Email Marketing for Eye Care Providers

The nation’s eye care providers provide primary diagnostic screening and corrective lens fitting to millions of people every year. The ways in which these professionals communicate with their clients and market their services is rapidly changing. This post explores how eye care professionals may use email to retain clients and grow their practice. The intent is to introduce the topic and provide the basic information needed to get an email marketing program going.

Why email marketing is important

Email remains the most cost effective and pervasive way to communicate with your customers. Email is tops for customer engagement and retention. Social media has not dimmed the value of email to marketers, in fact all the major social media sites embrace email to communicate, engage and sell to their user base.

Getting Started

To get started with email marketing you need two basic things.

  1. A list of email addresses of your customers with permission to email them
  2. An email service provider to manage your list with the tools to create, segment, send and track your emails.

The second point is the easy one. Obtaining email addresses with the appropriate permissions requires more planning. and thoughtful execution.

Building an ‘Opt-In’ Email Marketing List

A simple way to get started building your permission-based email list is to build the collection of the client’s email address and related marketing permissions into your normal practice protocols. New patient forms are a way to ask for the patient’s email address. There should be two places where the patient may check to specifically opt-in to receive emails from the eye care provider. The first box would be one where the client may choose one or more preferred methods of being contacted by the practice. This will give the practice permission to send normal communications to the user. The second place on the form would additionally ask if the client would like to receive eye care information and special promotions from the practice.

Existing returning patients may also be asked if they would like to be contacted via email. In either case, all emails sent should fulfill a legitimate need for client communication or provide real value to the client in regards to the eye care provider’s expertise and practice areas. It should be noted that email communications are not generally secure so email is not recommended for personally identifiable medical information especially in the context of HIPAA regulations. HIPAA compliance is outside the scope of this post and all communication practices need to evaluated in the context of HIPAA compliancy.

An email service provider will also have an email sign up form that you may use to link from your website to allow clients who visit your site, or your practice’s page on Facebook, to sign up for your email communications.

Selecting an Email Service Provider

Email marketing service providers have become mature in their technologies and services and they are quite reasonably priced. There are self-service to fully managed email marketing service options. Below are links to two low-cost email marketing platforms that you may want to look at. Both have free trials so you can get started and get familiar with their interfaces and reports:

Features of Email Marketing Service Providers

An email marketing platform will help you do several things:

  • Easily import, create and store email lists
  • Create email templates for different types of email messages. Support for HTML and Text formats.
  • Purchase custom email template creation services
  • Create and send an email to a list or multiple lists
  • Segment your email list(s) based on customer type, performance, frequency of communication or other criteria
  • Manage the collection of emails from an email subscription form
  • Manage email bounce and unsubscribe requests so your emails get to people who want them
  • Track the open rate and response rate of emails among other usage statistics
  • Download example email privacy policies that you may customize and add to your website’s privacy policy
  • Utilize tutorials, forums and live support

I hope this brief discussion has helped to demystify email marketing. Email is a proven tool that you can use to engage your clients more than you may be today.

For a more information, I would recommend the book E-mail Marketing for Dummies by John Arnold. This addition to the ‘for Dummies’ series of books has great information in it for the seasoned and novice email marketer alike.

Embedded below is a video of the author, John Arnold, talking about his book and some recent trends in email marketing for small business.

Reputation Management for Eye Care Providers

Independent eye care providers (sometimes known as ECPs) are crucial links in the chain of optical care that we all depend upon. ECPs are on the frontline of screening for optical disease and providing prescriptions for corrective lenses, glasses or contacts.

As with every business, the way consumers find and consume services is rapidly evolving with changes in communications, technology and the Internet. Today, more than ever, the consumer is empowered with innovative tools to research and rate their service providers. It is also important that service providers stay aware of their reputations online and actively participate in the management of them.

‘Word of Internet’ Replacing ‘Word of Mouth’ in Advertising

Online consumer reviews have quickly become similar to family and friends as a trusted source of ‘word of mouth’ recommendations. Econsultancy has reported that 90% of consumers online trust recommendations from people they know; while an amazing 70% trust opinions of unknown users. Nielson Online has reported similar statistics that when making purchase decisions, North American Internet users trust recommendations from people they know and opinions posted by unknown consumers more than advertisements on television, on the radio, in magazines and newspapers, or in other traditional media.

The rise of Google Reviews and Yelp

Relatively recently, Google changed how it displays business reviews. Instead of aggregating third party consumer review data from sources such as Citysearch, Inside Pages, Merchant Circle, Judy’s Book, Yelp, and more, Google has decided to only showcase the Google Places reviews. This decision has greatly increased the importance of Google reviews for all small businesses.

