Designing Experiences in the New Normal

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In the era of social distancing and quarantining, it can be easy to believe that designing personal experiences for your customers is an impossible task. Since some of the key principles of experience design rely on using of the five senses to create the largest impact possible at each touch point, it would seem that those efforts would be rendered useless in these times of social distancing and virtual meetings. But we believe that these principles have never been more important.

With COVID-19, people are experiencing physical and even mental isolation. They miss even the most mundane aspects of what used to be normal, from reading a book at the coffee shop, to visiting their parents, and even making spontaneous trips to a big city. We believe that experiences with customers and patients can be redesigned to help create a new, healthy normal for these customers looking so hard for what used to be just another day.

What's Different? What's the Same? What can we do?

To design compelling experiences in “the new normal” one must first consider

  1. what is different
  2. what is the same, and
  3. what can we do to adjust and create personal experiences for our customers in these circumstances.

What is Different

What is Different?
Designing virtual experiences is more important than ever

What Can We Do?
Enhance your virtual presence

People are far less likely to make the first point of contact with you in-person these days. This mean that it is time to modernize your phone systems, social media, and web elements to create a more intimate and personalized journey for the customer or patient.


What is Different?
Safety is a primary concern in any interaction

What Can We Do?
Create and message your safe in-person environments

Make it clear how you have taken every consideration possible to make a visitor’s experience a safe one. Post pleasant reminders to maintain safe distances and wear face coverings.


What is Different?
Financial struggles have been exacerbated for both businesses and families

What Can We Do?
Avoid pushy messaging and ensure you are building relationships with your audience

The hard sell is (and always was) a bad approach. Instead of pushing sales and discounts, it is more important than ever to build a relationship with your customers and patients through social media, advertising, and other channels. If they feel that empathy and understanding is genuine, they will be far more likely to return to you when financial burdens have minimized.


What is Different?
People are yearning for elements of normalcy and socialization

What Can We Do?
Make the visitor the star

With fewer people visiting in-person locations, you have an opportunity to spend extra time tending to those visitors and making them feel heard and appreciated. The benefit of this is two-fold: visitors will feel even more important AND potentially feel like the entire experience is more tailored to them than would have been possible in the old normal.

What is the Same

What is the Same?
The experience is the marketing

What Can We Do?
Reexamine every point of contact with your business or practice as part of your marketing

The experience of calling to plan an appointment should be considered as important as the actual experience of visiting or any ad campaign you have running. Creating memorable interactions throughout the customer or patient’s journey will always be the highest priority, no matter the circumstances.


What is the Same?
Mass customization is still a key to personalized experiences

What Can We Do?
Skillfully tailoring offerings and journeys to an individual’s needs and wants will build a relationship

Think of the experience as more than just a transaction. During that customer or patient’s experience, look for elements that can be personalized just for them with little effort or cost to you. Do this well, and you’ll be well on your way to sustainably establishing a relationship with that audience member.


What is the Same?
In-person interactions are still largely impacted by considering the five senses

What Can We Do?
Highlight the senses that we still can use to their fullest extent: Sight and Sound

Although masks and extra sanitation requirements limit our ability to appeal to all 5 senses, we still have plenty of room to use them. Warm cookies and coffee may not work right now, but you can still curate the visual and auditory experience of your interactions to make them unforgettable. Now is the time to consider how to make the visual appeal of your facilities match the tone of your brand and determine if there are any ways to personalize the audio experience of a visit to the smaller groups of customers and patients at your physical locations.


While this pandemic has found its ways to separate us, it’s our task to find new ways that experience design principles can connect you with your customers and patients. Though some of the approaches may be outside of our usual tendencies, we think that this shows how agile these principles can truly be for making real, personal connections with your audience.

Live Chat: Survival Marketing

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During this live webinar our own Courtney Davidson was joined by KeyMedia Solutions CEO, Korena Keys. They offered some insight into how businesses can best respond to business challenges during this temporary crisis.

