+61401395441 leigh@optomly.com.au

You know when you have a great conversation with someone? That’s what it was like for me with Dr Darryl Glover and Dr Jennifer Lyerly from Defocus Media.

We talked about Optometry in Australia, similarities to the USA, improving our scope of practice, and how to grow your practice with digital marketing.

Listen to the Podcast episode on your favourite App:

Like to read? You can read the full interview below:

Darryl Glover:               What’s up ODs and eyewear lovers. We’re talking the latest trends in tech and eyecare, so sit back, relax, and defocus.

Jennifer Lyerly:            Well hello and welcome to the Defocus Media Podcast. I’m Jennifer Lyerly, and I’m joined by my good friend Dr. Darryl Glover.

Darryl Glover:               Yeah, I’m in the house, Jen. I’m so excited today because we have a friend from all across the world here with us today.

Jennifer Lyerly:            You know, when we first started too, by the way, just starting on social media with our business as Defocus Media and getting the word out there, one of the people that we were interacting and communicating with so much was Dr. Leigh Plowman of optomleigh, and so it’s such an honour to actually have you on our show now.

Leigh Plowman:            Thank you so much for having me on.

Jennifer Lyerly:            Also, your voice is such a delight. I just need to say that.

Darryl Glover:               Hey, man, you might have me beat now. Everyone always talks about my voice, and now you’ve taken over, man. I’m a little jealous there.

Leigh Plowman:            You’ve got the voice. I’m just trying to play catch-up with you.

Jennifer Lyerly:            No, we’ll kick Darryl out for your voice. I’m just kidding.

Leigh Plowman:            When I was in high school, I did three years of junior high in Portland, Oregon, and my classmates would often come up to me and get me to say, “It tastes like it’s got butter inside.” – Edit: Here’s the Youtube Link to this Ad 🙂

Jennifer Lyerly:            That’s so strange.

Darryl Glover:               No, no, no, you’ve got to hear what he’s saying, Jen.

Jennifer Lyerly:            Oh, I’m kind of slow on the uptake.

Darryl Glover:               I like it, man. I like it. Well, tell us a little bit more about yourself, man. Tell us about your background and why you pursued this amazing profession of optometry.

Leigh Plowman:            Sure. When I was four years old, my parents were talking with my preschool teacher, and they thought that … They were just talking, and they said that I just wasn’t concentrating very well. They brought me in for an eye exam, I went to a behavioural optometrist, and I found out that I was a plus six and I had some amblyopia. I went on to have patching, and I’d put stickers on my glasses and other treatment for amblyopia.

Leigh Plowman:            I’ve always loved science and maths, and in my first year of college I did science and engineering. At that time, I was thinking about optometry, but I didn’t want to commit straight away. I wanted to keep a more general focus, but at the same time, my mum was starting to be an optician and learning to do lens edging for a practise. She was having a bit of trouble at the time with some of the calculations, and I thought that maybe if I studied optometry that I could give her a hand and help her work out some of the calculations. But I knew that I wanted to put back into optometry as a profession, and now I’m 20-20 in both eyes with only a couple of letters difference.

Jennifer Lyerly:            That’s really, really impressive. I often times wonder when I’m seeing a kid and we’re doing patching therapy, I feel like they hate me, you know? I’m doing all this work to try to help them, and they seem miserable. But it’s so awesome to hear, no, you really enjoyed your experience and even decided to pursue it as a career after that experience as a child.

Leigh Plowman:            Absolutely. It’s so important for everyone to have good vision. I think learning to read, just the focusing skills, I think it’s invaluable. And, as a child, to get stickers or see the improvements, I think it’s been great. I would hope that more kids get to have that same experience like I did.

Darryl Glover:               Yeah, that’s a pretty cool experience, man. Let’s dive a little bit more into just the profession of optometry in Australia. Can you just tell us about the college level and also just how optometry is in general?

Leigh Plowman:            For sure. I was able to do a four-week externship at ICO, Illinois College of Optometry, which is awesome. I got to see some great docs there, so I just really respect optometry in the U.S. But coming back to Australia, that experience really helped me in my learning and experience.

Leigh Plowman:            When I was in the ICO, I was able to see just how schooled the students were for something as simple as Goldmann Tonometry. They just seemed so quick to me at the time, whereas it took me forever to set it up and get a reading. Just seeing the skills that those students had was fantastic.

