How To Get Started Growing Your Business/Practice Using the Power of the Internet
How To Get Started Growing Your Business/Practice Using The Power Of The Internet
““I know I should do something with the internet and social media, I just don’t know where to start”. As an Internet Business Coach/Consultant, I hear this a lot from ECPs and optical companies all across the US and Canada. Many have a Facebook Fan Page and/or website, but don’t know how to use them to grow their practice. Getting started on any major project is a challenge; but to tackle one like internet marketing and social media, that is new to most, is a huge challenge. However, if you are willing to investigate and get started, then you will be far ahead of a lot of eyecare professionals and optical companies. If you need more encouragement, read this article, “Is My Practice Falling Prey To the Blockbuster Syndrome”.
First step – Get educated about social media and internet marketing
There are many online resources available to acquire information and get educated. Even our industry has several quality websites/blogs emerging. Locate online sources (start with a Google search) and look for informational blogs and webinars. Sign up to get their newsletters and email update notifications. Here are several good sources of information: www.ECPWebCoach.com, www.SightNation.com and www.SocialMediaExaminar.com. Schedule time in your busy day to read and get informed. Attend lectures at conventions like Vision Expo and SECO; or ask your vendors if they provide any materials to help grow your practice using social media and the internet. Don’t expect to just learn this kind of information by osmosis or by hanging around a Facebook user. You have to make a real effort to get educated.
Second step – Make an honest assessment where you are now
Most ECPs or optical companies have done “something” on the internet and have some planned internet presence. Many have a website, but it was not professionally developed or customized for their practice. A professionally developed site will be optimized with keywords for search engines (SEO), and will drive new visitors to your site. (Read this article, “The Basics of SEO”, to help understand this) A quality website will also have these features:
- A place for visitors to sign up (so you can market to them);
- Downloadable forms (i.e. HIPPA, patient history, etc.);
- Sample frames that website visitors can view and maybe even try on with a virtual mirror;
- Information about lenses & eye health;
- Office hours and direction to your place of business.
Does your website have all of these features? Be honest and make a realistic assessment of all your “online tools” (i.e. Facebook Fan Page, Twitter, blog, etc.).
Most eyecare professionals and optical companies have a Facebook Fan Page, but it is not designed to help the practice grow. A good Facebook Page will engage, inform and educate.
There should also be good “measurement tools” (i.e. Google Analytics) in place to know about the traffic/visitors you are getting to your website and Facebook Page. Take an “internet inventory” to see what people are saying about you on review sites, such as Google Places, Yelp, Foursquare, etc. This might be a good place to have a professional help you make this assessment. A professional assessment should include SEO rankings of your website, internet review site search/analysis, Facebook Page/Twitter analysis and much more. Most importantly, an assessment by a professional should include recommendations on how each critical area can be improved. If you are going to do the assessment yourself, a good article to read is “Is my Facebook Page Really Doing Anything For My Practice”.
Third step – Develop an internet strategy and put it in writing
This is where most ECPs and optical companies like to shortcut. They dismiss the importance of a well thought out internet and social media strategy, and just start “doing stuff”. Sure, getting started is important, but if you don’t know where the finish line is (specific goals and objectives), then how can you finish the race? Not having specific goals, objectives and a detailed plan will cause you and your staff to waste time and resources. I have seen several situations where a poorly implemented internet and social media strategy have done more harm than good. Take the time to develop a written internet/social media plan. This might also be a good place to get some professional guidance to insure it includes all of the internet/marketing channels that are appropriate for your business/practice, and that the proper resources are allocated to the project. Also, having a “third hand” helping in the process will insure it gets done.
Fourth step – Get started today
It is so easy to put off getting started. Hey, you are a busy professional/executive. It is not always obvious that your practice or business might already be losing business to other providers that have a good internet presence. Research and data proves that consumers are already online and they are looking for eyecare/eyeglass information. While they are “outside of the buying cycle”, they are being courted by savvy online marketers that are giving them the information they want and need. The longer you wait to get started with a real web presence improvement program, the more patients (and prospective patients) you will lose. To get ideas of what you can do TODAY to get started, read this article, "Three Things You Can Do Today To Get Started"
To be successful at having a good internet presence for your practice or optical company: 1) get educated on internet marketing and social media; 2) make an honest assessment of what web tools you are already using and the quality of those tools; 3) develop an internet/social media strategy and put your 5 year plan in writing; 4) get started today! If this sounds like too much to handle on your own, then get professional, experienced help that understands the optical business.
To learn how Bob Main can help you get started, click here.