15 Practical Ways to Boost Your Practice
Whether you’re building an optometry practice from the ground up, eager to fill gaps in your schedule, or positioned to expand – you need patients. So in this article, we explore practical strategies that will have you maximizing your marketing resources and boosting your practice, faster.
That means, if you’re looking to:
- Introduce your new practice to prospective patients;
- Help grow a patient base for an associate;
- Highlight a new specialty;
- Make the most of your practice, so you can retire;
- Or, simply boost your appointments;
This guide was designed with you in mind.
Let’s face it. You wear a lot of hats.
When you became an optometrist, you probably imagined yourself spending a lot more time examining eyes. Yet, today, you find yourself knee high in tasks like overseeing the books, serving as the HR director to your team, and battling insurance companies.
There’s barely enough time to practice your craft, let alone market it.
But telling people how you solve their problems is critical.
Most optometrists see the value in spending thousands of dollars on new equipment and technology but fall short when it comes to letting people know they have it.
But what do people buy? We all buy the most effectively communicated solutions to our problems.
So, start with the right message.
Before you start marketing, you need to clarify your message. Start with a few simple questions:
1. Who are you? Specifically consider how you relate to those you serve and why they should trust you.
For example, “Hi! I’m Dr. Smith. We’ve probably passed carts in the grocery store or cars in the school pick-up line. That’s because, not only do I have the pleasure of serving more than 1,000 of your neighbours – I’m your neighbour, too.”
In this example, Dr. Smith showcases that she is part of a community, which makes her relatable. And, with more than 1,000 patients, she proves that many in the community already trust her, checking a box in prospective patients’ minds that they can trust her, too.
2. What do you offer? If there’s a service you perform 10 times to 1, talk about that popular service most! If you already have a significant population who want that service, there are probably a lot more who want it, too.
3. What makes you different? Tell your prospective patients why they should pick you over another practice. How are you uniquely solving your patients’ problems?
For example, Bringing your children to an appointment can be a struggle. Here at Smith’s Optometry, we provide child-friendly services and have staff that make their eye appointment fun! You no longer have to stress about bringing them to the office – this is a place for the whole family.”
In this example, Smith’s Optometry solved a big problem for parents by providing child-friendly options. They not only made them feel welcome, but also provided a great solution for the whole family’s eye care – giving them a competitive edge in the market.
15 Practical Ways to Boost Your Practice
Now that you’ve got a clearer message, it’s time to get it to market. We’ll start with marketing’s greatest hits and move on to standing out in a digital age.
When thinking about marketing – advertising in newspapers, on the radio, or in the phone directory, may come to mind first. These practices are the ‘Traditional Marketing’ practices used for years by companies and marketers alike. They are tried and true for results, and although it can be hard to measure the success, many practitioners still choose these traditional marketing ways for a classic touch and proven effectiveness.
1. Print, Broadcast and Outdoor Ads
A great ad never fails to catch the attention of those who see or hear it.
Think about how many times you drive by a billboard and look at it, or hear a catchy jingle for that car place on the radio. You may not buy what they are selling right away, but after seeing/hearing it a few times, you are definitely going to remember the message.
These traditional advertising tactics are great for attracting prospects who might not be planning to go to an optometrist soon but, when the need arises, they’re likely to remember the ad. This kind of advertising gives a surround-sound effect to your other marketing activities.
2. Branded promotional products
Promotional products are a great way to raise awareness and brand recognition about your practice. Ever hear about Nike? Their swoosh is on everything they make and has become a signature brand worldwide. Wearing your brand is a great way to spread awareness about your practice. It not only helps with brand recognition, but also shows patients you are proud to be a part of the business.
Make sure your name or logo is on everything you hand out – lens cleaning cloths, cases, cleaning sprays. It will not only remind patients who gave them that lens cleaner they use all the time, but is also an opportunity to strike interest from the people around them. While you may not be personally cleaning their glasses, your brand is.
