Research suggests that around 39 percent of adults consult an eye care professional once a year. While an eye visit is a routine consumer activity, getting your share of the right types of patients is anything but ordinary.  And, doing so on a small budget is even more challenging.

Marketing your optometry business involves a careful analysis of marketing strategies and organizing a well thought-out marketing plan. Here is how you can attract and retain your ideal patient on a budget:

Benefits of Targeting the Ideal Patient
To make your optometric practice more effective and cover all your costs, it is imperative that you use relevant marketing tactics to attract the ideal type of patients. With the right patients coming in, you will be able to:

· Earn a higher return on investment

· Understand patient needs better

· Market your services in a cost-effective manner

Being able to target the right client base through better marketing strategies will enable your clients to have a better understanding of what services to expect. Having a good idea of what your customers want will also help you add value to your products and services.

There are 2 simple steps to identify the ideal target market:

1. Marketing Segmentation

Analyze the primary characteristics of your ideal patient. Start with segmenting the market intodemographic, psychographic, geographic and behavioural categories. Evaluate where your target market stands in order to move closer to achieving a holistic overview of your ideal patient.

2. Patient Persona

Once you have completed segmenting the market, you are bound to have a good idea about your ideal patient. Ask yourself what kind of patients you enjoy working with the most. List down some common attributes based on health attitudes, income, occupation, interests, habits, age and method of payment.

Figuring out the ideal patient does not mean you should refuse to treat those who do not meet your criteria. The goal is to make your business more profitable by prioritizing quality over quantity.

Marketing Tactics to Attract and Retain Your Ideal Patient
Good marketing strategies for your optometric practice do not have to be expensive; they just need to be efficient. You should aim to market your products and services in a way that they provide valuable information to your target audience while increasing brand loyalty.

You can easily minimize your budget once you figure out details regarding your ideal patient and optimize your marketing tactics and spending accordingly.

Both traditional marketing and online marketing strategies are likely to benefit your business as long as you ensure you pick and choose the right ones based on the clientele you wish to attract and retain.

Conventional Marketing
Although the internet is gaining popularity as a marketing platform, it has not yet eliminated the need for conventional marketing practices. Some vital tactics include:

1. Referral program

A patient referring your practice to other people is not only an efficient marketing strategy but is also a compliment as it assures you that you are doing your job well.

Start a referral program by offers such as a voucher, discount, gas card or lucky draw token. This is a good way to show your appreciation and promote your services.

2. Take out time for local charities

Strengthen your brand loyalty by joining charities. This will help build trust and establish the reliability of your optometry practice.

When patients notice your efforts to give back to the community, they will hold you and your practice in higher regard.

3. Broadcast or outdoor ads

An eye-catching advertisement or an infectious jingle will not fail to get noticed. Radio is an effective and reasonable medium to tap the local market.

A well-designed billboard ad is also likely to be retained by people. Whenever they will feel the need to consult an optometrist, they may recall your advertisement.

Online Marketing
In this day and age, the scope of digital marketing is growing tremendously. Having a noticeable online presence allows you to attract a large customer base and is easy on the pocket.

1. Email Marketing

Keep sending emails to your clients from time to time to reinforce their preference for your products and services. Ask people for their email addresses when they register with your services.

You can email people about new offers, newsletters, and reminders for yearly check-ups. Moreover, you can also market in subtle ways by sending out informative emails regarding eye health.

2. Website and SEO

Focus on developing a website that is designed well and provides visitors with valuable information about your products and services. When patients search for an optometrist’s services, they are bound to use a search engine rather than a traditional phonebook, which is why it is important to have an effective and professional online presence.

Make sure the visitors on your website enjoy a good user experience. In order to be visible to the right kind of users, your website must be optimized for search engines.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a process that ensures that the site is structured in a way to rank higher on the search engine results page. It involves tweaking your website to increase its loading speed, making it mobile-friendly and placing visible calls-to-action to convert visitors into customers. Consider hiring an expert.

3. Social Media Marketing

The latest findings show that as many as 2.7 billion people are active on Facebook every month. The importance of maintaining your presence on social media cannot be overstated.

Make sure you are visible to your target audience on leading social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Routinely update your clientele about new offers and practices to keep them engaged.

Choose your marketing platforms wisely in order to attract and retain your ideal patient. Both conventional marketing and digital marketing avenues can be used in a cost-effective manner one you have a clear idea of your target audience and the way to reach them.


