OD Success is Just a Yelp Away: One OD’s Experience
Dr. Tommy Lim of Berryessa Optometry has some of the best YELP reviews in the industry and he has graciously shared with us some of the secrets to his success.
In a managed care environment, you must understand how the patients you want in your practice make their selection of an eye care provider and base your marketing strategy accordingly. In our digital age, a growing number of patients find health providers through the Internet, many of them either through direct Google search or through local business review sites such as Yelp.
Identifying Patient Sources
I have implemented a procedure in my practice where I ask all new patients a few “as a matter of fact” questions about how they decided on our office. This takes place during the initial greeting and welcoming of every new patient to the office. We want to know whether they were referred by a friend, got our name off a panel doctor list or from a Google search. My front desk keeps a monthly tally of how new patients come to the office, for example Internet, insurance referral, family, friends and Yelp (for specific referral sources, we send them a thank you card). We generate approximately 15-20 new patients each month to the practice, either directly or indirectly, through search engine optimization (SEO) and or the website.
If they tell me they found us through the Internet (which they usually do these days), I ask for specifics:
Through these answers, I get a glimpse of the impression my website makes on visitors, how it succeeds in capturing the attention of potential patients in comparison to my competition and how my SEO strategy is doing. This sheds light on which marketing efforts are working to bring in new patients, and can help us determine where we need to focus or adjust our strategy.
(A little background about Yelp:
A trend I have seen is that more and more patients come to us based on Yelp reviews, first and foremost. They base their first choice of a doctor on what Yelpers say, check out the websites of the doctors considered and then they check their insurance panel to see if we are on it, then they see which practice is closer to their home (in that order).
I feel the reason we have gotten such good reviews on Yelp is that we have an outstanding team of individuals, and most importantly, I have a very excellent manager that understands exactly what the goals of our practice are.
There are of course, many practices listed on Yelp and it is important to find out why the new patient selected us among all the doctors listed there.
After telling me they used Yelp, their usual next response is, "I came because of all the positive responses you got. My reply is, "Thank you, we really try our best to take care of all our patients." Then I ask: "Are you a Yelper or do you just read the reviews?" To Yelpers, my reply is, "Great, Yelp is a great community of people, I am a Yelper as well." This creates an added bond with the patient.
This is an important conversation to have, even to those who don’t Yelp, because it will somewhat hit a nerve in a positive way, leaving them feeling a little guilty that they are takers only and don't contribute to the Yelp community that they directly benefit from. Because they came to us and think highly of us because of Yelp, they are already somewhat a fan of our practice and if they are happy with their experience, they are a little more likely to refer others to our practice or to write a positive review (I would never ask them to write us a review, this goes against the very foundation of what Yelp is all about).
If they say they are planning to write a review, my response is, "I would appreciate that very much because this really helps me, thank you." The main thing is the OD needs to gauge each patient as an individual. This is not rocket science but it has been effective for me.
In terms of new patients, the always variable combination, in no particular order, is an evaluation of three key factors by the perspective patient of the insurance list of doctors and/website and/or Yelp. It is the job of the OD to determine what is the most common denominator for their specific practice and demographics. In my community, I am starting to hear patients say that they "first" go to Yelp, then evaluate the websites of the various practices considered and from there go to their insurance panel of doctors. In my practice, all three factors are critical and compliment each other. You will never know exactly which factor will tip the scale to your practice. Even though word of mouth will always be king, the new age of SEO, websites and Yelp is coming on like gang busters. In my opinion, nothing grows a practice faster in the new era of optometric marketing than this combination.
Dr. Lim is the founder of Berryessa Optometry in San Jose, CA. A graduate of the Illinois College of Optometry, Dr. Lim is an active member of The American Optometric Association, California Optometric Association, Santa Clara County Optometric Society, the Banzai Consortium and the Magellan Optometry Group. Dr. Lim was a recipient of the Young Optometrist of the year award in Santa Clara County and California, as well as the Optometrist of the year in Santa Clara County. He was the American Optometric Association Political Action Committee Representative of the Year in 2004 and 2005.
Dr. Lim is on the Advisory Board of the Primary Eyecare Network, the board of trustees of the California Optometric Association Political Action Committee and has served as the Political Activities Coordinator of the Santa Clara County Optometric Society for over thirty years. He has also served on the National Hoya Vision Care Eyecare Practitioners Advisory Panel, the San Jose Mercury News Reader Advisory Panel, the board of trustees of the California Optometric Laser Associates and as the Northern California Political Activities Coordinator for the American Optometric Association Political Action Committee. Dr. Lim was recently elected to the Alumni Council of the Illinois College of Optometry, his alma mater. He has worked with the San Jose Sharks, providing eye care during their annual physical exams.
Dr. Lim has lectured at the American Optometric Association Student Association Western Regional Meeting at Berkeley, Vision Expo West in Las Vegas and at Hoya Vision Care Focus Groups. He is very involved in community and humanitarian projects, including mission projects to Thailand with his church and Project Homeless Connect in San Francisco, where he has provided vision care to the homeless. He has also written articles on these experiences, which were published in the California Optometric Association Journal, the Primary EyeCare Network Newsletter and the Illinois College of Optometry Alumni Newsletter.
He has been married for over thirty five years and has two adult children. Dr. Lim is an active member of the First Chinese Baptist Church in San Francisco.
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