start by committing to one to two significant promotions a year
You should be proud to offer these and they should be better and more interesting than anything else available to patients in your area. Most importantly, they should align with your “why?” message mentioned above.
Assign responsibility and resources for campaigns
This is a simple one. Despite the best plan, unless you dedicate a specific person or team to implement the necessary steps along with a modest budget, the chances of a successful campaign is very slim. We have seen many good ideas sit idle, so define and motivate your campaign team today!
Find your effective medium
How do you reach patients effectively? It’s true that social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are becoming more influential in the way we can reach people, but consumers are saturated with marketing messages. If your message is strong enough, and the method of delivery is targeted to capture attention at the right time, this can be achieved with Google or Facebook advertising. SMS campaigns to your patient database can work well since people are tethered to their phones these days and typically over 95% of SMS messages are read.
Printed letters are still being used by many practices as a reliable and formal way to recall patients, in fact, this is still proving to be the most effective method and it’s something we are closely monitoring within our patient recall programmes.
Where are your patients “landing”?
Your team is likely spending a lot of time trying to get patients to pay attention to your advertisements and patient recall messages. Focus on the patient experience, ensuring your message displays well on mobile phones and has a clear “call to action”, ie. to book an appointment or call your practice phone number. These calls to action can be measured, which gives you valuable insights into what works and how much money you are earning as result of your marketing efforts. Most importantly, ensure your message is simple, current and compelling.
But where are your patients going when they follow a link in your marketing? This destination should be customised to your campaign and is called a landing page. Use a landing page builder (there are plenty online) to save you time and ensure you have an effective page design to get the most out of your advertising efforts.
Communicate between appointments
SMS your patients! Not too often, but at regular intervals to keep in contact between appointments. This provides an important relationship builder which can be a very effective defence against competitive offers. It can also build awareness of your products and services as a primer to your recommendation for things like multiple pairs or contact lenses.
You will need to ensure that you have a clearly defined list of patients who qualify for opt-in communications via SMS. Depending on your country, there are rules which allow you to communicate with your customers via SMS if they have transacted with you within a certain timeframe.
How will your practice exist online?
Consumers are now accustomed to interacting with businesses in conjunction with online retail models such as “click and collect” and contact lens order replenishment. All of this means you have a digital shopfront to maintain across all of your social media profiles, your website, Google My Business (which includes your maps listing as well as numerous other directories), etc. It’s important to review all your online assets and ensure your brand and message set you apart.
Robert Springer is the technical director of OptomEDGE, an optometry-focused marketing agency covering campaigns, printed and digital recalls and patient communications. To get in touch and learn more, please call: +64 9 889 3179 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.