Insights From Our Editors

How to Turn Halloween Into a Vehicle for Participatory Marketing

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD, and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD
Professional Editors, Review of Optometric Business

Oct. 28, 2020

Marketing that asks current and prospective patients to participate by offering input is a powerful way to make connections. Those connections can be turned into current and new patients making an appointment and seeking care from your practice.

We are now in a time where patients are listening to other people rather than turning to brands – including our own brand – for answers. This requires new strategies and new tactics both to keep patients in our offices and to connect with new patients – and if it can have the side benefit of energizing staff, then it is a winner.

As the internet and social media emerged, so did a new form of marketing: participatory marketing. Participatory marketing works with current and potential patients rather than at them. You can use this modified example of what was created by Raquel Woronecki, Practice Director, Professional VisionCare in Westerville, Ohio, in your practice.


The campaign is a Pumpkin Judging Contest. The practice supplies pumpkins and starts with staff – both individually and in teams – voluntarily choosing to decorate pumpkins to jump start the campaign. (The teams are chosen by staff – as an interesting observation, some staff choose only to decorate individually, and some choose to only decorate as part of a team with some staff choosing not to participate at all.) Now that you have a start, this can be easily expanded to engage with any patients, friends, family members, and especially, potential patients who want to participate.

The brilliance of this campaign is the judging. The judging is participatory. It is done on social media. Pictures of the pumpkins are placed on social media with people ranking the pumpkins in the following categories with rewards for the winner of each category:

This is a picture of the individual pumpkins created by the staff of Professional VisionCare:

This is a picture of the team pumpkins decorated at Professional VisionCare:

After creating and distributing instructions for the contest, sending a couple of e-mail blasts, and talking it up during the contest to keep the buzz alive, the other actions are to identify and publish the winners. And it is key to identify the non-patients who participated.

But where is the direct marketing to talk about frames or contact lenses, or at least the need for eye exams, you ask? That’s not the direct goal of this campaign. The goal is to improve staff relationships and increase staff management skills while simultaneously establishing connections with potential new patients.

Here are Raquel’s observations of the impact of the teamwork involved with this campaign:
• Team members who don’t work together very often in the same location shared and supported each other’s ideas for what pumpkin idea to make.

• Team members bonded with each other by getting together to work on the pumpkins and the chit chat that happens while making them.

• Team managers honed skills by following through on leading the project and encouraging/bonding with their team members.

• Team members and managers alike praised each other’s efforts.

• No one can be grumpy while talking about crazy pumpkins seen – even if it’s a stressful day.

Once pictures of the pumpkins were published online, the number of people not currently patients who wanted to participate exploded – exceeding expectations. How much would you be willing to pay for a list of people who are not currently your patients, but who are thinking positively of your practice? This list is gold. Gold just waiting to be mined by future marketing campaigns.

Raquel’s overall observation is that the campaign Professional VisionCare ran was a great success.

You can run this campaign or a modified version of it in your practice. Another option is to have people vote on social media to help a patient select sunglasses that look the best (with all appropriate HIPAA Marketing Release forms signed). HERE are examples of how other companies are using participatory marketing.

Use participatory marketing to strengthen your marketing efforts.

 

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