5 Sure-Fire Methods to Differentiate Your Optometry Practice and Attract New Patients
What makes a patient choose one optometry practice over another? And — more importantly for practice owners — how can you use that knowledge to make it more likely that potential patients decide the answer is your practice?
Differentiating your optometry practice will help you stand out in an often-crowded market. By employing smart strategies to communicate the things that make your practice different, you will:
- Attract patients who are a good fit for your specific practice.
- Naturally play to your strengths in order to grow your business.
- Gain clarity about the unique value of your optometry practice.
- Rally staff around a clear vision of what excellence looks like.
But how can optometry practices stand out in all the right ways? We’re going to dive into concrete, actionable steps that you can take in order to differentiate your optometry practice. These five methods will work together in order to help your practice shine.
5 Ways to Differentiate Your Optometry Practice
1. Move upmarket by offering a VIP experience.
One way for a private practice to distinguish itself is by upgrading the patient experience. It’s true that no matter the level of luxury, good optometrists are dedicated to delivering excellent vision care and ensuring eye health. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the experience is a moot point, either.
A successful optometry practice in the upmarket space thinks critically about how to make an eye exam, visit to pick out glasses, or contact lens pick-up feel like a relaxing opportunity for self-care, rather than another errand to run in an already hectic schedule. The VIP experience can attract new patients and help make coming in for regular exams more appealing to your existing patients.
How to create a VIP environment
Our guide to recession-proofing your optometry practice has a section full of great tips for making your office a calm, luxurious space. Additionally, the five senses serve as a useful anchoring point for evaluating the environment within your practice:
- Sight: What visual impression does your practice make? Is the space clean and tidy? Are there signs of wear and tear? Do the color choices, artwork, and lighting work together to create an aesthetically pleasing space?
- Sound: Is the office noisy? Are hard surfaces amplifying noise, or do you have textiles and soft surfaces to help dampen sound? Are there harsh, jangling sounds from a doorbell or phone ringer? Do you have music playing that sets patients at ease and suits the tastes of your staff? Is the volume at the right level? Are there natural sounds you can layer in, such as from a water feature or sound machine?
- Smell: Are there unpleasant odors when you walk in? Are there artificial fragrances (either worn by staff or used in the room) that might cause issues for patients with scent sensitivities? Is the room aired out regularly, or do you use air filtration technology to keep the air fresh?
- Touch: Is the furniture in the waiting room comfortable and in good condition? Are high-touch surfaces within the optometry practice clean and sanitized regularly? What other objects will patients touch while in your practice, and how is the sensory experience?
- Taste: Do you offer water, and how is the taste? Do you offer coffee, tea, or other beverages? Are your selections enjoyable and served at a temperature that is drinkable quickly after being dispensed?
Choosing upmarket services to offer
Moving upmarket can also involve the selection of eyeglasses frames you bring into the office, the amount of time your office staff has to dedicate to each patient, and the types of services you offer. What additional services do you want to offer? What plays into your staff’s unique expertise and interest? Do you offer specialty contact lenses or designer lenses? Do you have an optician on staff with the incredible ability to find the best style of eyeglasses for any patient?
Leaning into these areas of interest for you and your staff is a fulfilling way to make your practice shine.
2. Use great marketing to stand out from the crowd.
You can have the best optometry practice in the entire world, but if no one knows about it, you still won’t have a successful optometry practice.
We talk to optometry practice owners all the time who have traditionally relied on word-of-mouth advertising to bring in business, but find that they need to redouble their marketing efforts in the current climate. That’s because word-of-mouth, while still a crucial element for success, is limited in its reach. More than that: word-of-mouth itself looks different than it did 20 years ago.
These days, people tend to be more reliant on technology. We often live further from our trusted social support networks. We move around more, may not live in the same place as our coworkers, and turn to the internet for help finding local services.
Today, patients find recommendations for vision care professionals in many places, including review websites, Google searches, local social media groups, and more. Many of these mediums do contain a word-of-mouth element, but it’s not enough to rely on your practice’s high-quality service and let happy patients do the rest. Optimizing your practice to thrive in the digital age requires a great marketing strategy that’s fine-tuned for the optometry space specifically.