Google also highly ranks consumer reviews from Yelp within it’s general search results. This means that Yelp.com reviews are also very important to the reputation of eye care service providers.

Management of Reviews and Ratings

Both Google Places and Yelp allow and encourage business owners to create accounts, verify and claim their businesses profiles. Below are a list of best practices in managing business reviews within Google Places and on Yelp.com.

  • Create accounts on Google Places and Yelp and claim existing business account profiles or create new ones.
  • Completely fill out business profiles. Include information on business hours, services, locations and promotions. Post photos and/or videos.
  • Review all existing reviews and respond to them regardless of whether they are positive or negative. If an individual negative review appears to violate the review platform’s policies, notify Google or Yelp of the violation so that it may be removed. In the case of Yelp, the review in violation of policy may simply be filtered out of the default search results.
  • Encourge customers to post a review of their experience with your business on Google or Yelp. This may be done via email, or through other normal customer communications. All reviews must be unbiased so the business may not offer any financial incentives to write reviews.

Criteria for removing reviews on Google

Google may remove individual reviews that include any of the following:

  1. Inappropriate content: Reviews that contain or link to unlawful content, or content that violates Google Places content policy. This includes reviews that have plagiarism or are copied from other sites.
  2. Advertising and spam: Reviews that contain advertising or the posting of similar or duplicate reviews. Reviews with links to other websites.
  3. Off-topic reviews: Reviews based on someone else’s experience, or that are not about the specific place in the business profile under review. Reviews that are largely personal rants.
  4. Conflict of interest: Reviews about a competitor or by a competitor. Any review on the behalf of others or any misrepresentation of the reviewers identity or affiliation.

Criteria for removing reviews on Yelp

They may consider removing a review from your search results on Yelp if it violates one of these general content guidelines:

  1. Inappropriate content: Threats, harassment, lewdness, hate speech, and other such content is not allowed.
  2. Conflicts of interest: Customer reviews must be unbiased and objective. Examples of biased reviews would be those of owners, employees, agents or competitors.
  3. Promotional content: Spam or off-topic promotional content and links are not allowed.
  4. Relevance: Reviews must be relevant and appropriate. Rants about a business’s employment practices, political ideologies, or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience are frowned upon.
  5. Privacy: Publishing personal information such as names or photos without permission is not allowed.
  6. Intellectual property: Copied or plagiarized reviews and photos are not allowed.

Links to Google Places and Yelp

Yelp

Google Places

Promote Your Eye Care Practice with Google Places

Local independent eye care providers are the backbone of consumer focused optical care.  Eye care providers (known in the industry as ECPs) provide consumers access to eye care diagnostic screening and prescribe corrective optical contact lenses and glasses. This post discusses how a local ECP may use Google Places to make it easy for desktop and mobile Internet users to connect to their services.

Google Places – the new “Yellow Pages”

According to statistics from Google, 97% of consumers search for local businesses online. Even if the actual number were only half of that, being well presented in Google is as important as the yellow page phone directory used to be. Practically speaking, Google has replaced the yellow pages as the directory of choice for consumers.

Get found with Google Places

Google Places for business is a free local marketing platform from Google. When you sign up with Google Places and add information about your business, Google will display rich detailed information on your business when local users enter location specific searches for your services or search specifically for your practice.

Help your business stand out

With Google Places you may add photos, videos, and offers (coupons and promotions!) and even a virtual tour to show customers why they’ll want to choose your practice over your competitors. You may offer first-time and returning customer promotions and post updates anytime.

Use Google Places to actively manage your reputation

Google allows users to leave reviews on any business with a phone number and address. With Google Places you will be able to ‘claim’ your business… your practice… and actively respond to any negative comments and show good faith in resolving issues. Even better, you may encourage satisfied customers to leave feedback on Google Places for you. Even a few positive reviews go a long way in helping you stand out above your competitors.

Get usage metrics from Google Places

Free reports in Google Places will help you understand what keywords people interested in your business are searching for and where the users are located. This data may help you make decisions on the scope of your services and possible areas for office expansion.

If you haven’t already, should now claim your eye care practice’s record on Google Places. Even if you have an existing Google Places account, it is important to review and update your profile regularly.

Here is the link to Google Places
Google Places Merchant Center

Local Search Engine Optimization for Eye Care Providers

Local independent Eye Care Providers are the primary way that consumers access eye care diagnostic screening and obtain corrective prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses. The success of our local professional eye care providers is important to the optical health of the country and the growth of the optical products industry.

In this series we will explore ways that eye care providers (known as ECPs) can use the Internet to expand and strengthen and their patient relationships.

Local Search Engine Optimization

Making sure your eye care practice appears near the top of the natural search results, for searches referencing your local service area, is key to getting more traffic to your website and more calls to your office. All search optimization efforts should be localized. It is too costly, difficult and unnecessary to have success in general non-localized searches.

