JAN 2014

EyeWorld is the official news magazine of the American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.

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56 Ophthalmology Business January 2014 Boost your use of branding products for better business by Vanessa Caceres Ophthalmology Business Contributing Writer Consider your goal, budget, message M any ophthalmic practices give away "freebie" products like pens, calendars, and notepads to promote their business. Are the investments in those products worth the business you receive? Branding products can be a great way to promote your practice, but you have to carefully choose what products you'll purchase, your budget, and your end goal. "It's easy to drop a considerable amount of money on promotional items and yet walk away with no real sense of its worth or impact to the bottom line," said Phillip Davis, owner, Tungsten Branding, Brevard, N.C. "By having a solid understanding of your marketing objectives, you'll be better equipped to choose items that accomplish your overall aim." That's why Mr. Davis as well as Bonnie Raad, owner, Amaryllis Marketing, A Vernon Company, Parrish, Fla., try to determine if their medical practice customers are aiming to build brand awareness or new or repeat business with their product purchases. Accordingly, they'll give different product recommendations. Building brand awareness If you're looking to get your practice name in the public eye, then invest in some lower-cost practical items. For example, microfiber cloths to clean glasses can display your practice name. Another idea is a refrigerator magnet, which stays in the line of sight of consumers several times a day, said Mr. Davis. One advantage of both magnets and cleaning cloths is that they are affordable to divvy out in large quantities, said Mike McDonald, marketing analyst, Health Promotions Now, Moorestown, N.J. Pens, a tried-and-true marketing product, can work for ophthalmic practices, said Ms. Raad. Consider a pen with an eyeball on top or a banner pen, which provides a wider area to share your promotional information. Whatever brand-awareness product you use, include a snappy message, Ms. Raad advised. For example, "Keep your eye on the ball" or "I have my eye on you" are potential messages if you place your logo on golf balls or any kind of ball given away at sporting events. Depending on the product used and the audience, Ms. Raad sees plenty of creative phrasing potential for ophthalmic practices, such as "Dr. Jones put the sparkle back in my eye" or "I can see clearly now." A stress ball in the shape of an eye is a popular and appropriate giveaway product for eye practices to boost brand awareness, added Ms. Raad. If your practice sees children, another possibility is a stuffed ani- Branding products can be a great way to promote your practice. Source: Bonnie Raad mal wearing sunglasses, with your practice name or logo printed on the animal or the sunglasses, Ms. Raad suggested. Staff members can give that to pediatric patients when they feel nervous about their appointment. Other useful products appropriate for eye practices include gel eye masks with your logo (patients can place the mask in the freezer to refresh their eyes) or magnifying lenses. However, think twice about Tshirts to build brand awareness, Mr. Davis cautioned. "In reality it might sit in a drawer most of the time or be hauled off to the closest Goodwill drop box," he said. Attracting new or repeat customers When you use products to attract new customers, plan carefully how you will give away the product, Ms. Raad said. For example, if your staff has a booth at a local health fair, you may give away some affordable, traditional brand-awareness products like pens or magnets. However, you may also have slightly more expensive products like an eyeglass repair kit that attendees can receive by filling out a contact information form. "Just because they come to the booth doesn't mean that they'll get the product," Ms. Raad said. You want your staff to be able to follow up with those new contacts. Another idea is telling potential leads that they will receive a free USB drive if they call your office for a consultation. Make sure your logo appears on the USB drive exterior, and include on the drive some files about your office that they have to read when they first use it, Ms. Raad suggested. Mr. Davis once did some marketing for LASIK and PRK surgeons and helped them design a coffee mug with a drawing of a person wearing a thick pair of glasses. When the coffee mug was filled with hot tea, coffee, or water, the ink that formed the glasses disappeared and the mug showed a smiling person. "Often the promotional gift reps will have these type of novel technologies and ideas that you can lever- age," he said. "The key is to connect these ideas to your business in a way that makes a statement or promotes a key benefit versus doing something novel for novelty's sake." Take some time with your marketing contact and your staff to decide what branding product is right for both the personality of your surgeons and your practice as well as your specialty, Ms. Raad recommended. For example, an audiologist doesn't want to give out ear buds, and an allergist doesn't want to give out an air freshener that could bother many patients. "When you put time and thought into the product and message, the return on investment is much higher," she said. Also consider how people actually use products in today's tech-focused world, Mr. Davis said. For example, calendars and clocks can seem out of step as many people turn to their smartphones and tablets for time and day information. However, a customized, tasteful smartphone holder can promote brand exposure. "Take notice of the devices, brands, and products your customers use when they come into your practice and think of ways you can integrate branded items into their lifestyle in an easy and intuitive manner," Mr. Davis said. Mr. McDonald also sees a strong interest in branding products geared toward employee appreciation. Some employee gifts he's seen purchased by medical practices in the past few months include iPad holders, luxury plush blankets, and wine and cheese boards. Whatever product you decide to purchase, plan to continue your market efforts even during slower business times. "Those who continue to market even when the economy is in a downturn will usually come out ahead," Ms. Raad said. EW Contact information Davis: 828-877-2699, phil@tungstenbranding.com McDonald: 856-727-5200 x 1160, mmcdonald@promotionsnow.com Raad: 727-560-4507, bonnie.raad@vernoncompany.com

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