and Jessica Fulmer, OD, FAAO
March 8, 2017
Ours is a specialty practice, focusing on vision therapy and rehabilitative vision services, with no optical dispensary.
Next to the quality of care we provide, and the relationships we build with our patients, marketing our specialty to our community is the most important component of our success.
Define Your Brand
Our aim is to provide therapy services for two key patient populations: those with binocular vision disorders and those with visual issues sustained after a head injury or concussion. This distinction has led to a diversified marketing strategy to target both patient populations.
Once You Find Your Office, Start Marketing
Marketing began as soon as we chose an office space location, and had services such as our phone/fax lines and business e-mail addresses set up. We did not have a choice of phone number, but we wanted doctor e-mail addresses that were easy and straightforward, so we set up our e-mails as “DrX@twinforksoptometry.com.
CHOOSE LOGO. We put a lot of thought into how our practice name and logo could convey what we were about while being eye-catching and reflecting pride in our unique community. We enlisted the help of a graphic designer to achieve this. With her help, we created a logo that was unique and suited the aim/aesthetic of our office. Once this was done, we worked on designing business cards that included this logo and all of our pertinent contact information.
CREATE PAMPHLETS. We created pamphlets that provide an overview of vision therapy with common signs/symptoms. The pamphlets include an overview of common symptoms of binocular vision dysfunctions, what a vision therapy evaluation is looking for and success stories of vision therapy. This provides a succinct snapshot of what vision therapy entails to both prospective patients and doctors who may be referring patients to our office. We display these within our office and distribute them to local referring doctors, which has proven to be very effective. The pamphlets are in both digital form, on our web site and practice Facebook page, as well as in paper form.
MEET OTHER DOCTORS. We introduced ourselves to all the local physicians in the area who could potentially be referral sources. We met with other optometrists, ophthalmology groups, primary care physicians, endocrinologists, pediatricians and occupational/physical therapists to educate them about our services. Our marketing message to these groups was the services we provide and our scope of care. The closest vision therapy office is over 25 miles from our location, so many practitioners were not familiar with the kinds of patients we could serve.
INVITE PRESS. Once we had a prospective start date, we invited the local newspapers to visit our office, and learn about the services we provide, so they could write a story and get the word out. This generated a lot of positive buzz around the opening of the office, and even helped to get our first few therapy patients in for evaluations.
Track & Manage Marketing Spending
In our first year, we spent about 15 percent of our initial business loan funds on marketing because we did not know what the ROI was going to be like for the different modes of marketing.
Now that we are nearing 18 months in business, we dedicate about 5 percent of our gross to marketing. The decision to decrease our budget was a result of assessing which modes yielded the most new incoming patients, and discontinuing the services which were low yield. We reassess our marketing budget on a quarterly basis based on our needs for the practice.
Measure What Works Best & Refine Plan
Our initial marketing ran the gamut from print ads, radio ads, online advertising and social media. Over time we found print and radio ads and online advertising yielded the fewest new patients and were the costliest.
Word-of-mouth and social media have been our best resources for the growth of our practice. When we help one person, usually they end up sending two to three patients for assessments who may be experiencing something similar.
For example, we put a print ad in a popular local newspaper for about nine months, which cost us around $7,000. We could count on two hands how many patients came in from this! Definitely not our best decision.
Establishing relationships with referring doctors is where the largest percentage of our patients come from. Since we opened our office cold, our patient schedule was not fully booked upon opening. We took advantage of this down time to get out into the community and introduce ourselves, our office and what vision therapy is all about.
We explained how the services we provided differed from the care patients were already receiving in the area. We reached out to local optometrists, ophthalmologists, opticians, pediatricians, primary care physicians, occupational therapists, speech therapists and concussion specialists. We explained what we do, the signs/symptoms to look for in their patients, and how we can work together to get our patients to achieve their highest level of potential.
One might discount the effectiveness of exchanging a face-to-face interaction as opposed to reaching out via e-mail or social media outlets. But we found this to be one of the most cost-effective ways to spend our time. A significant amount of these in-person meetings have led to great referral relationships with providers in our area. It was very fulfilling to see the impact a face-to-face meeting can still have in our social media-driven world.
Additionally, we met with our local concussion specialist team to educate them about the common visual issues that are present with post-concussion syndrome. We have created a relationship with them, and have become one of their referral sources for assessing for post-concussion patients with visual disorders.
Send the Right Message to Other ODs
An important part of marketing a specialty practice to other optometrist is to not steal patients. This was part of the reason we decided to not offer optical services in our office; we wanted our community of optometrists to know that we are treating patients who require vision therapy and rehabilitation, not to sell them glasses.
Some patients decide to stay for their yearly health care, but we strongly encourage the patients who came from other optometrists to return to them for their routine optometric care. We want to build relationships within our community, not take away from the camaraderie that comes with optometry.
Miki Lyn D’Angelo, OD, and Jessica Fulmer, OD, FAAO, are co-owners of Twin Forks Optometry and Vision Therapy in Riverhead, NY.
To contact Dr. D’Angelo: DrDangelo@twinforksoptometry.com.
To contact Dr. Fulmer: DrFulmer@twinforksoptometry.com