Webinar Recording

Resources

Here are some of the resources referenced in today’s webinar:

Communications Audit PDF
This communications audit will help you think through your approach to marketing during this time.

COVID-19: Ad Credits for Google Ads Small and Medium-sized Businesses
From Google: “We want to help alleviate some of the cost for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to stay in touch with their customers during this challenging time.”

Facebook Small Business Grants Program
Facebook is offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses.

Mend Join Make

Matt Jensen Marketing is offering 19, 1-hour virtual brainstorming sessions to help businesses and non-profits work through communication and marketing challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more or sign up for a session today!

Brand vs Brand Identity: Is there a difference?

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A brand is not a logo.

Nor is it just a combination of logo, typeface, and color. And it’s not just the products and services the company offers. It’s a bit more. It might seem like a silly distinction to draw, but we believe it’s an important one to recognize.

So, let’s set some quick definitions.

Brand identity is the tangible, visual component of a company (name, logo, communications, how the collateral looks and feels). And then there are touchpoints. Touchpoints are moments in time where people interact with a product or service. Touchpoints and identity are the parts we can see, touch, feel, and interact with. Every product or service ties together multiple touchpoints into what some might call a journey.

Does the sum of all this equal a brand?

Not quite.

It’s like a relationship.

The brand itself is more of an intangible thing – the gut feeling (as Marty Neumeier describes it in his book The Brand Gap) about the company that its customers have. Brands are an abstraction that exist in the minds of those who interact with them. The brand itself is not created by a company alone – it is also created by the people who interact with the company’s offering. Their gut feelings, memories, or experience will be anchored or attached to the brand identity. The visual identity becomes a symbol to hold all of that meaning. When they see the logo for the company or hear its name, they quickly recall those positive or negative feelings. Ideally that identity feels authentic and an appropriate fit for the associations it takes on.

In that sense, a brand is like a relationship between two people. The relationship isn’t a physical thing you can drop on your foot, but it’s very real and represents an emotional connection you have with another person. Over the course of time, that relationship takes on meaning through shared experiences, future expectations, and how we choose to talk about it.

What does this all mean?

You can’t create a great brand just by having a clever name or creating a cool logo. Just like you can’t develop a strong friendship by only looking like an interesting person. Branding as a discipline is more than slapping a coat of glossy paint on at the end. It takes time and intention.

You can’t create a great brand just by having a clever name or a cool logo, any more than you can develop a strong friendship just by looking like an interesting person.

Creating a visually stunning brand identity can do more harm than good. If the company is not operationally sound and is creating a negative experience for its customers a strong identity will serve as a lightning rod for negativity and brand terrorism.

A strong brand identity will make it easier to identify the good and the bad alike. Before you invest in a new identity, make sure that the experience you offer customers is a quality one. And then craft an identity that will help solidify the connection between hard-earned good experiences and your company.

Once the Dust Settles: A Post-ASCRS Review

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Recently, a few members of our team made the west coast trek to Los Angeles to participate in the annual spring ASCRS conference. The conference is an opportunity for ophthalmic professionals to learn, grow, and network with peers.

As attendees, we had a lot to take in, from the exhibit floor to the classroom. We had the opportunity to hear excellent doctors present on their life’s work and to see live surgery being performed with the industry’s newest technology.

Exciting new refractive technologies, such as SMILE from ZEISS, were available for education and hands-on learning. Healthcare regulation and reform were hot topics of conversation, as we all wait anxiously to see what emerges regarding MIPS and changes to the ACA. And, as always, we were all learning and hunting for new innovations in patient care, surgical offerings, and best practices in ophthalmology.

The biggest challenge for exhibitors at ASCRS is getting your product or offering to “cut through the noise.”

With hundreds of industry partners present on the convention floor, the biggest challenge for exhibitors at ASCRS is getting your product or offering to “cut through the noise” and reach new potential consumers.

