By Matthew Greene, OD
May 24, 2023
There was a time not long ago when marketing was a bad word in healthcare. Doctors wanted to be seen as altruistic helpers of the public who were influenced in no way by the pressures of business. As the years went by, doctors and healthcare systems began to embrace the reality that healthcare is a business, and that no matter the level of care we provide, if patients are not aware of the value we offer, they will not utilize the care of our facilities. Most doctors now understand this and market their services.
I’m a huge proponent of knowing our “why” in all that we put our time and effort into. WHY do we market and what are we trying to accomplish? At the end of the day, I think we are trying to drive consumer behavior in a way that will help the consumer (our patient), which in turn, should help the practice. The big behaviors we want to change are to have the population have an annual comprehensive exam (hopefully at our facility) and to help them understand and access the visual solutions that will help them more fully enjoy life. We need to embrace marketing. We are fulfilling our duties as doctors better when we shout these facts from the mountaintops.
To do this, we need to stand out in the sea of information that we are all bombarded with everyday. Marketing efforts may reach people at times when they are not actively seeking out eyecare solutions, so we must be memorable enough that when those needs do occur, it tugs something at the back of their minds that brings our message back into their active thoughts and they seek us out.
We want to get two main messages out: The need to see us for routine care and that multiple visual solutions may be needed. Here are a several marketing campaigns that have generated great word-of-mouth attention for our practice, and even measurable results over time. Every market and individual practice situation is different, but this is what has worked for us, helping us over the last 10 years to grow a two full-time doctor practice in a small-to-medium market to a practice generating over $4 million in revenues annually.
To Drive Routine Care:
Days of our Eyes radio campaign: Patterned after the soap opera, “Days of our Lives,” the ads dramatically emphasize the need for eyecare with new episodes monthly. Of the many radio and TV spots we tried over the years, this is the first one that patients and our community routinely comment on to us. We were a finalist for a Mercury Award in 2022 (like the Grammy Awards for radio) with all other competitors coming from ads placed by nationally recognized brands. I give the credit for this to our creative team at the radio station.
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Masquerade Eye Ball: Being involved in your community can be the best and lowest-cost marketing you can do. We partner with a local Lions Club chapter, which uses 100 percent of the proceeds from our charity fundraiser ball to help provide eyecare and eyewear to those in need in our local community. We generated over $30,000 in last year’s inaugural event, and projections are set for us to generate over $50,000 this year. Besides significant staff time, there are no costs to us because all the costs are covered by the event itself.
See the Good Campaign: A nice practice in Florida shared their success with a campaign to seek out and recognize the good in their community. They give doughnuts out in school drop-off lines, recognize local fire and rescue personnel, etc. Photos and videos of these events are then shown on social media. This is another low-cost way to help others while bringing attention to your practice’s presence in the community as an eyecare provider.
To Educate People on their Visual Needs:
Many people have a mindset of needing glasses OR contact lenses, and others feel like one pair of glasses can meet all of their visual needs. The truth is that most patients would benefit from multiple options. Present glasses and sunglasses, safety glasses, and glasses for hobbies, along with contact lenses, and all of a sudden your patient sees ALL the options. Even if you don’t get the patient to choose them all, you can at least get closer to that goal by successfully encouraging them to purchase a couple of them.
You Don’t Wear One Pair of Shoes Campaign: We are currently in the development stages for high-quality video and graphics showing outlandish, eye-catching images of things like a woman in high heels playing basketball, mountain climbing in flip flops, or running in ballet shoes. This is to drive home the need for multiple vision solutions for most people. We then will follow-up this marketing by prescribing those options for our patients, as needed. If more people understand the role of multiple visual solutions, multiple-pair sales would be significantly higher. If the MOST optimal number of vision solutions for any patient becomes 2-5 in our practices, how many patients will strive to meet at least the minimum of this ideal?
Internal marketing for products sold in-office: Marketing to your existing patient base is your cheapest and most effective form of marketing. An online store to quickly and easily reorder at-home medical eyecare products you recommend in-office can be rewarding for both patients and practice. There was a time I was hesitant to come across to my patients as “selling” a product I recommended. Now I realize that just as I sell optical products I stand behind and recommend, there is no reason to treat supplements or dry-eye supplies any different. If I can make the purchasing process easier and more accessible than the crazy noise that is the eye drop section of a drug store, I am doing my patients a service.
Bottom Line: Be unique, be high quality and shout it from the mountaintops.
Matthew Greene, OD, is a partner with Urban Optics in College Station, Texas. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org