According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupation of optometry is projected to increase by 18% between 2016 and 2026. Comparatively, the average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent. The rise in demand for optometry can be linked to various population and aging trends, as well as changes in healthcare. From a business’ perspective, larger market share means greater opportunities for growth and profit. To capitalize on this, practices must be prepared and diligently plan their optometrist marketing efforts to secure their share.
Many optometrists and professionals alike consider marketing as simply advertising to attract new customers, including newspaper ads, billboards, print ads, and email campaigns. In reality, optometry marketing should go far beyond these simple methods and basic collateral.
Why is Optometrist Marketing Important?
In the modern business world, your online presence and branding are two of the most important aspects to securing new patients. In the digital age, clients no longer simply see your building, walk in to learn more, and schedule an appointment. In fact, 92% of healthcare consumers aged 18-34 said they go online for research before a call or in-person visit. Closely following that, 86% of consumers aged 33-55 agreed. Even when your optometry practice is referred to them by a friend or family member, their first step will often still be to visit your website for more information. If your website and digital materials are outdated or poorly presented, they are far less likely to trust you with their optometry needs and will likely move on to a practice with more online authority. With so much importance placed on online presence, optometry practices must commit the time, effort and resources to make a stellar and professional impression and maintain their online reputation.
The Most Important, First Step for Optometrist Marketing
The most important thing your practice needs to do when approaching their marketing efforts is sit down and create a detailed 1-year marketing plan as well as a 5-year marketing plan. This will ensure your efforts are specifically linked to your desired outcomes and can be managed, benchmarked and easily recreated and streamlined if successful. When creating your optometrist marketing plan, start with an overarching goal for your practice. Each practice is different and their marketing plans should follow their specific vision for the future.
Another key building block is to develop a clear and consistent brand for your optometry practice. Simply put, your brand is your personality and your promise to your patients. It should tell your community members about the quality of care they can expect from your practice and what sets you apart from your competitors. Many marketing experts recommend that your optometry practice branding should appeal specifically to your local community.
Leveraging Social Media Marketing
Is your optometry practice active on social media? If not, it should be! In the sphere of social media marketing for optometry practices, opportunities exist across various platforms and can be fine-tuned to specifically target key demographics.
To begin, Instagram is typically used by a younger demographic and specifically for photo sharing. This platform can play a role in your online optometrist marketing by sharing aesthetically pleasing images that garner a sense of community or support around your practice. These can include client testimonials with photos or features for new products.
The next social platform that can be utilized for your marketing efforts is Twitter. Twitter’s most used function for businesses is answering questions and providing quick, public responses to their customers. With skilled customer service representatives, this is a great way to show the care you have for your current or potential patients and prove your professionalism with an emphasis on transparency.
The third, and perhaps most important, social platform that optometrist should be leveraging is Facebook. Facebook is the largest of the social networking sites and includes a much larger age range than others. This is especially important for optometrists as the average patient is likely older than Instagram’s average user. Facebook can be incredibly successful in sharing updates, information, blog posts and targeted ads for potential clients with specific location, interest(s) and age parameters.
Carefully consider which of the above social media platforms will best help you achieve your goals, and which are worth the time and commitment. You don’t need to join them all; in fact, it’s probably better to concentrate your efforts on just one or two platforms and master them. Once you determine which platforms are best for your business, take time to carefully build your profile in line with your overall brand. Make sure to include your contact information and link to your website and other social media profiles, if applicable.
Quick Marketing Strategies Optometrists Can Start Immediately
Before creating your detailed optometrist marketing plan, the following are quick tips to improve your digital marketing efforts that can have incredible and lasting results:
- You should commit to being active on the social media platforms you join. Develop a consistent posting schedule that you can stick to. You should post regularly (a few times a week), but not excessively — you don’t want to clog newsfeeds or annoy people to the point that they decide to unfollow you.
- Provide detailed and helpful links, articles and resources directly on your website and share them on social media. This will establish your practice as a trusted expert in your field as well as a leader in the industry. This can include relevant research articles, health tips, and any other information to show current and potential patients you truly care about their well-being.
- Encourage current patients to write online reviews for your practice. The power of peer reviews cannot be overlooked- many times it’s the deciding factor for consumers and is also a very quick and inexpensive way of strengthening your practice. Check out this detailed guide to getting reviews for your optometry practice for more ideas and inspiration.
- Send regular, monthly communication to your patients. Newsletters are a great way to strengthen your customer relations and increase patient loyalty. It is important to provide your patients with the information they want, like interesting health tips, exciting news, etc. Practices should be careful not to overload their patients with solicitations or sales, which could lead to people unsubscribing, but rather information they will value and potentially pass along.
- Network, network, network! Support other businesses in your local community on social media and they will be more likely to return the favor. Connect with optometry networks or research institutes and align your practice with those respected in the optometry field.
- Monitor your online community’s growth and engagement through social media analytics, but be patient and remember that it takes time to build and grow your online presence.
- Lastly, be sure your website is mobile-friendly. 57% of users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site. Getting new visitors to your website is extremely important and with nearly 50% of online traffic done on mobile phones or tablets, a mobile-friendly website is now an absolute necessity.
These are just a few tips to keep in mind, not an exhaustive list. If you need help developing your optometry practice’s marketing strategy and plan, there’s specific optometry marketing support available.
Other Optometry Marketing Collateral
Though the bulk of your practice’s marketing will likely take place online via your website and social media platforms, printed marketing materials are still important to consider as well. For example, business cards are one of the primary forms of print collateral still used by most optometry practices, and you’ll find they come in handy in a wide variety of situations – from networking with other optometrists or local businesses, to staying connected with older clients or those who may not be as active online, to directing potential customers to your website, to encouraging existing patients to leave you an online review, and many more. For inspiration, check out these helpful optometry business card design ideas.
A Summary of Optometrist Marketing
With the incredible projected growth in the industry, if your practice is not actively trying to increase your online presence, you will likely be overshadowed by those who are. By creating a 1-year marketing plan and a 5-year marketing plan, you will have clear and measurable steps to help you achieve your goals. If your 1-year plan isn’t adding up to your 5-year plan then adjust it accordingly and continue to plan and act toward your long-term goals.
In addition to high-level planning and thinking, you should also be leveraging the many social platforms available to businesses and build your online community. You should also produce content to attract new patients and optimize your website to best present your practice. Consumers’ online expectations are steadily growing in all sectors and if you want to grow as well, you must plan and evolve your online presence.
As you can see from this article, marketing for your optometry practice is crucially important, but it can be overwhelming! Especially considering the fact that online marketing is fast-paced and continually evolving. PECAA’s Member Optometry Marketing Program is designed to ease this burden and help you successfully and holistically brand and market your practice. Through website design and development, social media management and design & print services, we’ll make sure all your bases are covered.
For marketing support and many other benefits, from networking to continuing education to operations support, join PECAA!