So how do you set yourself up for success? How do you ensure that your product and your booth will stand out above all others?

Do it well

If you’re going to spend the money to be present at the conference, you need to do it well. How do we define “doing it well?” There are four key components:

  1. Focus on cohesive branding and materials.
  2. Offer pointed messaging that clearly outlines your value proposition and ideal customer.
  3. Have something “actionable” at your booth; something for visitors and customers to do immediately to improve their skill, practice, or thinking.
  4. Learn from your successes and mistakes. Audit every conference you attend and determine what worked and didn’t work from a booth presence perspective. Ask your loyal customers what they thought of your booth. Ask what others thought the best parts of ASCRS were this year. Learn, learn, learn.

If you “do it well,” you will shine at meetings like this.

PRN booth at ASCRS

As part of their presence at ASCRS 2017, PRN included a number of materials intended to educate their consumers and to show how their unique offerings stand up against competitors’ products.

Create space for conversation outside the exhibit hall

Some of the best conversations we saw happen at ASCRS happened outside of the exhibit hall and over a shared meal. Relationships and trust are built when real conversation is allowed to happen, and the best place to build relationships and trust is over dinner.

Relationships and trust are built when real conversation is allowed to happen, and the best place to build relationships and trust is over dinner.

Some options for holding these coinciding events include round tables or additional presentations. As you plan your event, create goals of the amount or type of feedback you hope to gain. In this way, you can measure the success of your event. Answers to these questions should affect your materials, your way-finding, your room set-up and your presentations.

Another exciting option at national events like ASCRS is to plan “experiential meetings” where you combine some form of learning or content sharing with a locally sourced experience. The goal of these events is that attendees would become actively immersed in your brand and product. For example, work with a local tour group to book a double-decker tour bus of the city. Before or after the event, offer some exciting new thoughts about your product or company. Because ASCRS has many vendors and meetings competing for the attention of doctors and staff, give people an added incentive to attend your experience.

Visiometrics booth at ASCRS

With these long standing banners, Visiometrics extended the visual impact of their booth’s presence. This modular approach also allows them to reuse those elements separately in other events.

Your booth layout matters

Depending on your product and presentation, the floor plan of your booth matters. In smaller booths, like a 10×10, the options are limited. However, there are still decisions to be made. Some questions you should ask yourself as you design the layout include:

  • What’s the one message you want people to see and understand?
  • Do you want a table separating you from your potential customers?
  • Do you need a private space to meet with interested buyers?
  • How does your floor plan affect your ability to draw in passersby?
  • What will people be able to stop and do at your booth?
  • How can your booth be unique and different from any other?

Answering these questions clearly before you begin working on your booth design will help ensure you create the ideal booth for your meeting goals, at ASCRS and beyond.

Need a CLEAR Review and Plan for Your Business?

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Strong, healthy businesses all focus on the same thing—how can we get better? Where are the gaps in our service, in the way people experience us, in the way we treat our loyal customers? What are our strengths, and how can we share them more boldly?

MJM can help your business CLEAR up your performance in these areas.

It’s called our CLEAR Method, and it can help your business or health care practice understand, at the core, what makes you different, strong and valuable to your customers and fix what’s stopping you from health and growth.

The CLEAR Method is made up of two parts. First, MJM conducts a CLEAR Review of your business, looking for strengths and weaknesses using our 21-point review tool. Second, MJM proposes a CLEAR Plan for focused, holistic growth and improvement in your business plan based on the results of the CLEAR Review.

But what is CLEAR? It’s our unique approach to looking at your business, top to bottom, operations to marketing. Before you spend a dime on advertisements, you need to get CLEAR.

CLEAR starts with a deep look at your Culture. Who are you, at the core? What are the values you and your team exhibit daily? Why do you exist?

Next, CLEAR looks at your Logistics. Are there gaps or weaknesses in the day-to-day logistics of your business? How are those gaps shaping the way people experience you? What items are top priorities to fix?

