Imagine that a respected local magazine or paper regularly published informative articles about your practice’s products and services – and that they were read by the vast majority of your patients.
Wouldn’t this be a great way to promote your practice, especially if there was no costly advertising involved? It would enable you to describe new lenses and frame ranges, encourage more appointments, and enhance your practice’s reputation for providing professional care.
Using a practice newsletter is essentially the same thing, but better. In fact, a professionally produced newsletter is the single most effective way for an independent practice to communicate with its patients at a distance. It is your own publication, which offers several marketing advantages. There are numerous benefits and only two potential drawbacks:
- It combines the authority and impact of editorial coverage with complete control over the content and marketing message that you get with advertising but not PR.
- It provides much more information about your practice than is possible in any advert, leaflet or even a typical recall letter. This is invaluable, because the more that your patients know about the professional eye care and quality products you offer, the more likely they are to visit your practice and spend more.
- It can send a positive message about your practice without this seeming to be a sales pitch. This is because a quality newsletter is regarded by its readers as a source of reliable and objective information (somewhat like an independent magazine) rather than a form of advertising.
- It can develop a stronger professional image for your practice. Everything you send out to your patients implicitly says something about your practice and its image of quality. A well-produced newsletter promotes your practice’s name and communicates an overall message of professionalism via its design, photographs and articles. Equally, a poorly produced newsletter has the opposite effect.
- It reminds your existing patients that they are making the right decision in using your practice. By providing them with detailed information about the professional services and quality products your practice provides, you reinforce their loyalty and reduce any post-purchase cognitive dissonance.
- It can be used to attract new patients via a household leaflet drop in your practice’s catchment area. Because a quality newsletter is clearly not a promotional flyer or leaflet, and it has interesting articles on healthcare and eyewear (subjects relevant to most of the adult population), it is likely to be read by many potential patients. Of course, to achieve this, its contents must be well written.
- It helps to differentiate your practice. Most independents do not send a newsletter with their recall letters; but doing so will help make your practice stand out from its local competitors and appear more patient-orientated.
- It enables you to explain the benefits of different optical products (e.g. coatings, lens materials and lens types) before patients visit your practice. This can ‘seed’ demand for better quality eyewear and so generate higher value sales at the dispensing stage. Higher priced dispenses are an essential way to increase your practice’s profitability.
- It can be employed in both a printed and digital format. An online newsletter needs to be much shorter than a printed one, which means there is less room to provide information. That said, digital versions can be published more frequently and cost less to produce as there is no printing involved.
There are, however, two challenges that arise with using practice newsletters.
- It takes a lot of time and effort to produce a professional-looking newsletter. You will need to write articles in consumer-friendly language, obtain relevant pictures of eye care and eyewear, and create an attractive design which projects a quality image for your practice. Unless you’ve got experience in this field, you’ll need to find and employ a good agency (ideally with some optical knowledge).
- It is expensive when an agency produces a newsletter solely for one practice. The cost of professional copywriting, design and printing 1,000 copies could easily reach £2,500 (£2.50 each). But one way to significantly reduce the cost is to use a syndicated newsletter. Here the charges for design, copywriting and printing are spread over many participating practices, while certain parts of the newsletter are customised with each optician’s name, details and message. The newsletter still appears to patients to come exclusively from their own practice.
The Independent Marketing Partnership offers practices with a syndicated newsletter and a bespoke service. A sample of its In-focus newsletter is available in the More Profits More Often programme, where you can also obtain free design, optical articles and artwork as part of its support. For further details, visit www.opticalmarketing.co.uk
Copyright: Graham Hutchison 2021