1. Statista

2. Statista


is the founder of Corporate Optometry, a peer-to-peer web resource for ODs interested to learn more about opportunities in corporate optometry. Canadian ODs and optometry students can visit to learn more.


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You might think that competitive snooping is uncomfortable, but it is one of the smartest and most effective ways to grow and develop your optometry practice. You need to to research your competition.

Keeping tabs on what other market players are doing helps you identify their strengths and weaknesses. This, in turn, can help you create a unique value proposition that makes your own services stand out.

Here are ten easy ways to perform competitor analysis in your optometry space:

  1. Go to Professional Conferences (SOON We hope we can!!)  

Attending trade shows, professional conventions, and conferences is an excellent way to stay up to date with what your competitors are doing. Interact with their representatives to learn about their services and product offerings. Meet your competitors socially and get to know them.

  1. Read Industry Reports

This can help you gain insight into the current market conditions and the latest advancements in the industry. Corporate and even privately held optometry firms have to file certain reports with various regulatory authorities on a regular basis. These might be available directly on the local planning commissions’ website, or you may get access on request. If the company is publicly traded on a stock exchange, a lot of information is available.

  1. Check Out Your Competitor’s Online Marketing Strategy

Every business in the modern world has an online presence. Browsing your competitor’s website can tell you a lot about their services and how they operate. If you have a basic know-how of SEO, you can use tools Google Trends to identify how other optometrists are attracting visitors. Take note of social media platforms they are using, how they post and what content they post. Engagement is key, how are they engaging their audience?

  1. Email Strategy

You can subscribe to your competitor’s newsletter on their website. This will keep you in the loop in regards to how they communicate with their customers. You will get insist information on new topics or products in your inbox!

  1. Secret Shopper

This is hands down the most comprehensive strategy for doing a competitor analysis in optometry. Getting someone to get information on employees, supplies price points and how patients view the practice is critical.

  1. Partnerships

Look out for any advertisements and job openings that other players in the industry may post from time to time. Pay attention what they are looking for in a candidate and who they partner with for their business. You should be thinking big picture long term.


is the founder of Corporate Optometry, a peer-to-peer web resource for ODs interested to learn more about opportunities in corporate optometry. Canadian ODs and optometry students can visit to learn more.


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Marketing has become a more complicated endeavour for optometric practices.  Not too long ago, offices would ensure their business listing was in the Yellow Pages and would maybe pay for an ad in a local publication. That was the extent of their marketing.

Today, marketing for optometric practices includes many more elements; building a website which needs to be refreshed every 3-5 years, spending money on Adwords and maintaining a presence on different Social Media platforms.  The question we are always asked is how much do we spend?

In general, we recommend that our practices spend 5% of their average monthly gross revenue. We also need to understand what the clinic’s business goals are, which will impact this spend. If the clinic is rolling out a growth strategy – because they are bringing on a new associate, offering more office hours or even opening a second location – the spend is going to be greater.

If the goal is to ensure that the clinic keeps it’s new patient acquisition number close to their attrition rate, the spend may be a bit lower.

Once the clinic has determined how much they are budgeting for their spend,  it is critical that the clinic then track some key metrics to ensure they are getting the expected ROI.

I am going to use an example in order to demonstrate how we evaluate an ROI for a practice’s marketing spend.

A clinic wants to increase its new patient numbers. It currently brings in $60 000 gross revenue on average per month.  If we multiply $60,000  by 12 months we know that the clinic brings in approximately $720,000 in gross revenue every year.

The marketing budget should be 5% of $720,000 which is $36,000.

Further, this clinic’s revenue per patient is $300. Therefore, if the clinic spends $36 000/year or $3000/month, the breakeven point would be 120 new patients over the year or 10 new patients in each month month. The 121st patient represents the net gain.  In order to claim a return, we would be looking for at least 11 new patients each month.

As well, in order to accurately credit this marketing spend to new patient acquisition, you will need to determine that it is NET of new patients from previous marketing efforts. If you have been averaging 20 new patients every month, then your break even on the marketing spend is 30 patients.  Only at the 31st patient are you starting to see an ROI.

