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July 24 2015
Practice owners were urged to change their marketing mindset to win more new clients by business speaker Paul Green at 100% Optical. OT’s Robina Moss reports
“The real job of a practice owner is to be a marketer,” Paul Green, of Practice Growth UK, told delegates in the busy business hub at 100% Optical (February 7–9, ExCeL London).
In his presentation, Improve your marketing mindset, he stated there were three types of practice – “thriving, surviving or diving.”
In a thriving practice, he explained, the practice owner was able to wear “sharp suits and expensive shoes,” whereas in a surviving practice the owner might be working up to 70 hours a week. A diving practice, he added, had a sad, static state of affairs and more and more of them were closing down. Mr Green gave delegates the example of a ‘diving practice,’ a second practice where the lease was coming to an end.
He added that success of a business had little to do with clinical excellence, or the local reputation of the owner or the practice. It was also nothing to do with past performance, he added, citing the bad example of marketing as the name of “a long-dead optician above the door.”
“In 2015 the rules of marketing have changed,” he emphasised. “Business success all depends on your marketing and sales ability,” he told practice owners. “It is your ability to sell within the practice,” he explained.
Having worked with more than 50 practices, Mr Green said that in his experience, practices owned by dispensing opticians were typically more successful businesses because they were able to sell products better.
He added that the success of differentiating in the independent sector by optometrists was “not great.” He said that the public did not realise the difference between independents and the multiple sector. “They just knew that they did not want to go for a sight test, they needed to go,” he added.
“We make decisions based on need and want,” Mr Green explained said, with the brain making the ‘need’ decisions but the heart making the ‘want’ decisions.
Mr Green encouraged practice owners to keep in mind the thought process of buying a car where how the buyer felt when they sat in the car in the showroom was important. He added that he had bought his own spectacles because his wife liked them. “It’s how you make people feel about their purchase which is important,” he explained.
Mr Green emphasised: “The world is changing dramatically and quickly, and your marketing strategy, as well as the tactics you use to win clients, needs to be updated quickly.”
Offering a ‘world exclusive’ he explained dramatically with a smile the marketing strategy used by practices in the UK – hope, which caused the audience to laugh in agreement.
Returning to his serious message, he added that the least effective marketing strategies used by practices were directory and newspaper adverts. “Social media works when you use it right but what worked in 2009 doesn’t work any more,” he warned.
Mr Green said that 2015 was the toughest market ever known for the independent sector, claiming that two practices were shutting down every week.
Returning to the theme of his presentation: changing the marketing mindset to win more new clients and keep them, he told delegates: “There are always people out there who have never been to your practice,” he said. “There could be 10 people in your town looking for an optician at any one time.”
Encouragingly he claimed that those patients who never went elsewhere were very unlikely to notice other opticians, for example adverts on the tube, and would not remember them, as the adverts were not relevant to ‘their’ practice.
Turning to the often thorny topic of sales, Mr Green said: “Ethically, get patients to buy more often.” He suggested that the practice contacts the patient who has bought spectacles six months later, offering them a free ‘MOT’ appointment. By that time the practice would probably have frames for a different season, he explained, adding that one client of his who did this increased his net profit by £20,000.
“Get people to spend more by using tools such as a pre-exam questionnaire containing lifestyle questions,” advised Mr Green. He also recommended asking the patient the “golden ticket” question: “If we could wave a magic wand, what would you change about your glasses?”
This could increase your average dispense dramatically, he told practitioners. He went on to give the example of telling the patient going on holiday that sunglasses could be used to reduce glare or suggesting a second pair of spectacles in case their main pair got broken or lost while they were away.
Having set the background, Mr Green turned to the topic of promoting the practice.
“Mass marketing is dead,” he said dramatically, citing newspapers, print directories and radio adverts as examples. Instead he recommended practice owners to “put their practice in front of people who were already looking for a new optician.”
Explaining the importance of Google, he said that 57 million people regularly use the Internet in the UK, 89% of the population.
“There are over a billion websites and Google searches 40,000 firms a second. This is why you need a new marketing strategy,” he told delegates.
“Put more resources such as time and money into Google and Facebook,” he urged, recommending practice owners to use ‘Google My Business,’ which enabled businesses to be found easier online.
Mr Green also advised practices to send happy clients an email at the end of the day of their visit to the practice thanking them and asking them for a review including a link to a Google reviews page at the end.
“If you ask 10 people you might get one,” he warned, adding: “If you get 60–70 Google reviews, no others in your area can match you.”
He also recommended the Internet pay per click advertising system in which advertisers pay the website owner when the advert is clicked on. Facebook advertising was also encouraged. Mr Green explained that a practice owner could target groups of potential customers on the site, for example, people over the age of 40.
“Increase efficiency by making your website more effective at converting intentions to actions,” said Mr Green but cautioned: “Remember that people only buy when they are ready to buy.”
Set up a ‘forward recommendation system,’ he advised practice owners. “Reward the act of someone agreeing to recommend you,” he explained, encouraging practice staff to carry credit card-sized business cards printed with the practice contact details and the words: “We are always looking for more people like you.”
Patients could be encouraged to hand them out to friends and family members looking for an optician explained Mr Green. “Give them a gift as a thank you, say a cleaning spray or cloth. Reward the gift of agreeing to recommend you,” he concluded.