Many medical practitioners may cringe at the words “marketing” or “advertising”, which can evoke images of annoying infomercials, newspaper ads, mailers, cheesy billboard ads, or other less-than-desirable ploys to attract customers. However, there is just cause for being leery of these methods. In a study conducted by 3M Corporation for the National Electric Sign Association, they found that compared to radio, television, and newspaper (or print advertising), on-site signage was considerably more effective for small (or independent) businesses. While newspaper ads can help small businesses reach between 24 and 65 percent of their target market, on-premise signage could allow them to reach as much as 100 percent.
Any activity that can advance your practice’s goals, is worth pursuing, whether that be increasing revenues, cutting off new competitors, sustaining market share, improving payer patterns, introducing new services and providers, entering new markets or minimizing negative publicity (for your practice or your type of service). For medical practices, activities like patient relations, planning, insurance plan contracting, practice hours, recall systems, practice acquisition, and ancillary products and services, are among those to continually improve upon. To sum up, here are five of the top marketing habits for optical practices.
- Don’t hide behind the counter. By getting your ophthalmologists to meet and network with others in the local community, you can dramatically increase the number of new clients you draw. Don’t forget to connect with potential referrers (such as pharmacists, nurses, primary care physicians, opticians, medical assistants, chiropractors, and physical and massage therapists, etc.).
- Put your name with your face. Wherever potential customers look is a good spot to post a business card or collateral. And, at the least list your information in all the appropriate publications.
- Keep your sign current. Free-standing office signs, as the 3M study demonstrated, are one of the most effective marketing investments you can make. To keep people looking, you need to keep these up-to-date. By changing key elements – size, shape, or color – you can prevent your sign from blending into the scenery.
- Create and document a one-year and five-year marketing plan. Having a clearly articulated goal seems to correlate with achieving that goal. Review these annually and adjust as necessary.
- Tune-up the recall system, to prevent losing track of follow-up procedures. Auditing 20 charts each day will also help to ensure clinical recall compliance.
Offices with shared signage (typical in a large business complex) may be restricted in what external signs they can post or be prohibited from them altogether. One solution can be to lease a neon sign on an interior space within the building, ideally large enough to be seen from the street. Lastly, beyond telling potential customers what your business offers, to fully recognize a sign’s potential, businesses must look at the marketing aspect of signage. Working with a capable sign professional, who knows the local codes, best design practices, and can guide you through all the phases of sign execution, is invaluable for getting the maximum reach, frequency, and exposure from a business sign.