Eye Care Practice Marketing: Eye Care Providers Can Compete with Internet Contact Lens Retailers

Every 3 seconds there is an online search for an eyecare provider-related product or service!

According to data obtained from Overture, a leading online advertiser that tracks keyword search queries, in July 2004 there were more than 800,000 search queries for such terms as optometrist, eyecare provider, eyeglasses, contact lenses and lasik. Is your practice optimized to get its share of the nearly 9.5 million online vision care searches expected per year? Can you afford to ignore this growing population segment estimated to be upwards of 110 million U.S. residents (according to an August 2004 report by PEW/Internet and ComScore) that have reportedly used search engines?

While attending a 2004 search engine strategies conference (a symposium of the most cutting edge tips and techniques to “optimize” your search engine marketing initiatives), I was overwhelmed when presented with some interesting facts – facts about online users, use of search engines and how online marketing has boosted both the top and bottom lines for many companies, both big and small.

While the prospect of mounting an online marketing campaign may sound daunting to many of the “non-technically-oriented” folks out there, there are some very simple measures that even the least internet-savvy business professional can take to capture a bigger slice of that huge, online searcher pie.

Welcome to the 21st Century First of all, if you do not have a web presence, a website where people can learn about your practice and the services you provide, get one. I recently surveyed approximately 80 eyecare practitioners, and asked them what their most pressing concern was regarding their contact lens practice. Not surprisingly, competition from online contact lens retailers was the most common response. Yet, even with this huge concern, 2 out of 3 practices surveyed did not have their own website, and only 1 in 12 could offer their patients the convenience of online ordering from their practice.

If eyecare providers aren’t providing their winklashesandnails patients the kind of service and convenience they obviously want, then where is the merit in condemning the likes of 1-800 Contacts? They are not stealing your patients; they are simply filling the void in service that you are not offering your contact lens patients. For those of you who are starting to get the picture, there is no time like the present to take action! There are a host of service providers out there today that will provide you with a website for little or no upfront investment. Many of these service providers offer a template format for setup. That means there is little for you to do except develop the text for your site and then copy and paste it into a form field on your computer. Throw in a few digital photos of your practice waiting room/dispensary, your exam rooms, your “high-tech” equipment and your staff (to create that “personal” touch) and… Voila! You now have a site on the World Wide Web!

While the process here has been oversimplified, the bottom line is that it is nearly that simple to do. Now that you have a website, it will cost you approximately $25-$50 a month to maintain. Not a bad investment if it brings one unsolicited new patient into your doors a month. There are no guarantees except that without a website, you will not capture any of those potential patients conducting online searches for eyecare-related products and services.

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