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Marketing is Your Last Step

It was my first day at a new job and I walked in, quite literally, to phones that were ringing off the hook. Curious, I approached the area where a pair of receptionists, who, as pleasant as could be, were fighting a losing game of whack-a-mole with the blinking red lights on their consoles. When I asked why today had such a high call volume, they told me “It’s always like this.”

If job security had a ringtone, I had a lot of it.

However, as awesome as that was, this company wasn’t ready to handle the results of their marketing. Their team had executed a focused strategy to get their name out and it worked.

Focus on Operations First

But little attention had been paid to the infrastructure and operations necessary to handle things like call volume or adequate parking. Even more broadly, no one had considered how mundane things like poorly-designed forms or long phone wait times can undo months — and in this case years — of strategic marketing. 

When your prospective customer finally picks up the phone or fills out the contact form on your website, you must be ready to follow through on your promises. Jimmy John’s couldn’t promise “Freaky Fast Delivery” without putting in place everything possible to guarantee that delivery is, in fact, freaky fast. 

Marketing Comes Last

In other words, what many people don’t realize is that operations is the first step to effective marketing. At MJM, we take that even further. To us, operations is marketing and well-designed operations lead to a stellar patient experience that, in turn, leads to word-of-mouth referrals. Only once those things are in place should full-scale marketing efforts be launched. 

That was a welcome mindset for the receptionists whack-a-moling their way through phone call after phone call. I paused the company’s marketing that very day so we could focus on operations for a time. When we restarted our marketing plan a few months later, the phones were still ringing with one notable exception: we’d gotten better at handling our call volume.

And just about everything else we did. 

Patient Experience Training

The amount of time a patient spends with a doctor is a small percentage of the time they actually spend in the office. On average, patients spend about seven minutes with the doctor. If a consult appointment is two hours, what do you do with the rest of that time? Doctors and other team members are central to properly harmonizing the patient experience.

The experience is the marketing and not the advertising.

The importance of hidden systems

It is important to develop hidden systems so you can engage everyone equally. A hidden system will enable you to know who a patient is and what they do without them having to tell you every time they are in front of you.

“50-80% of the information provided by the clinician is instantly forgotten. Of the balance of information that is remembered, only 50% of it is remembered correctly.” –Greg Korneluk, Physician Success Secrets

What a patient remembers

For patients, 25% is remembered at best post-meeting. We go into the office and we throw all of this information at them like driving distance astigmatism, presbyopia, etc. A patient could potentially leave feeling completely overwhelmed. That patient goes home and says all I know is that my insurance only covers part of it. It will cost $2,000 and I have stigma.

We have to remember that our jargon dissuades people from understanding what we are talking about. Over the course of that hour or so conversation, they are burdened with information, then we dilate them and make them sign stuff.

What can we do to make it better?

In his book, Secret Service, John DiJulius III says that Americans have 1/20th the human interactions we had just 20 years ago. Rather than shopping at a store, we are online. Instead of meeting in person, we are doing webinars, video calls, etc. Rather than going to a bank, we do mobile banking.

“We are serving people that are starved for human interactions.”

When people are coming in, they are expecting more than just a great refraction. They want to talk with you. They want you to ask them about their family life, etc.  And they haven’t had a chance to tell anyone that and you may be the only they can talk to. We owe it to people to do a better job of interaction because they want meaningful interactions.

People are paying for experiences—for those interactions. You can drop this into any business model as these are the foundational elements of how businesses have changed over time.

Progression of Economic Value

  • Commodities (Agrarian Economy), which turns into…
  • Goods (Industrial Economy), which turns into…
  • Services (Service Economy), which turns into…
  • Experiences (Experience Economy) — such as Starbucks

As much as you grow, what are you going to try and do at all times? You cannot be standard. You have to be unique.

So, what does this mean for doctors?

From a patient standpoint, they are concerned with the following:

  1. Was I treated well?
  2. Were they trustworthy?
  3. Were they organized?
  4. Did they say thank you?
  5. Was the doctor nice?
  6. Was the office clean?

The patient is saying, I care more about this than technology. Obviously, I care about outcomes as well, but I want these things also.

A patient expects that you will have the best technology and a pristine outcome–these are known commodities. It is the steps above that take you above and beyond and will be the reason a patient chooses one doctor over another.

How should our teams adapt?

John DiJulius nails mass customization in his book What’s the Secret, “With the amount of intel healthcare has on its customers, it should be the best experience on earth.”

