Knowing how to attract patients from rural communities will enhance eyecare reach. It will consequently improve eye clinic growth. Many people in Nigerian rural communities would still use urine to wash their eyes when they suspect bacterial conjunctivitis popularly known as apollo. Some others would be gradually losing their sight to glaucoma and other eye diseases without going for an eye examination. Why? They think people with supernatural powers did it to them! Meanwhile, from these communities are optometrists and other eye care professionals like you and I. We may not be residing in the rural communities but can still reach these people through so many means especially in today’s digital age.
It has been a constant statistic from many years back. Data also shows that 35 million people become blind globally and worst of it all, 80% of all those cases are treatable. Such scary statistics from the World Health Organization shows how much work optometrists and other eye care professionals would need to do.
No doubt that some of those people don’t seek eye care services due to other constraints like lack of finance. All the same, one strategy encompasses plans and tactics that can be employed for an extensive reach to these people who lack information or are simply ignorant.
Marketing is not about luring people with overt offers which in some cases cannot be provided, to attract them. Marketing is mainly activities that seek to encourage building relationships with consumers which could lead to some profit. This is different from advertising which is purely promotional and only for the purpose of communicating what you can offer. Marketing is all about engagement and communication. For instance, digital marketing could entail using email to engage with customers and to build brand awareness. On the contrary, using email to send content that is solely promotional becomes advertising.
What is Digital Marketing?
American Marketing Association defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
Philip Kotler, Marketing Guru, defines Marketing as the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit.
Chartered Institute of Marketing puts it as The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating, and satisfying customer requirements profitably.
In essence, marketing is any activity that entails a brand communicating with its customers providing value to all. In this context, an optometric eye clinic, communicating with its patients or other eye health consumers for patient value and eye clinic growth is marketing.
This doesn’t mean going into practices outside the professional recommendations like the mounting of out of size signposts, soliciting for patients by misleading them to believe you treat what others can not or any other deceitful self-promotion.
A marketing strategy can be implemented through the 4Ps of marketing known as the marketing mix. Though this has been expanded to the 7Ps but the 4Ps remain the industry standard and as follows:
What makes your offering or services unique? Since there are many other very well qualified optometrists, why would patients or other needing eyecare services come to you?
All the strategy around making your services or products relatively valuable to your customers regarding what they pay.
Those activities that let people know you exist and that you have something of value to them. It’s a strategy to let people know where to get the help you can give
Where are you? How do people access what you offer? This could be your eye clinic, retail store, their homes, or community.
Your eye clinic brand encompasses how you integrate the marketing mix in alleviating the pains of your patients. When this interaction between a brand and its customers is enabled through any digital platform, it’s now referred to as digital marketing.
For the eye care specialist, digital marketing strategy is indispensable for attracting, engaging, and retaining patients or other eye health consumers. In today’s landscape, it will enable enhancing eye care delivery by providing an ultimate patient experience.
Why Digital Marketing
- More people are getting online – according to a live internet website.
- People are spending more time online
- More businesses are going online
- Businesses are spending more online
- It’s getting bigger – eCommerce
- Interestingly, health and many optical services are going digital.
The components of digital marketing, some of which I enumerated in a previous article include but not limited to:
- Content Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Branding Strategy
- Search Engine Optimization
For the optometrist in the Nigerian cultural context, I believe content marketing is of utmost importance. This is especially necessary due to the high rate of misinformation, cultural myths about the eye, and ignorance. A robust content marketing strategy will help spread the correct I formation and for the optometrist or eye clinic, establish authority.
What An Optometrist Can Do Now
Understand your target consumers
Research and form a comprehensive persona of who your target patient is. This will help you adopt an informed strategy to determine
- The most appropriate channels for the demographic
- Know which language that resonates with them
- Understand their challenges and how best to help
- Understand their buying behaviors
Understanding the people you want to provide value for is the beginning of an effective digital marketing strategy for your eye clinic.
Imagine locating your eye clinic in an area where the demographic see your interior as too classy or too local for them. This will definitely affect who you attract. Even those who come might not repeat visits because they don’t connect.
Being aware of cultural inclinations also helps you know how best to relate with them. This is different from the case history. For instance, a colleague ran into trouble because he didn’t know you could not touch female patients in Saudi Arabia. Likewise, Bayelsa indigenes would have cultural differences from those in Imo.
Invest in a responsive website
There are many easy ways to build a website these days. A simple search in google will show you even ways to do it yourself. Many website builders are free and easy to use with drag and drop interfaces.
But like any investment, options are many. You must brainstorm on which choice to make. A website is like a house or a car. Many brands, styles, fictional attributes, ready-made, custom made, etc. The choices can be overwhelming.
The choices can also vary. You can go to a car barrage to buy a used car. You can even buy some parts and couple them yourself. If you can afford it, you can even call a car company and place a custom order! All are still cars and would probably take you from point A to B. The difference in all these references is the experience. For a car, transportation experience is the difference. For a house, accommodation experience. No wonder, you can be in the same aircraft with different price ranges or sleep in the same hotel at different price ranges. You are paying for the experience.
You make the call. I want a website just as an online address. I want a website to offer my patients or customers an awesome experience.
You need a purpose-driven website that must drive growth, improve visibility, foster engagement, and retain your target audience. Your website, beyond esthetics, should be an asset and not a liability.
Prioritize Content Marketing Strategy
Content Marketing is simply a technique for creating relevant and valuable content that will attract and acquire a specific audience.
In the case of healthcare, this would mean creating content-rich in healthcare value and relevant for specific patients. This will help to sieve content, helping patients and health consumers to be exposed to ideal health information. In your area of coverage, when potential patients search for how to treat apollo conjunctivitis, what do they see?
Content marketing when well created and implemented will target points in the patient’s journey. The content people need to see when searching for eye clinics in Owerri should be different from the results for where to get cycloplegic refraction. Content marketing will provide information helping the eye h when aligned with an effective SEO strategy, thereby helping in shortening the patient’s search cycle or buying cycle.
Again content marketing when aligned with an effective SEO strategy will target eye health consumer search intents. Knowing well-optimized words to choose will help provide value for those who search around such keywords. For instance, optometrists through a well-optimized content strategy can determine the search results for ‘can urine cure an eye infection?’
In today’s digital world, consumers are endlessly searching for answers. Eye health consumers and existing patients are not different. Many people will come to the clinic already with some knowledge gathered from google or other digital sources. As an optometrist who is an authority in primary eyecare, your informational knowledge should be readily available which also helps attract them to you. Digital marketing is one of the budget-friendly ways to do so.
To leverage the power of digital marketing in attracting, engaging and retaining patients, you must
- First, understand your eye health consumers.
- Then invest in a converting website.
- Prioritize content marketing strategy to build.