An independently owned optometry practice in the United States is a small business, and most marketing experts agree that your marketing budget as a small business should be anywhere from 1% to as much as 10% of your gross revenue, depending on where the practice is located and how much local competition exists.
“Word of Mouth” Marketing
One important aspect of healthcare marketing is “word of mouth” – referrals from both happy patients and other physicians, and many well-established, independently owned optometry practices tend to rely on “word of mouth” and forgo thinking about revamping their marketing budgets to reflect changes in consumer behavior.
While “word of mouth” marketing is still very much a top generator of brand new patients at an optometry practice, it’s important to understand the shift from in person conversations to internet-based conversations when it comes to local service providers and healthcare.
An example of this shift in consumer behavior is when a member of a local, private Facebook group asks other members of the group for a recommendation on an eye care provider from other group members (usually neighbors or friends). The person who posted the request will then look at each recommendation in the comments – and usually, commenters post a link to the practice website. If the website quickly loads on their phone, provides a good overview of where the practice is located, when the practice is open and what their experience will be like if they book an appointment, then that person will probably book the appointment.
Now when the new patient is asked at the practice “how did you hear about us” – it’s highly likely they’ll say a friend or family member referred them – but really, they discovered you through their connections on Facebook and through your well-optimized, well-designed mobile website, which should be part of your marketing budget.
Traditional versus Digital Marketing in the Budget
Our attention as consumers continues to shift to the internet.
While marketing budgets for small businesses tend to be 70% spend on traditional forms of marketing such as print advertising, direct mail, billboards, radio and television versus 30% spend on digital marketing such as website, SEO, Google advertising and social media participation and advertising, that ratio is shifting closer to a 50/50 split.
If you don’t have very many online reviews, have a slow-loading mobile website or have no real presence on social media, you may find that the numbers of brand new people discovering your practice will dwindle – particularly younger patients and younger families – because your digital presence isn’t doing an adequate job serving as your 24/7 branding ambassador.
How Much to Spend in 2019 and Beyond?
If the digital marketing spend for the practice has been thin – no updates have been made to the practice website in years, no online review acquisition strategy is in place and no real attention has been paid to social media – then you may want to devote a much higher percentage of the marketing budget to your online presence in 2019.
Digital updates include the following:
- Work with a good website administrator to ensure your website appears high in searches for eye care, eye disorders, brands of eye wear you dispense in the optical – and to ensure your website loads quickly on mobile devices.
- Consider adding an online appointment scheduling tool on your website, as many younger patients do not want to call you to make an appointment.
- Consider enabling your practice team to have conversations with patients and prospective patients via text message, as this is how many younger people (under 40) prefer to communicate.
- Develop videos on eye conditions, technology inside the practice and the selection of eye wear in the optical and feature these videos on YouTube, the practice website, Facebook and Instagram.
1% to 5% of gross collected revenue is an average marketing budget for an independently owned optometry practice in the United States, but some practices may spend up to 10%, depending on the location and relative competition.
Established optometry practices shouldn’t take referrals and “word of mouth” marketing for granted, particularly as consumers continue to shift their attention to their mobile devices. Conversations about healthcare and requests for referrals happen all the time, but may be happening more frequently via text, social media and review platforms, so don’t neglect digital marketing in the budget.
To see how IDOC's membership plans can help grow your page, see below. For more content like this, head back to our blog.