After Logistics, we study the Experience you provide your customers. How do people see, feel, and interact with your business from the first moment to the last moment? How can you and every member of your staff shape and design that experience?

Next, we look at the ways you generate Awareness for your business. More than just marketing, Awareness is a holistic review of all the ways people learn about your business, share information about you with friends, talk about you online, and the messages you pay to broadcast.

Finally, we conclude with a walk through your business Review metrics. How are you tracking your successes and failures? Do you have tools to measure your performance? If not, how can you tell if you’re succeeding?

The CLEAR Method involves hard work, both by you and by MJM. But the fruits of that work are powerful – they can lead to stability, health, and growth for your business. They will show you a plan to create happy staff, happy customers, and a more fulfilling CLEAR plan for your business.

If you’re ready to grow, if you’re not interested in “marketing secrets” and know that strong, stable businesses are built with long-term results in mind, the CLEAR Method may be a great fit for your business to jump-start 2017 with a new plan and a new focus.

To learn more about the CLEAR Method and to schedule your CLEAR Review, contact us.

Ophthalmic Practice Strategic Drivers for 2016

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In an ever-changing healthcare arena, what can we count on to drive business in 2016?

Let’s focus on seven areas we can grow new and returning patient visits to drive revenue. First and foremost we focus on the patient experience to build trust, confidence and evangelists for your brand.

1. Patient experience

Increased focus and development of the premium patient experience for elective surgery/refractive surgery patients.

Hopefully, we all measure patient satisfaction on a regular basis. But is this enough? What do we do to foster continued staff development as it relates to our patient experience? If you haven’t reviewed your patient experience cycle, it’s time to do it. Map each and every patient interaction, from your marketing materials, to the patient’s first call, first visit and each point of contact with your staff. Use this as a means to discuss how to deliver exceptional world-class patient experiences at every stage of the process.

2. Internal referrals

Tactics for generating referrals between various specialties, including eye exams, optical, LASIK, KAMRA and other services.

We should all be tracking referral sources so we know where our patients are coming from. The most valuable and cost effective source is word of mouth referral. Compare year over year reports for referral sources and look for opportunities to develop new relationships and build community awareness. Leverage cross referrals through patient newsletters, blogs and social media to keep services and procedures top of mind

3. Optometric referrals

Ongoing build-out of OD relationship tools.

Using your referral sources reporting, compare year over year revenues coming from optometric and professional referrals. Based on your results, look for opportunities to build relationships, offer continuing education, refresh print materials and communication methods (eg. newsletters; email blasts, etc.) and keep providers up to date on services.

4. Strategic consumer marketing

Updated strategies for ongoing community awareness/marketing communications.

Before embarking on a marketing plan for 2016, make sure you have a clear understanding of your goals and expectations for the year. If you’re looking for a 5% increase in elective procedures, that you expect to come from new procedures or technology, you need to quantify how many new leads that is, to convert to consults and then surgeries. This will help you plan your marketing efforts and target the audience you want to reach.

Once you know your volume goals, refine your message consistent with your brand identity and determine which media is the best combination to communicate your message. Don’t overlook social media, websites, review sites and custom video to help get your services in front of the consumer. Highly targeted campaigns can help reduce your cost per lead. In some markets radio, tv and print can still be highly effective

5. Digital marketing strategy refresh

In 2016, MJM recommends an increased focus and budget for digital initiatives to increase targeted awareness of practice offerings.

It may seem like a foreign language to some, but social media continues to grow and can be similar to word of mouth referral in younger age groups. We also can’t overlook that the 55+ market is the fastest growing demographic on Facebook. The added benefit is being able to carefully target, or in some cases retarget, individuals interested in our services. With Google retargeting, you can place ads that will show up when someone who has previously been to your website searches on other topics. You know they are interested in vision care and can keep your message in front of that particular consumer.

