Member Spotlight: Dr. Michael Peterson – Visionology
Innovative Marketing Methods & a High Level of Customer Service Help Attract & Retain Patients
Dr. Mike Peterson of Visionology in Draper, Utah is not one to shy away from trying something new. When he first opened his practice four years ago he wasn’t interested in buying an established business but wanted to instead build his own patient base from the ground up.
Through some initial trial and error, such as accepting cash only and no insurance, Dr. Peterson’s practice has since experienced steady success with positive online reviews and a growing staff. Dr. Peterson is getting ready to hire another part time optician to his current staff of two full-time employees and one part-timer.
One area where the business has placed a lot of its efforts is online marketing, and the practice has been reaping the rewards from their innovative ideas. They put a lot of focus on acquiring positive Google reviews and utilizing Facebook & Groupon to attract new patients.
We recently got a chance to connect with Dr. Peterson and asked about his practice’s success with different online marketing platforms, how he manages to charge higher prices than competitors, and the sizeable ROI that Visionology gets from its employees.
What encouraged you to try something innovative with your marketing?
Business consultants say that when building a business you should provide something unique – some doctors might say that should be a new piece of equipment, but a competitor down the street could just as easily buy that same piece of equipment and then you are left starting from scratch.
So, the need to offer something highly valuable is essential and for us, that’s phenomenal customer service. It’s not only a skill, but it’s a niche. People have a lot of bad experiences out there and services like Google allow them to share their experiences with the community. Businesses with a high amount of positive reviews encourage individuals to walk through your doors, even if it costs them a little bit more. For this reason, we really make an effort to get people to review us online.
Apart from Yelp, what other online social platforms are you utilizing?
We use Facebook quite a bit. We don’t post a lot, but we use Facebook as an alternative to insurance. We provide a Facebook offer for an exam that also gives a credit towards a complete pair of glasses. It’s similar to a vision plan. So when people ask how much we charge for an eye exam, we tell them we’d be much higher than other places they’d inquire with, but, then we tell them about our Facebook deal and we have experienced great success from that. About 80% of people who inquire end up scheduling an appointment.
In addition to offering a Facebook deal to patients, you also advertise on Groupon. What made you decide to try Groupon to attract new patients to your practice?
We take a lot of insurance, but found that we don’t like how insurers would force us to use their labs. One of my opticians recommended we look into Groupon. I was hesitant at first; I’d heard from other doctors that advertising on Groupon doesn’t work well and it’s hard to retain patients because they’re usually bargain shoppers just looking for the best deal. But, we thought we’d give it a try and evaluate after 6 months.
It worked out really well and while the rumors we heard were true to a certain degree, they were actually the exception. We were able to get people into nicer mid-line products, higher priced frames or anti-reflective lenses, and they spent more money than we had anticipated.
What is your advice to doctors who want to try using Groupon?
To make Groupon successful we had to crunch numbers for different scenarios to show an acceptable profit. To see a profit, we made sure that our usual and customary pricing was at a healthy level. We soon discovered that the higher pricing didn’t scare people away, but rather allowed patients to purchase higher-end products at a discount.
Also, have a top-down selling procedure in place. If you have opticians who start at the bottom or middle priced items in your product array, it won’t give people the opportunity to consider higher-end products right off the bat. You end up with people going with the lower-end products if thats what you try to promote first.
Finally, we found it’s beneficial to set expectations when someone calls to ask about the deal before they decide to purchase the Groupon. Our office staff explains that the patient will end up spending about $100 or $200 out of pocket. The majority of people are actually very understanding.
How are you able to retain patients that first come to you through a deal?
Phenomenal customer service is key to getting these patients to come back. Finding the best staff is not easy, and that’s why it’s so hard to duplicate this unique service. I study some of the great brands outside of our industry – Nordstrom, Disney, Starbucks – and I look at their hiring practices and philosophies so I can incorporate those into my practice.
Our hiring process is very lengthy and thorough. We are very picky about who we hire in our office, so we delay hiring someone until we can find the right person. While I’m a good doctor, I’m not the best at running a business. A lot of our business ideas and techniques have come from our team members because we hire fantastic people who believe in our philosophies and want to see the practice succeed. If I have a great team in my office, I could lose everything else, but we’d be able to work our way back up to the top again.