According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, things are looking up in the optometry industry for the decade ahead.
In their job outlook, they say “Employment of optometrists is projected to grow 24 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Because vision problems tend to occur more frequently later in life, an aging population will require more optometrists.”
However, an aging population doesn’t mean that optometrists are guaranteed a growing, profitable business.
One of the biggest challenges according to Bain‘s report on the future of independent optometry, there is the increasing pressure on the retail side, with more and more contacts and glasses being bought online and not directly from the optometrist.
So while folks may still come into the office for an exam, they are far less likely than they once were to purchase their contacts or glasses on the same visit.
In addition to the increased competition for retail revenue, there is also the pressure to bring in new clients and retain them while your competitors are hoping to do the same thing.
So how can you overcome one or both of these obstacles?
There isn’t a magic bullet, but here are 3 very practical marketing ideas for optometrists that you should consider.
1. Do The Basics Online
Let’s tackle an essential first – your online presence.
At this point, your business’ first impression usually happens online.
How many new clients simply wander into your office not knowing anything about you ahead of time?
My guess is very few.
In fact, even if they were referred to you by a friend, they probably went online and looked you up first to learn more about you, see pictures of your office, find insurance details, or even read other reviews beyond what they heard from their friend.
If you’ve spent no time doing the basics online, who knows what these people are finding!
The First Step
First off – you absolutely should have a website for your practice that looks professional so when people are looking for you online, they can find you and you make a strong first impression. We’ll talk about taking your website’s marketing to another level in the next section.
Assuming you have a website that exists, then the first step is to make sure that at the very least you’ve claimed your spot as a Google Business.
It’s free, and can be done in a few minutes.
The result is that when people look for your business on Google, or when they are searching more generic things like “optometrists in YOUR CITY” you’ll have a better looking, more complete profile in Google like you see below:
In addition to having accurate and complete information about your bakery, you can also do things like:
- Respond on behalf of your business to reviews left on Google.
- Add nice looking photos of your office that will show up in Google’s listing
- Add accurate hours and location information
- Put your phone number and other contact info that people need to know.
Obviously Google is the top dog in the search industry, but there are at least a dozen large directories, search engines, review sites, etc. that you should be completing your profile on – mostly for the same reasons I mentioned about Google.
Most let you claim a business for free, but may also offer some paid services which you aren’t obligated to buy.
Here is an excellent list of the 20 places your business should be online.
If you take an hour or two and complete all these profiles, you’ll be a step ahead of most of your competition who won’t take the time to do it.
Simple, free, and impactful.
Start staking your claim online today for free.
2. Have The Most Helpful Website in Town
You may have heard the term “inbound marketing” which refers to pulling people into your business, typically by providing content or some kind of value that they find first, which begins the relationship with your business. Here is a graphic from HubSpot that demonstrates an inbound marketing funnel:
Don’t let this overwhelm you.
Let’s talk about how it relates to you as an optometrist and why you should care.
Attracting New Clients
How well do you attract new clients from your website today?
Believe it or not, with a little bit of time and effort your website can absolutely become an effective tool for attracting potential clients and then turning them into customers.
Here are a couple of simple ways to do it:
First, answer the most common customer questions on your website. People have all kinds of questions for you, so just start taking note of them and use that as content for your website later on. Perhaps you hear things like:
- Which kind of contacts are best for me?
- What are some natural ways I can improve eye sight?
and many other questions…
You are in an excellent position to answer each one of these in a more general way on your website. Simply make a blog post that addresses the topic, and then when other people search online for that same information, they’ll have an opportunity to find your site. Here’s a brilliant talk from one of my favorite marketers, Marcus Sheridan, on how this concept works:
In time, adding relevant and quality content to your site will result in other websites linking to things you’ve written, and ultimately will increase the “authority” of your website in the eyes of Google.
In short, that will help you rank better for more general terms like “Optometrist in CITY” when compared to your less authoritative competitors.
Second, figure out what your audience wants help with and create content to help them.
Perhaps the best way to do this is through keyword research.
A keyword just means something that gets searched in Google.
So keyword research means finding out exactly what people search for in Google, and then analyzing your competition so you can focus your efforts on keywords (search phrases) that you have a realistic chance to rank for.
Depending on your experience with online marketing, this may sound complicated at first blush – but it really isn’t.
In fact, the concept is really simple.
Let’s check an example.
If someone were looking for general information on changing from glasses to contacts, they might search something like “buy contacts” or “best contacts.”
As you might imagine, these keywords are VERY competitive and the odds of your local optometry site ranking on page 1 of Google for something like this is very slim.
So spending a bunch of time and effort trying to rank for overly competitive terms is usually a waste – since your chance of success is so small.
So what should you do instead?
The better approach is to focus on low competition keywords that are more specific in nature.
We call these “long tail keywords.”
Here is an example from our keyword research software, Long Tail Platinum.
As you can see, a keyword like “best contacts for sensitive eyes” is searched 210 times per month, and it has a keyword competitiveness score of “22” which means it is a low competition keyword, and something you could hope to rank for if you created a page on your website that was focused on this topic.
After doing keyword research, you’ll have a list of keywords you can focus on and rank for in Google – without spending any money on advertising.[su_note]Ready to start finding keywords? Click Here to take a 10 day free trial of Long Tail Pro and find out what your customers are searching Google for. [/su_note]
3. Turn Visitors Into Patients
If you follow steps 1 and 2, you WILL get more visitors to your website.
But how do you turn them into patients? Here are a couple of ideas:
Earn Their Trust
The first step is to make sure that your site takes on the tone of a teacher – not a salesman. For the people that do visit your site, give unbiased information that demonstrates you are an expert in your field, and most people will begin to trust you.
Once they trust you, they’ll be more likely to call in for an appointment or consultation when the time comes.
Build an Email List
Every business should have any email list. This is a fantastic way to stay in front of your customers/patients and your prospective customers with news and updates that are relevant to them. That way, if you have a special event or promotion in the future, you have a built in audience to promote it to.
But how can you start building a list of names and emails?
One of the simplest ways is to have a “lead magnet” on your site. A lead magnet is something you give away for free, in exchange for someone’s contact information.
Here are some idea starters that you could use as a lead magnet:
- Eye Health Checklist
- Free report: Questions to consider when choosing an eye doctor
- Discounts/Coupons for eye related products
- Free eye exam or consultation
Your lead magnet could be all kinds of things, but the key is to make sure it is something enticing to your target audience. This will make them more likely to give you their email address in order to receive your free gift.
While lead magnets are proven to be effective, there are plenty of ideas for how to build an email list.
If you are just starting out as an independent optometrist, taking the time and effort to implement these online marketing ideas will make a huge impact on your business in the months and years to come.
We’ve followed these strategies personally and have seen them work in a variety of industries.
The best part is, it really isn’t complicated. At a high level it breaks down like this:
- Complete all your prominent business profiles online
- Add content to your website that is focused on the questions/problems your patients have.
- Give away a free gift online so you can turn those search engine visitors into leads that you can email in the future.
If you do these 3 things, you’ll be way ahead of the game (and most of your competitors) from an online stand point.
Best of luck in your business!