By being in healthcare, we have more information on our customers than most organizations and we rarely use it. We need to use it!  “You cannot be experientially excellent until you are operationally excellent,” DiJulius says.

You don’t get credit for having warm cookies in your waiting area if the trash can in your public restroom is overflowing because someone hasn’t been in there for awhile. It’s the overall experience that a patient will remember. The entire experience from the front door to the checkout needs to be worth every penny.

Details are everything: From the minute a patient walks in, your staff members are on stage. Be personal and warm.  You want the experience to be so wonderful that rather than a family member just dropping off the patient, they also want to join in on the experience of having good conversation, eating warm cookies and drinking a customized, Starbucks-like coffee.

A lot of people won’t take the leap if they don’t know where they’ll land. The market already believes that you are the best around at what you do. I just know if you pay attention to these kinds of things it will be even better — it will be world-class.

Millennials and the LASIK Experience

Laser vision correction is transformative. A patient can enter your office one day with a visual acuity of 20/400 and return the following day 20/15.

That is no small feat. Years of research and development, FDA approvals, and just plain hard work have made LASIK one of the safest and most effective surgeries in the world. That is a big deal. LASIK is not the only option for correction; if a person is not a candidate for LASIK, there are implant procedures as well as flapless techniques. The capabilities that accompany using advanced technology are truly awesome, and no other field of medicine can boast similar effectiveness and safety.

When it comes to LASIK surgery and millennials, however, it is important to remember two things beyond other more philosophical generalizations about what they want, how they work, and how they will contribute to society. First, millennials are going to be alive for a long time, and they have their entire adult lives in front of them. Second, as specialists in refractive and implant vision correction, you can help them see and, ultimately, experience life as it happens. In short, LASIK is an experiential offering.

LASIK will not change a person’s lifestyle, and it will not change who he or she is as a person; it will, however, transform how he or she sees the world or observe the detail on a butterfly’s wings. Your practice has the technology and the experience to make it happen. How can you invite millennials to learn more about LASIK and, perhaps, schedule appointments for LASIK consultations?

Reaching Millennials

Millennials use a whole cohort of social media tools to learn about news, catch up with friends, and view videos, television shows, or stream music. They are digital natives, after all, having grown up with the boom of the Internet and all the gadgets that have popped up since. If they are watching a show on television, it is likely that they are simultaneously interacting with another device such as a phone or tablet. If their phone is not in their pocket, it is likely nearby.

What does this mean for your practice? It means that you need to have a mobile marketing plan and you need to be mindful of how your website looks from a phone. Your website needs to have a responsive design that will accommodate viewing on devices with varying screen sizes. Google has announced that responsive websites will rank higher in searches than websites that are not, and that makes responsiveness even more important for your practice. Do you want to rank highly in Google searches for LASIK? Your practice’s website needs to be responsive.

In addition to the responsive site, your practice needs to be mindful of how your social presence looks for mobile users and consider if you are sharing content that is easily accessible from a mobile device. Is your practice’s Facebook profile image easily read from a mobile device? Are you making sure that the links your page shares are easily read from a mobile device? What is your social strategy? These are important questions.

Along with the increasing use of new devices, faster Internet speeds, and more intuitive website designs have come more helpful ways to measure how many visitors your website attracts on a daily basis and how they interact with different pages of your website. Using Google Analytics, for instance, we can see that the Vance Thompson Vision website attracts several hundred unique visitors every day and that those visitors most often move from the website’s homepage to biographical pages about our doctors. From the doctors’ pages, we can see that they then might jump to pages about LASIK, cataract surgery, or glaucoma treatment. Knowing how people use our website informs our team how they can improve it.

At a Glance

  • When it comes to LASIK surgery and millennials, remember that millennials are going to be alive for a long time and they their entire adult lives in front of them.
  • As a refractive and implant vision correction specialist, you can help them see and, ultimately, experience life as it happens. LASIK is experiential!
  • Millennials care about costs, positive referrals, brand reputation, and the experience. Most importantly, they trust their friends.
  • Millennials want to be remarkable, and they want to spend their money on experiences worth talking about, worth sharing with friends, and worth sharing with their families.

Brand Loyalty and Millennials

A recent survey conducted to learn more about millennials, media consumption, and brand loyalty, found that “60% of Millennials said that social advertising has the most influence over them in how they perceive a brand and a brand’s value. This compares with TV at 70%. Traditional media outside of TV fell flat.”1

When a friend sent this survey to me via email recently, I knew it was significant. Although billboards and newspaper ads may still be relevant to our mature customers, for whom traditional media has always been significant, there is no question that the eyes of most millennials are on smaller screens.

