Build a Digital Strategy for Practice Growth : Overview of Digital Tools

By ROB Editors

Website, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp…. These are the buzzwords of our time. While you may be deep into the digital world, the question remains: Do you have an overall digital marketing strategy for your practice?  Most practices do not. In fact, for most practices, the approach to employing the growing array of digital tools is segmented and unplanned. To compete effectively today, you need a coordinated, digital marketing strategy that achieves measurable goals.

Where do you start? You begin with the end point of your marketing strategy: getting people who are not your patients into your chair and keeping your current patients in your chair. That process requires that you ask: How do patients get into your chair?

Now the good news: There are digital tools to help you answer this crucial question and then profit from that knowledge. Here, in general terms, is a strategy for using all of the digital media together to get patients into your chair. These digital tools include many of the aspects shown in the chart above.

Web Site: This is a primary tool, provided it communicates a clear and consistent message about who you are and what your practice offers. It also must be easy to use, that is, to help a patient or potential patient to come see you or utilize your online services.

Social Media: This area, which is evolving by the minute, can be divided into two groups. The first is social media like Facebook, which is familiar as a way of connecting with old friends. But Facebook and similar social media can be maximized to keep your practice top-of-mind with patients–and drive them to see you with incentives and events. The second form of social media includes information aggregators, where users set up feeds to provide them with information they deem important and relevant. These sites can establish your authority as a clinical expert or outstanding optical shop with competitive prices. /p>

Review Sites: Whether you know it or not, people are talking about you–on consumer review sites that evaluate (and often denigrate) every business or medical practice under the sun. Check out Yelp.com to see if what your patients have to say about your practice is naughty or nice. Then, manage the message that they read; you can buy in and manage the discussion and further your consistent message.

Marketing is Branding

To achieve the maximum result, you must create a constancy of message and look across all digital medial. This is key. An effective digital marketing strategy is, first and foremost, a branding strategy. It must establish “that brand called YOU” across all digital media and be consistent in design, theme, style and message. Every component of your digital marketing strategy defines you and your practice, distinguishes you from a host of other choices, and motivates patients and potential patients to seek your services.

ROI Rules

Hand in hand with message is return on investment (ROI). An effective digital marketing strategy requires that every decision be guided by ROI. Just having a site is not the end goal. What is that site earning you? How much is it costing you versus what it produces? How many patients is it putting in your chair?  And once that patient is in your chair, ask:

  • Is he or she the right patient?
  • How much does he or she spend within the practice?
  • What did it cost us to get him or her there?
  • How much staff time and expense was used in that process?

Let’s get specific and take a quick look at your web site. Other ROB articles address various tools and components in the overall digital strategy, but the website is the one digital tool now utilized by the vast majority of optometric practices. And often, it is not utilized well.

Make Your Web Site Work for You

You have a web site? Great, now analyze it and put it to work!

Your web site is a primary digital tool that should

  • Keep your current patients loyal to your practice.
  • Help people who are not your patient to self-diagnose and become your patient.

Does your web site do this from the home page onward? A lot of ECPs see their web site as a place to educate patients, so they feature fun facts about eye care up front. Wrong! Other ECPs offer patients the option to fill out tedious forms before they visit the office–and save the staff time and keep appointments on time. That’s a nice feature, but placing it prominently shows that you are concerned with making it easy for your staff. What about the patient? Patients are consumers–and consumers want convenience or they click on the next website, which assuredly is not yours.

Measure Loyalty: When your patient wakes up at 3 am, can he or she order contact lenses or glasses by going to your web site?  If the answer is no, then the patient will go to another website.

Measure Helpfulness: Many consumers want to schedule their eye exams online. Can they do so on your site? Are you helping that overwhelmed soccer mom who just got the kids to bed and has a moment for her own needs? Or are you making it difficult because you only schedule eye exams during hours when she works or shuttles the kids to activities? How helpful is your web site? Does it help patients self-diagnose or identify symptoms causing them pain and discomfort?  Does your web site ask the following questions?

  • Are you having trouble driving at night?
  • Are you getting headaches when working on a computer?
  • Is your child not performing at expected levels in school?

Measure Action: Does your web site explain that you have answers and solutions? Does it make it easy for visitors to take action and come in to your practice? Ask a friend to visit your web site, with the intent to solve a vision problem, then ask his or her honest opinion on how easy your site is to use.

Hire or Fire? Finally, ask yourself: If my web site were a staff member, would it be a helpful and friendly one or a surly and contentious liability driving away present and prospective patients?

If the answer is the latter: Fire your web site! 

Better yet, use digital tools to analyze its effectiveness (in ROI) and make positive changes to make it effective.

Other articles in ROB (and articles yet to come) examine how to utilize social media to communicate with patients, establish authority and benefit from consumer review sites that (whether you know it or not) are rating you! 

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