Whether you are a young graduate opening up a private practice or a new associate O.D. in an existing practice, you are facing some kind of competition.
This competition can be in the form of other local practices targeting the same patients, or other optometrists vying to work at the same practice as you.
Welcome to the world of ECP marketing!
Marketing you or your practice has to be part of a plan to develop your activities, or simply reinforce your reputation as a good optometrist and help you stand out.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s just consider that we talk about “your practice” in this article as you are the captain of the ship that you want to “promote” - regardless if you own the practice or not.
While there are differences in terms of goals and who your “promotion” is targeted at, the way to initially think about it and build a game plan is similar.
Have you heard the expression: “as a business owner, you want to work ON rather than IN your business to successfully develop it?”
Well, most O.D.s, like many other doctors, will work IN their “business” because of the nature of the work. However, getting into the mindset of knowing you have to work ON your “business” to grow more steadily is a good start.
So how do you work “ON” your optometry practice to grow your patient base and succeed in your local competitive eye care environment?
As with all good plans, you need to start building a strong foundation before creating additional campaigns to reach out to your prospects.
The purpose of the foundation is to build trust and get potential patients who come across your name to start “liking” you, so that any subsequent promotional campaigns get more patients to choose you versus your competition.
This foundation also helps to connect you to “better” patients, meaning a patient that will be a better match to your profile as an O.D., creating a stronger doctor-patient relationship.
The three foundational elements you need to implement
1. A strong O.D. profile
Think of it as your extensive business card consumers find online (yes your patients are consumers and you need to understand this: patients have choices as to which optometrist they trust their eye care with, and they behave like consumers in making up their mind). You want their first encounter with your “name” to leave a positive impression on them.
A strong profile of who you are as an O.D., and as a person, will help establish credibility and trust, and personalizing it might help reach specific demographics with whom you might have a better patient-doctor relationship with.
Start by writing up a list of your “credibility elements”: your curriculum, experience, specializations, ...etc. Then make it more user friendly by adding “your story”: a short, more informal text depicting your journey to become an optometrist, and who you are as a person.
This will work wonders in helping “connect” you to the right patients. And finally, list your official “business” name, address and phone number, as well as additional information if you have it (contact email, fax, business hours, accepted forms of payment...etc.).
The next step is to create or claim your “business citations” online.
These are your business listings that potential patients or other ODs will likely come across if they search for you or your practice’s name.
Concentrate on the sites that really matter: Google My Business (formerly Google+ Local or Google Places), RateMDs.com, Healthgrades.com, Opencare.com, Yelp, Facebook, and optometry specific directories (local and national OD associations as well as industry verticals such as www.optometrists.org).
To save time and extend your reach, you can also use a “business data aggregator” service to disseminate your information out to multiple directories in a single submission (Infogroup.com, Factual, Localeze and Acxiom).
Make sure your business information is exactly the same everywhere: Name, Address and Phone number.
This is critical for search engines to identify all citations as pertaining to the same business and helps with Search Engine Optimization.
2. Build a strong online reputation
Patients read and trust online reviews.
- 77% of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor
- 84% trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation
- 87% of patients referred to your practice will look you up online first
Having excellent reviews also helps increase how much your patients spend within your practice.
- 22% of potential patients will be driven away by a single negative review
- when negative reviews surface in a Google search, you can potentially lose 70% of future patients
As you can see, it is important to get into the habit of requesting reviews from your patients.
You can certainly ask each patient in person to “please leave us a review." However, if you want a more “hands-off” approach, the most effective way to get this done is through a patient feedback request system.
Some PRM systems like ZocDoc, Demandforce and Solutionreach offer “reputation management” as part of their package; however, O.D.s that use them have found that while they can build up reviews on their profile page of the system’s own directory page, it is not very effective in getting patients to leave online reviews directly on sites that really matter like Google, RateMDS, Yelp… and others that come up high in search results.
Other specialty reputation management & marketing systems provide a better alternative, with SMS text and email based solutions that adapt to your patient flow and very effectively generate a continuous stream of positive online reviews on those important sites.
Negative reviews do not get published online but are sent to the practice manager, allowing issues to be dealt with internally before they get published online where they can damage your reputation.
While you may start to smile once you see a few 5-star reviews about your practice online, understand that this should be an ongoing process to continue building up your online reputation and minimize the impact of any potential negative reviews that every busy practice gets now and then.
3. An active social media presence
While there are many different marketing strategies available, in 2017, social media should be part of your groundwork in establishing you as an O.D.; however, your time to work ON your practice is scarce, being tied up servicing patients.
So on what social media platform should you wisely spend your time to make an impact?
The answer depends on what particular demographic you target; think of trying to answer: “where can I best reach my ideal patient?”
For many, Facebook or Instagram will be the answer.
Or if you like recording short educational videos to drip them out over time, Youtube will probably be your preferred platform in conjunction with one of the former.
Pick at least one platform.
Next you might wonder: “what should I post, how often, and how do I get people to engage with my posts?”
While providing extremely detailed answers to the above question will take more insight than the information in this article, here are a few pointers to push you into the right direction:
- Post 40% educational content (eye care or health related), and the balance should be local or practice related news, announcements or “fun” stories, or questions that will trigger engagement. No need for lengthy articles here. Remember these are “social” platforms.
- Publishing at least 2 to 3 times per week, and sticking to that schedule will greatly help to generate engagement. The post scheduling feature on these platforms helps optimize the time spent by allowing you to prepare content in advance and drip it out over time.
- Start building your network. Invite people to view, share, and like your page (Facebook) or Instagram publication. You can even use their “Boost” advertising feature to extend the reach into “look-alike” audiences and get more people to connect with you at a low cost.
Once you have established a weekly routine, spending about one to two hours per week should allow you to build that active social media presence.
1. Statistic Sources: Brightlocal.com, Real Strategic, Healthcarebusinesstech.com, Business Week, Forbes