3. Referral programs
A happy patient who raves about your services and products becomes a free marketer, whether that patient realizes it or not. Referral programs are a great way to give your patients the opportunity to actively market your practice and get something out of it. Consider offering a small discount or giving a gift card to those who refer a new patient to the practice.
By rewarding those who help grow your business, you are showing that you see value in them and their referral, which will grow their loyalty to you.
4. Business Partnerships
Have a few companies around the corner from your practice? Give them a call or stop in for a quick visit and introduce yourself. There’s a possibility that these companies could be on the lookout for nearby practices who can provide eye exams or safety glasses for their employees.
Another great way to do this is to talk to your existing patients and ask them what they do for a living or where they work. You’ll quickly find out the names of the right people to talk to at their company or get an first-hand introduction from your patient.
5. Networking with other physicians
Don’t forget about starting a conversation (or reconnecting) with other healthcare professionals in your area. Look for independent and privately-owned practices, like yours, and suggest a co-management arrangement. It doesn’t have to be an iron-clad agreement bound by contract. It could be something as simple as referring a fellow healthcare provider for a patient’s other health needs, and asking how the other practitioner would like the referral to be done.
- “If I were to refer my patients to you for their other health needs, do you have a preference on how I do that?”
- “Could I have a few business cards to hand out to my patients in case they need your services?”
As your name comes up more and more, you’ll start to see referrals coming in from the other healthcare practitioner, too.
6. Optometry Lecturing
Consider attending or hosting a wellness fair with other local practitioners. These events are a great opportunity to educate people about eye care and share your expertise as an optometrist.
As you share goodwill and show that you care, it boosts your reputation and your practice’s, too.
7. Giving time for local charities
Joining medical missions and charities is another way to be active in your community. It’s a great way to build trust and establish your practice as reliable and responsible.
Your patients will see that you give back to the community and share your talents outside of your workplace, giving them a higher opinion of you and your practice. They might be more inclined to keep coming back to a practice that cares about their community.
Besides, contributing to a worthy cause can reinvigorate you and your team. Show your passion for helping others, and it will come out in everything that you do!
Traditional marketing does work, especially in small towns. But, if you’re banking on it alone, you’re missing out on opportunities to maximize your time and marketing resources and, ultimately, growing your practice, too.
What’s the best thing about digital marketing? It offers real-time data that accurately measures the success of your campaigns and statistics about your target audience. That means you can stop wasting money on the things that flop and start focusing your resources on the efforts that perform best!
- Website Creation and Maintenance
Most people in this day and age find the things they need online, including finding a doctor to care for their eyes. A website will not only be your online presence for them to find you, but will give insight into who you are as a practitioner and a practice.
What patients see is what they get, so the more information you can give them, the better. At the very least, you should have a basic website, providing the essentials: background information, services offered, schedule, map listing, and contact information. This gives patients the things they absolutely need to know and not much else.
The better option, although a little more work, is to have a detailed, information-filled site that communicates an identity and a unique story. This is always preferred because it portrays the personality of your practice and can give patients a better idea of what to expect in person. Things like blogs, FAQ, news articles, pictures and bios of the staff, frequent updates and up-to-date information all help to share your story as it relates to your patients, making them comfortable before they ever walk in the door.
Insider tip: Remember that your patients are the heroes, not your practice. Show how you help them along their journey rather than giving them a ‘slide show’ of year by year history.
2. Consistent messaging
Being consistent with your messaging is key to gaining authority and trust. It is important that both your messaging style and the way you communicate with your patients is consistent – and subconsciously sends the message that they can rely on you.
For example, sending out updates and messaging with different fonts, sizes, formats and even wording can make you look sloppy and unprofessional. Streamlining everything to be consistent will immediately make you appear more trustworthy.
You will also appear more trustworthy by keeping your patients at front of mind. Let them know when appointments are, when things are changing, when you are closed for the holidays. Be it through email or messenger chatbots, keeping your patients in the loop will make them feel important, updated, and part of your community.
Got a new clinical service or a promo offer? Letting your loyal patients know about it first via email, before officially putting out an announcement in your practice or on your website, will make them feel valued and part of an exclusive, insider’s group.