Even on our practice’s Facebook page, we have consistently seen that more users interact with our page from a mobile device. In a Facebook ad campaign for our practice, with equal emphasis on serving ads to desktop and mobile users, 95% of the people interacting with our ad did so from a mobile device. The number of people served our ad on a mobile device was more than 10 times the number of people served ads on a desktop.

Importance of Digital Referrals

Just because our practice is active on Facebook does not mean what we post holds a higher value than word-of-mouth posts. The same study referenced previously found, “Fifty-five percent of young shoppers said that a recommendation from a friend is one of the strongest influencers in getting them to try a new brand. Forty-seven percent consider brand reputation to be almost as important. Product quality ranks fourth at 35%, while price has the most sway at 62%.”

In another recent study, milennials showed that their generation favors exciting, firsthand experiences in lieu of money and careers: “Seventy-eight percent of Millennials would rather spend money on a desirable experience than buy coveted goods.”2 When asked where they plan to spend their money in the next year, millennials overwhelmingly respond with events and experiences in lieu of physical items (Figure).

We can learn a lot from these findings:

  • Millennials care about costs.
  • Millennials care about positive referrals.
  • Millennials care about brand reputation.
  • Millennials want an experience.
  • Most importantly, millennials trust their friends.

Creating Remarkable Experiences

By any estimate, these are not groundbreaking findings; we have known for a long time that referrals are gold and that money is important to our customers.

Millennials want to be remarkable, and they want to spend their money on experiences worth talking about, worth sharing with friends, worth sharing with their families. In our practices, we need to be diligent about how we stage our customer experiences so that a laser vision correction experience is remarkable—not just in the actual transformation of the patient’s vision but also how the experience is designed and how it is possible for it to be captured.

When millennials call your office, do they have to listen to a recording and press buttons, or are they immediately in touch with a person from your office who can answer questions and schedule appointments? When millennials arrive for their consultation, are they welcomed like honored guests? Can they sit in a private area? Are there customizable beverage options? Do you offer public WiFi? When a millennial is going through the appointment, do your doctors and staff take the time to answer every question and address the risks involved with treatment? How do you educate millennials on the variety of options available for vision correction?

Create opportunities for patients to capture their experiences. If a patient expresses excitement about his or her eyes or about watching the surgery, make sure he or she has the opportunity to have a photo taken with the surgeon along with a video of the procedure. During a consultation, show and explain the topographical images of the patient’s eye, so patients can see what your instruments capture and see their eyes from a new perspective.

Keep in mind the friends and family members who accompany your patients. What do they see and hear during their experiences in your office? In our office, we have specially designed observation rooms that overlook our laser suites. One of our staff will narrate the procedure so that everyone watching can know what is happening. Ultimately, you should craft your patients’ experiences for all involved parties.

Conclusion

Although patients’ experiences should be important for all visitors to your office, the lean toward experiential spending will likely increase as more Millennials start families, relocate for jobs, and work toward making their lives remarkable.

Patient Pay, Patient Wait and the Customer Experience

As the cost of health care from the patient perspective increases, so will patients’ expectations of their providers. Out-of-pocket expenses have always been a point of contention in the health care industry, and this tension only increases as the field of health care takes a more dominant stance in what we talk about each and every day. Patients are very aware of how they are treated at every step of their journey through the doctor’s office, and they are expecting more from their experience as their personal costs continue to rise.1

Waiting is inevitable in eye care. Efforts should be made to turn “wait times” into something else entirely.

One of the key measures of patient satisfaction in the health care sphere is how long a patient’s wait time is before seeing his or her provider. Patients often cite their wait time as a measure of the quality of care and overall satisfaction they feel while in the doctor’s office. A recent study by Michael McMullen, MD, and Peter Netland, MD, PhD,2 correlation between the amount of wait time and patient satisfaction. In fact, the study authors found that satisfaction with the amount of time spent waiting was the strongest driver of overall satisfaction. This is keen insight into the minds of our changing consumer.

Patients are now paying more than ever for even simple things such as X-rays, routine exams, and follow-up care. Even if the visit is not associated in any way with an elective offering, they are paying more. Therefore, their consumer-like preferences will be even more acute. In addition, patient customers report that their strongest consumer-like preference is to “not wait.” With this in mind, it is helpful to look at your clinic environment through the lens of the patient and create for them an experience that can satisfy this key driver.

Setting Standards for a Better Customer Experience

Waiting is inevitable in eye care. Efforts should be made to turn “wait times” into something else entirely.

