Get to Know…Sara Patterson

MJM is pleased to welcome our newest member to the team—Sara Patterson.

Throughout her career, Sara has helped corporate businesses, local businesses, and non-profits tell their story through copywriting and communication strategy. She’s awesome, and if you want more information on her career you can find her bio here. But today, we know you want to learn some things about Sara that won’t show up on her LinkedIn account. We sat down and asked her some hard-hitting questions that will help you get to know her better.

What is your dream vacation?

Italy, for sure.

What actor would play you in a movie?

Hmm, I’m not sure. Probably Rebel Wilson or Tina Fey. They are almost as sarcastic as I am.

In high school, you would have been voted, “Most Likely To…”?

Bail you out of jail, for sure. I’ve always been the person you call when you’re in trouble.

What would be your “catch phrase” or famous quote?

“Words are my friends, and I want my friends treated well.”

What is your favorite candle scent?

Probably “bake and eat” scents, I suppose.

What is your favorite candy?

Anything with chocolate caramel or peanut butter.

What is your secret talent?

My secret talent is how fast I can read. Also, I’m fluent in two languages: English and Sarcasm. Does that count as a talent?

Welcome to the team, Sara! We’re happy to have you aboard. For our clients who are lucky enough to have Sara on their team, we know you’ll quickly see her value in caring for your words, brand, and overall project.

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!

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.


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.


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?


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.


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.

Demos and Documentaries

Some recent advice from ad man @malbonnington:

“Make demos and documentaries, not ads.”

This is vital advice for all companies to consider, including LASIK and cataract doctors and those in the vision industry. What does it mean to make demos and documentaries?

Demos: Don’t tell me about your product – show me your product. Show me how it works, how it makes my life better. Show me how clear vision will affect my daily life. Show me how you make surgery as safe as possible. Show me how you improve my outcomes. Show me how I can afford LASIK. Let me see the laser, the lens, the after-care shields. Show me, show me, show me. A demo allows me to become part of the decision-making process in a way that speeds up and increases my conversion.

Documentaries: Don’t tell me about your product – tell me about your customers, your patients. Tell me why they chose you and how you made their life better. Tell me why you exist, what drives you to be the best. Testimonies. Narrative. Drama, climax, catharsis, meaning. I want LASIK or cataract surgery because of who I will be AFTER surgery, not what kind of ASC relationship you have. A good documentary changes the way we look at the world. Rather than creating an “ad,” tell stories about clearer vision and share those stories with the world.

Nobody trusts advertising. Demos and documentaries build trust and brands.

You Want to Advertise? You Need a Marketer


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.