By Maria Sampalis, OD
August 24, 2016
Early fall means the first round of back-to-school exams. Is your practice ready to capture this annual opportunity? Here is one example of how to do it.
OPTIMIZE E-MAIL DATABASE. Use your patients’ e-mail addresses to send e-blasts during back-to-school season by using an online distribution tool like MailChimp.
POST KID-FRIENDLY CONTENT. Use Facebook to post children eyecare-oriented messaging throughout the year, not just at back-to-school time. Then target to back-to-school as the fall nears.
ADD NEW “LIKES.” Encourage all patients who visit your office, including, and especially, new patients, to “like” your practice’s Facebook page to increase traffic and the visibility of that page.
Many parents in your community are just now thinking about their children’s back-to-school needs, including the need for the child’s annual eye exam, even though many have children who have already gone back to school. Many other patients who are parents may not realize yet that this is an annual need. Address both kinds of parents with targeted advertising via e-mail and social media posts.
Extend the discussion about education and vision throughout the year. Send the message that if parents missed taking children in before school started, there is still time to get the child’s eyes checked before the school year gets too far along.
In the past, my practice, an independently owned office located inside a Sears in Warwick, R.I., has done TV commercials to encourage back-to-school exams, but this year we find the most economical option, with the greatest chance for a strong return on investment, is advertising by e-mail and social media.
We spent around $1,000 on advertising for back-to-school last year, including for a commercial that ran during a TV show I appeared on, and generated around $6,000 in revenues from an influx of eye exams and product purchases by families with children. This year I opted not to do the commercial simply because I did not have the time. It takes at least a month of preparation before taping, and that was time I did not have this summer.
Optimize Your E-Mail Database
Your greatest resource in marketing to your patients is your database of e-mail addresses. Use it to get a jump start on other practices in marketing the back-to-school season.
Use this to follow-up with families of students who have exams to continue the dialogue on vision and learning.
You can couple that free resource of e-mail addresses with an e-blast campaign using an online tool like MailChimp, which allows you to input an e-mail message, which the system then delivers to the e-mail addresses you transfer to it. The system enables us to send over 2,000 e-mails to patients for $30. Our open rate is about 25 percent. Here is an example of an e-blast message we recently sent out:
Reach Patients Via Facebook
Many, if not most, of your patients are on Facebook. Encourage patients to connect with your Facebook page when they visit your practice. You can ask patients to “like” your Facebook page on your business cards, or through signage in your office, or you and your staff can verbally ask them to visit and like your Facebook page for updates on promotions and new products, along with helpful eye health and vision information.
The value of building your Facebook presence comes at times like this, when you are promoting an annual opportunity like back-to-school exams, including any special promotions you are offering.
Even before back-to-school planning begins for most families, we post photos and messages related to pediatric eyecare. That way, when it comes time for parents to think about their children’s eyecare and vision needs, our practice easily comes to mind. As we get closer to the fall, we post photos and information especially tailored to back-to-school. Here are a couple of posts featuring children from this summer:
Social Media Traffic Begets Traffic
We ask every new patient who comes through our office to “like” our Facebook page. We let them know that they can be among the first to find out that way about new products and special promotional deals, like second-pair sales, in our office. The more who “like” your page, the more visible your page becomes to other Facebook users, so it is important that you encourage your patients, especially new ones, to “like” your Facebook page. You can even offer a reward for those who “like” your page, such as a discount on one pair of total eyewear, or a discount on another product or service in your office.
Get Help if You Need It
Not every practice owner has the knowledge, inclination or time to handle online marketing him or herself. I found myself to be one of those doctors. For that reason, my recent social media and e-blast campaign was helped by eyecare digital strategy and online marketing experts EyeCarePro. In addition to helping us put together our upcoming back-to-school campaign, they are helping us track search engine optimization–how high in the search listings our practice comes up when people do a Google search for an eye doctor in our area, and how we can continue to make it easier for more new patients–including those with children–to find our office.