mdobkowski March 27th, 2007
By Michael Dobkowski
As someone heavily engaged in refractive marketing I was disheartened to realize that marketing does not drive most practice leads in the case of comprehensive practices. From a purely speculative point of view I came to realize that the three main drivers of refractive surgery volume are 1. co-management relationships, 2. Patient referrals/word of mouth and 3. Search Engine Optimization. I have concluded this over the past 5 years of working on refractive practice marketing plans and tracking all inquiries from prospective patients. This is of course just an opinion and may not be the same for each practice. Practices tend to become very frustrated with marketing when they are engaged in marketing efforts but they are not returning their investment. This frustration typically leads to practices cutting marketing budgets and marketing related efforts. It makes logical sense to spend your marketing dollars wisely but the fact remains that putting your eggs in one basket is definitely no way to go. Despite frustration, practices need to create multiple pathways for patients to find them. Of course pursuing the previously mentioned major drivers of volume is a great start but a good marketing plan will entail diversity in effort. Creating multiple pathways for patients to find your practice will increase the opportunity to put your message in front prospective patients. This is certainly not rocket science but actually quite logical.
Diverse Marketing Plans
Creating diversity in marketing planning can be difficult and relative to the practice value proposition or marketing strategy. Brand based advertising and response advertising need to be discussed. Both types of advertising are great within a diverse marketing plan. Brand based and top of mind awareness advertising takes on a certain role in a refractive marketing plan. If you are a quality based producer you must be willing to accept a very low return on investment from this type of advertising. Radio and television with no call to action will fall into this category. Response driven marketing should probably be the focus of the marketing plan. Search engine optimization, direct mail, direct e-mail, event marketing, contest marketing, giveaways and other call to action marketing should be given priority and strategic focus within the marketing plan. Consider both models of marketing when planning but make certain you understand what brand based quality producer marketing means. It means no patients concerned about price will react but your identity will be presented.
Investing in Co-Management
If your practice has the opportunity to build relationships with optometrists and primary care doctors this could be a great usage of time and money. Patients trust their doctors and usually listen to the recommendations of the optometrists. Building relationships with these doctors can be time consuming and almost impossible of nurture by a busy ophthalmologist. Every practice should have a co-management strategy that both surgeons and staff can participate in. A sales based refractive coordinator may be a good employee to start forging these relationships. Investing in your OD relationships can help you win in your marketplace. After a face-to-face program has been completed with a presentable fee structure the practice needs to think of additional ways to prove value to the optometrist. By creating CE seminars with web portals to manage these events you can offer continuing education with practice promotion at the same time. MD/OD web portals with blog systems are an easy way to get the surgeon to interact with the optometrist. By answering the questions of your referring doctors you can sustain legitimacy and let them know that you care about their involvement. Is there anything wrong with pursuing world-class service with your referring optometrists as well as your patients?
Your happy patients may be your biggest allies! Every practice should have a post-surgery system for communication system with existing patients with the intention of getting them to refer their friends and family.
Michael Dobkowski is an ophthalmology practice marketing consultant for Glacial Multimedia Inc. If you need assistance with an Internet strategy please contact us 207.878.59002198