Leigh Plowman:            But optometry in Australia, it’s very similar to the U.S. except that there is a universal health system called Medicare, and we’ve had this for many years. It applies to every Australian citizen, and it gives a rebate for having an eye exam. But the government has been not keeping up with inflation or cost of living, so the rates have effectively gone down. The optometrists have been hamstrung up until a few years ago because we couldn’t charge above Medicare. If we agreed to do Medicare, we’d have to stay within the rules and only charge up to a certain point.

Leigh Plowman:            I think with some of the pressures that we’re facing with corporate optometry discounting, even online dispensing as well, those pressures are starting to add up, so practitioners have to decide to make a difference, decide to be intentional, and to value their time. They’re starting to set fees that are reasonable. That helps patients to value their services but also for the optometrists to help to feel more valued in their own practise as well.

Darryl Glover:               When you first started out of school, did you go to work for a group practice or did you start your own practice?

Leigh Plowman:            I went to a private practise. They had three or four locations, and I was able to travel around to different locations. My first couple of months, I was working alongside another optometrist, so I could knock on the door if I had a question or just wanted them to drop in and see my patient or check a few things for me. But then after that time, I was able to travel around to different locations within that same practice, and you get a taste for the different dynamics of different cities.

Leigh Plowman:            I’ve always enjoyed regional or rural optometry. I think I love the scope of what we can do. I’ve got therapeutic endorsement as well, so I can prescribe topical medications. It just gives more freedom to be able to make a difference for my patients.

Jennifer Lyerly:            In Australia, can optometrists prescribe oral medications or just topicals?

Leigh Plowman:            Just topicals at the moment. Orals is certainly on our ‘Christmas list’. I can say that there’s a growing movement that we’d love to be able to add orals to our list, and maybe one day, even do some basic laser capsulotomies or iridotomies as well would be awesome.

Darryl Glover:               I’m assuming most of the ophthalmologists are doing the oral prescribing. What is your relationship with ophthalmologists in Australia?

Leigh Plowman:            Ophthalmologists are very helpful. There’s people that have very good close relationships with ophthalmologists, and some ophthalmologists are very willing to share patients, to consider optometry as a colleague rather than just a postdoc glasses refraction person. I think those relationships are great, and we want to try to promote that collegiality more.

Leigh Plowman:            Some ophthalmologists tend to be … You refer a patient to them, and then they take care of everything. Then when they’re done, that’s when the patient comes back to you. I think going forward it would be great to see more of a continued working, close relationship relationship.

Jennifer Lyerly:            Sounds like not so different than American eyecare is the picture you’re painting as far as the relationship between optometry and the medical community.

Leigh Plowman:            Yes. Yeah, for sure. Some specialists are great. It’s just maybe their nature or they’re just willing to have a conversation with you. It’d be great to see the U.S. docs do that as well.

Jennifer Lyerly:            At the top of the show we were talking about your alter ego, your social media Instagram handle. I want to get to share that part of your life and your work in optometry. Why did you start optomleigh and what drove you to go into social media marketing?

Leigh Plowman:            Sure. When I was a new grad going out to … I liked to work in the one practise so that I can get to know stuff and patients really well. Often the owners of the practise weren’t onsite. They’d want to stay up-to-date with what’s happening and how the practise is going, but that started me thinking about, okay, how can I help them to grow their practise? What are some of the things that I can do that can make them proud that the practise is growing and just feel reassured that the practise is in good hands?

Leigh Plowman:            Even though I wasn’t an owner, I still wanted to take responsibility for the practise. That’s when I started thinking about social media. For me, it’s a platform that’s there for the taking. I think we’ve never had the technology that we’ve had before, having easy access to a smartphone, and we can hop onto a platform and talk to our patients whenever we want to and we can keep up-to-date with them, keep them up-to-date with what we’re doing on a regular basis. We can also be authentic and genuine as well.

Leigh Plowman:            I think that social media, although there’s the pressures of dispensing and having capture rates under pressure, I think social media’s giving us the opportunity to step up and talk to our patients in a real way. That’s why I got into the social media journey, just to help other practitioners to think a bit more about putting themselves online and making the most of the opportunity for their practise.

Darryl Glover:               I think, also, it’s because you’re a tech geek like myself. I always see you with all these cool devices, whether it’s a new camera or some type of cool tool to enhance that social media experience or platform, am I right?

