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Here are the full stories,
plus download offers from our
"Getting the Most From Community Talks" series.
Getting the most from a community Talks
By Thomas and Amee Lecoq
Effective Marketing Takes Consistent Effort, Dedicated Personnel (Part 4)
Part 4 (gray portion is in the newsletter, black is the rest of the story. Part one and two follow on this page.
If you’ve been following this series, you now have a pretty good idea about how to use community talks to generate patients. (Review read the full series below.)
The problem we keep encountering is that doctors try to perform this critical marketing function themselves. Some have a therapist or other staffer take it on in addition to all their other duties. Either way, what nearly always happens is inconsistent, hit and miss, see-saw marketing activity. When the work gets done, patients flow in and the doctor and staff get too busy for marketing, so the patient flow declines, and the effort to reach out has to start again as if from scratch.
It doesn’t take long for everyone to get discouraged and stop making the effort. A major symptom of this is excuses such as, “I just can’t seem to find any more groups,” or “I leave messages, but no one calls back,” or, “Its just a waste of time and I’m too busy with patients to do this anymore.”
It’s not that your regular staff is doing something wrong, but community outreach and marketing requires a dedicated person, if for nothing else, to keep tabs on all the research, contacts, details and connections that make the effort pay off.
This is why we urge our clients to hire a Vision Therapy Administrator, one of whose duties is to make sure the marketing and enrollment process is always in action.
Marketing is often misunderstood. Marketing is everything you do to bring patients into therapy. That includes community outreach, but the VTA will also be taking the internal actions of guiding the parent/patient through the enrollment process. In our system, that includes doing most of the parent consultation, and making sure that every step of the exam and enrollment system occurs effectively for each parent/patient. Marketing VT does not, however, mean selling therapy, and hard sell or emotional manipulation is actually counterproductive.
You are unlikely to find many qualified candidates for this role. You’ll most likely have to train and educate them. The good news is that there are some resources available to develop your VTA.
But first, where do you find good candidates for the position?
Many communities have home based PR people. These are often men and women who know how to write stories and set up events for their clients. This sounds like a good place to start, but a VT practice’s PR needs and approach are unique so you'll still be continuously training and educating them. You'll want a full time person, so their salary must be more than their business income from the start.
Instead, consider hiring someone with good people skills and developing them as a great VTA. What we want is someone who is responsible, communicative and who is excited about taking the lead in getting the word out about VT.
Start with parents of your patients. We love empty nesters who are active in their communities, not afraid to talk and listen on the phone, and eager to learn and master new skills.
We’ve gotten to know the manager of a local restaurant, a woman in her thirties with four children who manages several units in the chain. She's friendly, communicative and respected by her employees. She asked what I do, and became very interested. Although we don’t have a doctor in our area who does VT, I told her about the job of Vision Therapy Administrator. She lit up! Turns out that she would love to be working around children, but without a degree had no hope of ever doing so.
Many empty nest moms are thinking of going back to work. They are often very organized, smart and happy to have training and education for a great position. We’ve set up a screening with Harrison Assessments for a VTA. Contact us if you'd like to access it.
Public relations is the primary marketing outreach activity, and it is far more than writing and planting press releases. It is researching and connecting with all the groups within driving distance of the practice, then setting up talks and taking all the actions mentioned in this series.
We offer several courses that are a must for a VTA when using our system. Our system is what we’ve found in place in the best practices, and everything needed to implement it. The courses can be taken in any order, and they can be done privately as well.
Essentials for VT Success: An overview of our proven system and prepares the practice for growth without missteps. It covers personnel, marketing and more. Details Here
More Patients Breakthrough Course: teaches how to communicate the VT message so parents and patients come to see for themselves that vision is the problem and you have the solution, plus some basic PR training and materials, including workshop flyers. Details Here
Marketing Training Course: Covers the basics of internal and external PR and marketing for VTAs and marketing support people. How to use online and social media resources to generate patients. How to use reports to generate patients, and how to carry out the patient enrollment process. Contact us and ask for details.
On-Site Staff Training: This is our complete consultative package. Highly individualized to reflect the doctor’s intentions for the practice. This is done at your practice with your staff. Includes detailed training in key activities for generating, preparing and enrolling patient, huge package of practice forms, demonstrations, scripts, PR materials and more. Also includes the 3 courses. Contact us and ask for a free initial conversation.
