The economy’s recovered since the Great Recession, but how about your LASIK (or PRK, or phakic) numbers? If you’re like many ophthalmologists who practice refractive surgery, your revenue from these—and other elective procedures—took a big dip between 2008 and 2009, and never fully recovered. To grow your elective vision services, Millennials—that demographic born between the early 1980s and late 1990s—may be the answer.
The incidence of myopia among Millennials is over 75 percent higher than among Baby Boomers, according to a 2008 study published in JAMA Ophthalmology. Millennials represent a huge pool of potential LVC candidates, but many practices have found them difficult to pin down. How can you tap into the potential of this dynamic, sometimes contradictory, and often misunderstood demographic? The key is knowing where they are, what they value, and how to reach them, say experts.
Meet Them Where They Are
If you’re still using the same old marketing strategy for Millennials that you used on their parents or grandparents, you’re making a big mistake. Traditional marketing avenues like television, radio, and print ads just won’t work as well. Consider that for 18-34 year olds, YouTube is more popular than any cable TV station, business adviser Jeffery Daigrepont told a group of ophthalmologists at AAO 2016.
So where are Millennials hanging out, and where do they get their information from? Social media, of course. Instead of seeking the advice of older, more experienced family members, “Millennials rely on social networks for information and recommendations,” according to Valerie Manso, ABOC, FNAO, who led optometrists who attended SECO 2017 in a deep discussion on marketing to Millennials. To Millennials, “a larger pool means more unbiased recommendations,” she continued.
You can probably see where this is headed—and like many ophthalmologists—you may be dreading it. But a robust social media strategy is no longer optional. Millennials are mobile, and if you want to reach them where they are, on Facebook, YouTube, and yes, Snapchat, you’ve got to be right there with them.
What Millennials Value
Millennials are skeptical about advertising, and hate being “sold” to. They value authenticity, and by the time a Millennial patient arrives at your office for a consultation, they’ve already done a ton of their own research. They want to be educated, and they want to know the facts—all of them.
Successful outcomes with laser vision correction and satisfied patients starts with setting expectations, so don’t sugarcoat the procedure. If it’s likely they’ll still need reading glasses in 20 years, tell them. If LVC isn’t going to solve their dry eye problem, tell them. Say something like “it’s a decision that will affect your vision for the rest of your life, so you need all the facts” suggests John Hovanesian, MD, who spoke about refractive surgery at AAO 2016. Cory Lessner, MD, medical director of Millennium Laser Eye Centers, agreed. “Talk to your patients [about complications],” he said. “Reassure them that you have seen/dealt with [complications] before and that you have a plan B.”
How to Reach Them With Refractive Surgery Marketing
If you don’t have a social media strategy, you need one—now. But what if you’re already diligent about social media marketing, and still not getting the results that you want? A good portion of practices on social media today have started to see their efforts falter, and they’re becoming more and more frustrated with their results, according to Justin Bazan, OD, of Park Slope Eye in Brooklyn, NY, also a SECO presenter. One big reason? Social media platforms and the way they work are continuously changing, he says, while practices are stuck in the same old habits. The old standard of posting updates, sharing links, and repeating likely means your message is getting delivered to a very, very small slice of readers.
Eyes Open: How can you measure the success of your refractive surgery marketing efforts? “The ideal conversion for a successful LASIK practice results in every inquiry yielding one surgical eye,” Kay Couson, MBA reported in Ophthalmology Management’s January 2017 issue.
Social Media Marketing: A Better Strategy
Millennials want to be talked with, not talked at. Sixty two percent of Millennials say that “if a brand engages with them on social networks, they are more likely to become a loyal customer,” according to research by Forbes. “They expect brands to not only be on social networks, but to engage them.” Millennials want to be part of your community, says Thuy-Lan Nguyen, OD, another SECO presenter and assistant professor at Nova Southeastern College of Optometry. They love birthdays, special life events, and of course, selfies, she continues. Create a special hashtag for your office. Let them see behind the scenes. Let your employees bond with your patients by communicating with them. “It may not look like they’re working, but they are,” she emphasizes.
Tip: “Make your charitable deeds known” says Nguyen. “Post any community events, charitable donations, and volunteering” your practice participates in, she continues. “If a brand you use also gives back, the brand becomes an extension of your office,” so be sure to shout about it on social media, too. Millennials love to spend money on brands they feel good about, she notes.
And don’t forget the all important call to action (CTA). Your ultimate goal is not to get a “like” but to get an appointment. Some practice management and patient relationship management systems will even allow you to insert a “Book Now” link directly into social media posts.
Smile, You’re on Camera
Video, especially mobile video, has become a huge part of social media marketing, and medical practices are no different, says Daigrepont. Video allows for a glimpse into the not-often-seen, a “real view of what transpires while being engaging and educational,” he says. During his seminar on social media, Daigrepont mentioned cardiologist Paresh Patel, who live tweeted an open heart surgery at Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital in Houston. Similarly, physicians at UCLA used Vine to post 6 second clips of brain pacemaker implant surgery.
If it seems intimidating to incorporate video into your LVC marketing plan—it’s not. To gain experience with video features like Facebook Live, “you just use it,” says Bazan. “The more you use it, the more ideas come to mind for how to use it.” Lessner agrees, and has used video extensively to market LASIK at his practice. His practice regularly live-streams LASIK procedures, allowing friends and family of patients to watch the procedure and even participate via a dedicated chat room. The practice’s website also features archived footage and footage of patients’ reactions immediately following their procedures. His goal? To express the ease and simplicity of the procedure, removing the mystery and calming common fears. Another practice, according to website Millennial Eye, even provides patients with a social media-ready video of their surgery. Talk about a souvenir!
Tip: Thinking of streaming video? Be sure to gain written consent from any patient whose experience you want to capture.
Millennial Money Matters
When it comes to finances, Millennials have more in common with the fiscally conservative Silent Generation than with their spendy Boomer parents or grandparents. It makes sense: both generations lived through major financial crises—the Great Depression and the Great Recession. Millennials have money to spend, but they’re paying careful attention to where they spend it.
If you are an established office, you might have just one price for each type of LVC you offer. Other offices choose a tiered system based on the procedure, say, a lower price for keratome and a higher one for femto. When it comes to Millennials, there’s a benefit to tiered pricing. Millennials love customization. They like to feel like they are not just getting a one-sized-fits-all solution. Even though the outcome of the procedures is the same, a tiered price lets patients feel like if they want to pay a little more, they can get a little more.
The cost of LVC can be daunting, but the one-time cost for the procedure may be more palatable for Millennials than the never-ending cost of contacts. Even when they require reading glasses down the road, LVC is still cheaper than contacts in the long run. Try saying something like “Insurance won’t cover this surgery. It’s optional, and not everyone can afford this. Our staff can tell you about financing options that can make it as affordable as a few dollars a day” suggests Hovanesian.
And what about those patients who call your practice and just want to know the cost? “’How much?’ really means ‘Give me enough information to decide if [your practice] is where I want to go’” says consultant Sharon Carter. “My offices that charge the most convert the most patients on the phone,” she notes.