As market dynamics rapidly evolve, independent eye care professionals must reinvent their practice and commit to dual roles as vision care providers and business owners.
Competition continues to intensify as online and major retailers become more agile, innovative, and aggressive with their marketing in the eyewear space. At the same time, consumers are demanding more efficient and affordable patient care from you as a healthcare provider. This means that, in your secondary role as a business owner, you face increasing pressure to bring in additional patients and optimize your profit per patient. Historically, eye care practitioners have been reluctant to aggressively market their products and services. Marketing efforts have traditionally consisted of search engine optimization (SEO) and website development.
However, with today’s connected anytime/anywhere consumers driving eye care purchases, there is a significant opportunity for eye care practitioners to realign their business and marketing strategies to better meet consumer needs.
As your retailer competitors focus on digital marketing, you should promote in the same arena, while taking advantage of what distinguishes you from them: You are a community vision care expert, not merely a profit-driven retailer. This is a key point of differentiation that you should leverage in communications. And you should make those communications interactive.
Stress your expertise in optical health: Use your website, Facebook page, and regularly scheduled patient emails to emphasize your eye care knowledge. Share your insights about health-related topics, such as the myopia epidemic, the effects of aging on eyes, and the dangers of excess UV exposure.
By addressing health rather than promoting products, you can deepen the loyalty of your existing patients, and help potential patients see your unique value compared with retailers. Your patients will also feel a greater sense of confidence purchasing eyeglasses and contact lenses from you.
Encourage dialogue: Invite the readers of your communications to respond to you with questions, to share your content with their friends and family, and to ask you about other eye health issues. Even if a “conversation” takes place in the public realm of your Facebook page, it reinforces your value as an active, caring participant in patients’ lives, not as a seller of goods.
Re-use and repurpose: While effective digital marketing takes some effort, much of the content you develop can be re-used in various forms as you are also creating new material. With a few small changes, you can take an item you’ve written for an email newsletter and fashion it into a website article, a Facebook post, a tweeted link, and even a YouTube video.
The caring, interpersonal connection you have with your current patients—and that you hope to build with new patients—is likely a major reason you became a healthcare professional in the first place. It’s also a quality that can give you a distinct edge over retailer competitors.
Marketing that increases your engagement with patients and demonstrates your valuable expertise will help keep your patient base growing.