Optometric Business Innovators 2011
Slideshow: Practice Management Doc Stars
Meet 35 optometric business innovators, who have each created a robust practice through their creativity and ingenuity. Review of Optometric Business and Vision Mondaypresent aspecial, first-time collaborative project, Optometric Business Innovators 2011. This week, we share practice pearls and a slideshow featuringmarketer and digital strategy innovators. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for practice wisdom and slides featuring the rest of our optometric business innovators.
Practice Pearls from this Week’s Featured Innovators, Followed by Slideshow:
Stephen F. Bolick, OD, Founder & CEO, Eye Care Associates, Raleigh, N.C., Marketer Innovator.:Stephen Bolick founded Eye Care Associates in 1978 in Raleigh, and today Eye Care Associates (ECA) employs 26 associate doctors in 19 offices throughout central and eastern North Carolina. Some may argue that a practice as large as ECA isn’t as nimble or adaptable as a smaller office during unforeseen challenges, like the recent economic downturn. Not so, says Dr.Bolick, “Our patient retention programs and consumer messages were tailored to include more value-oriented concepts, while our doctors and staff redoubled their efforts to maintain communications with our existing patients, as well as become more engaged in community outreach efforts.” But a large successful practice also requires more support. “Our marketing strategy is a collaborative process between myself, our president Bob Brodney and our director of marketing Brian Hoyle. We didn’t retool our plan as much as we challenged everything we did, measured efficacy, and sought new avenues for attracting new business.” Though Hoyle ultimately takes the lead on plan implementation, ECA’s approach is so collaborative that people at all levels within the organization are eager to share an opinion, comment or feedback.
John Todd Cornett, OD, Partner, Premier Vision, Amarillo, Texas, Marketer Innovator:The Premier Vision brand is a five doctor, full scope optometrist practice that emphasizes high-end optical sales and a focus on dry eye relief all tied together by a professional logo and a long history of external marketing. “Doing so has allowed us to become a destination optical,” says Dr. Cornett. “We have experienced continued growth throughout the economic downturn as we continue to focus on the things that separate us in the marketplace.” These efforts pay off, like creating ‘The Center for Dry Eye Relief at Premier Vision’ in 2008. “As a part of that marketing, we created a Dry Eye Index that’s part of a local weather segment and airs about five times a day. It creates an enormous number of daily media impressions.” Additionally, Premier Vision has created a brochure about Omega 3s. “We realized last year that our philanthropic donations totaled the profit we generated from the sale of them, so this year we created a patient education card that explains how we give the profits from the sale of Omega 3s to feed hungry school children and fund gifts for needy children at Christmas.”
Larry Golson, OD, owner, CEO, Envision Eyecare, Ashville, N.C., Marketer Innovator:Philanthropy is an important part of Envision Eyecare’s identity, andit also happens to have the added benefit of being a great marketing tool. “In our area, there are many nonprofits that operate to fulfill various needs,” says Dr. Golson. “We frequently donate time and resources to these organizations not only to market our practice, but to help a good cause as well.” But charitable associations aside, Envision also dedicates time and energy to other forms of marketing. “We also invest our efforts in social media via our blog, our Facebook page and our Twitter account,” says Dr. Golson. “We track each of our marketing efforts as diligently as possible and shifted our approach over time from print advertising to internet and charitable donation-based exposure.”
Michael Johnson, OD, president, owner, Eagle Vision Eye Care Optometric Group, Sacramento, Calif., Marketer Innovator: The biggest challenge is keeping the whole staff, including himself, educated “on the latest and greatest,” says Dr. Johnson. “But we strive hard to be on the cutting edge,” he said. Continuing that self-imposed level of excellence, Dr. Johnson recently hired a staff member fluent in Russian. Though that would be an unusual move for most businesses, Dr. Johnson wanted to better serve the large Russian and Ukrainian population surrounding his Sacramento-based practice. During the recession, Johnson developed in-office promotions to increase his capture rate on eyeglasses and contact lensesafter noticing that people weren’t spending as much on eyeglasses. In 2008, he brought in optical displays from EyeDesigns to give his frames the boutique treatment. And most recently, Eagle Vision Eye Care finalized a promotion through Groupon where consumers spend $100 for $200 worth of eyewear at his practice.
