By Thuy-Lan Nguyen, OD
March 23, 2016
Multi-channel marketing is the use of social media, photo sharing, video, podcasts, mobile marketing, and other types of multimedia, to broaden your practice’s reach and digital visibility to patients. Multi-channel marketing means using multiple avenues such as social media, web sites, e-blasts, as well as podcasting, live streaming and photo sharing, to spread the word about your practice. There’s nothing wrong with old fashioned word-of-mouth marketing, but in today’s digital, social media world, traditional print, or snail mail marketing, won’t reach and attract the majority of a practice’s target audience.
Promote Special Events & Sales
I have used Facebook, YouTube channels and e-mail blasts in the past to promote special events and trunk shows. My current practice also uses Twitter, Instagram and Pintrest. The next phase for us will be video podcasting and live streaming to get the word out and provide marketing messages to the patient’s device of choice on demand. The goal for each of these campaigns is to build brand awareness in a unique and powerful way.
Invest in Technology to Support Multi-Channel Campaign
Multi-channel marketing will require investing in some basic equipment initially. You may need a designated mobile device or tablet with camera and video capabilities. These can range from $200-$1,000+. Then you may need to download photo and video editing apps to customize your pictures and videos. These apps may feel intimidating at first, but the more you use them, the more confident you will be.
As you become more savvy, consider a GoPro camera for longer, higher quality action videos. If a practice owner or manager does not have the time, or the tech skills, to do this on their own, then hire someone. Professional services can run from $1,000-$15,000. If a practice is trying to market themselves as having a professional, modern business, it may be worth the investment to put your best foot forward.
Tailor Messages for Different Channels
Certain channels are geared toward increasing your patient base, while others may be designed toward educating patients, and others may be strictly for entertainment. For example, an active Yelp page with pictures, videos and deals may drive interest about a practice and bring new patients in. But YouTube videos can provide more patient education about the importance of contact lens care. Pintrest and Instagram pictures are great for promoting new products. And the occasional funny Facebook cartoon, or meme, will show the down-to-earth side of the practice, and entertain.
Dr. Nguyen says tying practice marketing of medical eyecare to community events can be powerful. You can use the calendar above, from www.healthline.com, in which the eycare community, draws attention to threats to eyes and vision, to creating your own marketing messages.
Know When You Need Outside Help
I have a fantastic, local marketing professional who is a graphic designer and social media guru. But even the most creative, knowledgeable professional needs ideas and guidance. A marketing firm may not know that a practice specializes in vision therapy or glaucoma. They may not know that the doctor lectures at major educational conferences, or is involved in research. It is critical for practice owners and managers to guide the marketing firm on the tone and the content of any marketing campaign. I suggest setting a budget and sticking to it, because marketing could cost $4,000 or more. But for a small business that wants to grow to the next level, the investment is worth it.
Divide Marketing Tasks
Many ODs, or practice managers, are tech-savvy enough to create their own social media page, but maintaining it and keeping it current can be a full-time job. I will post certain things myself for daily marketing, but I rely on an outside marketing professional to design and execute larger campaigns.
Delegation of certain tasks is crucial for doctors to get through an average day. But many practice owners want their employees to concentrate on their job at hand, such as taking care of patients, instead of marketing. I give ideas to my marketing pro and rely on his creativity to design marketing campaigns with my approval.
Feature Patients–With Signed HIPAA Marketing Authorization Form
Featuring patients is an excellent way to personalize multi-channel marketing campaigns. However, optometric and medical practices need to be aware of HIPAA violations and maintain patients’ privacy. In the past, I would only get verbal permission from a patient to post their picture and their name. But to follow HIPAA privacy law requirements, practices should create a written waiver for patients to sign if they are going to use their image in any multi-channel campaign. And even if a patient gives permission, a practice may want to try to avoid revealing any medical or ocular conditions when featuring patients in marketing material.
Make marketing timely. For example, February is heart disease awareness month. Encourage your entire staff to show support by wearing red one day and post pictures and upload videos. Provide information on your web site about hypertensive retinopathy and provide links such as goredforwomen.org. Offer real-time incentives for patients who also support the cause. Give out chocolate, or even a discount, to anyone who wears red into the office and allows you to take their picture.
Join like-minded communities. If you sell a lot of eyewear for athletes, join Facebook groups and hashtag the sports you are involved in or the brands you carry. If a high-profile professional athlete is photographed wearing sunglasses that you carry, post it immediately.
Create multiple episodes. Post videos online, and on social media, as soon as possible, but before going live with podcast or live streaming, build up a catalog of multiple video episodes.
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Thuy-Lan Nguyen, OD, practices in South Florida, teaches at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry, and works part time as an associate at We Are Eyes in Boca Raton, Fla. To contact her: TLNGUYEN@nova.edu