Community Connections: Get Involved and Grow Your Practice
By Mary Hollis Stuck April 06, 2021
Times are tough during a global pandemic. While some types of normalcy appear to be on the rise, our communities and businesses are still suffering in many areas. Perhaps your optometry practice is still struggling too. Schools are struggling with providing a safe workplace for children. Athletic teams aren’t getting full support in the stands. Local businesses are floundering. Although it’s easy to put your head down and keep focusing on your business, it’s important to create a relationship with those around you, to help better your community. Not only will it help build up your community, but your practice could see a bump in revenue and an influx of new patients.
There are multiple ways to create more community involvement in your practice. Take the time to make note of local businesses and schools around you. View their websites and social media accounts to familiarize yourself with what they do and what they stand for; then use that information to determine a common connection between your practice and your neighbor. Sometimes, the connection is simply that their business is next door to yours. In other cases, you may realize that your employees send their children to the same school, or your patients’ kids play baseball with yours. Next, use those connections to figure out a plan to promote both businesses. This could be by ordering lunch for your practice from a locally owned restaurant, then posting a picture on social media raving about the meal or service and tagging them in it. Or, use your social media feed to find posts by others in your area, and share them. This creates more visibility for both their page and yours. Plus this will help build comradery, so they may be inclined to share and promote your posts too.
Outside of the internet, consider getting involved by volunteering for local organizations. Look at local charities in your area with a purpose that is meaningful to you, and ask them how you can get involved. Consider sponsoring a blood drive, or getting together a team to show up for an activity to raise awareness for disease or hardship in your area. Look for companies already helping others, and see what you can do to participate. In our three-optometrist practice in South Carolina, we work closely with Health Learners of the Midlands, a company that helps children in low-income families get to and even pay for doctors’ visits. They can always count on us to donate sunglasses for their raffles. We also provide services at a discounted rate for the children they bring in for exams that have no insurance coverage. Although we only take a nominal fee for our services in those cases, we have gained not only the Healthy Learners staff as patients, but have received referrals from them as well.
It’s important to get your staff on board with your mission; during meetings, hold open table discussions about what local businesses are important to them, and ask them for ideas on how to get involved. At our practice, if a staff member feels a connection to a certain charity or cause, we often bring it to the owners to see if they are willing to donate. Recently, a friend of mine, a local restaurant owner, took his own life; his restaurant held a golf tournament and silent auction to raise awareness for suicide prevention, and we donated a gift bag with polarized sunglasses, lens cleaner, and a twenty percent off prescription lens coupon to the cause. This not only gets your practice name out there to all participants, but it will likely bring the winner in to utilize their discount coupon. Your practice could even have a “charity of the month,” and promote this charity or organization in your office and your social media. As the owner of two rescue dogs, in a practice owned by others who own rescues, we love the idea of taking up collections for a local animal rescue. We have gained patients from volunteering and using services provided at local rescues, which will only lead to more referrals.
"In a time where so many people are struggling, it’s your responsibility as a business leader and member of the community to do what you can to make a positive impact on those around you. Your community will thank you for it."
Some may consider using these tools to promote your own business as a selfish act. It’s important to think beyond that. While yes, it may increase your notability around town, it will also help build up the community around you, which is far more important. By hosting a trunk show, you are certain to gain revenue in your business, but by hosting a trunk show and donating a percentage of your proceeds to a local organization, you create a sense of inclusion and help your patients connect to their community by making their purchase with a purpose. In a time where so many people are struggling, it’s your responsibility as a business leader and member of the community to do what you can to make a positive impact on those around you. Your community will thank you for it.