Now, more than ever, it’s time to get serious about marketing your optometry practice. And that means getting everyone involved – employed staff, staff optometrists and business owners – because lots of others want your patients. After all you’re all in this together… everyone’s salaries are tied to practice profitability.
Marketing covers a number of disciplines – but that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated. The essence of marketing is to understand your customers’ needs and develop a plan to meet those needs.
A good place to begin is by asking a few questions… Who are your customers? What type of business are you in? Is it low cost, high volume; upmarket, high value?
First impressions for potential new customers will determine whether they come inside or move on – and therefore whether they become long-term loyal supporters
What is your point of difference is and why should anyone come to you?
Forget the old “I provide great service” argument. You need to be a bit more specific. In other words, you need a strategy – a plan of how you are going to get your business to where you want it to be. Then you need to invest the time, energy and money to make it happen.
At eyeclarity, one of our points of difference has been the myeyes dispensing sales software, which has allowed our patients to be uniquely engaged, become educated about different products and make informed decisions. The result has been a win win – consumers are choosing higher added value products over price.
But a word of caution. The world is changing at a rapid rate. A sense of urgency is important because the clock is ticking.
Essential Marketing Tips
Here are few essential considerations for surviving and thriving in today’s environment:
Does your store design reflect the type of customers/patients you are trying to attract? First impressions for potential new customers will determine whether they come inside or move on – and therefore whether they become long-term loyal supporters.
Do you turn up to work and go straight to the exam room ready to start the day, “shop blind” to the appearance of the store.
So start from outside the store and assess what customers see first. Look at the signage and your window display etc. How long ago was it updated? What does it say about the practice?
Then walk inside the store to observe colours, lighting, merchandising, and how your products are displayed. Is it clean and modern? Are all lights operational? Use a camera and take photographs. This will help you see what your patients see. Maybe a new fit out will make your practice more relevant to your patients?
The Internet is now part of our everyday lives, thanks to the ubiquitous iPad and iPhone. As a result consumers expect access to information, products and commentary 24/7. The question is how are your consumers seeing you and the message you portray when they search for you on the web? Can they find you? What impression does your website provide? How easy is it to navigate? Is the information attractive, credible and relevant? Does it load quickly?
If you haven’t already, you need to market yourself in the digital world – have a website built, introduce an ecommerce facility, mobile sites and a social media presence. Make yourself highly accessible by implementing search engine optimisation strategies. In short, give your patients the ability to transact with you in the manner that suits them, when it suits them. Consumer expectations keep moving and to remain in the game you need to keep moving with them.
Are the products ranged in your store selected based on what you feel will sell, and what your experience tells you? Are they priced according to what you are comfortable with?
Think again. The traditional way of ranging products based on gut feel won’t cut it with today’s competition. Once consumers walk into your store they look at products. Have you analysed your product mix? Do you have a range plan based on your store demographics, market plan positioning and price points? Do you track and re-order your best sellers? And what
do you do with dead stock?
Managing inventory needs analysis, planning, discipline and devoted time because it contributes significantly to practice profitability.
Today everybody is fighting to get your patients and their spending dollars. Retention and loyalty is one of the current battlefields – and you can only win by delivering customer satisfaction.
To succeed, it is important to constantly monitor your patient’s expectations and adapt your service and products accordingly. And I say constantly because consumers’ expectations are always changing. Do not confuse customer experience with customer service. Customer service is the fundamentals of the good old fashion service. The trick today is how you are going to define the customer experience you provide which distinguishes you from your competition?
Communication is another marketing essential – and it’s imperative that your communication is relevant to your customers and timely. Whether you send an electronic piece of communication or by mail should be decided according to your customer profile, but no matter how you do it, it should reflect your practice style and be as personalised as possible. That takes time, but it’s a powerful way to build and maintain a loyal relationship.
When you have customers in your practice, the way in which you communicate can also have a significant impact on your ability to retain their loyalty. That makes it important to ask questions, work out how much information they’re really looking for – then provide it. By being relevant you’ll build trust and understanding… and assist them to get the best eyecare.
A Journey of Commitment
Look there is much more but this is a good start. This is a journey that requires ongoing commitment – there are no silver bullets. It’s really up to you to have a go. Not every idea you try will succeed but its evolution that will get you there in the end.
Oh and one more tip… when you are working out your marketing plan, start thinking like a consumer and not
as an optometrist – because it’s not all about you!
Jim Papas is an optometrist and an expert in retail, business and brand development. He is the owner of eyeclarity, a multi-award winning optical practice in Victoria.