Email marketing continues to provide opportunities to send patient newsletters and updates on new products/procedures to our patient base. If you are not currently collecting all patient’s emails and asking their permission to contact them, you should start now.

6. Increased patient word-of-mouth

Create ongoing communication mechanisms with current patients, ODs, and staff that equip them to share practice offerings with others.

In the review generation, there’s not a product or service that can’t be found on Google, Yelp, Facebook, Yahoo, Angie’s List or some review site. While many of these charge for their service or make it difficult for patients to leave a review, we recommend everyone have a presence on Google+, Yelp, Facebook and Yahoo. How do you grow reviews on these sites? Patients are often thrilled with the results of their procedures and vision treatments and are happy to share their experience with others. At the post-operative visit, when you have an ecstatic patient, all you need to do is say, “If you’re happy with your results, the greatest compliment you can give is to share your experience with others.”  Then hand them a card with the review sites that you’re on, and explain how they can write a review.

Make sure you have someone dedicated on your staff to report on reviews and be ready to respond if someone does not provide a favorable review. It’s better to know what people are saying about you and give you the chance to respond or correct a problem, than to have negative word of mouth in your marketplace.

7. Follow-up actions for patients who did not schedule

You can only improve on what you measure. It is important to report on conversion of leads to appointments and appointments to surgeries. This can help identify issues within your processes or show what you are doing really well. Once you report on conversion, you can reach out to patients who did not move forward to surgery and help them make an informed decision. The key is uncovering obstacles and seeing how we can eliminate them as a concern. Often data can provide reassurance when fear holds someone back from surgery and financing options can eliminate cost barriers.

If you’re not doing everything you can to build your business in 2016, you’ll likely be affected by reduced reimbursements and fewer elective procedures. Contact MJM to see how we can help partner to manage your way to a successful New Year!

Intersections: Looking Beyond Possible to Probable

When I was pretty young, I would wander through my father’s furniture store, staring at a sea of country blue and light oak. Country curves. Mauve. Rocking chairs and big, plush recliners. It was so foreign to me because in my home, the one owned by my parents, all I saw were clean, modern lines. Bursts of abstract paintings. Spare beauty. So one day I asked my dad why we didn’t we sell the furniture we lived with, and he responded pretty quickly:

“Son, if we sold what we liked, we’d be out of business in no time.”

Country blue and light oak. Mauve and country filigrees. They sold. But my father runs a good business, and every day I would see him looking for other, great things to do in the community in order for his time to fall in line with his passions. So what he loved at home was consistent with the life that he had in some pseudo-professional forum.

I think about that when I think about my work at MJM. My personal “why” is to “make the possible probable.” To do that, I have to work with partners and clients who have the bones to be great. They just need to have the right kind of strategic guidance, to be empowered to know what they need, and to have someone help them develop discipline and focus. The clients I love to work with and the people doing good work are looking beyond possible to probable. They’re the clients that feed my “why” and bring out my best work every day. No country blue required.

At MJM, we are focused and choose our clients for reasons. And our clients choose us for those same reasons. What are those? We do good work and choose to work with clients who do good work. It’s rare that we find ourselves – and rare that I find myself – writing something that I don’t really feel or providing strategic guidance for a company or organization that I wouldn’t want to take or implement as a leader of that business or organization. I never find myself working with a client and failing to believe that I can help them grow, not because I have to, but because I want to help them grow. My love for their good work intersects with my interest in doing good work. The two are greater than the sum of their parts.

Two partners really stand out now that speak to this intersection of “why” – clients who help us develop our business while we develop theirs.

AMI

The first is AMI, a young company formed by a former corporate executive with a dream to change the world through a revolutionary antimicrobial technology. AMI’s leadership took risks, went back to school, and relied on great science to start a business. They brought us to the table because they recognized that our strategic guidance, “makership,” and strong marketing and experience curation could take AMI’s business from a beautiful technology to a truly world-changing way to control harmful microbes in areas as diverse as food processing, acute and long-term healthcare, paints and coatings, and elective health care. What first brought us together? Two groups of people doing good work and believing that a great idea – something possible – could change the world. Together, we’re making the possible probable. For all the right reasons.