Every business needs to spend money to make money – and that includes Optometry. It is critical to invest in advertising dollars to ensure that your business is healthy and continues to grow.  It isn’t enough, however, just to blindly invest dollars.  It is critical that you also take time to evaluate the impact of the marketing efforts so you can pivot as necessary.


is the co-founder and managing partner of Simple Innovative Management Ideas (SIMI) Inc. and expert Practice Management contributor for Optik magazine. She can be reached at


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My practice is constantly looking for ways to enhance our patients’ experience and care, and our profitability. In 2014, we re-branded our services and business by closing two old offices, and opening one new, better office.

A brand is a promise you make to your patients. In our case, we wanted that promise to be that every patient leave our office happier than when they walked in. Happy because of our service, happy because of the care, and thrilled they chose us for their complete eye health care services. We embarked on a total re-brand. We changed everything, from location, office interior design, to staff.

Survey Patients
We started the re-branding process by surveying current and prospective patients. That process involved finding and surveying at least 50 patients who had returned two times within three years, and had referred someone to the office. In addition, I identified and surveyed 50 people I knew from my personal life, whom I thought I would enjoy having as patients, on what they would like to experience in an eyecare office.

We then surveyed all these people–both those who were already our patients and those we hoped would become patients–on virtually every aspect of the office including name, location, logo, colors and office flow. We wanted to learn what made patients happy, even happier, because they had visited our office.

Refresh Your Image
The survey data we gathered was invaluable for our design company, Eye Designs, LLC. My wife, who manages our practice, and has strong interior design abilities, spent weeks with Eye Designs choosing new carpeting, flooring, optical displays and wall colors. Meanwhile, I secured a new location, and worked on our logo, advertising and marketing strategies.

Start Anew
In 2014, our previous practice, which consisted of two locations, closed, and within months, we opened one new, re-branded office: New Era Eye Care. The costs of our re-branding were significant, with an investment upwards to $95,000, which did not include potential patients lost because of the changes. But the reward has been incredible. First, our practice metrics tell us our new patient base is increasing by more that 10 percent each year. Second, the patient base we had prior to the re-branding has stuck with the practice well beyond our projections.

We did a zip code analysis, and set a goal of 60 percent retention of patients for the zip codes that most of our previous practice came from. With our targeted patient communication and promotion, that number was exceeded, giving stability to our growth. New patients now account for around 20 percent of our annual visits.

Update Your Diagnostic Technology
In addition to re-branding our image and patient experience, we updated our diagnostic and business technology.

First, after exhaustive research and assessment, we purchased a newer electronic health records system. This effort led us to working with FoxFire Systems Group and their integrated EHR. This allowed us to more effectively, and easily, gather data to provide refined care and better marketing. For example, we could more easily spot the patients who would be good candidates for further testing, or products, so we could then be sure to educate patients about the new testing available to monitor their condition during their office visit, or we could send an e-blast to them advertising contact lenses or glasses that might appeal to them.

Our technology investments also made us more efficient. For example, our purchase of the Marco TRS-5100 Digital Refractor allowed us to see more patients per day, and to improve the quality of the patient experience. Not only is time saved per patient encounter, but the exactness of the refraction is apparent as judged by a patient satisfaction survey about their vision with their new spectacle prescription. Patients also continuously express pleasant surprise at the automation and time saved with this advanced phoropter and EHR integration.

The awe expressed by patients after experiencing the Marco TRS-5100 Digital Refractor provides a value that cannot be quantified. Further, the precision of the final refraction allows for truly excellent vision, a great reduction in remakes and, most importantly, happy patients. From the data upload to final refraction is 3-5 minutes, allowing for more than two patients more per day, which, in turn, generates an increase in revenue of $696. Our optical sales have increased each year at least 15 percent on average.

Click the image above to see the training materials Dr. O’Donnell provides to his staff.

Find New Staff Members & New Training
The third and most important improvement came with our investment in staff. Nothing can be more rewarding than leading an organization that has happy and well-trained staff. We’ve found that happiness comes from increased knowledge of eye health care, which yields more confidence in each staff member’s work, and an understanding of the practice’s long-term goals. Such well-prepared staff members are able to create the kind of patient experience that results in friends and family referrals.

We developed a systematic, step-by-step training process that each new hire is required to successfully complete before working with patients. The return on investment for that is having a team of staff members who can partner with us to serve patients on a level that well exceeds patient expectations.

We spend $1,000-$1,500 annually on staff training, not including continuing education and the expenses associated with sponsoring employees to attend conferences. It does include recruiting, paying potential new staff members a stipend while they’re in training, paying the trainer, and further continuing education when they become a member of the team.  This new-hire program is well documented, and remains as a reference manual for all staff members.  The new-hire program covers in a sequential format all basic office procedures, from how to answer the phone, to complex things like pretesting, optical/contact lens ordering and patient check out.

