5 marketing tips to grow a practice without breaking the bank

March 13, 2019

Marketing is an important part of any business. ODs who use this process to build their practice’s brand awareness can motivate patients to refer new patients, increase sales, grow their business, and engage with new patients. Unsure of where to start? Follow these five tips to get the marketing ball rolling at your practice.

Marketing is an important part of any business. ODs who use this process to build their practice’s brand awareness can motivate patients to refer new patients, increase sales, grow their business, and engage with new patients.

Unsure of where to start? Follow these five tips to get the marketing ball rolling at your practice.

Related: Why it's important to have a marketing plan1. Signage and point-of-purchase materialsCost: Free to $25

Quality over quantity is always best. Be mindful of signage on display at the practice -this will avoid cluttering the reception desk and overwhelming patients.

A good rule of thumb is to always have point-of-purchase (POP) material that is current. Do not display a faded counter card or a picture of a frame that has been discontinued since 2015.

What is better than POP? Customized signage for the office. Personalize signage and ensure it looks professional. Online resources for do-it-yourself (DIY) signage are Canva, Avery, and Vistaprint.

All websites are easy to navigate and allows the use of practice’s logos and images, as well as integrating with social media accounts.

Vistaprint1 offers promotional items such as wall posters, counter cards, and flyers.

Canva2 and Avery3 enable users to print from their computers. However, I personally opt for having the company print for me because I think it looks more professional.

When looking for inspiration on how to design signage, try making a sign with the practice’s top frame style and include a call to action (CTA) like, “Schedule an eye exam today for your entire family.”

Or feature a picture of your own family members wearing sunglasses with the question, “How do you protect your family's eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays? Inquire today about prescription sunglasses for everyday use.”

Related: 3 strategies to grow your practice

2. Design a custom brochure for your practiceCost: $40 for 100

This may be the best opportunity for ODs to showcase what they do best as eyecare professionals. What unusual services do they provide patients; do they offer visual therapy or treat dry eye? Do they specialize in prescribing hard-to-fit contact lenses; do they have an in-house lab and can make glasses in the same day? Mention these services in the practice brochure.

Do they carry distinctive elite eyewear? Add pictures in your practice brochures to help patients visualize a practice’s style. Any specialized services an OD offers patients should be mentioned.

When a patient takes this informational brochure home, an OD has the opportunity to reach other members of his family.

A CTA should be included in the brochure. Something as simple as, “Do you know someone with dry eye? Give us a call for a consultation (insert phone number here).”

An OD can include a picture of herself, her associates, and her staff. This makes the brochure more relatable for patients when they see it again in their home. It might be surprising how many times we have asked new patients, “How did you find us?” and they mention seeing our brochure in the backseat of a car or at a friend's house.

3. Join CareCreditCost: Free

CareCredit is a credit card for healthcare payments. It can be used to help patients pay for their treatments, follow-ups, and eyewear.

CareCredit also encourages patients to purchase multiple pairs of frames-offering them a no-interest payment plan if they qualify-and even emails a list of local ODs in the area the potential patient can call for an appointment.4

As a CareCredit provider, a practice will be viewable by all the company’s credit card holders to see. When they are ready to find an eye doctor or purchase glasses, they will find a practice or OD on the list.

CareCredit emails its cardholders and encourages them to use their credit for annual exams, including eye health. Many patients new to our practice have found us on the list of providers accepting CareCredit and bring their family with them. 

This is one counter card ODs may want to display in their offices, saying, “We accept Care credit" or "Apply for CareCredit today.”
4. Social mediaCost: Free

ODs know that online retailers do an excellent job bombarding patients on a regular basis via social media platforms, television, and even those annoying retargeting ads that pop up on computers’ sidebars.

Because ODs usually see patients only once a year, it is essential to have a social media presence to stay in contact and in view all year long.

It is essential to have a presence on social media. Display appropriate signage in the office to encourage patients to connect with the practice. 

Not sure where to start? Pick two social media platforms and focus on those for now. Do not get overwhelmed. Ask ideal patients which social media platform they prefer. If they are mostly on Facebook and Twitter, post there. If they hang out on Instagram and Twitter, focus on those two.

Related: 3 strategies for social media success5. Promotional productsCost: $0.10 to $25 each

People like free things. What better way to market your practice than by providing meaningful, useful gifts with a practice’s logo? These do not have to be expensive; everyone needs a pen or a keychain.

PopSockets5-customizable grips and mounts for smartphones-seem to be popular these days with the younger generation. Place a practice’s logo on a PopSocket, and it will be featured on younger patients’ phones everywhere they go.

At my practice, we gift a branded folder to patients’ households and tell them to use it for their vision information and paperwork.
This folder is a walking billboard, and we receive multiple calls a week for appointments because someone noticed it.

These promotional items can range in cost from pennies to $25-if an OD decides to gift a high-end product like a Yeti thermos for her top referring patients.

Sheena Taff from Optician About Town gives her patients an eyeglass-shaped bottle opener key chain. This gift is a mindful and useful item that will cause patients to remember her services every time they open a bottle or grab their keys.

Sheena can be followed online for inspiration on all things eyewear and optical fashion on her blog www.OpticianAboutTown.com and on Instagram at Optician.about.town.

BonusM&S Technologies Smart SystemCost: Over $1,000

If the marketing budget is larger than average, consider investing in technology to impress patients. No one likes to be kept waiting and staring at a blank wall or boring eyechart.

M&S Technologies Smart System computerized vision testing systems is a high-tech, alternative to chart projectors.6 Its computerized vision testing systems are optimized with a variety of randomizable charts, contrast sensitivity protocols, and multimedia functions to deliver comprehensive and accurate vision testing.6

My favorite aspect of this projected eye chart is the ability to play customized videos while the patient is waiting in the exam room. This system is compatible with software like Rendia, previously known as Eyemaginations. Informative videos about vision as well as videos customized to the practice can be played.

One of the best things my practice began doing was uploading our Facebook Live videos to the M&S system. Facebook allows users to download live videos from a business page. However, this is accessible only if a practice has a business page-not a personal page.

When patients see a Facebook Live video of ours in the exam room, they often engage and follow us.

Additional marketing strategies include posting outside signage and creating business cards. These should be designed with a CTA to make an appointment as well as branded to reflect a practice’s style.

Conclusion
Not all ODs have a juicy budget to hire a public relations and marketing agency to handle their marketing. These marketing ideas can be implemented by ODs themselves to grow their practices.

Most patients see ODs once a year. Others come in more frequently or bring in family and friends. Regardless of the frequency, ODs need to make a phenomenal impression. Use this time to maximize marketing and inspire patients to use word of mouth to refer more patients and grow the practice.

Read more by Dr. Canto-Sims

References:

1. Vistaprint. Signage and trade show displays. Available at:  https://www.vistaprint.com/signs-posters?xnid=TopNav_Signs+and+Posters_All+Products&xnav=TopNav
Accessed 3/7/19.
2. Canva. For Work. Available at: https://about.canva.com/work/. Accessed 3/7/19.
3. Avery. Custom Printing by Avery WePrint. Available at: https://www.avery.com/custom-printing/. Accessed 3/7/19.
4. CreditCare. What makes CreditCare different. Available at: https://www.carecredit.com/howcarecreditworks/prospective/. Accessed 3/7/19.
5. PopSockets. PopSockets Custom Grip. Available at: https://www.popsockets-promo.com/products/popsockets-custom-grip. Accessed 3/7/19.
6. M&S Technologies. Smart System Standard. Available at: http://www.mstech-eyes.com/products/detail/smart-systemreg-standard. Accessed 3/7/19.

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