Exam Lane: EHR VisionWeb's I.O. View [SPONSORED]: 4 Cheap and Easy Optical Marketing Tips By Staff Monday, June 1, 2015 9:00 AM A major growth problem for many eyecare practices is getting new patients through the door. And, with busy schedules it can be hard to brainstorm ideas for new marketing tactics that will bring in new patients. In such a competitive market, differentiating, or standing out at all, is a huge advantage for creating business through your optical marketing strategy. The best optical marketing strategy begins with the approach that you and your staff take to patient care. If you strive to anticipate every one of your patients' eyecare needs, and go above and beyond their expectations, then you're much more likely to make an everlasting impression that will inspire loyalty and generate word-of-mouth referrals for your practice. Many large corporations and businesses rely on traditional methods of advertising and marketing to help their brand grow, and to keep business efficient. With the average optometrist spending approximately 1 percent to 2 percent of gross revenue on advertising and marketing, practices must be more creative and result driven with their marketing strategies. These four cheap, but easy, marketing ideas could be the spark your practice needs to see increased growth this year! 1. Promotion through Social Media Signing up and being active on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are completely free, other than the time it takes you to post and manage the content on your pages. Maintaining up-to-date social media pages for your practice is an incredible way to stay connected with current and future customers, and it is a great medium for showing some brand personality and having a little fun with your patients! Contests, promoting new products/services, or just getting a conversation started are all ways to connect and promote your practice's brand online. Remember, people like doing business with people that they like, so if visitors can connect and build a relationship with you online, it's likely that you will be top of mind when they are searching for an optometrist. Be sure to pay attention and analyze your Facebook or social media results as patterns will develop and will help you determine what works and what doesn't when targeting certain audiences. 2. Word of Mouth Your current patients may be the most powerful marketing tool you have in your arsenal. If your practice is struggling, make your current patients the primary focus of your initial marketing efforts. If you treat your current patients right, their recommendations to family and friends may do more to build your practice than you could ever do on your own. There are ways to keep track, and reward, the patients who generate word-of-mouth referrals for your brand, such as a questionnaire on any new patient's visit. Sending gifts to patients who refer, say three or more, is a great way to show your appreciation to them. But remember, even if you are relying on word-of-mouth marketing, you should still develop a brand that best reflects how your personal practice operates, and you should ensure that everything you and your staff do supports your brand. Strive to be consistent, accurate, and always deliver the level of patient care that is promised and promoted. The gifts don't have to be expensive; the gesture is what's important here. People like recognition, but most importantly they love to get things for free. 3. Sponsorship and Community Involvement If you're an eyecare practice in a rural area, maintaining a strong sense of community is a great way to build your customer base. Cost effective ways to create this bond and increase word of mouth is sponsoring local events such as a 5k run/walk, hosting educational classes at schools, or even a little league baseball tournament. The opportunities are nearly endless as any community or charity event going on will be a great way to build positive brand awareness. Also, when you or your staff volunteers at different events, try to keep consistency and increase brand awareness by all wearing shirts with your practice's logo on it. Sports teams may welcome your practice as an eyecare consultant to help raise awareness of eye protection. Take the opportunity to speak with coaches or league commissioners at all levels of the sport from semipro to little league. This is a fun way to get involved with an audience that most ODs haven't thought of communicating with yet. Patients who are coaches or athletes could be a good starting point to getting your foot in the door. 4. Outreach Programs Senior centers, assisted living facilities, and retirement homes are places where you can speak and provide practical health information on cataracts, glaucoma, and other common age-related eye complications that senior patients experience. Creating an outreach program with the senior audience will again get you further involved with your local community and help create brand awareness for an audience who isn't online or as tech-savvy as most other generations. A major factor to every successful marketing program is tracking your response rates and return on investment over time. Watch your sales, new customers, and the demographics of those customers to help evaluate if your outreach programs are worth the effort and the time spent on them. Marketing, whether it's simply through word of mouth or through creative outreach programs, doesn't have to cost you a lot of money or time, or cause you to stress. Marketing is simply influencing the choices of your patients by demonstrating the value of your service. As John Rockefeller quoted, "Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing." Marketing to potential new patients shouldn't be seen as a tough sellbut rather a welcome invitation to get them the professional care you know you can provide! This piece was contributed by the Uprise blog. Uprise is a cloud-based practice management and EHR solution by VisionWeb. View the original post here: 4 Cheap and Easy Optical Marketing Tips.