Provide Ongoing Staff Education
We hold monthly meetings, which include office education about new products, services and goals for improvement. One policy and procedure is reviewed at each meeting with open discussion for any confusion, or simply to review. A weekly a review is held with individual staff members to discuss potential problems, or issues that have already arisen.

The return on investment for our willingness to continually train staff is incalculable. Having staff members, who can easily answer any patient question, and feel comfortable providing correct answers, creates fast, efficient, friendly patient service. Further, staff turnover is now limited, and those who left noted in their exit interviews that they liked the training prior to starting their jobs with us. We gauge all staff performance on statistical analysis, and our numbers show that staff performance improves as they become better trained, with, for example, greater sales resulting from opticians who have been fully trained.

Re-Branding is a Constant Process
Nothing in our industry and society stays the same, so you either continually grow as a business, or decline. Our investment in an updated office design, new technology, staff recruitment and training, gives us the best chance of achieving continuing improvement of the patient experience, business growth and profitability.



owns New Era Eye Care in Shavertown, Penn. To contact:


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Many practices have marketing plans, but too few regularly measure the performance of those plans to see how effective they are. Establishing benchmarks and taking regular performance measurements can maximize your ROI (return on investment). Without such measurements–and without adjustments to fine tune the plan–you’re just conducting a guessing game. The key is to measure what works and what doesn’t, then you can home in on the right marketing formula to increase revenues and profits.

Calculate and Track Marketing Campaigns
to Prioritize Marketing Spend
1. Calculate cost of campaign.2. Calculate expected return on investment.3. Track activity related to marketing activity to determine how much money is coming in. Here is a formula to use to help determine ROI:Cost of marketing event or campaign X .33 = how much money you need to generate from the event or campaign just to break even.Example: Trunk show that costs $2,000 to market and organizeAssuming an average profit margin of 30 percent and a campaign, then you’ll need to generate at least $6,000 to pay for the campaign–just to break even: $2000/.33 = $6,000. Therefore, the trunk show used here as an example would need to generate at least $6,000 in revenues to yield $2,000 in profits–the amount you invested in the event. Otherwise, it is not worth to investing in. Of course, you want to make a profit and pay for the campaign so in this case you might want to generate $8,000 from this trunk show–yielding $2,400 in profit or $400 more than you invested in the event.4. Prioritize which marketing campaigns are worth investing in long-term based on which generated a return on investment.

Patient communications.Use e-mail, Facebook and other social media to deliver your messages.

Events. Host regular open houses/ frame trunk shows. Advertise in advance.

News event. Leverage a news event to contact your patients. Announce the addition of new equipment, products, services or staff.

Newsletter. Do monthly e-mail newsletters. Newsletters should be educational. Include an action that encourages patients to come in or call your office.

Business cards. Give your staff their own business cards with their name on it to hand out. This encourages them to meet people in the area.

Unique feature. Set yourself apart by offering a unique customer value added feature that also serves as a marketing piece. For example, some doctors offer chocolate bars with their name and logo.

Minimum (promise)
Stretch Goal
Marketing costs
Number of leads generated
Sales (gross collections)

Take into Account Total Costs
The marketing costs measure only the direct costs related to the campaign: printing, food and entertainment. They do not include labor, rent or other general overhead costs. We also exclude cost of goods, and this is a function of the total gross sales. However, the sale price offer or promotion should be higher than your cost of goods. Also, any discounts on sales items could affect the profit and change your profit margins (break-even amount). Tip: Package materials in your promotion so the combined profit is still maintained. For example, discount frames only if combined with high-index lenses or a pair of sunglasses.

Evaluate the campaign every three months if a recurring event.
If the campaign spans a longer time period, measure results on a weekly basis.

Constantly evaluating the success of marketing via thorough measurement makes it more likely these efforts will result in more patients in your exam chair.

Related ROB Articles

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Alissa Wald, OD, and her husband, Scott Daniels, own Practice Concepts, a firm that provides practice sales and coaching services. To contact them: 877-778-2020 or


Alissa Wald, OD, and her husband, Scott Daniels, own Practice Concepts, a firm that provides practice sales and coaching services.


