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.

CHRISTINA FERRARI

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 info@simiinc.com


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Social media is the means by which many of your patients, especially Millennials, communicate with friends and family. Understanding the kind of social media posts that will capture their attention, and bring them into your office, is essential to building a profitable practice.

Depending on the demographics of your practice, one channel of social media, versus the others, may be preferable for you. In my practice, I utilize both Instagram and Facebook. Regardless of the platform, your social media posts should always keep four goals in mind:

1.    Reflect your practice’s vision/mission
2.    Brand your practice in your community
3.    Attract potential patients who identify with, and buy into, your brand
4.    Retain loyalty of your existing patients

At our practice, we dedicate one hour of time per week, and $0.00 to social media, which is our central marketing effort. It is paying off in an average of four recurrent patient visits a week, two new patient referral visits per week, and an increase in the average frame purchase price of $100, and in premium daily lens sales. Our primary focus is on high-end frame lines and in premium contact lens technology.

If you are looking for a simple way to evaluate return on investment for the time and money spent on social media marketing, one of the best resources I have found is this short guide, “The Delightfully Short Guide to Social Media ROI” by Kevan Lee. This blogger has a formula to calculate the exact monetary value of each of your likes, comments or interactions. It’s important to have a specific goal such as “gain new followers” or “increase online purchases of x.”  Secondarily, track this goal by tracking your social media analytics using an online resource like Buffer.  Thirdly, assign a value to that specific goal like “average sale” brought in by an Instagram follower.

Here are six kinds of posts that have worked for my one-OD practice in Charlotte, N.C., in generating interest in, and visits, to my practice.

Before and after shots of one of Dr. Dryer’s patients, who signed off permission, allowing the practice to use her photo for marketing purposes. Dr. Dryer says photos like this show potential patients the difference your practice can make in their lives.

Before/After Photos
Why does it work?: This kind of post is successful because it involves your patient in the eyewear selection process. Patients love getting their picture taken, and they get excited about their appearance in their new frames.

Additionally, this particular type of post also showcases the expertise of your staff in frame selection. When the new frame accentuates the patient’s best features, and updates their appearance, potential patients recognize the talents of your optical staff.

Your practice is no longer just an eyecare facility, but a destination. Your staff is sought out for their skills. This is key to separating your practice from online glasses sales.

What resources are needed?: I love the app Polamatic, which I paid about $2 for. It adds a border to your photos, so they look like old-fashioned Polaroids. These are particularly successful with my Millennial-based practice due to the resurgence of all things retro and vintage.

How do you measure its success?: I primarily use Instagram to connect with my patients. It’s difficult to measure the success of an Instagram post. Mostly, success is based on likes and/or comments. I typically post twice a week, and expect anywhere from 50-70 likes. We have around 530 followers. I also take note of people who follow me on Instagram after a post. If it’s a local company or person, I consider my post successful. I’ve made someone aware of my business and what we offer to the community.

Dr. Dryer’s selfie in her practice’s optical. Dr. Dryer says posts that show you and your staff in your office help patients get to know you, and feel comfortable with coming in for a visit.

Doctor and Staff Photos
Why does it work?: I find that the posts that receive the most overall involvement by current patients are those that involve the doctor or staff. If you’ve been successful in winning them over during their eye exam, they feel connected by social media. In my practice, when I include photos of myself, I try to showcase a new frame or capture my “fun” side, whether it be holiday or sports team wear.

What resources are needed?: Creativity! If you aren’t the creative type, engage your staff. What things are you passionate about outside of optometry? What do you want your patients to know about you that they might not learn during an eye exam? What would make your patients tell their friends about your practice?

How do you measure its success?: I’m not convinced these types of posts are best for bringing in new patients to your practice, but they are successful in engaging already-existing patients and retaining their loyalty. Patients like to connect with you, to share your interests, and to know you have a life outside of optometry.

