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Leverage digital strategies to grow your patient base


a paper displays the text "online marketing" outlined in red

Atlanta-It is safe to say that most ODs want more patients. And when that’s the case, ODs must find new ways to market themselves in order to get more referrals, more direct access patients, and more business from past patients.

Andrea Knouff, OD, of Atlanta, discussed marketing tactics for ODs at the Southeastern Educational Congress of Optometry (SECO) 2020 annual conference. During her lecture, she outlined strategies to grow business through online customer relationships, email marketing, social media marketing, and building a reputation.

Related: 5 lessons I learned from visiting another dry eye practice

Stay relevant
Some 20 years ago, most patients found their family optometrist by word of mouth. In today’s digital world, ODs can gain patients through new options.

According to Dr. Knouff, ODs don’t have to be an expert in marketing to learn how to incorporate it into their practices. With no prior experience, she  taught herself jargon in 2013. From there, she was able to build her small practice into one with a jam-packed schedule from digital marketing efforts.

“Are you tech savvy?” Dr. Knouff asks. “You don’t have to be, you can learn.”

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For successful practitioners who don’t want to be left behind in today’s internet economy, digital marketing fundamentals are a must. Six affect business growth:

1. Website
2. Local search engine optimization (SEO)
3. Pay per click (PPC)
4. Social media
5. Email
6. Reputation management

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Dr. Knouff says the most important of these is website, particularly the home page and “about me” section because most people will spend the majority of their time there. She recommends posting consistent store hours such as 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday on the home page so this basic information is easy for potential patients to find and remember.

Related: Experts offer advice to ODs starting dry eye subspecialty


Optimize search results
When it comes to search engine optimization, ODs should regularly monitor metrics.

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Dr. Knouff recommends ODs perform a geo-spatial analysis of the area surrounding their practices to determine a target audience. Information from such an analysis might include median income, mean demographic, how much money different ZIP codes spend on designer frames, and even what kind of music locals like. ODs can use this to their practices’ advantage by targeting certain ZIP codes with digital advertisements and even playing preferred music.

Keep it compliant
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted several years before social media, but rules govern what doctors can and cannot share online. Do not ever discuss patient details online, and post photos only with written consent.

Related: Why practice owners should create a simple business budget

Dr. Knouff offers three easy tips to help clinicians stay compliant:
1. Do not disclose if a poster is a patient
2. Keep responses short and general
3. Always be courteous, no matter what

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Following these steps will help to maintain a favorable reputation and online presence.

Remember that 97 percent of consumers go to online sources to research local business, Dr. Knouff says, and 75 percent admit to judging a business based on its website alone.

What’s more, half of every dollar spent in an office location is influenced by a digital interaction, according to Dr. Knouff. It is likely time to ditch the old-school mailer.

Related: SECO 2020 at a glance

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