You can begin this review the same way a patient might come in contact with your health care system. First, evaluate your phone standards:

  • How long does it take before someone picks up when you call your own office?
  • How many dropped calls or calls where the patient hangs up before you answer do you have?
  • How many total calls do you receive a day?
  • Is there a call center you rollover to when the heightened call volumes occur?
  • What is your standard number of rings?

Many practices use a phone prompting, or a phone tree, system that can frustrate the patient customer. Although having one of these systems may allow for more modest staffing expense, it typically starts the relationship on a bad note. These systems are difficult to navigate, programmed too quickly, not revisited, and often lead to dead ends, where the caller is placed in the back of the queue or disconnected altogether.

After you have reviewed the standards of your phone team during the call, it is important to review the standards your team has before and after the call. Many practices believe that when the phone is hung up, the responsibility of the phone team is finished. Not so. Days and weeks before the patient customer appears in your office, it is nice to make a reminder call, pre-visit contact, to reiterate what was discussed on the phone, review any questions that may have arisen during the patient’s exploration of your offerings, and/or review any remaining materials or doctors’ instructions in preparation for his or her upcoming exam. It is also important to ask patients about their concerns regarding the exam.

This reminder call also serves as an opportunity to remind folks to bring a loved one or family member along to their visit. This can help the patient-customer to not only have a good experience but also properly make their educated decision while with the provider in your office.

The Day of the Examination

Now, it’s the day of the examination. Everything needs to be thought through, from how patients arrive at your center to how they’re escorted back into the diagnostic area after the check-in process. Let’s begin with how patients arrive. Every effort should be made to make this process as smooth as possible. Maps, GPS, radio signals, call-ahead reminders, and texts should be used to help patients feel like they’re on the right track when traveling to your practice. In the northern states, one of the number-one patient concerns during the winter months is road conditions. Patients worry about the drive to the center, if the sidewalks will be icy, and whether they can find a parking spot close to the front doors of your practice. While designing for the optimal customer experience in health care, heated sidewalks might be something worth considering if you live in a region that has inclement weather.

Customer experience: the welcome area

Words are important: use “atrium,” “welcome area,” or “lobby” instead of “waiting area.”

There is nothing more powerful than the first impression. The first time the patient-customer walks into your office or clinic will leave a lasting impression as to how he or she feels about your offering. Be very, very picky about what you allow on your walls and how you design your atrium space. (Notice I did not say waiting room. Words are important, so the terms atrium, welcome area, or lobby should be used instead of waiting area.)

Explain the process

Once it is time to have measurements taken of the inside and outside of your eye, the clinical team or technicians should be mindful not to use jargon that might leave patients wondering what is going on. Rather than simply doing advanced diagnostics, it is important to explain to patients what is happening at each stage of the process. We use a simple method of laminated sheets to articulate the three major points of any advanced diagnostic. With these sheets, whenever we’re doing a test, team members can explain the highlights of the technology being used, and this ensures that everything is explained in roughly the same way to each patient.

These first few stages and ideas only cover the first few areas of the customer experience in ophthalmology. We all know that there is a lot more to be done after the diagnostic work is complete. We still need to take the patient to the exam room, explain his or her surgery options, counsel the patient, and discuss different payment options. Finally, we need to cover what happens between when the patient leaves the office and later returns for surgery.

1. Bouchard S. Patient payment responsibility increases. Healthcare Finance News. June 11, 2013. Available at: http://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/patient-payment-responsiblity-increases. Accessed March 21, 2013.

2. McMullen M, Netland P. Wait time as a driver of overall patient satisfaction. Clin Ophthalmol. 2013;7:1655-1660.


This article originally appeared on millennialeye.com.

The Educational Process Empowers the Staff

There are many different approaches to educating your staff. Although various tactics may be effective, be certain to ensure that your staff is involved in designing their own education within the areas that it affects them. We suggest trying some of the following strategies.

Our staff members here in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, really enjoy their time with the physicians. We have therefore created many different tactics by which the staff can carry out the doctors’ wishes every single day. Our first strategy is setting aside regularly scheduled time for the doctors to meet with the staff. This is a top priority in staff training and education. Topics of discussion include not only what staff members should say to patients but also how they say it.

The next strategy is to evaluate staff members’ command of medical terminology. We want staff members to have discussions with patients similarly to how we would interact with them. Once a year, each staff member takes a test on 200 to 300 terms related to the care we provide. We create the test throughout the year. Every team member must pass this test with a score of 90% or better. He or she keeps taking the test until that goal is achieved.

