Tips to get more bang for your buck and increase referrals

October 3, 2015

There are essential components to a budget for your practice-rent, utilities, and staff wages to name a few. But there should also be another section in your budget for marketing.

Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuringcontributions 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 Joy Gibb, ABOC, an optician at Daynes Eye and Lasik in Bountiful, UT. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of  Ophthalmology Times or UBM Advanstar.

 

There are essential components to a budget for your practice-rent, utilities, and staff wages to name a few.  But there should also be another section in your budget for marketing.

Marketing can be done in many ways and some are far more cost effective than others.  You’ve probably explored the typical marketing avenues such as advertising in your local paper or hometown values coupon booklets that are mailed to all the homes in your area.  While those are always nice options, the marketing you do to develop relationships with others in your community will always give you the biggest return on investment.

We recently embarked upon a marketing strategy to get our practice name more recognized in the community.  Instead of targeting customers, we targeted other physicians in our local area that had the ability to refer new patients to us. 

We made a list of local pediatricians and family physicians and came up with 45 providers to visit.  We wanted to make sure we had a good message so they would remember us and know what we could do to help their patients.  With school starting just around the corner, we opted for a message about school vision screenings and some statistical information about what can be missed in a vision screening not conducted by an eye care professional (thevisioncouncil.org is an excellent resource for information). 

Next: But is it worth it?

 

We created a quick facts sheet with our contact information at the top and highlighted a few points regarding children’s vision and gave each physician a copy.  We also provided some clean copies of the same facts for them to share with their patient’s parents. 

(Courtesy of Joy Gibb, ABOC)

Part of our desire in this adventure was to help these providers understand that we are a personable office and is willing to work with them in accommodating their patients as soon as possible with personalized care.

We created a card that highlighted not only our contact information, but also pictures of our staff to give it a more personal feel.  Everyone likes a treat so we purchased a dozen cookies for each provider and attached the card to the box with a cute ribbon for personality.  But you don’t want to alienate the office staff, so we purchased another dozen cookies for the staff to share.

A few of us from the office made the rounds introducing ourselves, explaining what we do, and giving each provider a stack of business cards.  The response we received was warm and impressive.  Many of the providers were enthusiastic about the facts we provided them and said they would begin to encourage earlier eye exams from an eye care professional when visiting with their patients. 

Some of the providers also were thrilled to have an ophthalmologist to refer to and gave us the opportunity to tell them more about our practice and how we could help them provide even better care for their patients. 

It was an investment of our time to visit the practices and getting out of our comfort zone to introduce ourselves to so many new people.  As far as a monetary investment, we did all the treats and printing for right around $500.  The new relationships we established are priceless and we’ve noticed the referrals of new patients to our practice coming from many of these physicians.

Next: Drawing in new patients

 

Part of effective marketing is telling others what you are good at, why you enjoy doing it, and how it benefits them.  We plan on reaching out again to these physicians with information on how we can help patients who are struggling with computer vision syndrome and the effects of blue light and take a sample of blue light reducing computer lenses for them to actually try.

(Courtesy of Joy Gibb, ABOC)

We’ll also reach out to pediatricians and our local youth sports leagues to share information on the importance of sport specific eyewear.  Dermatologists are another group we plan on reaching out to about UV protection and sunwear.

Not only did it help us draw in new patients, it was also a great experience in building our team and working together.  Someone with a more artistic flair created our cards and someone who was comfortable with the public took the reins in introducing our office to others. 

We brainstormed ideas for what we can do in the future, and once we started thinking a bit outside the box, the more ideas started coming and the excitement for future marketing adventures blossomed within the team.

Think about who in your community you can build a relationship with to increase referrals and awareness.  Generate messages that will tell them what you’re good at, what you enjoy doing, and why people should come see you.  Toot your own horn and tell people how great you are!