The Art of Powerful Case Presentation: The interaction between doctor, patient and parent is a wonderful occasion. The art is in translating what you’re finding into the behavior the parent observes and the patient experiences. This course walks through the exam and how to have parents and patients come to see that their problem is vision and you have the solution. For primary care/VT mixed practices, learn how to increase acceptance of multiple recommendations and to book therapy evaluations from your patients’ families. Includes our remarkable Test Grids for the most common tests and how to use them to educate staff. Contact us and ask about this new course based on the Lecoq Practice Development system.
Now, read the rest of the series and download the free materials below.
Publicity: Get the Message Out (Part 3)
Okay, you’ve followed the suggestions in previous newsletters and set up your community talk. What’s next? (Previous articles Below)
Generating attendance is one objective, but publicity for a talk is also a great way to get the word out in your community. Publicity is promotion that relies on the public relations effect of a news story or announcement carried (usually free) by media. Sounds complicated at first, but it isn’t difficult to do successfully.
First step is to create a basic news release. We have great success getting these published because we use a format that is familiar to news editors (I was a writer and editor for a decade). These days, nearly all media are short staffed. Send a well written news story that emphasizes the value of the content for readers, viewers or listeners, with a local angle, and a picture and chances are good it will be published or broadcast. Add a free talk with a date certain and the odds are even higher it will be published.
And there are other vehicles, social media in particular, which can help get the word out and increase attendance. The objective of all talks is to book evaluations. You do this by having parents or adult patients come to see for themselves that vision is the problem and that you (by implication) have the solution.
Effective press releases start with a short “lead” or first paragraph. In as few words as possible, talk about a recognizable sign of a vision problem. Very often, it is about the homework war, or the troublesome behavior of a child with ADHD. For example: “For some parents, going home after work means facing the homework war. The nightly battle to get a child to spend hours doing what should be 20 minutes of homework.”
Download a sample meeting announcement press release here.
The release goes on to connect the battle with vision. “Recent studies show that at least 1 in 4 school age children have vision problems that make it difficult for them to read, learn, comprehend and even pay attention,” according to Dr. YOU, a YOUR TOWN .”
About the third or fourth paragraph should offer the free workshop on the topic, with date, time, location clearly identified. An RSVP number can be included, but many people never do that.
This basic format and information can be sent to the news, feature, lifestyle, events or education editors, usually by email these days. Never send the same release to more than one editor/producer per media outlet. This is called "double planting," and would wreak havoc if two sections or shows both used the story.
But don’t forget the other community news outlets. Many Chambers of Commerce, local radio and TV stations as well as city Public Information Offices also have community event listings.
Submit to them as well.
Social media is a
growing connection source. If you are not already signed on or following local
learning related groups, parent support groups for your area, and a raft of
other local parent oriented sites, this is your opportunity to do so, and to
post your events. You can also share articles about vision research and
breakthroughs to add value as a contributor.
In fact, the list of possible groups is amazing. And, there are an abundance of local web sites for learning related problems. Don’t forget the network of home schoolers!
If you are doing sports vision, add all the local and regional sports websites and Facebook groups. They will be very interested in stories that deal with physical performance. And remember, many parents of children with learning problems place their children in sports to keep them out of trouble.
Public relations and publicity are far different from paid advertising. PR is always free, but you have no control over placement or even whether your material will appear at all. However, a persistent effort of good quality content that is devoid of self promotion or selling usually produces a great result.
Should you hire a staff person or an outside service to do your PR? We’ll address that in the next part of this series.
If you are interested in making use of PR and publicity to build your therapy practice, give Tom Lecoq a call at 949-244-3214 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk.
Where Will You Find Groups To Address (Part 2)
We emphasize the value of doing community talks in our consultation and courses. It allows doctors to get the word out in a way that results in booked patient evaluations and enrollments into therapy.
The first issue, however, is how do you find groups you can address?
Start with in office talks, about one every 2-3 weeks. The in office talk gives you a date certain event to which you can invite parents who are unsure about doing VT, or as part of the patient preparation process to increase the conversion rate.
Always set three talks ahead so people can make a choice of which works best for them. Place flyers for the talks in brochure holders in the waiting room, exam lanes and other areas where patient interactions occur. Invite often. Start with presenting a few signs of vision problems as you describe what you do. If the person recognizes that sign in their child, they will often start a conversation about that child. Then invite them to attend.
Community groups require a little detective work. A systematic approach works best. Start with Internet searches for clubs, associations, groups and organizations which include the name of your and surrounding cities will yield a substantial list of organizations who meet and need speakers.