Leigh Plowman:            Absolutely. I’m a real geek. I’m definitely an Apple geek. I’ve got nearly everything with an i in front of it. Yeah, just love the technology but also being able to make good use of it, and justify it, and help get it working for practitioners.

Darryl Glover:               Let’s talk about social media a little bit more. What platforms are your favourite platforms for patients, and what are your favourite platforms for colleague-to-colleague?

Leigh Plowman:            Sure. I think for patients, and it would great to get your comments on this as well. I think Instagram is a great platform at the moment. I know both of you guys have really good solid followings on Instagram. I see your posts regularly come up, but I think Instagram is almost like the new Facebook. There’s opportunities there for practitioners not only through posts but also through stories to be able to document their day, talk in little 15 second bytes about something they’ve experienced today or something they’ve been inspired about.

Leigh Plowman:            I had a patient recently who was working on a movie set. There was a U.S. movie that had been filmed in Australia, and he was just talking about what it was like to work on set. We were discussing that while I was testing his eyes, and it’s just inspiring to hear these stories and go on a journey with patients. If you can share stories like that on social media and Instagram, I think it’s a great place to jump on. Certainly a part of that, Facebook’s also critical too because virtually everyone has a Facebook profile these days. Whether you think someone’s on there or whether you don’t, it’s very likely that someone is already on the platform. You can reach them with Facebook ads, and Instagram shares that same ad platform as well.

Jennifer Lyerly:            Do you feel like it’s gotten harder in the past even six months to connect with potential patients on social media? I feel like some of the tactics and advice that used to work really well to grow a following, it seems harder than ever to grow and find followers organically. When we used to think of social media as free platforms, I feel like everything’s kind of changing with algorithms where it is like you have to pay to be seen sometimes now.

Leigh Plowman:            You bet. Yeah, it’s definitely getting harder. You have to be more strategic in what you’re posting. Even in January this year with Mark Zuckerberg talking about the recent Facebook changes, that they want to prioritise engagement, they want people to have discussions, conversations, not just have one comment but back and forward comments. I think that takes a skill to be able to lead a conversation that way, so it’s important that we can try to prioritise engagement in our feeds.

Leigh Plowman:            Gary Vaynerchuk talks about Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. You guys have probably read that book or head him talk about that before?

Darryl Glover:               Oh yeah. He’s probably the most out there guy when it comes to social media. He speaks his mind and he doesn’t hold any punches back, that’s for sure.

Leigh Plowman:            Yes. If you want [inaudible 00:13:00], it’s almost like a triple shot of coffee. He’ll just inspire you, and you’ll go for it.

Leigh Plowman:            He talks about serving, giving information, helping, and maybe you write five posts or six posts about some helpful information, and then at the end you have an ask where you ask people to jump on my website or go ahead and try to encourage them interact with you, to do business with you. It’s still definitely important to serve first, and I think that’s a great way because it’s important that, as private practitioners, patients get to know us before they come in the door. If they can already know, and like, and trust us, then we’re much more likely to be able to have that deeper relationship with them and to have them as long-term, loyal patients for our practise.

Darryl Glover:               You know, I think you just made an extremely great point. Jen, I tell you, every time we do a lecture, the one thing I always tell people: Be more intimate on your social media. Sure yourself, show your family, show what you do on the weekends because that’s what patients want. They want to know that you’re a person just like them, and they want to build that relationship. As you had mentioned, once you form that relationship before they come into the office, it’s going to make it so much easier to pull things out of them and prescribe per their lifestyle and also increase your bottom line at the end of the day when you have that type of information and that type of relationship.

Darryl Glover:               I’m glad that you guys on the other side of the world are thinking the same way that we are over here, man. That’s awesome.

Leigh Plowman:            Absolutely. I love that.

Jennifer Lyerly:            I agree, Darryl. The mistake that all of us are talking about that people are making in the optometric community when it comes to social media is they’re thinking about creating posts. Who cares about creating a post? What you need to do is tell a story, create a conversation, do something to serve the community and get the word out there about interacting with the community one-on-one. If we think about a post and what the post looks like, that’s totally missing the point, and that’s why people are feeling like their social media isn’t working for them like they expect it to.

Jennifer Lyerly:            Leigh, do you have other common mistakes that you see doctors making when it comes to their social media?

Leigh Plowman:            Yeah, I think there’s a massive opportunity for video that some doctors either haven’t really thought about it or might have dabbled only a little bit, but video is the way to put yourself out there to show who you are, to show your personality, and to be able to put your practise online.