Staff members also complete an oral version of the same test. This is for when they field questions at church, family reunions, a bar, or other social settings. Conversations tend to revolve around what we offer at the practice, and as providers, we trust our own answers. It is important that our staff members respond in a similar fashion to the questions they hear.

We also regularly give the staff an opportunity to showcase what they know through co-teaching at educational events, making presentations to our referring doctors, and being shadowed by visitors, referring providers, and their staffs.

As a result of these efforts, our team members’ firm foundation of knowledge enhances our patients’ care and experiences. We believe this educational process also empowers the staff in a way that improves their joy and satisfaction in the workplace.

 


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

Marketing Laser Cataract Surgery in Your Practice

When marketing femtosecond laser technology in conjunction with cataract surgery, it is helpful to reference past marketing principles that have proved effective in multiple industries. We look back to the 1980s when “the four Ps of marketing” ruled how one brings any product or service to the market. The four Ps — which stand for product, pricing, promotion, and placement — are a helpful way to look at this very complicated category.

What the Four Ps Represent

A product satisfies the consumer’s needs or wants. It is a tangible item or an intangible service. Every product follows a life cycle, and marketers must be aware of the life cycle of each product they are marketing. Attention must be given to the challenges that will arise as the product moves through the cycle (growth, maturity, and eventual decline). The product’s appearance, function, and method of support all contribute to the item or service that the customer actually purchases. The product bundle should meet the needs of the target market. Therefore, research is a key component of building an effective product that appeals to customers, or in this case, refractive cataract surgery patients, and avoids costly mistakes.

The price is the amount a customer pays for the product. Price determines a company’s profits. Marketers should be aware of how the product fits within its competitors as well as how the consumer perceives the overall value of the product. The pricing approach should reflect the appropriate placement of the product in the market. Price is the one “P” that generates revenue while the others incur costs. Effective pricing is important to success.

“Price is the one ‘P’ that generates revenue while the others incur costs. Effective pricing is important to success.”

Product promotion is any element that a marketer uses to dispense information about the product. This includes advertising, sales promotions, public relations packets, and word of mouth. The purpose of promotion is to bring people to an understanding of what the product is, what they can use it for, and why they want it. Customers need to know that the product will satisfy their needs, which in this case would be a final refractive outcome that maximizes accuracy and minimizes risk.

Place refers to guaranteeing that the product is located somewhere that consumers can conveniently access it. What the product is will greatly determine how it is distributed. Marketers must make sure that product distribution happens in such a way that it can be easily purchased by its target audience. If the product is sold to vendors, then they should also contribute to the overall view of how the final exchange of the product with the consumer should occur.

Let us look at how the four Ps relate specifically to the marketing of laser technology in cataract surgery.

Pricing

How exactly the surgical practice is going to charge for the advanced technology used in laser cataract surgery is an important step, perhaps the most important one, in discovering how the center might find success. Much angst has been spilled related to the ins and outs of proper pricing. Pricing is not only a cue for quality but also for the correct or incorrect pathway as to how to bill for laser-related services. Some practices use this advanced technology, albeit elective, to “clean house” on all of their refractive, non-covered, or elective services. A good rule of thumb here is that whatever the center might be charging electively for the offering should be similar to what it charges for a similar offering across the hall. Another way to say it is that the pricing needs to make sense and be justifiable.

Placement

Where the practice manager and/or surgeon decide to place the device is a critical component in how it is marketed. The way one communicates and thus markets to prospective patients changes based on if the practice remains an office-based procedural center and thus patients are transported after the laser treatment to the surgery center or if the center co-locates the device next to the surgery center. Much time, energy, and planning must be spent to determine the correct choreography for the placement of this new technology. Placement affects the other three Ps.

Product

What else might be included in a bundled package alongside the laser technology? This is an important question to consider when looking at implementing this new technology. Many surgeons agree that this laser technology works best when combined with other innovations that optimize the cataract surgical procedure. Those other technologies may include the use of wavefront aberrometry pre- and post-operatively, wavefront aberrometry for documentation of the implant’s power intra-operatively, or topography. These and many other non-covered services may be considered as part of the total elective or non-covered package. Practices may decide to rename the package related to its non-covered services.

Promotion

Promotion is an important consideration when thinking of laser cataract technology, however, it should always be handled last. Excellence in promotion cannot be achieved until there is excellence in execution. This statement has never been as true as it is in regard to this very complicated surgical space. When the technique is finally ready to be promoted, the best first step is to create demand by going first to the practice’s patient base and core of referring doctors. Newsletters, webinars, symposiums, live surgeries, and mailers are all effective ways to achieve this.