We also recommend checking with your local Chambers of Commerce as well for club lists, and don't forget events listings and coverage in local publications. Many local papers have calendar or local events listings. We have several free papers with such listings in our area. Check your city and the immediate neighboring cities for their leads sources. Many city information sites list clubs. You can also look for small items about clubs that give or receive honors for community service. Many listings include the name of an officer you can call or email. Take a multi step approach from there.
Reach the first contact person. Introduce yourself as a doctor who work with children or adults whose vision problems interfere with their ability to perform in situations that relate to the mission of their organization. Remember that all groups are made up of parents and grandparents, so what you have to say about vision and learning will apply to them.
For ADHD and ADD support groups, and there are many, talk a little with this first contact person about how a certain vision problem (CI) is often part of the attention problem, and is even misdiagnosed as an attention deficit. Ask if the group has speakers from time to time. If yes, you can ask for the contact information for the program chair. Follow that with a similar call to the program person.
Be prepared to send an article about the topic that links attention problems to vision. (Download a Dear Abby column reprint at www.idealvt.com/downloads.htm.) Ask for a date to come deliver the talk. Make sure you tell them that it is very interactive and that you will encourage questions from the group. I often say, “I find that people really want to ask questions that apply to them rather than listening to a dry lecture.”
Once the date is set, you begin the publicity process, which will be the next article in this series.
Community Talks: The Main Event (Part 1)
Speaking to groups in the
community is vital to growing and sustaining a VT practice. It can generate
patients who are able and prepared to pay privately for your services. It also
unearths patients with relatively uncomplicated cases, the profitable heart of
successful VT practices.
(This is the first of a series of articles that will explore the most basic VT marketing method. Look for the full series with expanded detail over the next few months.)
Virtually every group, club or organization is comprised of people who are parents or grandparents, and when you reach them with an effective presentation, they are able to directly enroll children for evaluations and therapy.
A consistent effort (on the part of a designated staff person) to discover groups and get doctor booked to speak, puts practice growth directly under your influence.
Some key points for giving talks which actually generate evaluations, referrals and therapy enrollments: Avoid making it an “educational” meeting. If you don't interact on the emotional and personal level, the exchange will be intellectual and even "interesting," but parents will not be moved to take the next step. Research shows that human beings make decisions based on emotions. Ignore that fact at your own peril.
A really good talk has very little explanation and an abundance of personal and emotional interactions. Begin with talking about the observable signs of a vision problem. Mention one item then ask them to raise their hand if that rings a bell. Ask them to tell you a little more about that child. Listen carefully and then ask questions in a way that predicts the child's behavior. Use a demonstration to show that vision is essential to reading and learning. Use our UpDown Reader demonstration, which you may download at the bottom of this post
When the person talks about how the problem is affecting the family, or themselves, or the child, really tune in to their feelings. Ask how it is for them when this is happening, and give them ample opportunity to dwell in their emotions. This is delicate, sacred ground, and you must be respectful and NEVER manipulative. However if you want to be effective, you do have to take the conversation deeply into the emotional realm. Talk time is precious; spend it where it will be most likely to get help for the children.
Have checklists on hand at the presentation, and use demonstrations. A smaller number of people in attendance is actually preferable as there will be more time to talk about specific children and get to the heart of the matter with those parents. Better to have a high sign-up rate with small audiences than the other way around.
We suggest you to avoid bringing up 20/20 unless someone mentions it. It is easy to spend a long time trying to overcome something most people believe, but don't understand.
End with an invitation to take action. Simply say, “Sounds suspiciously like a vision issue to me, lets make an appointment for _________.” This process is detailed and rehearsed in our More Patients Breakthrough Course. The course is also available for private delivery at your practice. Read course outline.
Handle fear of speaking by being yourself. You don’t have to be a showman or salesman, you just need to be authentic. A little stammer and even nervousness are OK as long as you’re attention is on the parents and grandparents in front of you, not yourself. Call Thomas or Amee Lecoq at 760-686-4648 if this is an issue to you.
The next article in this series will cover how to identify and connect with groups in your area, and how to go about booking yourself to speak.
Demonstrations and "Free Offers"
Copyright Notice: All but the 30 question list are covered by copyright and may not be redistributed or included in any publication without express permission of Thomas D. Lecoq. Feel free to use any of these materials in your own practice or to share with others a link to this page where they may download the material. All other rights are reserved by Thomas D. Lecoq
Learning Problems - New School Year press release (Free Newsletter item)
Up-Down Reader Demo
Double Vision Demo Print
(Contact Us) OR: download our pdf Doctor Information Form, fill it out to tell us about your practice and situation, then fax it to 760-240-4794. Amee Lecoq will contact you to set up your free phone consultation.
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