Frameless Marketing

By Shirley Ha, HBSc., O.D.


Nowadays, it makes less sense than in the past to focus marketing dollars on direct mail, newspaper advertising, newsletters, etc., in an effort to gain or influence patients when social media is creating new practice spaces and online voices free of charge. Patients use the Internet and social media to research, gossip and exchange information about eyecare products and professionals. They could be shopping online for the exact products you sell, in particular contact lenses, while they’re getting their eyes examined. Unfortunately, eyecare professionals often fail to recognize the marketing they can do through their own practices, efforts such as inbound (online) and internal marketing that support patient relationships leading to sales.

Branding is Key

Ever heard of Disney, Starbucks and McDonald’s? If you don’t have a brand, you need to develop one and you should use it on everything, all the time and everywhere – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+, to name a few. Not only does a brand help to ensure that patients have the image of you that you want them to have, it also sets the foundation for future patient engagement and accessibility. Patients need to buy WHO you are and WHAT you do before they buy products and services from you. Your uniqueness trumps that of your competitors, particularly if you fit specialty lenses. This is especially true in the case of companies like Clearly Contacts when it comes to specialty services, such as Keratoconic fits, and orthokeratology.

Constructing a social networking profile is key and should include having a blog to brand your human personality. The content you deliver should be relatable, honest and genuine, while educational content should be useful for your target patients. Keep current and post timely information about contact lenses and any other products you sell. If you are not a good writer consider hiring someone to ghost write for you.

Arrange to have neighboring businesses hyperlink to some of your social media channels and offer to do the same for them. This will create instant free advertising for both parties. As Rand Fishkin (@Moz), co-founder and CEO of Moz, an inbound marketing company, said, “The best way to sell something: don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect and trust of those who might buy.”

Office Culture/Environment

Meeting and exceeding patient expectations all the time begins with investing and employing the right people and cultivating positive attitudes and effectiveness under your leadership. Contact lens (CL) promotion should be cross-pollinated internally, from the original contact (phone, Internet) to pretesting, to exam room, to dispensary, where sales of peripherals, such as sunglasses, backup glasses, comfort drops, and contact lens solutions, can also be made. Your office should visually shout, “We do contact lenses!” the moment people walk through the door. The décor should be changed periodically to create the sense that there is always “more to see”; this will encourage people to visit more often and to bring in their families and friends. The office should look busy to convey the message that others recognize you as the “go-to” service provider. Reserve hard-to-book times during the day for continuing education, creative activity and the development of new marketing ideas (not rules) for further experimentation.

Taking Care of Business

Your business is your patients. Be proactive – don’t wait for a query about CLs, offer everyone the opportunity to discuss how contact lenses can benefit them (no glasses, less peripheral distortion with high prescriptions, a wider field of view). As the late Steve Jobs said: “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Understanding and thinking like your patients as well as matching your marketing efforts with the way they shop and buy contact lenses are important. Stay one step ahead of them. Anticipate and meet patients’ needs and have their next supply of CLs, a new case and solution ready for pickup before they run out. Give your busy patients same-day fitting and training instead of allowing their interest or enthusiasm to wane by scheduling another appointment. Surprise former CL wearers with a “free” trial pair of newer-technology lenses to show that you are modern and up-to-date.

Don’t pre-judge what patients can afford. Reduce their risk in buying from you with value-added service, make it attractive to buy by pricing your lenses reasonably and offering discounts for bulk orders. Give patients a “one-stop shopping/buying” experience by getting advance permission to sell to them with an effective recall system.

Happy patients are your greatest and most powerful assets. What better marketing is there than patient testimonials displayed everywhere in your office?

In short, don’t underestimate the power of social media and inbound marketing to attract, engage and retain patients. Equally important is a solid internal marketing plan designed to build long-term patient loyalty and prevent loss of income by eliminating avoidable walkouts.

