Eyecare’s New Reality: We Need Professional Marketing Help

By Grant Larsen

Did you know that by the time a consumer enters your practice or store, they have already decided whether or not they are going to buy? So what do you say to a patient or consumer who wants to walk out the door without buying? Nothing – it’s too late! Your staff has been reduced to frustrated order-takers because your competition is talking to customers all the time through multiple media channels.

So how do you compete with the deep pockets and savvy marketing tactics of big chains and online retailers? How do you turn ‘just lookers’ into buyers?

• You talk to them more than once every two years.

• You invite them back through existing great clients.

• You tell friends, relatives and like professionals your “great story” every day.

And you do this for a fraction of the cost of online listings, brochures and direct mailers!

3 Social Marketing Musts

1.     Create a Great First Impression for New Patients

Think of your website landing page as a digital receptionist that overcomes new customers’ apprehension when they meet a health care provider for the first time. A welcome video, a friendly photo of your staff, lists of credentials, expertise, passions and specialties can build trust and communicate to people why you deserve their business. The decision of where they will get an eye exam or where they will be fitted for fashion frames is driven by emotion. Be local, be personal and be yourself.

2.     Formalize Your Referral Process

If you haven’t formalized your patient and professional process, you’ve missed the number one small business marketing tool. Signs, websites and the Yellow Pages don’t create traffic or produce buyers; the key to growth lies with having a network of happy patients. A recent eyecare survey shows that almost 80 per cent of patients select their eyecare professional based on referrals, with friends and family at the top of the list.

Start by telling happy client stories. Create a priority list of stories that you and your staff can share with local networking partners. Technology, personalized fittings, unique products and brands add credibility and increase a story’s repeatability to others. And finally (and most importantly) create a detailed process for inviting clients back and recalling patients for professional services.

3.     Social Media for Business

Forget what you know about social media. What started out as a pastime for kids and young adults to connect with friends has developed into an essential business tool that drives targeted networking and consumer purchase decisions. Simple set-ups for Facebook, Twitter and Google+ can be done in mere hours and managed with free resources from suppliers and industry. Eyecare content combined with your business brand and managed with Hootsuite (a social media organizer) reduces your staff time to just minutes each week or month. Listen to competitors in your area, promote your services to targeted groups, and make your business easy to find. Finally, make referrals to your business easy, so happy customers can share the word.

Not all marketing spending is linked directly to sales. Creating a great first impression will turn your walk-outs into planned buyers. Your referral process and community networking will target your best potential customers, using the most trusted source of information: friends, family and believers. And social media can allow you to connect, grow and maintain business value for years to come.