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When new patients come in, we ask how they came to us, and an average of 50 percent are friends of patients, and 65 percent are family of patients. Surprisingly, about 25 percent come from search engines, and the remaining from insurance lists, and passersby. Before the advent of search engines and social media, our second-largest source of referrals were insurance provider lists.

Tracking referrals from patients to friends and family, and delivering service that impresses patients enough for them to spread the word about us, continues to bring new patients into the practice.

We started our practice cold 28 years ago. We started with the referral of our very first patient by a friend of a friend. Since then, we have always placed a high value on referrals. I believe it is the best way to bring in patients who are most likely to be loyal over time. We make a concerted effort to treat each patient like our only patient and try to make everyone feel like family.

The patient intake form Dr. Smith makes available for patients on her practice web site.

Dr. Smith says it’s important to ask new patients how they found your practice, and to encourage those who had a positive experience to let their friends and family know about your services.


Many patients make comments like, “I should bring my husband/wife in” or “I should bring my kids in.” This reassures us that we did a good job of marketing our practice during their visit because they want their family and friends to have the same experience.

When a new or existing patient calls for an appointment, our front office staff asks if there is anyone else in the family we could help make an appointment for. If a patient expresses appreciation for a job well done, then our staff says, “Thank you! It has been our pleasure, and if you or any of your family or friends need our services, we would be happy to help them as well.”

To increase the likelihood of people wanting to tell their friends and family about a business, that business should excel and stand apart from the norm. People vary in what things and experiences may impress them most. However, If you look at the most successful businesses, especially service-oriented businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and healthcare practices, it is undoubtedly the service that drives the most referrals.

Our practice mission statement is “Focused on your needs. Committed to excellence.” Our goal is to have our patients tell others that they had excellent, thorough care and that we provided great service.

We e-mail thank you notes and surveys to every patient after their exam. We currently have a 95 percent satisfaction rate with a “yes” when asked if they would refer others.


For the past 23 years, we have tracked where our patients come from. We have a Welcome Sheet, which we ask every new patient to fill out. If the answer to the question of how the patient found us is left blank, the front office staff is responsible for asking the patient directly. On the rare occasion that the response to that question is still blank by the time the patient reaches the exam room, I ask the patient directly myself. It is really a pleasure to hear that most of them are referred by friends, work colleagues and family members.


In California, where our practice is based, it is illegal for any healthcare professional to offer incentives for referrals. However, we make sure our patients are thanked and appreciated verbally for their referrals.

By focusing our efforts on providing exceptional care and service to our patients, we hope to earn their loyalty and the referrals of their friends and family. You can’t put a price on service and building relationships with patients. It is like putting a price on friendships. I believe that as old fashioned as this may seem, building a practice based on loyalty and referrals is far less expensive and time consuming than the cost of any type of ad marketing or media advertising. Our practice has not had much response from paid advertisements. It may be that the public does not respond to objective ads anymore with the advent of more subjective, personal internet ratings.

We used to have a large ad in the yellow pages, which was astronomically expensive. It was a big book of large ads for businesses, which made it difficult for consumers to decide where to go for services. Now, with internet reviews that are free for consumers to use, we virtually have free advertising by the reviews placed by our patients.

Approximately 25 percent of our new patients find us directly through internet search engines and reviews.That is a lot more than the number of patients who came in after seeing our yellow page ad, which was only about 5 percent.


The majority of patient referrals are from happy, satisfied patients who report having had the most thorough exam, or best service, ever. We also receive many referrals from long-time patients. Other popular referral sources are patients who have not received successful contact lens fits elsewhere. Many refer their friends, colleagues and family members simply because our staff has shown them great customer service, and were able to develop a strong rapport with them.

I cannot over emphasize the value of a well trained staff in order for patients to want to refer others. The staff actually spends more total time with our patients than the doctors, so it is imperative that our staff is on board with our goals and objectives for growing the practice. Patients will stay with a practice or leave a practice very easily because of their interactions with the staff.


When a patient compliments our office, a front office staff member might give them a business card and say, “Thank you so much! We appreciate your compliment! Please take a business card in case you know someone who may need our services.” Most of the time patients take business cards, or ask us for our business cards, without any prompting, and this is really the best compliment they can give us!


Beverly Jue-Smith, OD, MBA, is the owner of San Ramon Family Optometry, Inc., in San Ramon, Calif. Dr. Jue-Smith also is owner of Optometric Consultants, a private practice consulting firm. To contact her:


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