Strategic marketing at the practice level

September 1, 2008

Marketing at the practice level offers a less expensive and easier way to increase patient volume. Creating a memorable patient experience by showing the practice's superiority over others, starting at the consultation, as well as addressing concerns and fears at the beginning, will help retain patients and increase references.

Key Points

Are your marketing efforts producing healthy call volume and a strong conversion rate? If your numbers could be better, then read on for suggestions on how to increase refractive volume with strategic marketing maneuvers starting at the practice level.

Start with what you've got

In terms of marketing dollars, it is far less expensive to convert a current caller than to motivate a new person to pick up the phone and dial in. It is also more cost-effective to market additional procedures or ongoing eye care to your existing patient database than to get new patients to trust you. Start at the simplest level by focusing your marketing efforts on enhancing your practice image and establishing clear, memorable branding. Make sure to address points such as patient benefits, personal service, technology, price, and financing.

Your marketing implementation should depend on up-to-date research, including market factors such as consumer spending patterns and discretionary income levels. Invest in professional data collection and evaluation, and conduct training sessions to help your staff get a better view inside the minds of consumers.

Stay in touch with your patients by collecting consistent feedback in order to stay on top of their needs and identify areas where your practice or your team could be stronger. Once you have a better understanding of what your patients want, you will be better prepared not only to meet their expectations during the vision correction process, but also to get them to call in the first place.

Create memorable experiences

Focus on creating exceptional patient experiences as the strong foundation of your marketing plan. Come up with ways you can improve the patient experience before concentrating on expensive media advertising. Talk to staff members and get them involved in the strategic brainstorming process. Staff members who are truly invested in new ideas are more likely to contribute effort toward implementation and maintenance of important protocols.

Market from the first contact

Take the "inside-out" approach by imagining yourself in a pair of your patient's shoes from the initial phone call. Make sure that this first contact matches the expectations you've set with your marketing messages. Imagine your disappointment if you received an impressive and high-quality practice brochure that communicated a "personalized experience and knowledgeable, friendly staff", only to be greeted by a grumpy intake person who was reluctant to answer your questions.

An intake person must not only have a warm and friendly personality, but should also be informative, persuasive and confident. Training, support, and evaluation of intake staff are crucial to your practice growth. Consider using scripted material during intake, including countering cost barriers, promoting your surgeon's experience, and discussing value and benefits. In addition, make sure that your first-impression ambassadors are not only well-trained, but well-compensated as they work hard to grow your conversion rates.

Market during consultation

During consultation, both doctors and staff should realize the importance of marketing follow-through at this early stage. The face-to-face meeting is your chance to shine-your opportunity to show a prospective patient that you can walk the walk. Think of it as an interview or audition-your potential patient is looking to you for important information on the procedure and is making that critical decision as to why he or she should choose your practice over other local centers.

The consultation also presents a golden opportunity to listen and address specific patient obstacles, and to provide highly personalized feedback and recommendations.

Address fear early

During calls and consults, your staff must be able to anticipate and address fears before moving on to price discussion. Emphasize your surgeon's skill level and "bedside manner." Get patients excited about the possibility of clear vision by asking them what they hope to accomplish with the procedure. Ask them to share specific concerns, and then address each with well-thought-out, positive answers.

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