Conclusion

By following these basic structural elements, the center will be able to create a profitable laser cataract surgery program that satisfies customers’ needs while continuing to propel the business forward. Although the four Ps inform the way the current practice is shaped for marketing laser technology, they are not the end of the road. Once the right product at the right price is attained and offered in the right place and promoted in the right way, the practice must continue to stay on top of market changes and adapt as necessary. An experience for patients must be created that is as premium to patients’ care as laser technology is to refractive cataract surgery’s accuracy. Technology continues to move surgical procedures toward more precise and predictable outcomes. The femtosecond laser is just one example of the creative ways in which laser technology continues to help patients. Marketing and innovative technologies are part of the business venture that never ends.

 


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

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, 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.

 


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

Weeping for Wine

Maybe it was the setting. Or perhaps the time of year. We’ve always loved the autumn. But somehow this trip to the Napa Valley of California was markedly different than others before it. It was three years earlier that our first trip had occurred  and so so so much had changed in that time. We’d gone from a family of three to a family of five, finished Residency, held a prestigious position running a health care facility and launched an ad agency model that kept my creative mind its sharpest. We weren’t seeing the world as an oyster. It was already a pearl. and we were traveling to celebrate some momentous achievements. All the while question whether or not all of the effort, time, and treasure expelled on arriving where were had would be worth the while and the work. Work life balance was a real question we found ourselves discussing along our way through our visit.

At Elan Vineyards the offering was never the wine, although the wine is excellent. It is deeper.

We had visited Elan Vineyards at the recommendation of all of our friends at Jessup Cellars. And it was a rewarding visit. Upon arrival we were immediately overwhelmed by the scent of lavender in the air. It grew wild their all over the hill side beneath the winery. To match the Olfactory overload we were met with a view of an amazing Tuscan style villa built perfectly on the edge of a steep mountainous pinnacle that overlooked the entirety of the valley. We were met at the front door by the wine-making couple who quickly poured a glass of their most recent release as they offered a tour of their home all while encouraging their children to finish their homework and practice their instruments. Soon after, Patrick whisked away to the subterranean wine barrel area. As he walked us from barrel to barrel in various stages of their aging he had us pull wine from each using a wine thief and tasting each along the way. From grapes, to crush, to racking and re-racking, he educated us in a very tactile fashion.

After this we stood in their kitchen, petted their dog, laughed with their children, and truly enjoyed each others company. As their reward and to extend the relationship we, of course, signed up for their wine club. And now every quarter, my wife opens a box of black bottles shipped from Elan. But that’s not all that’s inside. She also finds a note from the family and a linen satchel full of lavender seeds. The very moment the box is opened my wife is whisked away back to the valley. Away from the rat race, where busy families are balanced with artisan aspiration. She breathes in the scent and is nearly brought to tears. because she didn’t receive bottles of wine in that box, or even lavender. She purchased validation. She bought that being busy is normal and that craziness can happen right in your living room or kitchen while you graciously receive a guest.

At Elan Vineyards the offering was never the wine, although the wine is excellent. It is deeper. The offering is the Sight, the Smell, the Taste, the Touch, the Hearing and the familial appeal throughout the entire exchange.

So what are you selling? When people remember their interaction are they nearly brought to tears by your hospitality? Let’s be a little more real shall we?

Social Graces: 9 Keys to Using Social Media in a Practice Setting

Social media has changed the landscape of the Internet, and it has changed the way in which many industries conduct business. Health care is no different. Increased connectivity and peer-generated education have made it more important than ever for practices to expand their expertise into new mediums to help patients achieve their best possible outcomes. In the modern world, this means learning an entirely new approach to patients’ education, marketing, industry interactions, and management of the practice’s word-of-mouth messages. At the heart of this new challenge lies social media. This article is designed to help you get started using this tool effectively at the practice level.

Key No. 1: Understand What Social Media Really Means

When many people think of social media, they think of Facebook. Although it certainly is a great and important example, Facebook does not define the medium. A working definition of social media that helps create action at a practice level is as follows: social media is the ability of people to connect in ways that were never possible before and to share stories and content that create conversation and define their experiences. There are a couple key points here. First, social media enables people (your patients) who would never meet in real life to talk to each other about you. It connects people in meaningful ways, ways that were not possible just 10 years ago. This means that your patients may come into your practice with a knowledge of the industry—and you—that they could never have had without these new tools. Some of the information patients receive may be false and may make your job more difficult. Second, social media allows people to share stories and create a collective experience. In other words, Internet users are beginning to define businesses without the influence of traditional marketing. They are sharing stories that will define you. This obviously matters greatly to your practice.

