We can likely all agree that practicing medicine will always be rewarding, but it never ceases to be a juggling act. In recent years, with changes in the health care landscape, more eye surgeons are considering cash-paying procedures. However, no one wants to hear you grumble that you are bringing these services in because you think health care is broken and you need to include these services to make ends meet. No patient or referring doctor wants to listen to an ophthalmologist who is full of complaints about the difficulties of practicing medicine. In truth, as ophthalmologists, we get off easier than some of our other brothers and sisters in health care.
I propose a new strategy: Put a positive spin on your practice. Focus your attention on the positive reasons for making a particular change and the impact it will have on your patients. Consider your values, your purpose, and your vision. Maybe you’re reconnecting with your passion as a caring doctor and spending more time with your patients. Maybe you want to improve the ability to fine-tune your surgical outcomes for cataract or refractive surgery. A vision care center that focuses on the best in visual outcomes can become a care model to support your mission and create your brand.
When patients sense your passion and how it connects to them, they will naturally be more supportive of any new ways of practicing you introduce. Your staff too will sense your enthusiasm and will be more likely to adapt to new trends and technology in cataract and refractive procedures. Your ability to inspire them will help make their decision to join your membership practice that much easier.
1. Cover the basics.
You can get started on building your brand with a set of professional business and appointment cards as well as letterhead and envelopes. If you decide to create a brochure, be sure it is consistent with your brand and is professionally designed. All other collateral materials, signage, and nametags should also incorporate your logo and branding.
These branded, professional-looking print materials should be available to patients in your reception area. They can also be used as a leave-behind piece when visiting referring practices. It is best to order small quantities of these materials initially, as you will likely want to tweak your message or add specific details after the first several months.
2. Create a website.
In today’s digital age, one way to build your brand is through your website and social media. There are many amazing website development companies you can partner with to assist you in building a great website for your practice. Some popular choices are Glacial Multimedia and Rosemont Media. The practice website adds to your reputation and credibility, and it will be helpful in converting website visitors into new patients.
Search engine optimization is equally as important as a well-designed and easy-to-navigate website. If you want patients to find you, your website must have good placement for Google or Yelp searches. When certain keywords such as cataract surgery, LASIK, or eye care are searched online, it is important that your practice appears on the top half of the results page.
3. Choose networks that support your brand image.
Social media users access a number of networking sites multiple times per day, making it one of the best platforms on which to build your brand. There many social networks, but not all of them are worth investing your time and energy in. Find the networks that support your brand image by taking the following factors into consideration.
Facebook is by the far the best social media tool for promoting brand awareness, as nearly everyone is on it, including senior citizens. Our elderly patients know that one of the best ways to stay up to date on their children and grandchildren is through Facebook. Facebook is a great network and has a heterogeneous user base. Posting occasional updates about new technology and trends will be interesting to your patients and demonstrate your passion for ophthalmology.
Instagram is a great option if you rely heavily on images. Although many of us, myself included, use this application on our smartphones, Instagram still has a young audience. LASIK patients and potential cosmetic surgery patients may be Instagram users, but the app may not speak to the cataract patient population yet.
Twitter is another medium that looks promising, but, again, the baby boomers are a bit slower at joining this network.
Although Google+ hasn’t taken off as well as many people predicted, it can be a great platform to reach men in the technology industry, as two-thirds of the network’s users are men, most of whom work in engineering or other technical professions.
Healthgrades/Yelp are social networks that grade doctors and health care providers based on patient reviews. These reviews can be turned into an aggregate of powerful champions behind your brand but can also make you feel like a target for slinging arrows. It is important to watch and manage these sites.
4. Provide valuable and shareable content.
It should go without saying, but you will create a much stronger brand reputation if you focus on creating useful content that viewers will want to share, rather than cranking out content to meet arbitrary deadlines when it is time to send out newsletters. Keep it fun, fresh, and positive.
As you strengthen your brand to your patients and your medical community, use these well-proven strategies to start off on the right foot, generate success early on, and enjoy a great return on your marketing investment.