By Maria Sampalis, OD
May 15, 2019
The summer is a time when you have to fight for patients’ attention. You have back-to-school exams beginning mid-summer, and extending into the fall, but you also have families busy with outdoor activities and traveling on vacations.
Rather than rest on my laurels, waiting for the expected influx of back-to-school exams, I am proactive, and market to encourage patients to make an appointment.
This year we’re seeing 3 percent more patients than we saw last year.
Optimize People’s Heightened Attention to the Sun in Summer
We try to educate patients that protecting eyes from the sun should happen year-round, but during the summer, the heat and long hours of daylight make patients think of sunwear more than they would other times of year. You can take advantage of that by launching promotional discounts on sunwear, which you can extend into the rest of the year.
In our practice, we offer 50 percent off on a pair of plano sunglasses for all patients purchasing an annual supply of contact lenses from us. We also sometimes offer a discount on all Transitions lenses. If our lab, or Essilor, offers a promotion on any type of lenses, we pass that onto our patients in promotional discounts.
Educate: Impact of Sun on Eye Health
Patients may know that the sun creates a discomfort when it’s shining in their eyes, but most still don’t know the role it plays in contributing to conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts. You can post to your Facebook and Instagram pages, and send e-blasts to patients, to highlight the role the sun plays in adversely impacting eye health, with a link to your optical shop where patients can purchase sunwear. One idea is to include a coupon, or promo code, in your social media, or e-blasts, that patients can bring to your optical shop for a discount on a particular kind of sunwear, such as specific brand, or sunglasses with polarized lenses.
Reactivate: Summer is the Perfect Time to Stop By for an Appointment
With the kids out of school, and parents sometimes planning to take time off from work, the summer can be the perfect time to stop in for an appointment.
Many companies offer summer hours in which employees leave the office as early as noon on Fridays. You can make the most of that by offering extended hours on Fridays to make it even easier for patients to book an appointment with you in the mid- or late-afternoon when they weren’t going to be at work anyway.
We sometimes offer 20 percent off on eyewear when sending promotional e-mails or snail mail to patients who have not been in our office for more than a year. We find that it helps to add an additional inducement to finally e-mail, or call, us for an appointment.
Have you ever noticed how happy people often are when they are about to go on vacation, or how happy they are on a Friday afternoon? You can tap into those positive feelings when patients are in your office. When in your exam room, you can build a bond with the patient, and maximize their good mood, by asking about what they have planned for later that day, or the coming weekend, or whether they have any exciting vacations planned for the summer. Reminding the patient of the fun that’s soon to come creates a mindset that works both for them and you when moving into your optical to shop.
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Cover All Your Bases in Marketing–Digital and Snail Mail
We take a multi-pronged approach to reaching patients who haven’t been in our office for more than a year, and those who have never visited. That approach includes both digital marketing on Facebook and e-blasts to patients, as well as the mailing of postcards. We take advantage of a program from USPS, Every Door Direct Mail, that allows for targeted advertising to recipients by age, income or household size. The program has an online mapping tool that enables you to choose the zip code and carrier route that will best target the people you are trying to reach.
Using this targeted mailing strategy, we are able to target households with incomes of $100,000+ for advertising our most upscale eyewear, and can target back-to-school mailings to all the homes in our zip code that have children living there.
Market the Quality of Your Products
In the patient education you do in your marketing, be sure to note that not all sunglasses protect equally well from the sun, and that some sunglasses don’t offer any protection at all from ultra-violet radiation.
Then point out, with many photos of your optical, that all the sunglasses you sell in your optical, regardless of price, have the UV protection they need.
Maria Sampalis, OD, practices at Sampalis Eye Care in Warwick RI. She is also the founder of Corporate Optometry on Facebook. Dr. Sampalis is also founder of the new job site corporateoptometrycareers.com and www.corporateoptometry.com. She is available for practice management consulting. To contact: firstname.lastname@example.org