Next steps: marketing to mums

If you plan marketing for your practice it is important to consider who you are targeting. Untargeted marketing is a waste of resources. In this article we consider marketing to one specific group, but the ideas can be applied to any group. Read on to find out more about reaching out to mothers and marketing your practice to families, as well as to discover how one practice engages with children from birth to teenagers.

If a parent makes an appointment for one child in the family to have an eye exam, he or she is likely to bring their siblings for an eye exam too. If during that appointment you find out more about the family you may discover that the parents haven’t had an eye exam for some time, or they are worried about their elderly parents and whether they should be living independently. At this point you can mention how an eye exam can detect eye problems before they cause symptoms, which might prompt a parent to book for herself or her partner. Alternatively, you could talk about the eye exam as a way to help keep older people safe and cut the risk of slips and falls. However the conversation goes, once one member of the family is a patient, soon the rest of the family can follow.

Mothers are often seen as the gatekeeper to the health of the family. Employed or not, women are more likely to make health appointments for parents, children and their partners, so if you want to attract more families to your practice you need to consider how to market your services to mums. Part of targeting a specific audience for marketing can involve understanding more about them. Look at the records of women with children who attend your practice. Which parts of town do they live in, what age range do they fall within, what times of day and days of the week do they attend? There may be different subgroups of mothers: those who work and those who don’t; those with babies and pre-schoolers and those who rush in at 4.15pm after collecting the children from school. The more you know about your target audience the better you can target the marketing.

Once you understand who you are talking to, you can think more about what you want to say to them. Key messages could include: Look after your children’s eyes – children don’t need to be able to read to have an eye exam. An eye exam can detect eye disease before it causes serious problems. Eye exams can help prevent trips and falls. For working women and busy mothers a key message is also ‘look after yourself’. Pick one of these messages to focus on at a time; you may use the first as a way to encourage families to bring children in from a young age. Your other messages are things that you can make staff aware of to bring into conversations once people are in the practice.

Why divide marketing by gender? Men and women do respond differently to marketing and they respond to different words, colours and images. A targeted flyer addressing the concerns of the mother will achieve better results than a more general practice flyer, for example. Listen to mothers who attend your practice, ask them what motivated them to book and you will be able to refine your outreach further. You can mock up some designs for flyers and posters, show them to staff and patients and get their views. All this will help you come up with an effective outreach campaign.

Alongside planning your marketing, make sure that your practice is family friendly: good level access and clutter free corridors are a plus point whether you have a toddler in a buggy or an elderly parent with mobility problems. What else might make your practice attractive to families? Think about factors from space to play to a good range of low vision aids.

As well as making your practice welcoming, you need to reach out to families where they are. Consider how you might promote your practice in playgroups, at the school gates, or via women’s groups such as the WI or Townswomen’s Guild. A well placed banner, a schedule of interesting talks, distribution of flyers: mix and match methods like this. Liaise with local parenting magazines: might they want an occasional column on looking after your child’s eyes?

Once you have decided who you want to reach, the messages you want to share and how you could reach them, look for a hook. There might be a promotional week coming up – a local or national event related to age can be a chance to ask men and women with elderly parents to think about whether they are looking after their eyes, back to school time is an ideal period during which to reach out to mums and dads. This is another opportunity to contact local schools, playgroups, nurseries and parenting groups and see if they would be interested in a talk too. Ask them about who will be attending a talk so you can offer age and stage appropriate messages, and remember to check the ABDO Members area where there are a number of PowerPoint presentations already devised targeting parents and children of different ages.

Back up local marketing with a good online presence. Can you arrange to feature on local parenting sites with eyecare tips? How might you continue your campaign messages on social media channels such as Facebook or on your practice blog? Chelle McCann is a social media consultant and founder of Social Sparkle, an agency that often devises campaigns targeting parents. She says, “Know your audience – chat to them and don’t just pump out promo. Make sure you give them usable content and reply back to comments. Check your insights and statistics – this will help you see what your audience responds to. And don’t be a copycat – often social media has the same repetitive feel. Think about how you can stand out from the crowd.”

People take a number of prompts before they take action. If you want to make sure that mums think of your practice as the number one in the area for family eyecare, make sure that they see your promotional materials online, in print and in the locality. If you include advertising by the school gate, an online presence on a parenting website, flyers in a key target area and something in the local paper, people will get the series of gentle prompts that they need raise the importance of eyecare in their minds and make it more likely that they will think to book an eye appointment for a family member, and that they will book it at your practice.

Case study: Jo Holmes of Pilgrim Optical: Speaking to Toddler Groups and Schools

Jo Holmes FBDO is the manager at Pilgrim Optical. She says, “We were tasked with bringing more children into the practice, so we looked at all ages, from the day they are born to those taking A-levels. We thought about how to educate parents about the importance of eye exams for their children and realised that we can do this from a very young age. We send our optometrist to visit health visitors when they have their twice yearly meeting together with advice about eyecare for babies and what advice they can give to worried mums, in our practice we start examining children from six months of age.

“We also visit mother and toddler and groups and make ourselves available for advice during their coffee breaks. Another contact is the local children’s centre. This is a great way to access mums en masse. I try to promote the message that children have their hair cut, feet measured, they go to the dentist regularly, please include the eye exam too!

“The next age group that we reach out to are the children in pre-schools. I take the Kay cards, the cards for checking for colour vision, and I draw the basic eye with the kids. I give a covering letter to the teachers to give to the parents telling them about what I have talked about that day with their offspring and reminding them that their children can have their eyes examined on the NHS.

“I’m well known in the local primary schools and often get asked to go in and talk about eyes during Science Week, and Healthy Eating Week. I tend to do this during their assemblies. I have touched base with the secondary schools by promoting eye health in the form of a spectacle design competition, the winner had their entry made up and I had either prescription lenses glazed in or plano sunspecs.”