Senscio Systems

Another partner we love is Senscio Systems. Senscio was birthed by two amazing researchers with a deep background in artificial intelligence. After honing their skills in the defense and intelligence industries, they realized that America’s elders and people struggling with chronic conditions or challenged with disabilities needed a solution to keep them at home and safe. Hospitals and health care providers, too, needed a way to ensure that patients who take (sometimes) dozens of medications, are fragile, and who need a nudge to live better can actually live better. So they took a risk, formed a company, and began developing a revolutionary, artificial intelligence based technology called Ibis. Without telling you how amazing it is, I can say this: this team and these people believe that they are going to change the way that people with disabilities and mental health challenges live independently and transform the way that people with chronic health conditions thrive. They are also preparing to bring industry-leading artificial intelligence to population health departments at the country’s major hospitals and health systems, so providers can modify their case management strategies and, even, their system-wide chronic health management protocols. Exciting stuff. And we’re here to help them do that by bringing them to the right people, brokering conversations, building amazing ways to talk about their product and brand, and honing and refining their message.

I don’t want to sell country blue. I want to live my “why,” and these partners and a handful of others in elective health care, technology, senior care and services, and even our favorite beverages (buy a Fernson now!) represent our best good work. It’s an intersection between our why at MJM and business development that doesn’t feel like work. But it is. It’s good, meaningful work.

Creating an Objective Marketing Strategy

The marketing world is one that is ever changing. There are new social platforms popping up weekly, and the fast-paced culture in today’s Internet driven world makes it hard to keep up.  While the platforms certainly will continue to diversify and grow, the same basic principles keep our marketing strategies firmly rooted in objective growth leading to higher ROI.

I have found the SOSTAC® Planning System by PR Smith to be the most helpful planning tool in any marketing campaign. The steps to the SOSTAC System are as follows:

Situation Analysis

Where are we now?

Talking to the client is a great place to start to get a picture of what their situation currently looks like. It is important to know whom the target audience is, how the client is currently reaching that audience, and how successful they have been in the past. Knowing who the competitors are in the marketplace can also be beneficial.

Objectives

Where do we want to be?

Creating objective goals is crucial to taking your marketing and company to the next level. Without knowing exactly where you want to be, it is impossible to measure if you have reached those goals.

Strategy

How do we get there?

Once you have created two to three objectives, you’ll need a plan of how you are going to reach those goals. Strategies for digital marketing can include affiliate-marketing programs, paid online advertising and improving SEO. Tactics—how exactly do we get there?

Actions

The Details of the Tactics

The tactics step is where we lay out how exactly we will implement each strategy. Then, in the action step we take it a step further, detailing budgets and timescales. This is also the step in the planning system where it is decided which team member will take which action to reach our objectives.

Control

How Do We Measure Performance?

In the final step of the SOSTAC planning system, we use analytics and reporting to determine if we have, in fact, completed our objectives.

Using the SOSTAC system is a great place to start when you have no idea where to begin. It takes lofty goals and turns them into actionable items with easy to measure objectives.

You Want to Advertise? You Need a Marketer

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Although, nationwide, refractive surgery volumes are still relatively flat, many practices are finding strategic advertising efforts have a positive impact on their clinical and surgical caseloads. Some ophthalmologists believe that achieving higher volumes should be as simple as calling the cable station and asking for a bundled advertising package. This approach is dangerous, as it may not be a strategy for sustained growth. Why? There is a vital difference between advertising and marketing.

