By Maria Sampalis, OD
August 30, 2017
It’s back-to-school season again. If you haven’t already started promoting your office as the place to come for annual comprehensive exams, there is no time to waste. Many of your patients’ children still haven’t gotten their annual exam, and those who don’t get one now, may be looking for an eye doctor in a couple months when the first report card arrives.
Every year my practice does its best to reach families with a strong back-to-school message. In the past, my practice, an independently owned office located inside a Sears in Warwick, R.I., has even done TV commercials to encourage back-to-school exams. In more recent years, however, we have focused on online marketing via social media, along with in-office education of parents, and community involvement.
Talk to Parents in Your Office
The first step to generating back-to-school exams won’t cost you anything but a couple extra minutes tacked onto the end of an exam. If you know a patient is a parent, it’s an easy segue to bring up children’s eyecare.
Doctor: “How are the kids doing? It’s that time of year, they’ll be heading back to school soon, right?”
Patient: “Yeah, next week, as a matter of fact.”
Doctor: “How long has it been since their last eye exam? I don’t think we’ve ever seen them in the office.”
Patient: “I don’t know. A few years maybe, I’m not sure. They don’t seem to have any issues with their eyes.”
Doctor: “It can be hard to tell without a comprehensive exam and refraction whether or not a child needs glasses, or even medical eyecare treatment. Children sometimes don’t let you know when they are having trouble seeing in school or in sports, and sometimes they don’t even know themselves that they’re not seeing as well as they should be. In addition to vision, we like to check the health of every child’s eyes annually to make sure there is no underlying disease, or condition, that could affect their vision, or even their general health.”
Patient: “Wow, I didn’t know that! I figured as long as they were seeing good, there was nothing to worry about.”
Doctor: “I’ll introduce you to our receptionist when I take you to the optical to pick out your glasses, so you can schedule a time for both kids to come in sometime soon.”
Offer Incentive of a Sale
If the eye health and vision of your patients’ children isn’t a good enough reason for them to visit for an exam this fall, maybe a sale is.
For the duration of back-to-school season in your community (schools typically start in August in the Southeast, and other parts of the country, and just after Labor Day in the Northeast), offer $100 off a complete pair of glasses, and 30 percent off second pairs for all patients under the age of 18.
Be sure to emphasize the phrase “second pair” on your practice web site, Facebook and Instagram pages, along with the word “eye doctor” and the name of your city, so patients Googling “eye doctor in X city” will be more likely to see a listing for your practice and second-pair sale for children and teens.
Here is an ad I keep on file to use each year to promote our typical back-to-school discount:
Educate on Ambylopia & Vision Disorders
Many parents don’t know that their children could have a visual disorder that may be affecting their school work and extracurricular activities.
At the start of your back-to-school season, post educational information about common childhood visual disorders to your practice Facebook page. Be sure to put the post in layman’s terms, and if you can, make it conversational and casual.
Many eyecare practices (including your competitors) are already educating their communities about visual disorders. Type a disorder like “ambylopia” into the search box on Facebook, and see what other practices have done. Sometimes you can create a compelling post by finding interesting content to link to online. Here are a couple examples to give you an idea of what you could do:
Promote at Pediatrician Offices, Schools & Daycare Centers
Promotional material, such as flyers, or business cards, with your practice name, a back-to-school message and a coupon for a discount, can drive exams.
You can use an inexpensive online service like Vistaprint to create as many as a few hundred items like business cards for as little as $100, or less. Then, visit pediatricians’ offices to introduce yourself to staff and ask if they could offer your business cards or flyers on their check-out counter, or keep them behind the desk to hand to any parent whom the pediatrician recommends sends their child for an eye exam.
You can do the same at schools, introducing yourself to school nurses, and giving material to them to have on hand when speaking to parents on the phone, or even to insert into letters sent to parents informing them that their child has failed a vision screening.
At daycare centers, meet the directors and supervisors, and explain the services you provide, and see if there is a place where you could leave your promotional materials. You could even offer to visit the daycare center to give a presentation to parents on proper eyecare for their children.
In addition to printed material, be sure to take down e-mail addresses, to give the people you meet an easy way to reach you by e-mail, and through your practice web site.
Maria Sampalis OD, practices at Sampalis Eye Care in Warwick RI. She is also the founder of Corporate Optometry on Facebook. Dr. Sampalis is also founder of the new job site corporateoptometrycareers.com and www.corporateoptometry.com. She is available for practice management consulting. To contact: firstname.lastname@example.org