Between my Best Practices in America blog posts, I thought I’d start another blog series where I could share some pearls of my own that I’ve learned over the years. The first pearl I’d like to share is one of the best ways to grow your VT practice (yep, this is a cliffhanger, although the title may give it away).
In business school, they teach you that you should avoid marketing products or services that require a lot of education. It is very difficult to educate the masses in the short chunks of time you get in mass marketing. This is a problem with VT. Few in the public even know what vision therapy is. So, mass marketing tactics such as radio, TV, or social media are not as effective as they may be in primary care. You can advertise a sale on glasses or the great beautiful practice you have and you are essentially connecting with those who are already in the market to get an eye exam. People who need VT rarely know that is what they need.
The low hanging fruit, in the perspective of marketing VT, are really other optometrists. These doctors know what vision therapy is and see patients everyday that need it. I can see the eye rolling right now… “But Ben, our colleagues don’t understand VT, they miss kids all the time who need it, and when they do find someone, they never refer, or even worse - they discount the effectiveness of what we do.” I can definitely commiserate with this sentiment. I had one colleague jokingly say to me, “VT is voodoo, isn’t it?”
However, my experience is that the vast majority of optometrists recognize the value of vision therapy. There may be a host of reasons why they don’t refer to your office, but I find that typically it is because they are so wrapped up in doing primary care (i.e. getting a good refraction, dealing with eye disease, and trying to stay on schedule) that it just falls out of their routine to check and discuss VT with patients.
A newsletter to optometrists and other referral sources does two important things:
Remind them what an impact vision therapy can have on the lives of their patients
Help them feel comfortable referring a patient to you. If they see you have your act together and are going to take good care of their patients, it is going to make them look good for referring patients to you.
So many VTODs understand how important newsletters are, and it is one of those things that everyone wants to do but never gets around to doing. Here is the problem. If the doctor is in charge of doing something time intensive, it will never happen. There are just too many things that are more pressing that need to get done. So the secret is this...hire a publicist.
“Isn’t that something only big firms can afford to do?” Not if it is done right. Your publicist is going to be in charge of calling you once a quarter (or whatever cadence you decide to do your newsletter) and you both will decide on 3 stories:
The first story is normally a patient success story
The second story will be informational and related to the success story. If the patient had convergence insufficiency, then you could talk about the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial or some other related research or tool they can use to detect these issues better in their office
Highlight story. Highlight a staff member or new technology in your office. If you have the RightEye do a piece on how effective it is at communicating to parents the issues with their child’s vision.
Now the magic is that the publicist does all of the work. With the permission of the patient, the publicist can contact them directly to interview them and write the success story piece. The publicist will call you, the doctor, and interview you on the informational article. They will call the staff member and write up the highlight article. You get the picture.
A good publicist will also design the newsletter for you. This document here tells you how to hire a publicist. Even better, you can just hire my publicist (follow link for contact info). He already has done a lot of newsletters for me and now knows a lot about VT. I’ve directed him to allow all of you to use my content, so you won’t even have to come up with all of your own articles. In many cases, you can plug in your name and roll with stories all ready to go. His info is in the linked document as well. It is my gift to you to get you jump started on VT newsletters and help spread the wonderful news of vision therapy to the world.
FYI: My publicist is also connected to a print shop that will print and mail the newsletters as well. You just need to provide an excel spreadsheet with contact names and addresses. Also, don’t limit your reach to just optometrists in your area--consider sending it to all professionals (OTs, PTs, teachers) that refer to you.