What is a local search?

An example of a non-localized search term, is “best eye doctors.” In contrast, an example of a localized variation of this search term is, “best eye doctors in bellevue wa”. The marketing goal for a local eye care provider is to appear near the top of the search results for common localized relevant search terms.

Below is a screen shot of the Google search results for the localized search term, “best eye doctors in bellevue wa”. For this search term, the best optimized eye care practice in the local area is Overlake Eye Care.

There are a few simple things you can do to win in the search results for localized searches:

  1. Choose a localized domain. If possible, chose a URL that has the primary locale within it. An example would be “bellevueeyecaredoctors.com”
  2. Localize the page title. Put local names in the page title tag. Overlake Eye Care did a great job of localizing their page title. Their page title text is, “Eye Exam Bellevue, WA | Overlake Eye Doctor | Bellevue Eye Doctor | Overlake EyeCare.”
  3. Localize the page description. Each web page has something called a ‘meta description. The meta description is a short description inside the HTML source code of the page. It tells the search engine the main topics of the page. It is important to localize this text also. Again, Overlake Eye Care did a great job in localing their meta description: “Bellevue Eye Doctors of Overlake EyeCare provide exceptional eye care services, eye exams, eye surgery. Located in Bellevue, WA
  4. Localize your page content. Make sure your home page or custom pages on your site have local place name references. A good place to localize your content is on your ‘home page’, ‘about us’ page and ‘contact us’ page. On these pages you will want to include references to the locales your practice services.

While general search engine optimization can be difficult, costly and slow to see results, localized search engine optimization works. It can work fast. By following the simple best practices above your website will appear higher in the all important local search results on Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Cost Effective Local Search Marketing for Eye Care Providers

Local independent eye care providers are a vital link the chain of optical care.  In this post we will describe how local eye care professionals can cost-effectively use search engine marketing to attract new patients and retain existing ones.

Keyword Search Engine Marketing – Contextual Search Ads

Small text ads woven into the search results pages on Google, Bing and Yahoo are a fact of life for every Internet user.  This type of advertising is called ‘contextual search advertising.’ The short text ads are ‘contextual’ because they are served up to search users based on the relevance of the ad to the search terms (the ‘context’) the user enters into the search box on the search engine. Those little ads in one form or another account for over 90% of Google’s revenue.  They are also very important in driving customers to millions of businesses worldwide.  A local eye care professional will set up an account with Google (or Microsoft Adcenter which feeds ads to Bing and Yahoo) and pay per click for each user that visits their website from one of their ads on the search engines.

Each advertiser creates a set of simple text ads and they enter a series of keywords that they want their ads to be displayed with when searched for. Google analyzes the advertisers text ads, the keywords they’ve chosen, the amount the advertiser is willing to pay for a given keyword, the content and quality of the advertiser’s landing page and the interest that search users have in the ads over time. All this analysis goes into a ‘quality score’ (from 1 to 10) that Google assigns to each keyword in the advertisers’ set of target search terms.

The higher the quality score and the higher the bid for a search term results in a higher number of views of the ad and equates to a higher number of referrals (clicks) to the advertiser’s website.

Local Search Marketing

What not everyone knows is that Google, Bing and Yahoo make an effort to serve users ads that are relevant to their physical location.

This localization of paid search results is done in primarily two ways:

  1. Advertiser geo-targeting. Advertisers may elect to have their ads served only to users that are searching from a specific location. These ads may be targeted to single or multiple country, state/province and metropolitan locales. The major search engines attempt to locate their users geographically. If you are a mobile user you may be located to within a few feet of your current location. If you are a computer user you may be geo-located to a continent, country, province or city.
  2. Local keywords added by a user to the search phrase. When an advertiser sets up a text or display ad campaign on a search engine, they select the search terms they want their ads to appear on and how much per click they are willing to pay for each visitor. A best practice in choosing your keywords is to add location modifiers to all keywords. For example, instead of bidding on searches where a user types in “best eye doctors”, an eye care provider in Bellevue, WA may bid on terms such as, “best eye doctors in bellevue wa”, “best eye doctors in factoria”, “lake sammamish eye doctors”, “eye doctors in downtown bellevue”, etc.

By combining the two concepts above, the local eye care provider will drive highly qualified leads to their website and increase the number of phone calls to their offices. In summary, the best practice for local keyword search engine advertising is to: a) geo-target your search campaigns to your local practice areas, and b) bid high on a wide variety of highly relevant search terms that include your practice locations.

For more information:

Google Adwords Express for Local Businesses

Bing and Yahoo Advertising for Local Businesses

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