Revealing the “Silent Thief”

By Netan Choudhry, M.D, FRCSC and Jennifer George

Glaucoma affects nearly 65 million people worldwide. Sometimes called the “silent thief,” it often causes irreversible damage before one experiences any symptoms. As a result, nearly half of those suffering with the disease are unaware of it. Although glaucoma has been identifiable for centuries, its cause is unknown in most cases. Currently, there is no cure for the disease, making it one of the leading causes of blindness around the world.

Glaucoma damages the optic nerve, the part of the eye that carries the images we see from the retina to the brain. There are many different kinds of glaucoma and a variety of treatment options for each. In the healthy eye, a clear liquid known as aqueous humor circulates inside the front portion of the eye. In order to maintain a constant healthy eye pressure, the eye continually produces a small amount of aqueous humor. An equal amount of this fluid flows out of the eye through a microscopic drain called the trabecular meshwork in the drainage angle. In glaucoma, the aqueous humor does not flow through the drainage angle correctly. As a result, fluid pressure in the eye increases. This extra force puts pressure on the optic nerve in the back of the eye, causing damage to the nerve fibres and peripheral visual field loss.

EyeOnHealth2Glaucoma comes in various forms. It is generally divided into three classes: open angle glaucoma, narrow angle glaucoma, and secondary glaucoma. Open angle glaucomas occur when the access to the drainage angle is open. While it is important to note that not all people with elevated intraocular pressures will develop glaucoma, it is well-established that elevated intraocular pressures are a risk factor for glaucoma development. A form of open angle glaucoma without elevated intraocular pressures is known as low-tension or normal-tension glaucoma. This form may be associated with poor blood flow to the optic nerve. Narrow angle glaucoma can occur when access to the drainage angle is blocked by adjacent structures inside the eye. This type of glaucoma can result in an acutely elevated eye pressure, which is a painful event known as acute angle closure. Often, a laser procedure called a peripheral iridotomy is necessary to prevent this acute event from occurring in at-risk eyes. Lastly, secondary glaucomas can result from a variety of intraocular or systemic diseases, from diabetes to retinal detachments to intraocular inflammation or uveitis.

There are various treatment options for glaucoma. The mainstay of glaucoma management today includes eye drops that serve to either reduce the amount of fluid produced by the eye or aid in fluid drainage through the pathways that already exist in the eye. In some instances, laser therapy can be utilized to help remodel the trabecular meshwork and facilitate improved outflow. The goal of glaucoma management is to reduce the intraocular pressure, thereby reducing the stress on the optic nerve and preventing visual field loss. It is important to note that once injury to the nerve fibres has occurred, it is impossible to reverse it.

As a last resort, ophthalmologists may turn to surgical options to lower the eye pressure. Trabeculectomy is a surgery in which the eye’s natural drainage system is bypassed by creating a natural filter through the eye wall. Other surgical approaches involve utilizing a glaucoma drainage device that can shunt fluid from inside the eye to a reservoir that is implanted under the conjunctiva.

In recent years, ophthalmologists have pioneered new forms of surgical interventions and implants that may improve outflow through minimally invasive means. The proliferation of MIGS, or minimally invasive glaucoma surgeries, aims to lower intraocular pressures through less aggressive surgical interventions like those mentioned above. While varied, these forms of surgery often attempt to manipulate the eye’s natural drainage system, as opposed to creating a bypass, to achieve results. Time will tell if these new surgical modalities will be effective in minimizing the progression of vision loss from glaucoma in the long term.

It is important to note that glaucoma usually presents with no symptoms in its early stages. Visual field loss from glaucoma is often peripheral, so even patients with advanced glaucoma may not be aware that their optic nerves have been damaged. Proper treatment can often delay or slow further vision loss that might result. It is particularly important for certain individuals to be evaluated for glaucoma. This includes those over the age of 60, the relatives of people with glaucoma, people of African descent and anyone with elevated eye pressure. While optic nerve damage is currently irreversible and there is no cure for glaucoma, vision loss can usually be prevented if the disease is detected in its early stages.