New vs. Existing Patients: Where to Start
It’s one of the first questions that we get asked, and it’s often a source of debate depending on the background of your practice.
“I know I should be doing some marketing, but where should I start: new or existing patients?”
A practice has many assets which bring value and sustainability to the business… physical location and shopfit, staff, referral network and community ties, practice reputation, but most essentially its network of current patients. In marketing terms, more specifically – the patient database. It’s often overlooked since it remains quietly in the background as your Practice Management System does all the hard work of keeping information organised day-in day-out. However, analysing the breakdown of active vs. inactive/lapsed patients will reveal the starting point for your marketing plans.
Existing Patients: What do yours look like?
You have likely heard of the common expression that it takes 10 times as much cost/effort/time to attract a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. This is the baseline logic that we apply when recommending where to focus your marketing efforts. Existing patients will have a wide variety of profiles, and we encourage you to consider some logical groupings to better understand ways to personalize your messages to each one.
Patients with a single visit – what can you do to ensure this patient comes back?
Patients with multiple visits – you have an established relationship with this patient, what can you do to leverage this relationship to add value and show your appreciation of their loyalty?
Patients with long term history – these are your core patients, likely your strongest advocates which can be beneficial for word-of-mouth, community networking, and establishing your practice as the go-to Optometrist for the entire family.
Once you have an understanding of these patient profiles, you can create more relevant and engaging patient communications – using the most common platform, patient recalls!
How to Engage Existing Patients – Current Processes
It’s true that the stock-standard patient recalls are a necessary part of the healthcare profession. We support practices with these monthly services regularly. However, be mindful to consider the right recall method for each patient to increase the probability of a successful return visit to the practice.
Patient Recall Letters – Once the standard approach, but decreasing in use due to postage costs. Claimed by many printers as the most effective form of recall message which is understandable since the physical letter can be kept as consistent reminder, until the patient decides to book.
SMS – Cost effective, but assumes an existing relationship. A once-off, “cold” approach, but very high open rates (90+%), when compared to email (20-30%).
Email – It’s the same principle as the letter, but in a digital format. Underutilised due to lack of patient emails, and lower potential open rates.
Increasing Existing Patient Engagement
It’s our view that waiting until the patient is due for their next appointment may be too late to motivate them to return to see you as their eyecare and eyewear provider. Whilst patients are not as likely to shop-around the health service and diagnostic aspects of their need for your services, the style-driven and price-driven factors of retail optics are subject to intense advertising from optical chains and your other local competitors.
The ability to nurture patient relationships over the long term is now possible with new marketing technology, something we have refined and include in our Dynamic Patient Recall service.
2 years in between eye tests is a long time to wait to communicate with your existing patients, so we suggest contacting us today to explore patient nurture strategies and methods which are right for your practice!