Andrew Miller, senior writer from ClearVision Optical has kindly provided us with the latest installment of Helpful Hints, which covers innovative ways to stretch your optical advertising dollars. This article is full of very good, useful information.
Getting The Most From Your Optical Advertising Budget:
In this economy (or any economy for that matter) one of the most closely scrutinized line items on any business’ budget is the one that reads advertising and marketing. Often, it’s the first area of discretionary spending to get cut from a budget in a down economy. However, if you can afford to keep advertising and marketing dollars in your budget – and you spend those dollars wisely – you will gain a sizable competitive advantage over those who have stopped spending in this area altogether.
Found money: Co-op Advertising
For starters, even if you have cut some money from your advertising budget, many vendors offer cooperative advertising programs that can go a long way in making up for those lost dollars. Co-op advertising policies differ from company to company, however most involve the larger company paying a portion of the advertising costs, in exchange for their product, logo or brand name being used in an agreed-on percentage of the advertisement.
ClearVision Optical offers customers a free co-op program that functions like a bank and accrues funds each year. The amount of funds in each customer’s account is based on a percentage of their qualifying purchases each year. The more they spend – the more funds they end up with in their account. These funds can then be used for up to a 50% reimbursement on approved marketing and advertising efforts.
Put it in print.
Newspapers, local shopping circulars and yellow pages phone directories each have their own merits when it comes to promoting your practice. According the Newspaper Association of America, more than 104 million Americans read a print newspaper every day and more than 52% of people are more likely to buy a product if they see it in a newspaper. Despite these statistics, the newspaper industries – and yellow pages directories for that matter – have been hurting as of late, which is good news for you. This gives you an extra chip when negotiating advertising rates. Another benefit of print advertising is that most print media outlets will provide free creative/production services for you when you buy ad space.
A newsletter is another simple, cost-effective means by which to advertise your services. By creating a newsletter and sending it to your existing customers, you can share a part of your world with them and leverage in important advertising messages and offers. Like newspaper publishers, printers too will often offer their layout services to you at little or no charge.
Music to your ears.
Radio reaches 91% of retail shoppers every week, according to a 2008 Scarborough USA study. Radio advertising is one of the most cost-effective advertising mediums out there. For less than you’d expect, you can run an effective radio campaign on stations in your area that generate real results. Best of all, as a rule of thumb, radio stations will write and produce your spots using either on-air personalities or other voiceover artists when you buy time on their station.
Like any advertising medium, direct mail works best when it is done with a high level of frequency. So whether you send out postcards, a newsletter or even personalized letters – it’s important that you keep sending them. Equally important is to keep in mind that you only have a few seconds to attract your recipient’s attention. Think of how you read and process your own mail. What do you read and what do you toss? What really gets your attention? Try to emulate the style and tone of those pieces that make your cut.
Websites and e-mail.
While no eyecare professional has the budget or human capital to compete with internet behemoths like Amazon.com, it does make good business sense to have a professional website. Consumers are more likely to remember your web address than your phone number and having a website adds credibility to your practice. Building a simple website does not have to be a huge (or expensive) undertaking. In fact, you can do it yourself. Websites like intuit.com and homestead.com offer easy to use design templates and web hosting services for as little as $4.99 a month. At a bare minimum, your website should include your hours of operation, directions to your office, phone and fax numbers and some basic information about your principal staff members.
If you hire a professional to design your site, you can incorporate more advanced features, such as online appointment scheduling, online ordering, coupons/specials and frame catalogs. Another tool to include in a more advanced site is an e-mail opt-in button. This is a simple link or button that gives visitors the opportunity to “opt in” to receive special offers and information from you via email. By collecting the email addresses of these visitors, you will have a valuable database of customers and prospects.
Email blasts are effective and inexpensive ways to reach the above mentioned customers and prospects. Instead of sending out costly recall postcards to your customers, send them an email reminder. During your slow season, send out an email blast with special offers and discounts. There really is no limit to what message you can send out via email. To collect email addresses for these types of blasts, add a space on your new customer forms for e-mail addresses and have your associates ask customers for their email addresses when they are ringing them up.
Be certain to add your web address and email address to all your business and appointment cards, your stationery and any advertising materials.
In (and around) your office.
A trunk show is a special sale where vendors present merchandise directly to store personnel or invited customers, either at a retail location or special venue.
A professionally-produced on-hold message is an incredibly effective way to reach your consumers, because your callers are essentially a captive audience. Once relegated to giving business hours and thanking patients for their patience, modern on-hold messages include information on services, specials and business practices.
While many take in-store displays for granted, they should be considered an integral part of your marketing plan. How your office looks says a good deal about your company. Does your office focus on friendly, personal service; or does it concentrate on being more clinical in nature? Whichever the case, ensure that your displays complement the personality of your office.
Whether you spend $1,000 on your marketing; or $100,000, the effectiveness of your marketing efforts will largely depend on how consistent you are in your messaging. Giving your customers mixed signals will only confuse them and ultimately lower your return on investment. Determine the strengths of your business and its competitive advantages and use the various forms of media to tell your story.
While there is no clear-cut answer to the question, “What is the best way to reach my customers?” if you do a little research on your particular region and the demographics of your customers, you can narrow down your options and decide which forms of media makes sense and what does not.
Source: Andrew Miller – Senior Writer, ClearVision Optical