By Cheryl G. Murphy, OD
By creating an eco-friendly office, you can extend the appeal of your practice to eco-friendly potential patients. Here is an example of one practice that has solidified community ties by being an eco-responsible local business.
Summy To, OD, of Myoptic Optometry in Portland, Oregon, understands the importance of environmental and social responsibility, and so do her patients. Dr. To makes a point to create a fresh and vibrant optometric setting, and also todemonstraterespect forthe communityby promoting healthy living, recycling and the use of reclaimed materials.
Eco-Friendly Ethos Creates Emotional Tie to Patients
Dr. To finds a competitive advantage to offering an eco-friendly office. “Consumers are looking for an emotional connection in their transactions these days,” she says. “We see it with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. Doing business with a company means identifying with them.Associating with a company that has a personality and makes things fun makes people feel good andrelevant. It assures them that they chose a business that ‘gets it.'”
Summy To, OD, of Myoptic Optometry in Portland, Ore.
Dr. To’s practice makes an effort to recycle and use reclaimed materials, and patients are sent that message by the decor in the office. The colors are vibrant, with support for bicycle riding evident thanks to creative, custom bike racks outside. “We get constant compliments on the color of our walls, with tangerine orange and robin’s egg blue, our unique displays made of reclaimed plastics and reclaimed wood, and our bike racks shaped like eyeglasses,” Dr. To says. The practice held a contest to name the bike racks that flank the front door. They got some clever suggestions and put them to a vote. Winners: “Seymour Clearly” and “Ira Glasses.” They racks catch looks from passersby and provide a safe resting spot for Portland’s millions of bike riders.
The practice is almost entirely paperless (which also happens to be economically friendly), using electronic health records and corresponding as much as possible with patients via e-mail. Items such as plastic contact lens flat packs are recycled, and the office uses ceramic cups for water instead of paper cups.
Small Eco-Friendly Investments Go Far
Dr. To had the specially themed bike racks fabricated for about $700 each. “How much money it has brought in for us isn’t as important as the fact that they sit in front of our store advertising what we do and bring a smile to people’s faces,” Dr. To says. “If anything, it has given our customers another reason to love us.”
The practice invested in a consultation from a merchandising expert to ensure the creation of an office that communicated eco-friendly values. “This consultant has years of experience organizing displays for Macy’s, Disney, etc., and gave us insight on how to position our displays, place our products and our signage,” Dr. To says. “The consultant cost us about $400, but sales have grown ,” She adds: “Finding our way around thepractice has simplified, and the environment that I and my staff work in every day is cleaner and easier, freeing our minds to serve our customers even better.”
Low-Cost Eco-Friendly Promotions
Dr. To encourages bicycle riding and use of mass transportation by giving bicycle riders power bars and bus riders a complimentary bus pass. The practice also asks every patient who has an annual examination to choose to donate part of their exam to four charities with proceeds going to either Mercy Corps, Sustainable Northwest, Oregon Public Broadcasting or Oregon Food Bank. There also is box for people to donate their old eyeglasses to the Lion’s Clu. Aso, the practice is a drop location for the Children’s Book Bank that donates books to children in need.
Social Networking Makes Patients More Conscious of Practice Image
Thanks to social networking, the businesses your patients support are broadcasted to a wide network of friends and family. When a patient publicly displays where they are checking in on an application such as Foursquare, they are sending a message about who they are. They will be judged by the places they give their business to. If they and their network of friends and family are environmentally conscious, they are more likely to be excited about, and will proudly display, a visit to your office. “People like being followed and love the chance to share something worthwhile because the activities they broadcast make up who they are,” Dr. To says. “Word of mouth is powerful, so not only do people learn about you, but from a trusted source. Our tallies on new clients show that nearly 50 percent do business with us through recommendations from their friends.”
If your practice is eco-friendly, patients who hold environmentalism as a high priority have an added incentive to visit your practice. In addition to doing the right thing, they let the world know (via social media networks) that they support eco-friendly businesses like your practice and that others should, too.
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*Photography of Dr. To and Myoptic Optometry credited to Jan Sonnenmair.
Cheryl G. Murphy, OD, practices at an independent optometric practice in Holbrook, NY. To contact her: email@example.com.