No matter what business you are in, the purpose of an advertisement is to make a logical prospect try your offering … once. Your team’s ability to capitalize on that single opportunity, in my opinion, is what separates those who believe in advertising from those who say it never works. Marketing, on the other hand, should be defined as the work your team does with every patient, every day, to deliver value to patients, build a positive brand identity, and spread the referral net for the practice. Marketing is operational.

Advertising makes a promise. Operational marketing ensures that this promise is kept for every patient, every time. Strong marketing is the foundation of effective advertising.

Operational Marketing

Implementing operational marketing is not easy. Prior to placing any advertisement, the savvy practice will have harmonized and optimized its phone team’s skills (see “Premium Practice Today,” June 2012 issue, page 60), its communication standards for each patient’s visit, its education of patients, financing (including payment options), and the consultation. A practice harmonizes these encounters by planning what is performed at each stage of the process and ensuring that all is in line with what the patient/customer should experience and feel. Optimization entails enhancing each individual staff member’s performance at every one of these opportunities throughout the customer’s experience. Because every stage of the customer’s experience is important to the definition of marketing, those who are developing the advertising should understand these components as well.

Advertising is often the responsibility of one person or group, whereas marketing is the responsibility of the entire staff. Every individual in the practice organization must assist in the development of the customer’s experience at the point of service. If everyone is acting in harmony, external advertising efforts can be kept to a minimum.

After building a proper operational marketing program, your practice may be prepared to advertise your offering to the external market. You may be targeting a market segment, referring group, a certain area in the community, or simply the people who are already walking through the doors. The kind of advertising you want to implement will determine the type of person you hire to handle the task.

With these strategic notes in mind, here are the key areas you should consider when hiring someone to handle your marketing and advertising.

Key Areas To Consider When Hiring a Marketer

According to Cindy Haskell, the former administrator, now marketing consultant to Gordon, Weiss, and Schanzlin Vision Institute in La Jolla, California, the following are required of any internal personnel in the role of marketing director/coordinator.

  1. Build your brand. The individual is responsible for overseeing the brand and message in all areas of delivery. Your brand is defined as what your customers say about you. To grow your brand, it is crucial to have consistent messaging throughout the organization.
  2. Coordinate advertising and marketing. The individual is responsible for coordinating the day-to-day advertising and marketing activities. The marketing director is also directly involved in the development, implementation, and tracking of the strategic marketing plan.
  3. Prepare a budget and conduct an analysis. The individual must be able both to plan and place advertising across modern media and to analyze the reach and effectiveness of advertising efforts. It is impossible to change tactics if you do not know what is working … or not.
  4. Perform research. The individual must be able to gather and analyze data on competitors, the community, and the marketing industry to properly position the practice.
  5. Use current patients. The individual will create and maintain a robust database of former and prospective patients, gather video and narrative testimonies, and use these local stories to build the brand of the surgeon and the practice.
  6. Run internal campaigns. The individual will use operational marketing principles to create positive internal campaigns targeting specific patient demographics.
  7. Gain referrals. The individual will develop a strategy to maintain and increase referrals from current patients.
  8. Create the website. The individual will manage and update the practice’s website to ensure effective and current promotion of the practice and the fulfillment of appointment and information requests. Increasingly for all surgical specialties, the Web will be the most vital portal for information and engagement with prospective patients.
  9. Develop patients’ education. The individual will design, produce, and distribute educational materials for patients customized for the local practice. Great education for patients delivers on the advertised promise to give them the best possible treatment and experience.

By paying attention to the center’s day-to-day operations as an extension of the marketing plan, your center can be sure that your paid external efforts will be maximized. Creating a role internally ensures that what is said in the advertisement actually matches the experience. Collectively, this combined marketing-operations effort will create new leads whose experiences match your promise in your advertisement.

Matt Jensen, MBA, is the executive director of Vance Thompson Vision in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and a certified Experience Economy Expert. He is a member of the advisory board of Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today’s “Premium Practice Today” section and serves as an adviser to numerous practices and companies. 