3. Video Marketing
Are you warm, positive, funny, or confident? Do you explain eye health-related concepts well? If so, video marketing might be a great option for you. Videos allow potential patients to see who you are. It’s the closest thing to a one-to-one meeting and it’s a vital way to build trust with your potential patients. A simple video can make patients see that, all your achievements aside, you’re a neighbourly healthcare provider who’s there to assist them.
4. Social Media Presence
Having a presence on social media has never been as important as it is today. Most of your patients are using it and if you aren’t, they may see you as less credible. Having social media allows patients to see how you interact online and what you find important. Are you only posting your achievements, or are you showcasing ways you offer a better patient experience?
Facebook has over two billion active users. Instagram is catching up at over one billion active users. These platforms significantly influence our day to day lives, and also influence most potential patients’ decisions. It goes without saying that having active accounts on these platforms can significantly boost brand awareness.
Your presence on social media is a great way for patients to interact with you online, whether it be checking in at your practice on Facebook, tagging your account on Instagram, or sharing your practice with other people (eliciting a word-of-mouth effect online).
5. Online Searches
Gone are the days when people browsed the business directory when looking for a service provider. You can do this almost instantly with up-to-date information online through a quick search. Because of this, you want to make sure you are showing up when potential patients are searching for services you provide.
Google My Business is a free listing service provided by Google that has become common practice for businesses to have. It is a quick reference for patients to use when they’re looking for an optometrist near them.
You can customise it to show more about your practice by adding photos, descriptions, hours and more. You can even measure how many people call you or ask for directions.
Likewise, your website must keep up with the latest SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques for it to rank high when searched.
6. Online Ads
Online advertising is one of the most effective ways to reach a wider audience. Putting ads on Facebook or Google allow you to reach a specific niche by targeting characteristics like age, gender or interests.
Trudi Charezn, co-founder of Marketing4ECPs, knows how important it is for Optometrists to tap the right audience on digital media.
“Literally 58% of eye care consumers are mobile, searching on mobile,” Charezn says in an interview with Matt Geller for NewGradOptometry. “It is so important right now to have a good mobile experience when it comes to somebody searching and finding you,” Charezn explains.
7. Managing Reviews
Prospects trust other patients’ perspective about healthcare providers, like you, more than they trust your degree, awards, website and everything else you are doing. Just think about the last time you purchased something on Amazon.
Important Note: Check with your local Optometry governing body to see if collecting reviews is allowed in your area- the USA is fine, but Australia is not.
If reviews are allowed:
Start getting those reviews! Ask patients to leave reviews for you on Google and on social media, and ask your best and most loyal patient for a testimonial to use on your website or other marketing.
8. How to handle Negative Reviews
Obviously we only want great 5 star reviews to show up, because having positive patient reviews on Google, your website, or your social media pages can greatly increase your practice’s credibility. The reality is that bad reviews will show up and you need to know how to deal with them.
Regardless of whether or not a review is good or bad, you should ALWAYS respond to it. When coming across a bad review, remember these three steps:
- Thank them for letting you know about the issue.
- Acknowledge that you hear what they are saying and you want to make it right.
- Take the conversation offline, either to email, messaging, phone or mail.
Never go back and forth with a reviewer on the review itself. Regardless of what they say, you will look bad for arguing with a patient.
If reviews aren’t allowed:
Stick to general mentions about the experience of visiting your practice and testimonials about your optical dispensing.
Ready to up your marketing game?
With so many avenues to boost your practice, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Plus, you already have a full-time job. So, let’s connect!
At Optomly, we help independent optometrists rise above the corporate marketing noise and get an optometry marketing game plan. This helps you feel excited about growing your practice without the stress of doing it on your own! When you work with us, you get to focus on your passion and vocation as an optometrist and practice owner – while we help you get more patients.
We want to see you build a strong brand for your practice, communicate clearly to potential patients, and showcase the irresistible value you offer as a solution to their problems.
Let’s start with a free online audit of your presence on Google. It arrives in your inbox for free in minutes.