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For eye care professionals

Understanding your target audience in 2017

Patient demographics and lens personalisation

Ask yourself: do you know what types of people walk into your practice and what they want?  It is nigh on impossible to meet their needs if you don’t. But the good news is that there’s never been a better or easier time to find out. So today we’re going to look  at the importance of audience research; specifically, how understanding the pain points and priorities of different groups is invaluable when selling high end frames and lenses.

When you open the practice door first thing on a Monday morning do you look out with anticipation or dread? When you see one of your regulars walking towards the practice are you pleased to see them, safe in the knowledge that they are the kind of patient you want to attract? Alternatively, do you have too many heart-sink patients who want it all but aren’t willing to pay? You may think that decisions about the kind of people who cross the threshold are outside your control, but in fact, you can shape the demographics of those who attend your practice. 

So where do I start?

The first thing to do is  find out who is attending your practice now. You’ll already have a practice management system (PMS) which gives you access to a range of demographics so there’s no need for an initial survey. You should be able to analyse your patients by age, gender, and location quickly and simply. If you are unsure how, ask your PMS provider. 

Next, it’s time to investigate further. When you look at the different groups, you can also examine their spend. What type of products are they purchasing, and are these the most profitable products for your practice? While almost every practice will have children and people on a low income attending for NHS care, most will also have some people with a good income who prioritise their eyecare and eyewear. These people are often more willing to invest in the product that is just right for them. This is the patient we want to investigate further.

Divide your practice attendees into different groups according to their data. This how we start to see some different demographics: you may have ‘busy young parents’ -  the hard-working families who bring lots of children in on a regular basis but don’t have money to spare nor time to prioritise their own needs. You could have lots of retired people in their 60s, 70s and 80s, but they won’t all have the same habits. Older pensioners may be settled in their ways, on a set income, and not looking to upgrade their eyewear. A younger group has grown up as the baby boomer generation. No bifocals for them; they may still be wearing jeans and designer labels and want eyewear and frames to match.

How do I know who’s who?

If you’re unsure how your patients match-up, speak to a market research company who will help reach out to people in your area. Doing so will help you understand their priorities and what they want in the way of eyewear. Think about the type of research you need; we’ve already mentioned downloading basic demographics from your PMS. A market research company could devise a questionnaire to go out via your PMS, drawing out more about what these priority groups want from your practice.
Consider the balance between open and closed questions when devising your questionnaire: closed questions have the advantage of providing you with statistics, while open ones allow you to uncover concerns and priorities that you never knew about.
You can also consider holding focus groups: these are groups of people who are asked some pre-planned questions. Allowed to share their ideas and responses in a group discussion. Ideally, you will hold a number of groups and ensure that each group has an identity: things like ‘women in their sixties’, people in a set locality, or ‘couples 40+ who love sport’.  A focus group may come up with issues that you didn’t plan to ask them about, allowing you fascinating insights into what people think about eyewear. 

So I’ve done the research; what now?

Once you have done your research, it’s time to consider which groups should you target with your practice marketing? Considering about the groups above, it’s clear that your practice will become more profitable if you reach out to baby boomers who prioritise their looks, or couples 40+ who love sport, than either the older pensioners or the parents. This is not to say that you should ignore the other groups; however, you can plan your marketing to attract more of the demographics that work best for your practice. Cast your net across a wider area and become the go-to destination for high end clinical care and products matched to your chosen groups. 

You can use market research to understand the priorities and pain points of your potential patients. Are they buying on price? Is their main priority to look good? Is it all about results on the golf course? A pain point for someone who prioritises looking young would be a concern that glasses could make them look old. They may have delayed getting specs. When presbyopia forces them into your practice they may still display resistance. However, with the right consultation, you can open their eyes to the options available, from contact lenses to custom spectacle lenses — all bespoke to their own particular needs. Add in a range of fashionable frames to match different outfits and occasions, photochromic lenses or sunglasses, and a high tech dispensing experience and you will have transformed a reluctant attendee into a raving fan.  

The process of understanding customers’ wants and desires applies equally to a younger audience. If you carry out focus groups with millennials, those currently in their late teens and twenties, you will find different barriers to attending your practice. They may want to see that you have embraced the digital age, with a mobile responsive website, digital window displays, and in-practice tech to match, both in the dispensing area and the testing rooms. All the better if you also have frames generated by a 3-D printer or bespoke lenses customised for those who spend all their time on a mobile or tablet. They may want you to reach out to them through digital with a QR code or even a chance to snap a selfie in the latest frame styles all embedded within your eNews.

So, if you do one thing after reading this article, look at the data you have already. Start to understand your current patients, and work out which groups you would like to attract to your practice. Take control of the people who walk into your practice and you won’t just improve your profits; you’ll  create a better and more memorable experience for both staff and patients. If you’d like a little more help on how you can do this, feel free to check out our Bespoke service here.

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