By Agustin Gonzalez, OD, FAAO, ABCMO
August 26, 2015
The one thing I have learned about Warby Parker is that to prosper in this fast-paced marketplace, you must be willing to engage. You cannot justmeet the needs of the community you serve; you must exceed them.
Social media marketing and patient engagement have changed medical marketing dramatically from just a few years ago. Patient interaction and patient expectations drive the message, and keeping patients engaged requires more effort now than ever. Here are three key steps to take to spur practice growth.
Roll Out the Red Carpet: Give Patients Star Treatment
Patients might like you, but if there is conflict with the staff, they may not return. The famous “patient experience” is what elevates you to rock star, or swaps you for the guy down the street. Just like you, today’s patients will not have patience for poor service, long wait times and grumpy staff. They expect the “red carpet” treatment. How can you improve? Easy! Here are three simple first steps to take:
Ask questions, engage them in conversations. For example, ask about the patients’ hobbies and lifestyle. Even if you already have basic information about these areas of the patient’s life from the patient intake, or lifestyle history, form, you can go further in the exam room. If the patient has indicated that they boat, for instance, you could ask about where they enjoy doing that hobby. That might give you insights into the kind of sport sunwear that would be best for them. If the patient tells you they spend long hours in front of their computer for work, you could also ask about their use of mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones. If they tell you they use those mobile devices frequently to get work done while out of the office, you could offer a pair of blue-light blocking eyewear that helps ease digital eye fatigue syndrome.
Don’t ask “one or two” and say bye. Be personable enough that your dialogue with the patient isn’t limited to finding out whether “1 or 2” was better during refraction. Try to make conversation about the patient’s life overall, asking about their family life and how their eyes feel during the whole week, and during each day of the week. For example, you might find out that while the patient’s vision is adequate for work, they begin having problems with their vision during the winter on the drive home from the office in the dark. Or you might find that a contact lens wearer’s definition of doing well means doing well enough to only need to take their contacts out as soon as they get home in the late afternoon.
Bring out a genuine smile from each patient. Find out in talking to your patient what will result in them leaving with a smile on their face. For instance, through in-depth conversation and listening you might find that they’d love a pair of prescription of sunwear, but that they haven’t been able to afford it–until now. You might be able to help them attain a pair finally through financing options, or special offers in your office, or through use of their vision benefits.
Be “New”: Ask Patients & Make Improvements
For your marketing campaign to be noticed you need to be open to patient feedback, and you need to be creative. Constant improvement and a message that you are the trendsetter in the professional community go a long way. In your next office meeting, talk to your staff about new ways you can connect with prospective patients and which ways work best. Is there a new contact lens, procedure, solution or test that you could offer? Any service or product you offer that is new, exciting and unique will be news to your community and will drive the message that you are “new.”
Don’t forget to also ask for patient feedback via patient satisfaction surveys and social media. You might find, for example, that patients want greater interaction with the office, that they have been having trouble getting in touch with your office for appointments, and find it hard to reach a staff member when questions arise. Or you might find that patients are disappointed that they can’t order their contacts from you online. First, make the changes that will make you “new” in patients’ eyes. Then, when you market, be sure to highlight recent changes and improvements you’ve made that may give you an edge over competitors.
Increase Social Media Interaction
You have to be top of mind to every patient every day. If you are not, you run the risk of some other rock star OD engaging your patient. Social media contests are phenomenal! Just look at ODs on Facebook!
When executed correctly, contests on your Facebook page will catch patients’ attention and keep you in their minds. The best part is Facebook contests require minimal investment.
Examples of Facebook contests:
• Submit photos of eyeglasses in need of replacement, with the winner getting a free pair of complete glasses
• Ask for best stories of summer vacation, with the winner receiving a free pair of plano sunglasses
• Ask for stories of academic achievement from the past year (or summer session), and award the winner a free back-to-school eye exam and discount on eyewear
• Ask for eye-related jokes (original or found elsewhere), and offer a discount on a pair of complete eyewear
• Ask patients what they think of your renovation or office updates, and ask for feedback regarding decor, like color or needed furniture additions. Award ideas you use with a discount on eyewear, or a year’s supply of contact lenses.
• Ask for captions to photos taken in the office, with the person with the winning caption receiving free lens treatments like AR to ensure their glasses look even better in their next photo.
For faster engagement, send e-mail blasts about your contest and promote in the office with signage.
In an era in which people can be in your reception area, and check eyeglass prices online, you have to engage and educate your patients. Be the first to have the conversation of what your patients are looking for, and position yourself to deliver on that conversation before the competition does.
How are you enhancing your practice’s image in your patients’ eyes, and across your community? What recent changes have you made to improve patient care and service, and how have you marketed those changes?