Most ophthalmologists and practice managers view marketing solely as advertising to attract new patients to your practice. A better definition of marketing, however, is any activity that moves your practice in a desired direction. A desired direction may include increasing revenue, attracting new patients, expanding your presence in your market, introducing new services, or simply automating your practice to enhance the lifestyle you want.
There are many ways to go about achieving these myriad goals, but we’ve outlined some of our favorites here. If you want to market your practice and enhances its reputation in the eyes of your patients, here are our top 7 tips for marketing your ophthalmic practice.
Tip #1 - Have a Written One-Year and Five-Year Marketing Plan
Practices with a well-defined marketing plan typically outperform those without. Research has shown that the simple act of writing down one’s goals increases the likelihood of achieving those goals by nearly 40%.
First, you should develop your five-year goals, as your one-year goals should fit within and support your five-year plan. Don’t be afraid to dream big – as long as the goal is somewhat realistic, higher challenge will aspire your practice staff to reach for more and outperform.
At the beginning of each year, do a review with your staff and set goals for the year, with specific milestones and deliverables – revenue numbers, patient visits, review scores, etc - outlined along the way. Be sure to check in with your staff and see how you’re progressing on your yearly goals on at least a quarterly basis. This will allow your practice to make mid-course corrections, if necessary.
At the end of the year, review your performance and set goals for the next year, paying attention to how this year’s performance measures up against your five-year plan and where your practice should be at this point in time.
As we’ve discussed before, your goals should follow the SMART framework - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed.
Tip #2 - Optometrists and Opticians: Employ them, or market to them?
Deciding whether to employ or market to optometrists is a crucial part of building your practice…but there’s no one right answer for everyone.
For some practices, it makes sense to employ optometrists and do everything in-house. For others, building a strong referral network fits into their goals better. Ophthalmologists typically net around $50,000 profit per year for each employed optometrist, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.
Regardless of what is right for your practice, having a plan around marketing to optometrists and opticians will be a huge benefit. Your particular situation will determine which approach is right for you.
Tip #3 - Communicate Availability and Ease
There’s no denying it: your patients are busy and value convenience. Scheduling is often the most important function your office staff serves, so making sure that patients see your practice as available and easy to work with is vital.
Of course, designing scheduling systems that reduce the amount of time and friction encountered by both office staff and patients alike is a great place to start, but the following tips are also important to take into account:
- See new patients and referrals as soon as possible.
- See patients on time, and clearly communicate when the practice is running a bit behind schedule.
- Give patients a pleasurable experience in the waiting room – this will go a long way towards better reviews and higher patient satisfaction.
- Always address the patient by name, and ask how they are doing.
Tip #4 - Be Visible in Your Community
One of the most successful marketing techniques is often times ignored by practices that have grown and matured. Networking is important, and having your physicians and staff network among industry peers is vital to building connections and increasing awareness.
However, industry networking isn’t the only way to go. Making sure your practice is visible and active in your community can go a long way in increasing the stature and reputation of your practice. Leverage opportunities for local media exposure, community involvement, community service, and the like – being in public will pay huge dividends for your practice.
Tip #5 - Keep your name in front of patients
Research has shown that it takes an average of seven “touchpoints” before a consumer becomes familiar and comfortable with a brand. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure your name appears anywhere and everywhere patients may look.
At the very least, this means ensuring that you’re visible on the web, in local directories, and physician listing services. Signage in and around your office complex (as permissible) will help enhance your brand, and direct mail campaigns and local advertising opportunities can also be quite effective.
In addition to your practice’s name being visible, you should also highlight contact information and ways to connect, including your address, phone number, website, and social media handles. Ideally, these should be on every piece of communication patients see, from advertisements to online listings and every piece of paper that leaves your office, both promotional and educational alike.
Tip #6 - Have a great website.
If we’re honest, we’re a bit biased – perhaps this should be tip #1. In our ever-connected society, having a professional web presence is vital.
This is no different for ophthalmologists - in fact, 8 out of 10 patients will go to the Internet to research ophthalmic providers before ever picking up the phone or coming in for a visit.
We’ve written a lot about website design for ophthalmologists, but here are some general tips:
- Make sure it’s responsive and looks great on every device
- Have clear contact information on every page
- Enable patients to request an appointment with the touch of a button
- Integrate social media
- Use your website as a platform to leverage social proof and positive reviews
- Make sure it’s securely hosted and managed
Tip #7 - Patient Experience Comes Above All Else
It’s plain and simple: a patient that has a terrific experience at your practice is more likely to refer their peers to you.
Because of this, maintaining a commitment to quality is paramount to your success as an ophthalmologist. Providing exceptional patient experience is perhaps one of the cheapest and most effective forms of marketing you have at your disposal. It may not be “marketing” in the traditional sense of the word, but personal recommendations and word-of-mouth referrals can go a long way.
This certainly isn’t a comprehensive list of ways or best practices for marketing your ophthalmic practice, but these tips should help you take your practice to the next level, attract more patients and growing your practice substantially.
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