Leigh Plowman:            I can see that for some docs, they might be fully onboard with video, but their team’s still lagging behind a little bit. Maybe they’re nervous or they just never thought they’d have to do videos as part of being an optician or a dispenser, but I think getting that buy-in from staff is critical. Something like doing Instagram stories and getting used to filming a video, contributing to the practice’s social media, I think that’s a great way to get buy-in from staff and getting them to help promote your practise. I think at the end of the day, it also helps increase their enjoyment. If they’re more engaged with promoting your practise, then they’re more likely to enjoy it, have fun with it, and patients can see that enthusiasm that they’ve got.

Jennifer Lyerly:            When it comes to video, are there certain pieces of technology that you feel like are essential to have in order to do it right?

Leigh Plowman:            Yeah, for sure. Starting with the smartphone is a great way to do it. Video’s really good. The quality from the cameras that we’ve got, whether it’s an iPhone or an Android phone or a Windows phone, the quality is fantastic these days. Being a gadget guy, I love this sort of stuff. But I think it’s important that we have good quality audio as well. It could be as simple as investing in a 30 dollar lavalier mic, something that you can plug into your phone and get that good audio quality. That’s going to help you so block out some of the background noise, and when patients are listening to you, it’s going to sound a whole step higher, a whole step better, than just the mic that comes built in to the smartphone.

Leigh Plowman:            I think the other part of that is also recognising that some patients at 10:00pm, they’re scrolling though their feed, and they don’t want to have audio turned on or they just want to get a taste for what you’re talking about before they go ahead and turn the audio on. I think having captions transcribed is great for your video too, and it’s something that you can get … There’s online services where you can pay a dollar a minute to get transcriptions done, and it helps boost that engagement with your video so that you can get people to really dive into what you’re saying and then encourage them to share a comment or start a discussion underneath it.

Darryl Glover:               I’m very excited about video. I know Jen and I, we’re really going to hit the video scene pretty hard this year, and we’re just trying to make sure we get in shape and look good for the camera. It’s one thing to be behind a microphone and no one can see us, but hey, we’re trying to get to where we need to be before we release our beautiful faces to the world.

Darryl Glover:               But one thing that I do like about video is that you can really repurpose that content, and you can get a lot of data from that content as well to help enhance whatever you’re doing, whether it’s for your practise, whether it’s for your business, if you’re consulting. What type of information are you taking from video that you’re utilising in different ways?

Leigh Plowman:            Absolutely. Yeah, video’s awesome because you can make it work for you in so many different ways. Maybe you’ve got a recorded video or a live video and you’ve got a transcription done from that video, you can then turn that into a blog post if you have a website, so you’ve got the text underneath it. You’d be surprised how much text you can get just from a simple video, and that’s great for your Google ranking through keywords. But you can also embed the video on your site, and that’s another good way to keep people on your site and help to improve your SEO by keeping people on there for longer. The transcription and embedding the videos are a really, really important idea.

Leigh Plowman:            I think another really underutilised area of video is testimonials. Not all practitioners, depending on where you practise, can get testimonials. I know in Australia we’re limited in what we’re able to say with testimonials, but assuming that you’re able to use testimonials, getting patients whenever they say, “Thanks for the wonderful job you did”, help that to trigger in your mind this would be a great testimonial for my website, for my Facebook, for my YouTube channel. But not only grabbing that testimonial video, but also thinking about the words that patients use to describe their eye problem and using those same phrases and words to then update your website.

Leigh Plowman:            I think websites can be written from a technical point of view, and we know that for us, as optometrists, we might describe eye conditions in a certain way, but patients think of it differently. They might talk about, “I can’t see”, or there’s different symptoms that they’ll describe. If you can use those symptoms on your website, if you can describe things using their own language, then you’re much more likely to convert someone who’s trying to compare 10 different doctors in the area and trying to weigh up who’s more likely to help them.

Jennifer Lyerly:            That is such a great point. I started blogging back in 2011, and I oftentimes wonder why has the eyecare blog I’ve written … why do I get so many views every month? And I think it’s because I wrote it like a patient was reading it and not like a doctor was reading it because that was my technical expertise. I was a new grad optometrist writing these articles, and the search keywords, you know, “My eyes are red”, “My eyes are itchy”, “eye goop”, that turns a lot more than “injection” and “chemosis” and these doctor words that we write. “Hyperemia” isn’t going to get you a whole lot of Google search results when you’re trying to reach patients.

