By Ann Rea Miller, OD
Billboard advertising can quickly turn your practice into a highly recognizable brand in your community.
CHOOSE STRONG MESSAGE & GRAPHICS. Introduce yourself, your practice name, logo and special services.
PICK LOCATION. A town center or heavily trafficked business center can create chatter about your practice.
TRACK RESULTS. Ask new patients how they found your practice, and note how many cite your billboard.
When I graduated from optometry school six years ago, the practice I was joining as an associate put a billboard up in my hometown of Kalida, Ohio, to spread the word that I had graduated and was accepting new patients.My employer knew that many people from Kalida didn’t currently come to his practice, and by creating awareness that a local girl was seeing patients, he was hopeful that the practice would tap into a new population of patients. People from my hometown still comment about seeing my picture on the billboard back then.
So, this year, when I opened my own practice in nearby Lima, Ohio, I again invested in billboard advertising. Lima is a city OF 39,000, yet is like a small town, with businesses dependent on word-of-mouth referrals. It seems like everyone has a connection to someone else, so it seemed like billboards would create conversation and awareness about my new practice. The practice was owned for years by another doctor, so I wanted the community to know a new doctor had taken over, and that they were still able to visit the office for services.
One of three billboards advertising Dr. Miller’s new practice. Choose a location, such as on the same road as your practice, or in a heavily trafficked business center, that will get people’s attention.
I took advantage of a special $1,300 deal for three billboards to be displayed for one month, all at the same time. Another company I looked into offered $500 per billboard per month.
The return on investment was huge. People told us that they stopped in the office after just passing the billboard that was on the same road as my office. Because the office had been closed for five months prior to my opening, many patients who used to come to this office were unaware of what was going on. When they stopped in, they told us they were happy they saw the billboard and learned our office was open and ready to see patients.
Work with Billboard Salesman
I was a part of Business Networking International (BNI) where I got to know a salesman for a billboard company. Each week at the networking meetings, we gave a one-minute presentation of the benefits of our business or an education point. He always had great statistics about how billboards work in a city like Lima, so along with my prior success with the billboard six years ago when I graduated, I decided to try it again. I met with the salesman over coffee and we talked about what message I wanted to send. A few days later he sent me a few displays and we worked together to edit them into a billboard I thought created the messaging I wanted to convey.
Decide on Location of Billboard
There are only three billboards in my hometown of Kalida, and the billboard company I chose owned two of them. I chose the location based on the placement being near a factory in town, so I knew there would be a lot of traffic going past it each day. Many people in town work at the factory, so I knew it would create chatter about the practice (small-town gossip). In Lima, there were many choices. I chose the location for one of them to be on the same road as my office and the other was on the same road as The University of Northwestern Ohio because I again knew there would be a lot of traffic.
Decide on Billboard Design
It was similar in design to my business card. I wanted to keep the same image on my billboard and card, so when people saw it, they would associate one with the other.
Track Results on Billboard Display
If I invest in billboards again I think I would try to better track how many people reported the billboard as the way they knew about our office. We now have a space on my “Welcome” form about demographics, etc., and it asks how you found out about our office.
I would do it again. Right now I have been extremely busy (I’m booked out over one month), so I haven’t needed to do any advertising since the initial start-up. However, if I were to throw a trunk show or have a grand opening of a second office, I would consider using billboards again to get the word out.
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Ann Rea Miller, OD, is the owner of Visual Eyes in Lima, Ohio. To contact her: email@example.com