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Wednesday / July 17.
HomemibusinessStaying Ahead of the Curve – Digital Marketing for Australian Optometrists

Staying Ahead of the Curve – Digital Marketing for Australian Optometrists

What does it take to build a successful optometry practice?

In a word… patients!

Being skilled, experienced, and qualified are, of course, necessary qualities. However, in isolation they won’t be sufficient to ensure your success. You need to consider your practice from a commercial perspective as well. Web strategist Paul Sallaway provides digital marketing tips and tricks to attract and retain a strong patient-base.

Your optometry business will struggle to survive if it doesn’t have a viable strategy for attracting and retaining eye care patients. And this, in essence, is what optometry marketing is all about.

To build a secure foundation for your eye care practice, and serve your community for the long term, you need to put some thought into your ideal patient. What do they need? And how can you present your service offer in a way that resonates?

Content creation that addresses common eye health concerns and ‘frequently asked questions’ can also boost search engine optimisation

CONDUCT A SELF-AUDIT

Most potential patients will visit your website before booking an appointment. If you have an existing website, you need to consider the impression they are taking away. Are you projecting a professional image? Is your site aesthetically pleasing? Is the information up to date? Is it easy to navigate?
Are the pages fast loading? Even if you feel comfortable with the website you have, it’s a good idea to get a fresh opinion on whether visitors are encouraged by a positive experience or being turned off by a negative one.

The Patient Acquisition Funnel

Very few people will immediately book an appointment the first time they hear of you. According to the ‘Rule of Seven’, based on the marketing principle popularised by Dr Jeffrey Lant, people need to see your brand at least seven times before they commit to a decision.

So how are you making potential patients aware of your services at every step of the patient journey? Do you have a social media presence or a paid advertising strategy?

Frictionless Onboarding

Whether a person is making an initial appointment, responding to an appointment recall, or ordering eye care consumables, the process needs to be easy and convenient. Younger generations, especially, expect your practice to have online booking and shopping options they can access from mobile devices. Older generations may prefer the humanised touch of a personal phone call.

Optimise Relationships

How are you optimising the lifetime value of each client relationship? Do you have a process in place that encourages regular checkups? Do you have internal systems and external promotion channels for introducing new services and eye care products? And are you putting resources into educating your patients about higher margin products? If your answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, it might be time to review your online marketing strategy.

BUILDING YOUR ONLINE BRAND

In competitive markets, people generally choose to engage with business owners that they know, like, and trust. Health care services are no exception.

An effective online presence should position yourself as someone who:
• Has expert eye care knowledge,
• Is well staffed and resourced,
• Is approachable and empathetic to patient needs,
• Supports the local community, and
• Can offer patients a range of vision management choices.

Remember that at any given time, only about 3% of your target market is actively looking for the solutions that you offer.

Another 7% may feel they have a need for your services but, for whatever reason, aren’t actively looking for your help. This second group is a cohort that you could easily move ‘off the fence’ and into your consultation room with a well-timed marketing offer.

The other 90% of your audience might not need your help right now. But that doesn’t mean they never will. You should still try to stay ‘top of mind’ with them through your marketing channels.

“But I Do Just Fine With Referrals”

Many well-established businesses might feel that marketing is an unnecessary expense because they are already generating good ‘word-of-mouth’ referral appointments. This is obviously a great situation to be in. But a ‘referrals only’ business model does come with a few drawbacks.

For one thing, it’s a bit like planting a garden and then sitting back and hoping for rain. Sure, you’ll get some, but maybe too much when you don’t need it and not enough when you do. Wouldn’t it be so much better to have a garden hose and tap that you can turn off or on at will? A marketing strategy that allows you to regulate your enquiries is going to be less stress for your business in the long run.

Another disadvantage of a referrals only model is that your patient base won’t be aware of new services or products that you introduce to your practice, so they won’t be able to refer them to their personal network. Any time you want to expand your portfolio of offerings, you’ll need to proactively promote them yourself.

ADVANTAGES OF DIGITAL OVER TRADITIONAL MARKETING

Traditional promotional channels, like local newspaper, radio, signage, and even direct mail, are often described as a ‘spray and pray’ approach: You have to hope that if enough people see your message, some of them will be your target audience.

With digital marketing however, you can segment and focus multiple messages, each crafted with a specific micro-audience in mind. For example, you can send an email broadcast to patients who have opted-in to learn more about vision care for their kids. Or you can create a Facebook ad targeted at people who are thinking about glaucoma treatment. The more targeted the messaging, the more likely the recipient will take notice.

The 19th century American businessman John Wanamaker famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is that I don’t know which half ”.

Digital advertising can give us feedback, in real time, about the return you’re getting from your advertising spend. You’ll be able to see which web pages are getting the most traffic, which Instagram posts are getting the most engagement, which promotional emails are getting the most click-throughs and more. Armed with this information, it’s possible to make much better, data-driven decisions and see the results quickly.

ONLINE MARKETING OPPORTUNITIES FOR OPTOMETRISTS

So, what are some practical steps that you can take to attract and keep patients?
There are many options and opportunities. Here are three that every practice owner
should consider.

Optimise for Local Search

Ensuring that your website and online presence are optimised for local search is crucial for attracting nearby patients. Start by claiming and verifying your practice’s Google Business Profile listing, ensuring accurate and up-to-date information, such as contact details, location, and business hours.
Additionally, incorporate relevant keywords related to your optometry services and the local area on your website to improve search engine rankings. Content creation that addresses common eye health concerns and ‘frequently asked questions’ can also boost search engine optimisation and help establish you as an authority in the field.

Leverage Social Media

An excellent way to engage with your audience and build brand awareness is by maintaining active profiles on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Share informative and visually appealing content, including eye health tips, the latest eyewear trends, and behind-thescenes glimpses of your practice. Use social media to promote special offers, discounts, or events, and respond promptly to enquiries and comments to foster a sense of community and trust with potential and existing patients.

Email Marketing Campaigns

Delivering regular content to your patients’ email inbox is an effective way to stay connected and encourage repeat visits. Collect email addresses through your website and in-person interactions (with consent) to build a robust email list. Segment the email list based on different factors like patient type, age, or interests. Use personalised and targeted content in email campaigns, such as reminders for private insurance plan deadlines,
promotion of new eyewear collections, or offers of exclusive discounts to loyal patients.

Consistency is essential; establish a regular schedule for sending out emails without overwhelming recipients. Also, make sure to provide plenty of helpful eye care information and not just promotional offers.

By combining these strategies in a comprehensive digital marketing plan, you can effectively reach your target audience, increase your local brand visibility, and foster lasting relationships with your patients, ultimately contributing to the growth and success of your optometry practice.

CONCLUSION

While digital marketing can seem overwhelming, it’s essential to put some percentage of your practice revenue into a marketing plan. We are living in an era where the success or failure of many businesses will come down to how quickly and effectively they embrace the opportunities of online promotion.

Remember that the first time many of your patients learn about your optometry service will be through a search engine or social media, and the first impression they get about your practice will be from your website. Don’t fall behind your competition in the digital race!

Paul Sallaway is a web strategist and the owner of Optics Digital Marketing, an agency that exclusively works with optometrists in Australia
and New Zealand.

Visit: opticsdigital.net.