Is your practice embracing the digital era? In this feature, we wanted to look at new developments in marketing, and how independent eye care practitioners (ECPs) can use digital marketing for that all important facet of small business ownership: local promotion.
Local marketing is, and will continue to be, vital for the growth of independent eye care practices. If you ask your patients, “Where did you hear of us?” the chances are that many will say, “Word of mouth”, or “I just walked past”. Many practices still rely on traditional, local marketing methods to draw patients in because they’re reliable and inexpensive. However, in today’s digital age, that’s not always enough. We are bombarded by promotional messages, advertisements and marketing is embracing the digital revolution we are currently in the midst of. Does your town have digital advertising boards for instance, with moving adverts for something different every few seconds?
Bricks and mortar advertising now has to be bolder, brighter, and more fast moving in order to drag people’s attention away from the small screens we use every day. In this crowded promotional arena, will your window display and A-frame board still stand out? If, then, you are yet to be converted to digital marketing, do take time to follow up some of the ideas in this feature. Practices in your area are stepping into the digital age, which can give them a marketing edge over those who haven’t. You may not be able to rely on word of mouth when more and more people are saying, “I found you on Facebook”.
A shift in marketing techniques
The shift in marketing techniques is accompanied by other changes. The homogenisation of the high street means that independent practices are competing with national advertising campaigns from multiples with big budgets. The multiples are consequently hitting independents hard in an area where previously they haven’t tried to compete. Nowadays, promotions are not only based on price promotions and two-for the price of one. Instead, clinical care, high-tech facilities, and personal service are also promoted; and highly championed by consumers. So, how can independent practices compete with the big budgets of the chains, especially when they are encroaching on the traditional areas where independents have held the advantage?
Why digital marketing?
The good news is that digital marketing can be low cost and accessible to all. With a little inspiration and some fresh thinking, you can bring your practice’s marketing bang up to date. To kick things off, have a look at refreshing what your practice's unique perceived benefits are. It can be as simple as asking patients why they keep coming back to you: what makes them loyal to your business. It can be the personal care from well trained professional staff, or the fact that they know you have a high standard of clinical equipment and are always up to date. If you want more information, why don’t you carry out a small survey of patients? The findings can help you develop key messages for various digital platforms: all of which you can tailor to suit your practice's’ profile in line with the values of the local community.
Think about how people experience your practice online, and what you can do to make that process as seamless and enjoyable as possible. Take a few moments to assess your presence on Facebook, for example. Why? Because this is a great channel to spread your local reach, with patient’s positive experiences extending to their local friends and family. You can talk about industry-related trends or share a video when you take delivery of some new designer frames or sunglasses. If you’re buying new equipment, take a series of photos to show it being installed and get testimonials to share online from the first people to use it. Use digital platforms to engage with your local community: it’s a modern way of keeping you in their minds.
To really help you up the game with local marketing solutions, independent ECPs should look at Facebook advertising: it’s inexpensive and easy to target to specific age groups and localities. Devise coherent campaigns that you promote in store and online, and boost each promotion with a well targeted advertising campaign. People often need to see a message several times before taking action, and social media can help you achieve this. Happily, this is something we can give you hand with.
Online promotion needs to be consistent with a positive experience when people pass your practice, and digital window advertising is less costly that you might think. A quick search online will allow you to purchase screens of all sizes to use in your window. Before you click buy, though, think about what you will put on your screens. ‘Digital out of home’ or DOOH is a fast growing trend with all sorts of possibilities. You can simply use video to highlight aspects of the practice that people would not see otherwise, but you can do much more. Without getting ahead of ourselves, the use of augmented reality and a mobile phone camera could allow passers-by to virtually try on a new frame that’s being promoted on the digital screen in your practice window — a rather exciting prospect, wouldn't you say?
Why should you invest in digital?
As your marketing efforts evolve, remember that patients will come to expect an equally high-tech experience in store. The pen and PD rule approach to dispensing is simple, tried, and tested, but it impresses patients far less than new digital measurement systems. Current Essilor research shows patients are 30 per cent more likely to buy when measured digitally, for example. The process of ordering a custom lens with digital dispensing ensure that patients know that their spectacle lenses are created specifically for them, and they won’t get the same visual performance from any other off the shelf lenses. The same Essilor research found that most patients believed that our Visioffice and iPad behavioural measuring tools helped lens performance, and it’s that sort of belief that keeps patients coming back — ensuring that they share their positive experiences online with friends and family via social media.
What we consider to be digital marketing, though, isn’t an end in itself. It can simply be fascinating to immerse yourself in this rapidly developing area, but you do need to keep your eye on your end goal of ensuring that your practice continues to grow and thrive. To do this, stay in touch with technology, and at the same time listen to your patients’ experiences. Use positive feedback from real people combined with digital techniques and you will continue to see strong growth into the future. If you need anymore information on why digital represents the future of the independent ECP, we’d love for you to have a quick perusal at our Bespoke service right here.