Key No. 2: Be Authentic

Many people believe that, because they have created social media outlets, qualified leads will follow. Remember, most social networks were not created for conducting business. Simply having a Facebook fan page is akin to a guy in a suit and tie sitting in a corner at a fraternity party. He makes people uncomfortable. He is not there to party, and worse, everybody knows it. Make your postings relevant, real, and maybe even unpolished.

Key No. 3: Commit Time and Resources

As you jump into the work of implementing social media at the practice level, it is vital to remember that social media is social. It takes time and commitment to foster results in the social arena, just as it takes time in real life to create and nurture family relationships and friendships. There are no shortcuts, so plan on dedicating at a minimum 8 to 12 hours a week to your social media endeavors. Larger clinics may have staff members manage their social sites, but understand that a doctor’s presence within social media adds great value and will be crucial to your practice’s long-term success. For starters, commit one or two staff members to dedicate 2 to 3 hours each week to managing your social media and expand from there.

Key No. 4: Get a Plan

You have set aside the time to manage social media. What next? Many practitioners think to themselves, “I have a personal Facebook page. I will just create one for my practice and run it the same way.” This approach can produce very negative results. As in real life, social media relationships are not all the same, so you need to know why you are conducting specific activities online. For example, do you want to generate new leads? Run a promotional contest. Do you want to educate people? Write a blog, use Twitter to share interesting articles with your patients, or create a YouTube channel with educational videos.

What are you trying to accomplish by incorporating social media into your practice’s marketing plan? Make sure your social media plan clearly and succinctly answers this question.

Key No. 5: Understand the Tools

You have set aside the time, and you have a plan. What tools do you want to use? As discussed in Key No. 1, social media is much more than Facebook. If you want to blog, hundreds of tools are available, each offering different features and benefits. There are dozens of networking sites, hundreds of platforms for contests and promotions, and perhaps five or six good sites for sharing video; the list grows daily. Get to know the tools available and choose the ones that best fit your goals. (Because there are too many tools to explain here, jump to Key No. 8 if you are overwhelmed.)

Key No. 6: Implement Your Plan Across the Practice (Not Just on the Internet!)

At the practice that I manage, our Web sites exist as a static place on the Internet, where they function like an ad in cyberspace. People visit the sites, read some of the information, and then call (one hopes). Social media is vastly different. A major reason to invest time in social media is that you wish to be active in the conversations about you that are taking place on the Web. Right now, someone may be posting a review of you or your practice on Yelp or Google Reviews. Do you know what he or she is saying? You should. If someone says something negative, you want to be able to respond. If someone gives you a rave review, you want to thank him or her. If someone offers great feedback, you want to take it to your team and implement the change.

This is the point at which social media intersects with real life, and you and your team must approach every day knowing that each patient could be reviewing you right now. Social media presents an opportunity for you to ask your best patients to offer positive reviews about your practice across your social channels. Remember, your patients are telling your story; you no longer have control of the message. Getting your team to turn real-life interactions into social interactions is important.

Key No. 7: Learn to Measure

How do you know your social media efforts are working? I hope you are already asking this of your traditional marketing; social media is much trickier. Do numerous Facebook “fans” or individuals’ “liking” your practice mean you are a success? If your videos have been viewed 5,000 times, are your patients better educated? What do you do with bad reviews? What do you do with good reviews? Learning to measure your results and change course to achieve your goals is vital to any marketing effort but especially social media. A major reason is that, with social media, you are dealing with real people rather than print ads. You need to have a plan, commit the time, know what you want people to do, stay on message, and keep moving forward to be successful.

Key No. 8: Practice and Experiment

One of the best parts of social media is that you can practice your engagement with people and experiment with new tools relatively cheaply. Our practice decided to run a Facebook contest. We got it up and running, ran the contest, gathered results, measured our outcomes, and moved forward—all in 45 days. When you try new things, you learn. When you learn, you get better. You practice surgery, experiment with new lenses and tools, talk with colleagues, perform research, and gather new skills as a doctor. You will need that same innovative attitude for social media. One size does not fit all, so you will need to find the approach that works best for you.

Key No. 9: Get Help

You are not a social media expert. If you do not want to waste your time and resources, get some help. Find someone on your staff who can head up a social media initiative for your practice. Ask your marketing team’s members if they can create a robust plan, study the tools, and take action. Alternatively, partner with a new team to move forward with social media.

