Seven Touches – How to Make Your Practice Marketing Work

Do you sometimes wonder why your practice marketing and advertising isn’t as effective as you hoped? If you are trying out new types of marketing and looking for new audiences, you can get a disappointing response and feel discouraged. In this article you can find out about the ‘seven touches’ concept and learn how to ensure that your target audience sees your messages repeatedly and takes action.

Are you responsible for marketing your practice? Do you always repeat the same tried and tested methods of promotion: reminder letters or adverts in the local paper perhaps? Or are you keen to reach out to new audiences and find ways to bring in new business? It can be hard when you are marketing your practice to make sure that your efforts bring in the necessary number of new clients and are cost-effective, yet the simple concept of ‘seven touches’ can help you plan effectively and have realistic expectations for your marketing campaigns.

In this connected world, adults can see more than 2,000 marketing messages a day, and the brain filters out most of them. Information overload is rife and it’s little wonder that your marketing messages get lost. What’s more, you need people to not just absorb your message, but also to act upon it. So how can an independent practice get its message across?

The starting point is to make sure that your communication is relevant to the target audience. You need to talk about benefits – in other words, what’s in it for your potential patient if they choose your practice?  Beyond that, you need to ensure that you repeat your message in ways that will accrue: use a range of methods for a greater impact. A multi-pronged attack increases the chances of getting past the brain’s information filter, creating awareness and ultimately the desired response. This is known as ‘seven touches’. Of course, seven can be an arbitrary number: some people act after the first prompt because they are in the right position to hear your message. Someone who has been worrying about failing vision is more likely to book an eye exam when they see an advertisement. Someone who has just found wearing their glasses on holiday a nuisance may be more open to messages about contact lenses, photochromic lenses or prescription sunglasses. For other people, information may be ignored, or filed away for future use as need arises

One principle is clear: the more a potential customer sees your business, the more likely they are to buy. This effect applies to all the marketing you do. If you are targeting different audiences with a marketing campaign you need to ensure that each group will have up to seven ‘touches’ from your campaign, up to seven chances to see your message. You need to develop a clear message for a specific target audience and then use a combination of materials to promote this. You may include patient recall letters, advertising, household leaflet drops, social media and local public relations to promote a consistent message to patients. You need to repeat the message again and again. Successful marketing usually needs reinforcement through repetition to get a message noticed. Whilst the first message may not get through, the third or fourth might. Consider whether you recognise this effect from your own practice recall letter programme. Look at the statistics on how many people respond to the first, second or third reminder. Does including a leaflet increase uptake?

As an example, if you want to reach out to working people in your local area you should consider advertising in a relevant publication that might be picked up by commuters and radio adverts that run during drive time. Repeating each advert over a period of time would give an individual a number of chances to see your message. Place Facebook adverts that target people in the right geographic area and age groups. Add in a door-to-door mail shot to the right sort of area and properties, so that next time they are in your town or browsing the Yellow Pages or searching on the internet and looking for a practice yours stands out to them as they are already familiar with your logo and branding. Remember that a single advert in the local paper is unlikely to produce results. It takes a campaign repeating the advertising over a period of time backed up by other marketing to create awareness.

Another example is household leaflet drops. A single distribution of, say, 10,000 leaflets to 10,000 homes won’t have much impact. It is far better to distribute 5,000 leaflets twice to the same 5,000 houses within a six-month period. Remember that the average purchase cycle for eye exams and spectacles is only once every two years. Therefore, on average, sending out something in a particular month is only likely to appeal to one in 24 of recipients, those who are in the market for an appointment that month. You also need to consider that not all marketing will appeal to all people; to reach parents or pensioners could require that you use your local parenting magazine or visits to pensioners clubs, for example.

As long as you have coherent and positive branding and promotional messages, the cumulative effect of advertisements, media coverage and promotional and marketing materials will see wavering consumers turn into buyers. The idea of contacting a potential buyer seven times is a longstanding marketing basic, and if you are planning any sort of marketing, you’ll need to build this into your plan. Include advertising, public relations leading to media coverage, online promotion and direct sales in your plan order to ensure that your target audience gets as many chances to view your message as possible.

Have a strategic marketing plan that you continually update. Include ways to evaluate what is working, and systems to make sure that enquiries are followed up. Ensure that reception and sales staff know about your marketing: they will provide the vital telephone or face-to-face contact that will convert someone doesn’t know much about your business into someone who books an eye examination or purchases from your practice.

‘Seven touches’ is not an exact science. If you get your marketing messages just right, you may convert some people to buy with your first contact, while others take much longer.  Nonetheless, creating a campaign of regular adverts, media coverage, email and postal communications with your prospects is the way to build relationships and ensure that people trust your business, know what you offer, understand the benefits and choose your practice for their eyecare. Finally, some marketers have estimated it can take as many as 30 touches to convince someone to buy: does this help you see what your marketing efforts need to be comprehensive, planned and ongoing? Marketing communications need to be relevant, repetitious and multi-channel in order to get noticed and generate a response from the target audience.


Cold contacts? Warm them up!

People who haven’t heard about your business yet are ‘cold contacts’: those who have signed up for your newsletter, sent an enquiry, or purchased from you are ‘warm’. It is much easier to get warm contacts to buy again than to get cold contacts to buy, and much more cost-effective too, so make sure you nurture your current contacts and customers with ongoing marketing. A great follow-up or ‘customer management’ system makes this much easier and more effective:


Your practice follow-up system

This is an example of one way that a practice can promote its services.

  • Generate enquiries – through advertising, PR, competitions, etc
  • Gather contact details from enquirers and patients
  • Add contacts to the practice mailing list – remember to select focused areas of interest, or invite them to do so themselves
  • Send regular newsletters: email makes this easy and low cost, print newsletters work better for older people
  • Include regular, time limited promotions and ‘calls to action’
  • Invite people to book an eye examination
  • Supply spectacles, sunglasses, contact lenses and accessories
  • Add information on purchases into contact management system so relevant offers and news can continue to keep people ‘warm’ to your practice.

More ways to ‘touch’

  • A visit to your website
  • An email
  • A phone call
  • A recommendation by word of mouth
  • A newsletter
  • Meeting one of your team at an event
  • An advert