Practice marketing in the digital age

Traditional industries like optical, health, retail, professional services and media are not what they were 10 years ago.Despite popular belief, the impetus for change has not so much been driven by technology itself. Rather, it has been driven by consumers and how they interact with technology. As such, traditional marketing no longer has the impact it once did.MARKETING TODAYConsumers now make purchase decisions and choose healthcare providers in a completely different manner compared to a decade ago. They read online reviews, engage in social media, conduct online research, read ails from trusted sources, view websites and watch YouTube clips.Consumers also interact with other people and businesses in different ways. Digital media is front and centre for many consumers, while others prefer more conventional modes of communication.Operating a practice in the digital age does not mean the traditional marketing channels of print, radio, television, outdoor or even the patient recall letter are forgone for digital marketing channels. It’s about finding what works best for the practice and what delivers the highest return on investment while retaining current patients and attracting new ones.It can be easy to be overwhelmed by digital, but breaking down the digital opportunities – and yes, sometimes challenges – into manageable components can help simplify the process. It is also essential to be aware of legal limitations in practice digital marketing endeavours.PATIENT COMMUNICATION PLATFORMSDigital offers a multitude of ways to communicate with patients and potential patients, including ail, SMS, social media, blogs and video.{{quote-A:R-W:450-Q: Digital communication gives optometrists multiple opportunities to communicate with patients between visits and encourages th to visit the practice more often. }}Optometrists are part of a patient’s healthcare circle, along with doctors and dentists, but patients typically only visit their optometrist once every two years, making it difficult to build a relationship and enhance loyalty. Digital communication gives optometrists multiple opportunities to communicate with patients between visits and encourages th to visit the practice more often.By inviting patients to sign up for a monthly e-newsletter and ‘like’ the practice’s Facebook page, optometrists have an opportunity to strengthen their position as a trusted and invaluable mber of the patient’s healthcare circle.Create useful and relevant content on eye-health information, and offer tips and information on new products. Optometrists can also ail and SMS specific patients about a new promotion or stock range that may be of interest to th.LIMITATIONSHowever, there are some clear limitations on the communication method used in order to comply with the anti-spam laws in Australia and New Zealand designed to prevent sending of unsolicited commercial electronic messages. This creates the need for permission managent systs, which can be tracked using a practice managent syst in conjunction with an ail or SMS broadcasting platform.Practices that wish to send out promotional messages are also limited to patients with which they have had a commercial transaction in the past two years, according to the industry guidelines on communicating with inferred consent. Again, this necessitates very detailed record-keeping or information systs to ensure the practice is raining compliant.Patient recall is another area whereby communication options have expanded. While letter was once the primary method, ail and SMS are now other options to recall patients.Patients may actually prefer digital communication, so using these platforms could potentially increase a practice’s recall rate.ONLINE SEARCH‘Google it’ has entered into the everyday vernacular, so it’s no wonder that online search is a key marketing focus for big business and small business alike. The primary objective of online search is driving consumers to a website, and the exciting thing for small business, unlike television or print, is that online search represents a much more level playing field.There are two ways to increase the visibility of a practice website and attract new patients: search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (S).SEO is about building the website and content in a way that will result in a high ranking in search engine results.S is paid advertising which displays when prospective customers perform a search using certain keywords. This program drives potential patients to a website and facilitates online appointment booking, and is highly measurable, allowing practice managers to easily calculate the return on investment.CUSTOMER REVIEWSWord-of-mouth has always been a positive driver of successful healthcare practices. Online takes things to a new level of transparency with the growing popularity of review sites, which are now incorporated into Google Maps and Facebook platforms, making it easy to share experiences, both good and bad.{{quote-A:L-W:450-Q: The exciting thing for small business, unlike television or print, is that online search represents a much more level playing field. }}Since businesses cannot delete, hide, or manage their online reviews, it is important to have a proactive strategy to encourage positive reviews, and to dilute the effect of a possible negative one.Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency guidelines state that practices must not have any testimonials on their social media pages, or practice website, but practice managers could direct patients to third-party sites to leave their feedback.SOCIAL MEDIAFor many of us, it’s now hard to imagine a world without social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn.Facebook has reached 15 million users in Australia which represents 62.5% of the population and rains by far the leading social media platform, followed by YouTube at 14 million users.Within healthcare, Facebook enables providers to nurture new relationships and expand their role in consumers’ lives, with many large companies now incorporating social media into their business strategy. In fact, many consumers – particularly younger generations – often use Facebook to inform their health decisions. Facebook is also a cost-effective medium to build a brand.Admittedly though, commitment is required with some sustained effort to create consistently high-quality and relevant content for a practice Facebook page, as does increasing a page’s ‘likes’.However, it is an effective way to strengthen patient relationships between appointments and also an avenue to possibly acquire younger patients.

TIPS TO EXECUTE TODAYUpping your digital game is easier than you may think.Why not implent these simple tips today to improve your practice marketing?COLLECT MOBILE NUMBERSThe more mobile numbers you have, the more recalls you can send via SMS. It is more affordable than sending a letter and is convenient for many of your patients.CAPTURE AILSNot only can you use ail for recall, you can also keep patients engaged between visits with eye-health information related to their lifestyle to strengthen your relationship and increase loyalty. Be sure to provide unsubscribe options and capture ail permissions during their visit.RECORD LIFESTYLE PREFERENCESRecord patient interests and hobbies, as well as their occupation. This will help you to create content that is relevant to th, and identify which product, sale or promotion will appeal to th.NOTE PREFERRED COMMUNICATION METHODStart asking patients what their preferred communication mode is – ail, SMS or letter – and start communicating with th via their preferred communication method.ASK FOR LIKESAsk patients to ’like’ your Facebook page.REVIEW WEBSITE PERFORMANCEType ‘optometrist + [your suburb]’ into a search engine. Where do you appear on the results page? If your results are not ideal, it’s worth finding out what you can do to get your website performing better.