Dr. Dryer says showing patients all of the products you sell, including contact lenses, gives them a better idea of how you can help them, and why they should book an appointment.

Product Promos
Why does it work?: At 4 Eyes Optometry, we pride ourselves on having the newest and latest from contact lenses to frame lines. I spend a lot of time educating patients on why I prescribe what I do, and why we carry the products we carry.

This type of post is effective in targeting both existing patients and new patients. I’ve dedicated posts to both eye conditions and products, and I get the most response with products.

Instagram is primarily known for its visual content and product sales. A showcase of our products is what customers expect from this type of social media.

What resources are needed?: A camera and a new product.

How do you measure it’s success?: This has been the easiest to measure. Since I’ve started introducing lens technology, I’ve had several existing patients come in and specifically ask for the contact lenses featured. I’ve also had patients come in and ask for a specific frame I’ve featured.

Dr. Dryer salutes St. Patrick’s Day, reminding patients in the process of her practice, and why they should schedule their next visit.

Holidays, Community or Special Events
Why does it work?:  For holiday posts, the goal is not to be too cute or redundant. Too many reindeer, or back-to-school apples, take away from what makes your practice unique. Do holidays, but make it reflect your practice. Your practice, or your products, should always be the main event. Less is more.

Anytime I participate in an optometry-related event, I think, “How can I share this with my patients?” Patients enjoy seeing their doctors involved in activities relating to their community or their profession.

What resources are needed?: No financial investment.

How do you measure it’s success?: Social media site likes and comments are an easy way to measure success.

One of Dr. Dryer’s patients shows off how happy she is with the new eyeglasses she got at Dr. Dryer’s practice. The practice got permission from her to use her photo for marketing purposes.

New Glasses Photos
Why does this work?
: The key to this post’s success is to re-post it from the patient’s Instagram account. This gives your business maximum publicity. Those who follow your patient’s account will see it, along with your patients. If your patients are influencers in your community, you could see a even bigger response!

What resources are needed?: Your patients and customers involvement is key! Additional monetary resources may be needed if a partnership is to be formed between key influencers.

How do you measure its success?: The success of this post is dependent on the number of followers that your patients have. Many small businesses elicit the help of influencers, bloggers or community leaders to wear their products. Forming these types of partnerships can be mutually beneficial to small businesses.

Dr. Dryer says re-posting to her practice’s social media pages favorable posts like this can be a powerful marketing tool. Patients read first-hand about another patient’s positive experience, want to experience it, too.

Social Media Reviews Re-Posted
Why does it work?: This is extremely effective because it’s your patient’s words about your practice. Word-of-mouth is always your best marketing technique. If potential patients only visit your Instagram account, they will miss your fabulous Yelp reviews.

What resources are needed?: Reviews are easily pulled from your other social media pages. If you don’t have any, actively ask your patients for them, or you may consult with other paid sources like Weave.

How do you measure its success?: Online reviews are now my No. 2 source of referrals, just behind word of mouth. When I ask patients how they hear about us, they will say “you have good reviews.” Every practice should keep track of the ways patients hear about their practice to make good investments in marketing dollars. We track this by asking “How did you hear about us?” on patient intake interviews.

Action Plan: Additional Tips to Get the Most from Social Media

GET PATIENT SIGN OFF. Make sure you have your patients fill out a HIPAA marketing release form before using their images or private information in social media posts, or other marketing.

EXPERIMENT WITH HASH-TAGGING. “Trial” your hash-tagging on posts to find the most popular hashtags for bringing in new patients. You may look at popular bloggers in your area for ideas.

ASK PATIENTS TO POST. Encourage patients to post directly on their social media and “tag” you. This is a great way to generate more awareness, and will likely bring in more new patients (their followers).

ASK PATIENTS TO “LIKE” YOU. Actively promote your social media among your patients. Ask them to “like” or “follow” you.