Conclusion

Across the Internet, conversations are taking place about LASIK, about cataracts, and about you. Many of these conversations do not include doctors, members of your staff, or anyone who will guide the discussants to your doorstep. If you follow the nine keys presented herein, you will be able to join the social media conversation with confidence and meet your goals: driving new patients to your practice, educating them, encouraging them, connecting them, and celebrating their stories.

 


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

Knowing Your Practice Is No Longer Optional

When most ophthalmologists hear the words performance metrics, they generally think two things: utilization and collection. How many patients per day do I see? What do accounts receivable look like? What are the practice’s monthly collections? Is there money in the bank to meet payroll? These measures are after-the-fact metrics. They do not provide information on attracting new patients, the fullness of the practice’s pipeline, effective conversion, or whether outcomes are attracting new prospects.

Some refractive practices have taken performance metrics a step further by looking at the level of patients’ interest and appointment progression. Someone on the staff monitors inquiries, consultations, and surgeries to track conversions at each step of the process. According to a second-quarter analysis by Market Scope, however, nearly half of all practices are not tracking new inquiries, inquiries to consultation, and consultations to surgery.1

Despite the constraints of today’s market, few centers track basic indicators of their practice’s health.1

How do you develop an informative, actionable snapshot of whether your practice is attracting the types of patients you want, whether they choose the vision services at which you are expert, and whether the financial result is sound? I recommend developing a performance dashboard similar to the one I have seen Kay Coulson, MBA, advocate at several practice workshops that I have attended. Ms. Coulson is the president of Elective Medical Marketing in Boulder, CO.

The Performance Dashboard

“I’m a numbers junkie, yet I quickly learned in consulting that synthesizing and condensing relevant information for surgeons is vital,” says Ms. Coulson. “The performance dashboard is something we developed to help our clients see, on a single page, whether the practice is headed in the right direction.”

A performance dashboard for a practice intent on growing its volume of IOL and LASIK procedures might look like this, according to Kay Coulson, MBA.

She continues, “I find surgeons want to know three things: are we attracting the right type of patient, are patients choosing the services I want to offer, and is the financial performance of the practice improving? There is no sugarcoating of results with a performance dashboard. You’re either attracting more inquiries or not. The right people are booking appointments or not. More people are moving to surgery or not. The fees they are willing to pay are good for the practice or not. At a time when it’s easy to become overwhelmed with data, paring it down to a snapshot that keeps everyone on track is paramount.”

Making Performance Metrics Work for You

How can you develop a performance dashboard that will help you monitor and improve your practice? Here are several suggestions.

No. 1: Start With the Initial Point of Contact — the Inquiry

Inquiries can be tracked in any existing practice management system simply by adding an appointment called an inquiry. In this way, when a new patient calls your practice, he or she is immediately booked for an inquiry appointment as well as the type of appointment he or she is requesting (e.g. annual examination, lens evaluation, LASIK consultation). If this patient cancels the appointment or progresses along an appointment path different than expected, he or she can be monitored and tracked.

No. 2: Use Appointment Types and Diagnostic Codes as Tools for Tracking the Practice’s Growth

Complete examinations, diagnosed cataracts, and resulting surgeries are reported quarterly, with comparisons to the same quarter from prior years. This information helps to account for the seasonality of procedures. It can also assist in the development of a new norm that takes into account the economic recession and changing health care structures.

No. 3: Measure the Financial Contribution of Your Key Service Lines

If you are trying to grow elective services, track their financial performance separately from insurance collections. This distinction will give you a clearer perspective on where the practice is growing and where poor performance has been masked.

No. 4: Align Spending on Marketing and Employees’ Compensation with Your Goals for Growing the Practice

It is not enough simply to spend money on marketing or to pay employees to show up for work. Over the next few years, you and other ophthalmologists will evaluate which payer contracts to pursue or renew; which new technologies for cataract, glaucoma, retina, or LASIK to adopt; and where to invest in facilities and people. It therefore makes sense to align your investment in marketing and people so that it is directly linked to the practice’s performance.

Conclusion

Develop a simple set of performance metrics today. Then, use them objectively, consistently, and rigorously in the coming years to grow your practice. These critical data are buried right now, but you can uncover them to effectively guide your practice’s future direction.

 


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

1. Market Scope’s Second Quarter Survey Report: Q2-2009.St.Louis, MO: Market Scope LLC; 2009.