Leigh Plowman:            Yeah, absolutely, and that’s amazing that you’ve got so much traffic just from describing it in the real way. I love that.

Jennifer Lyerly:            You have a lot of clients as far as social media marketing goes for optometrists. Let’s say someone comes to you, this year their goal is, “I want to grow my practise by 10% next year.”

Jennifer Lyerly:            Do you have steps to reaching that success that you could share with us?

Leigh Plowman:            Yeah, for sure. I think, certainly, jumping on video now, getting comfortable yourself using video but also getting the buy-in from your practise staff. I think that can help to really put your practise forward in the right way, and because videos, as well … People who do watch those videos, we can re-target with ads. Maybe you’re talking about dry eye, ad you might have a short recorded video or you might have a live Q and A, question and answer, video about dry eye. You can re-target people who watch your videos, so then you can send them follow-up ads: “Hey, have you had your eyes examined in the last 12 months or 2 years?”

Leigh Plowman:            It’s about thinking of the social media as a journey and bringing people through, or a bit like a funnel as well, so bringing people through that funnel and leading to an appointment, and then practise into your front door. I think thinking about those steps that you want people to do before they actually get in the door and creating a seamless process there.

Darryl Glover:               Awesome. Well, those are some great tips. Before we let you go, man, you have to tell us. What’s the top three things that we have to do in Australia?

Leigh Plowman:            Absolutely. It’d be great to have you guys come visit. My wife and I had our honeymoon in Cairns in Queensland, and that’s right near the Great Barrier Reef. It’s like Florida but with the Great Barrier Reef, so it’s an awesome place. You can go for a walk along the beach at night. It’s nice and warm weather. Beautiful during the day with sunshine, and the colours in the water, swimming with the fish, it’s just an awesome experience, so definitely check that out.

Leigh Plowman:            Also, going down to see … I live not far from the Great Ocean Road, and you can see some of the amazing rock formations along the Great Ocean Road. Some great beaches there. It’s easy to go surfing. White sand beaches too, so that always helps.

Jennifer Lyerly:            Question for you. Kangaroos, scary or cute and friendly? They seem kind of scary to me from afar.

Leigh Plowman:            Sure. Most of the time they’re more than happy just to watch you, so they’re intrigued with what you’re doing, but it would be hard to go up and approach one. They’re more likely to run away from you.

Jennifer Lyerly:            Oh, okay. They don’t attack you regularly?

Leigh Plowman:            No.

Jennifer Lyerly:            That’s good to hear.

Leigh Plowman:            Another place to check out is Healesville Sanctuary, that’s in Victoria, and you can actually get up pretty close to some of these native animals like kangaroos and koalas. You can see them being fed. You might even get to pat one as well, so to get up and close and to see some of these great animals, Healesville Sanctuary’s a great place.

Darryl Glover:               Awesome. Well, I know the folks from Australia are just beautiful and great people. One thing I learned from them is that they also like to party. I partied with a few of them a few years back out in Vegas for New Years, and they were telling me that the hip hop scene out there is pretty large. Is that true?

Leigh Plowman:            You know what, I’m still getting my head around hip hop.

Darryl Glover:               Hey, I’m going to send you some music, man, so you’ll know all the latest jams and hits, all right?

Leigh Plowman:            You bet.

Darryl Glover:               Awesome. Well, Leigh, man, we greatly appreciate having you on the show, and we look forward to being on your Facebook Live show at some point in time in the near future. But for those that want to learn more about digital marketing, about video, about just everything that you have going on, what’s the best way for them to contact you?

Leigh Plowman:            Thank you so much. It’d be great if you could follow me on Instagram. It’s @optomleigh, so o-p-t-o-m-l-e-i-g-h, and it’d be great to connect on Instagram. You can watch some of my stories, and I’d love to have your comments and feedback. Yeah, it’d be great to connect there.

Darryl Glover:               Awesome.

Leigh Plowman:            Yeah. Thank you guys so much for having me. I believe in optometry, and I thank you so much for all the work that you guys do to promote it.

Jennifer Lyerly:            Back at you.

Darryl Glover:               Okay. It’s a wrap. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to hand out with Defocus Media. We hope something resonated with you today. Please subscribe to our podcast, and remember, we keep it 20-20 around here, pun intended.

Darryl Glover:               We look forward to seeing you next time.


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