Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Julie Gough-Nelson, marketing director, Shepherd Eye Center, North Las Vegas. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.
The title of this blog may have you answering in the affirmative —after all, working in medicine is all about the patients, right?
Not necessarily. For the less-experienced marketer, patients may appear to be the only important audience.
However, so many other groups are also important audiences for marketing messages. It is important to recognize and reach out to these audiences to avoid gaps in your marketing program.
Patients are definitely a large focus of the marketing plan—ignoring their needs completely would be a mistake. However, a complete focus on patients could leave gaps. Targeting patients with a mass-media type of advertising is a great way to create awareness for your brand.
Think about the last time you went grocery shopping. Perhaps you stopped in the canned vegetable aisle. Did you see a brand you had never heard of? Did you choose that product? Did you choose a product you had heard of?
If you’re like a majority of people, you probably bought the product you had heard of before, even if you had never personally tried it. Why? Probably because you had encountered some form of advertisement about the product. You had brand awareness.
Let’s imagine you need an eye appointment. You may have a doctor in mind or you may generically search for “ophthalmologists in Las Vegas.” Chances are, as you scroll through the options, you will probably stop and look at those names that “ring a bell.”
The situation is not much different inside the office of a primary-care physician (PCP). When a few suggestions are offered for a referral, you will probably identify with a name you have heard before. This leads us to the next important audience, referring physicians.
In an informal survey, a few of our physicians asked new patients how they heard about us. The majority commented that it was the suggestion of their PCP that lead them to our center. PCPs hold a great bit of power over referrals.
Therefore, it is imperative to spend time marketing your practices to PCPs. This will not be through mass media, but rather face-to-face interactions. After all, if physicians are unaware of your practice, they may choose the practice down the street. It can be as simple as stopping in with business cards and introducing yourself. The line of communication has been opened.
In the informal survey, the other greatest lead generator was insurance. Health care and health insurance is costly. Patients chose providers “in-network” to avoid out-of-pocket costs.
Therefore, it is essential to understand where your patients work and what types of insurances they carry.
From here, you may choose to approach insurance companies to gain contracts, or you may approach businesses and their decision makers to provide them information that may lead to an insurance company change that could mean a new influx of patients. Stay tuned for a future post about finding key decision makers in your community.
For now, remember not to write off any one audience. Potential and current patients, referring PCP, and those making insurance purchases for companies are all vital parts of making your business work.