COURTNEY DRYER, OD

is the owner of 4 Eyes Optometry in Charlotte, N.C. To contact her: cdryerod@gmail.com


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KEEP THE SMALL PROMISES

If your patient is seated and hears your staff say, “The doctor will be right in to see you,” yet it takes 15 minutes before you enter the exam room, your patient may wonder if this failure to meet expectations pervades into other areas of service. With this in mind, if the little promises aren’t met, don’t be surprised if your patient feels uncertain about buying those $500 premium progressive lenses. So, as a team, set realistic expectations for your patients and aspire to meet or exceed them with consistency.

FERTILIZE THE FLOWERS SO THEY CROWD OUT THE WEEDS

Your practice is like a garden. You want flowers, not weeds. Some patients are like weeds in their behavior, yet it’d be inappropriate to kill them by spraying Roundup. In these cases, the better approach may be to water and fertilize the flowers (the good patients) so they grow and crowd out the weeds (the bad patients). I’m not saying to be rude or to offer poor service to the weeds, but refrain from going above and beyond in service because you don’t want to encourage them to refer their friends, family and co-workers, who will likely have a similar demeanor to them. Sure, you can also dismiss a patient, akin to pulling out a weed. Yet indiscriminant dismissal of patients can unnecessarily inflame feelings, especially if these patients were already not planning to return.

DIRECT ATTENTION WHERE IT’S NEEDED

Have you noticed how young children often do not know how to react to the air puff tonometer until looking at their mother? If the mother is fearful and communicates this to her child, even if non-verbally, it can make it difficult for your assistant to obtain a measurement. Yet if the mother’s expression is nonchalant, as if it’s no big deal, the measurement is often readily obtained. Similarly, adult patients look to their doctor to know how to respond in several instances. If you ask your new contact lens wearer, “Are you having any problems?”, rather than, “How are you enjoying freedom from glasses?”, you may accidentally train your patient into looking for problems and being overly critical and turning into an unpleasant whiner. In the same way, if you spend a significant amount of time discussing the change in the numeric value of the patient’s glasses prescription, you may misdirect attention from the patient’s need for UV protection due to pingueculae and an incipient cortical cataract.

BUILD VALUE BY EDUCATING INCREMENTALLY

Throughout the patient care cycle, there are opportunities to incrementally educate the patient on the value of your practice’s service. Instead of your reception staff just telling Mrs. Jones to, “Please fill out this welcome form,” make sure the patient also hears, “… because it helps us better serve your needs.” During the preliminary exam sequence, don’t just have your technician say, “Put your chin here,” but also have the patient hear, “This instrument measures the fluid pressure in the eyes, which can help the doctor diagnose eye health problems.” It doesn’t take much additional time to build value with short explanations, and doing so can make patients feel much better about their exam and for selecting your practice.

UNDERSTAND YOUR PLACE

You are an optometrist–not a rock star, celebrity or sports icon. I’m sorry to break it to you this way, but this means that few of your clientele truly want to follow you on Facebook and Twitter. The reality is that optometrists are closer in this realm to gynecologists and psychiatrists, as there isn’t much organic consumer desire to follow these professionals through social media. Therefore, while you need an online presence, realize that your time and attention is still best directed toward patient care and the patient experience, rather than digital expressions of narcissism and self-promotion. Providing a high level of consistent service is arguably still the most powerful form of marketing since your delighted patients will promote your business and serve as practice ambassadors.

PURSUE A SMALL NUMBER OF GOALS AT ONE TIME

In your strategic planning for 2015, make sure that you set a realistic number of goals. In the field of psychology, “goal dilution” describes how the more goals you have, the less likely each of them will actually get done. So, at any given time, prioritize the top three initiatives, but probably not more than that, and concentrate and expend enormous effort to implement them and see them through.

BRIAN CHOU, OD, FAAO

Brian Chou, OD, FAAO, is a partner with EyeLux Optometry in San Diego, Calif. To contact him: chou@refractivesource.com.


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