Creating an amazing website for your optometry practice is key. You’ll also want to ensure that your other online listings, including your review sites and social media profiles, are using the right strategies can help you attract more potential patients in a cost-effective manner. Social media marketing, search engine optimization, digital marketing, and online advertising are all important tools for an optometry practice to leverage.
3. Fine-tune your pricing and communicating the deal.
Any private practice needs to determine two key elements about their pricing:
- Are you less expensive or more expensive than the average practice? Where is your position in the local market?
- No matter what your pricing tier, why are you a great deal for your patients?
The secret we want to share here is that not matter where in the market your pricing lands, you still need to communicate why your practice is a good deal. Prospective patients looking for vision care at any price level want to know that they’re receiving excellent vision care and valuable additional services for the price they’re paying.
It’s the language that you use around your pricing that is the differentiating factor here. If you focus on offering great services at a great value, communicate the price savings and commitment to honoring the money your patients are spending with you. If you are focused on upmarket services, share why the extra money is a worthwhile investment for prospective patients.
4. Offering clarity about insurance.
Whether or not your practice takes certain insurances is a huge decision-making factor for many patients. If you take insurance and work with certain companies or groups, make sure your accepted insurances are listed and easy to find when searching your site.
Listing accepted insurance and being upfront about cost is an easy way for optometry practices to stand out. Many patients feel that the medical industry is hard to navigate, with surprise expenses and insurance uncertainties around every corner; giving them the information they need to make an informed decision is a hugely effective way to build confidence and become a trusted provider.
Every optometry practice will need to determine for itself what the right balance of payment types will be for their small business. Quality vision care is needed across the board, and there’s no one right answer here. But whatever you do choose, make sure it’s clearly communicated. There is no downside to offering information that will help patients determine if your office is a good fit for them.
Transparency is an underrated marketing strategy. Share what you can and equip your potential clients to make an informed decision about whether your practice is a good fit. The mere act of offering information upfront can be a powerful indicator that you are a trustworthy provider who honors your patients’ time.
5. Find your niche with a personal touch.
Owners of small businesses know that a personal touch can go a long way towards earning repeat business. Finding ways to connect with patients is hugely valuable and can help maximize your return on investment for marketing and advertising, too.
Not convinced? Take a step back and think about how people ask for and give recommendations.
It might go something like this: “Do you like your optometrist?” “Oh yeah, she’s great, let me give you the name of the practice.” Even though it’s clear the person is asking for an eye exam recommendation, and not just if the optometrist is personally likeable, we tend to happily recommend people we like.
We even tend to perceive them as more competent in their roles.
Establishing these kinds of connections can help you turn patients into enthusiastic ambassadors for your business. Human beings are wired for connection, and many people actively look for ways to support small, local businesses.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to become BFFs with every new patient who walks in the door wanting new eyewear. But taking steps towards making one-on-one connections will set you up for success. And it’s not as time-consuming as it sounds.
Look for ways you and your staff can relate with patients in a manner that’s professional, but also warm and personal. If you’re passionate about certain hobbies, think about incorporating them into your office space.
A photo of you on your motorcycle makes you more memorable to any patient, and if you run into a fellow motorcyclist, you’ll both find something to talk about. Family photos, your trophy from the annual chili cook-off, a mug proclaiming you the World’s Best Dog Mom, a ribbon from a 5k, a souvenir from the college where you got your undergraduate… whatever brings you joy.
You don’t need to go overboard, but having a personal touch or two can automatically spark authentic connection with people who share your interests.
The bottom line on differentiating your practice
In a competitive economy, an optometric practice that wants to thrive will need to do more than just deliver excellent vision care. By positioning your practice as a stand-out in the local community and paying attention to the business aspect of ownership, including an optometry-specific marketing strategy and savvy digital marketing, your practice will be well positioned to attract more patients and continue to grow.
Help to make your practice stand out
Want help ensuring your practice is attracting new patients who are a good fit for your business? We’d love to talk about how our experience in the optometry industry can help your practice thrive.