Justin Bazan, OD, owner, Park Slope Eye, Brooklyn NY, Digital Media Innovator: “From day one, we knew that we were a word-of-mouth practice and that social media was going to help us get the word out,” Dr. Bazansaid of the forward-thinking Park Slope Eye, which has also gone paperless. Staff utilize Google Apps for Business to manage paper work. “Google Docs is our filing cabinet, and we are fully in the cloud. All of our scripts, protocols, manuals and other documents are stored there.”The practice has also cut phone lines, relying on Google Voice and the Book Now feature on Facebook to schedule appointments, which frees up time for front desk staff to focus more on in-office guests. “To date, we are the only office that I know of that does not answer a phone,” Dr. Bazan says, adding that e-mail and text is the primary means of communication with patients, along with frequent social media-driven events and trunk shows.
Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD, president, Bright Eyes Family Vision Care, Tampa, Fla., Digital Media Innovator:“Digital communication is no different than any other element of the practice,” says Dr.Nathan Bonilla-Warford, or “Dr. Nate,” as he is more commonly called. “Patient care and customer service are paramount, and it starts at the top. When the staff sees how the doctors and manager are respectful of the patients, in-person, online and in private, it sets the tone.”Dr.Bonilla-Warford has helped set that tone by marketing his practice online via its web site, blog, Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare (he started Foursquare Day), as well as co-founding the Peripheral Vision Facebook page to help other optometrists share social media tactics. Digital communications have presented challenges for Dr. Bonilla-Warford, most of which he has been able to overcome. “Getting the staff on-board can be a huge challenge. To them, this just feels like more work. I have dealt with this by educating them about the benefits to the practice, role-modeling appropriate use of the tools, discussing social media campaigns during staff meetings and trying to match a staff member’s skill and interest when delegating tasks.”
Emil Fadel, OD, owner, Arboretum Eye Professionals, Austin, Texas, Digital Media Innovator:“We needed to understand that although we are in the practice of providing quality eyecare, we are also a business and businesses that aren’t leading their respective industry get left behind by the competition,” says Dr.Fadel. “We found through market research, that patients are making cost/benefit analyses and expecting the most ‘bang’ for their proverbial ‘buck.’ So, we changed our business model to ensure we offer the latest technology and deliver the best experience in quality eyecare.” The practice has since invested heavily in equipment like their OCT, Optomap, Spectral Microscope and Corneal Topographer, as well as building a media-rich web site distinguished by its ability to connect with patients through various media formats. The Arboretum web site integrates social media and online review services including Google and Yelp, as well as allowing patients to get the feel and look of the office and its employees, doctors, technology and services. Additionally, patients can request appointments and order contact lenses online, view videos and access blog postings and articles to keep up to date on their eyecare needs. Soon, patients will even be able to view their personal records online.
Alan Glazier, OD, founder/owner/president, Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care, Rockville, Md., Digital Media Innovator:Much of Dr. Glazier’s success can be traced to January 2007 whenthe doctordecided to eliminate all traditional marketing in his practice in favor of social media and search engine optimization. A decision like that doesn’t come without its own set of challenges. It required a great deal of delegating, as well as motivating and training his staff. “Explaining the importance of digital marketing was a challenge,” said Glazier.“We have a digital media policy which we distributed to the staff andeach staff member is required to submit two blog ideas per week.” Their new digital media duties don’t mean his staff can cut corners on customer service though. “I explain to the staff in this new world of online reviews, businesses are held to new standards; that their actions reflect on the business and are likely to have repercussions through our online reviews. I told them you are ‘always ON’ and what you say and how you act to patients will be scrutinized.It actually helps promote good customer service habits,” added Dr. Glazier.
Derron Lee, OD, CEO, Manteca Optometry, Manteca and Stockton, Calif., Digital Media Innovator:An optometrist for eight years, Lee is also on the board of directors and president of the San Joaquin Optometric Society and the communications chairperson for the COA. It is a role well suited to him, as despite his busy schedule he handles all the communication and marketing for his practices as well. “I personally update our Facebook pages with engaging content that sparks people’s interest,” says Dr.Lee. “We update several times during the week with pictures and video to keep content fresh and capture patients’ attention. We also utilize Yelp reviews, blogs, QR 2D codes and pictures to engage the patients.” It is a marketing philosophy that starts while the patient is in the office. “We actively ask patients to like us on Facebook and refer them to Yelp.com and Facebook.com for reviews. The organic search engine optimization has been key; we now show up on the first page of search engines in our area. We’ve stopped with traditional marketing like YellowPages altogether and now focus our efforts on other means of advertising.”
Click first image below to begin slideshow.