Marketing: you don’t have time to do it, but you can’t do without it. If that’s how you feel about marketing your eye clinic, you’re not alone. Many practices don’t have the budget for a standalone marketing position, let alone an entire marketing department. But marketing is more important than ever if you want to run a more profitable eye clinic.
5 Marketing Best Practices for Your Eye Care Practice
Luckily, you don’t need a degree in marketing to build your practice’s business—simply follow these five best practices.
Identify Your Target Market
You need to know who your current patients are and who your ideal patients are. These are the groups you want to reach with your marketing efforts. To do this, you can use the data within your EHR and practice management systems. They contain several types of data that can help you market your practice:
- Patient demographics like name, age, zip code, employer, hobbies, and referral sources
- Clinical data. Find out why your patients are visiting you, vision correction modes, appointment history, and more.
- Practice-level data like retail optical metrics, revenue per provider, codes billed, and many more.
Once you have this information, use it to craft marketing programs that target specific groups of patients. For example, in the summer you could implement and email campaign that targets parents of school-aged children who wear glasses.
Create a Marketing Plan.
A marketing plan is like a blueprint for your marketing activities. It will help focus your efforts and resources. Don’t worry—it doesn’t have to be complex. Even a simple one-page plan is better than nothing. A few things you should consider in your marketing plan are:
- Target audience. Include their demographic profile along with wants, needs, and pain points.
- Unique value proposition. This is why patients should visit your practice instead of another.
- You may want to do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis.
- Marketing goals. These should align with your business goals.
- What do you plan to spend on marketing each month, and what will it go towards?
- Marketing collateral. Assess what materials you have already (i.e. brochures) and what you still need (i.e. blog posts).
Choose Your Marketing Strategies.
Nowadays, marketing your eye clinic means much more than taking out an ad on television or in the newspaper. A good chunk of your marketing is likely to be digital, and this may be unfamiliar territory. A few options to consider are:
- Content marketing: This is a long-term strategy, but it’s worth it if you can commit. Content marketing involves the creation and sharing of online content that doesn’t explicitly promote your practice. The goal instead is to build an audience by providing content that is of value to patients/prospective patients (i.e. and ebook, newsletter, blog posts, or social media sharing).
- Text message marketing: If you’re not text message marketing, now is the time to think about it. Everyone has a cell phone, and open rates for text messages are incredibly high compared to emails. Statistics vary, but some studies show that well over 90 percent of us open every single text message we receive.
- Video: A lot of practices still aren’t taking advantage of video, which is booming. You can use one video piece in multiple ways: embed it on your website, share clips on social media, post it on your YouTube channel, embed it in email campaigns, and more. Ideas for videos include tutorials, a tour of your office, or highlighting unique optical brands.
If you have a ton of creative ideas to market your eye care clinic, that’s great—but keep in mind regulations like HIPAA, fraud and abuse laws, and even consumer protection laws. Here are some tips:
- Be sure to remove any PHI from patients that you use as part of your marketing, (images, for example) unless you have the patient’s signed authorization. According to HIPAA there are 18 types of PHI that can lead to identification of a patient.
- If you use a third-party marketing company, be sure you have a signed BAA (business associate agreement) on file. Outside marketers must protect any PHI they have stored in their systems.
- Never advertise that you’ll waive co-pays or deductibles. Routine waiver of copays and deductible can result in violations of the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Statute.
Don’t Forget to Measure.
How will you know if your marketing tactics are working? If you aren’t measuring KPIs, you won’t. Without evidence, it will be difficult to gain buy-in from physicians/practice owners for new marketing initiatives. When a new patient makes an appointment, be sure to ask how they heard about your practice. Beyond that, here are a few more metrics you should be measuring:
- For email marketing, measure the open rate, click-thru rate, conversion rate, hard and soft bounce rates, and unsubscribe rates.
- For social media, measure reach, engagement, and leads/conversions (as defined by you).
- In general, measure your patient acquisition cost, patient retention rate, search engine rankings, and conduct an overall evaluation at the end of each marketing campaign.