This article originally appeared in Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. Click here to download a PDF version.

Marketing Solutions for a New Economy

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Traditional marketing is simple: Create demand, make the phone ring, and close the sale. Demand is typically measured by new leads, consultations, and surgeries. The tools with which we have created demand have been print, radio, television, and the Web. The current economic climate, however, has sent many centers into a tailspin, and physicians and their staffs are wondering if their external efforts are worth the results. People are not calling like they once did, and if they do, they are not scheduling surgery quite as easily. Future success is tied directly to a practice’s ability to create a fabulous experience for patients within its four walls. To that end, before spending dollars on external advertising, it is important to look inside your practice to see what your patients are seeing.

The Reluctant Customer

Consumers do not want to be targeted, and they are more skeptical than in the past. Satellite radio, digital video recording, and social media are being adopted, in part, in order to avoid the interruptive messages created by the advertiser. Additionally, in today‘s world where people are working harder for less money (Figure 1), when a consumer decides to make a purchase, his or her expectations for value tend to be higher.

Meanwhile, many refractive surgery centers have dealt with the current economy by reducing their support staff and amenities; both can be detrimental to the experience of patients and their overall perceptions of value. In such cases, word-of-mouth referrals drop in frequency. Some surgery centers may respond with a more desperate style of advertising that can turn off potential patients.

When desperate advertising measures meet the growing expectations and the new skepticism of the consumer, a vicious circle begins. This is why it is vital to create experiences at the practice level that are actually worth the price of the procedure: “People have become relatively immune to messages targeted at them. The way to reach your customers is to create an experience within them.”1

Track Your Effort and Results

The most effective way to position your practice for future growth and stability is by enhancing the patient’s experience at each stage of the process. Waiting times, educational explanations, and the inclusion of their family members and loved ones in the conversation are far more important than they were just a few months ago. There appears to be little effort, however, to track current customers’ information that is useful for creating growth. In Market Scope’s second quarter analysis2 (Figure 2), nearly half of all respondents stated they are not tracking new inquiries, inquiries to consultations, and consultations to surgery within their center. Metrics tracking is a basic business function that ensures the processes in place are functional and successful. How bad must the economy become before refractive surgery centers begin performing this task?

Utilize Customer Relationships to Increase Revenue

Inquiries that have not become scheduled consultations, and consultations that have yet to become scheduled surgery, represent easy marks for re-engagement. Instead, many surgery centers focus solely on new leads from external advertising. By utilizing a robust CRM (customer relationship management) software, practices can become relevant to potential customers who have already expressed interest in vision correction (Figure 3).

One difficult component to using practice management software, however, is learning to deal efficiently with all of the data created throughout the customer’s experience. A unique advantage to most CRM software is its ability to synchronize with practice management software. The former allows data collected during the patient’s experience to be used to create customized messages afterward. Each patient’s interaction is synchronized. As the practice schedules a patient from a consultation to surgery, the CRM gets updated as well, removing that patient from the consultation “bucket.” When the time comes to send a message to all potential patients who have not yet scheduled surgery, the practice need not worry whether or not the database is pure. In addition, practices have the ability to see how many opportunities exist within each status group.

Conclusion

Many opportunities are being overlooked at the practice level that can only be capitalized upon if simple tracking methodologies are put in place. The best first step to creating engaging and profitable experiences for customers is to pay attention to the most basic of operational standards. Look inside your practice and take advantage of the opportunities that already exist there.

Matt Jensen is the director of Vance Thompson Vision in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and is a certified Experience Economy expert. He acknowledged no financial interest in the product or company mentioned herein. 

  1. Gilmore J, Pine B J. The Experience Is the Marketing. Louisville, KY: Brown Heron Publishing; 2002.
  2. Market Scope’s Second Quarter Survey Report: Q2-2009. Manchester, MO: Market Scope LLC; 2009.

This article originally appeared in Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. Click here to download a PDF version.