5 Easy-To-Do Networking Tips
For Your Eye Care Practice
Networking with other businesses and organizations within your community is an essential part of building awareness of your brand beyond simple word of mouth and online strategies such as SEO.
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1. Look For Cross Promotional Opportunities
Nothing is more classic than the “I scratch your back, you scratch mine,” arrangement. Look around your community for local businesses that would actively advertise your eye care practice and send patients in your direction, in return for you doing the same for them. The traditional way to do this is to identify places that offer services similar or related to yours, but do not directly compete with the services you’re offering. One common example is practices that do cataracts and macular degeneration screenings, but aren’t equipped to do the actual surgery. Often these clinics will network with an ophthalmologist in their community, to send patients over for the surgery, in return for the ophthalmologist sending the patient back to their practice for post-surgery follow up.
Want some “out of the box” ideas? If you do Sports Vision, why not network with a local sporting goods store to advertise them to your Sports Vision patients in your office and on your social media, in return for them advertising your practice in-store and online? Promoting Back-To-School? Make the same arrangement with a local business supply store. You get the idea!
2. Find Volunteer Opportunities
Nothing creates bonds, encourages good will and communicates shared values quite like lending a helping hand in the community! Organizations that help underserved communities, at-risk youth, families struggling with food insecurity, and other difficulties, organize events all the time that your practice can sponsor and volunteer at. Gather your doctors and office staff, print some t-shirts with your practice logo and contact information on them, and go volunteer!
Along with creating good will in your community around your practice brand, volunteer opportunities are a great way to find other like-minded businesses and organizations that share your practice’s values, and may be happy to work together. Be friendly and strike up conversations with other people at the event. If you identify someone that you think might be good to network with, don’t be afraid to make the first move and ask about forming a relationship. Remember that other businesses and organizations are likely at this event for the exact same reason you are!
You can also encourage your staff to take pictures at the event, and share those pictures on social media, mentioning the event and linking back to a website or other helpful information about the organization that put the event together. You can welcome the organization you volunteered with to share your posts on their social media as well. This puts your practice in front of an even larger social media audience than you would have had by posting just on your own.
Did you make a great connection with a particular person or organization? Follow up with them in about 48 hours to tell them you appreciated speaking, and would like to continue discussing how you can help one another. Don’t focus on yourself. Emphasize how you can help them. You’ll make a positive impression, and most people will want to return the favor!
3. Join Local Organizations and Associations
There are few easier ways to start on your road to networking than to join an already established network of local businesses. Whether it’s your local Chamber of Commerce, a general association or organization for small businesses or a network more focused on healthcare or, even more specifically, optometry, this is a great way to start making connections.
Some of these organizations can help you obtain discounts on goods and services you need to run your practice. They may also host events, seminars and conferences, and even contact state and local governments on behalf of their members to ensure legislation remains favorable for your practice and other associated businesses in the community.
If you have time, you may also consider volunteering to take a leadership role in your association or organization. This will give your practice even more exposure within your group.
4. Don’t Miss Out On Local Conferences
Conferences are a great way to see what’s new in optometry, connect with new people in your field, and reconnect with contacts you may not have heard from in a while.
Be sure to do your research about the conference, so you know what to expect, and can make the most of your time. Google the conference to see if you can find out information about roughly how many people are expected to attend, who will be speaking there and if there’s any feedback online from people who attended last year.
If possible, aim to attend the larger conferences in your area. These are great places to meet with as many of your peers as possible, as well as meeting and hearing from prominent influencers in the optometric industry. Before attending, be sure to check the itinerary so you know when talks and activities are planned. Have an idea of the most important places, activities, lectures and people you want to see while at the conference, to make the most productive use of your time.
5. Host a Meet and Greet
Don’t have the time to attend a conference, or don’t live in an area where conferences are very accessible? Make your own action with a meet and greet at your practice for local businesses and organizations! Not only is it a nice way to bring the community to your front door for easy networking opportunities, but you may also find new patients from among the people that come to your event.
For your meet and greet, be sure you and your staff discuss how best to present your practice to those who are coming. This not only includes the talking points you want to cover about how long you’ve been part of the community and the optometry services and optical products you offer, but also how you’d like the office to be set up for the meet and greet and the type of atmosphere you’d like to convey to attendees. You should produce promotional materials with your logo and contact information on them, and encourage other businesses that attend to do the same. Make sure to set up the space in such a way that people have a place to set up their promotional materials, but are also encouraged to move around and talk to one another, so that everyone can get the most out of your event.
You can also involve your staff in brainstorming ways to set your meet and greet apart and encourage attendance. Events such as raffles for attendees, or a “speed dating” format (but for business networking) are a few examples of ways to make your event fun and unique, and help your practice stand out in the minds of those who attend.
The beauty of all these networking ideas is that they are easy to implement with just a bit of planning and research about the community and events around you. The effort is minimal, and the payoff, in terms of new patients and revenue, is potentially limitless. If you’d like some help implementing these and other marketing strategies within your community, EyeCarePro can help. Read more about our Optometry Growth Plans, and give us a call at 201-591-4350.