By Maria Sampalis, OD

The eye care industry is characterized by ever-increasing competition coupled with patients’ uncertainty about whom to consider for treatment and where to buy their eyewear and contact lenses. It has become essential for eye care professionals to focus on building a personal brand to differentiate themselves and create more engagement with patients, which, in turn, develops loyalty.

Here are ideas for effective personal branding for optometrists, regardless of practice setting.

  1. Have 20/20 Vision
    Clarity and focus are important when it comes to creating a personal brand for optometrists. Optometry is a diverse field that branches out into different areas of specialization. It might have sufficed in times past to just verbally say that you were an eye doctor, but today, thanks to the internet, patients can quickly gather a lot of information regarding eye issues and eyewear. Rather than being “just” an optometrist, be more specific about what you do so that people are sure that you are the right person to consult for their issues. Be aware of how patients view you online and in your office, and make sure it is how you want to be viewed.
  2. Tell, Don’t Sell
    If you aren’t using the power of stories to create a personal brand, then you are already lagging behind.Storytelling has long been used to deliver meaningful messages that influence the patient’s mind and affect their decision-making process. To build a personal brand, narrate a story about your patients, i.e., your patients who benefited from your services in the past. This will have a lasting effect on prospective patients and encourage them to consider your brand to address their eye care needs.You can tell your story through your website, social media and even the walls of your office. Post photos and updates of your community involvement, print your mission statement, and make sure your staff tells your story. An introduction such as, “Dr. Sampalis loves seeing kids; she has two little girls…” can help put parents and children at ease.
  3. Stay Updated
    Patients want to know that their eye care professional has access to the latest equipment, products and knowledge. You don’t have to overwhelm patients with the science, but let them know about your commitment to a quality exam, technology, a great experience or wherever you place your focus. This is part of your story, too. So if your practice has the latest instrumentation, talk about it during the exam, in social media and more. If you’re introducing patients to a new treatment option, have some clinical references ready; if you’ve written for journals, make sure they know that, too.
  4. Support Your Own Brand
    Whatever message or values you impart to your target audience, show how those impact you in daily life. For instance, you can share a picture of treating a family member, a friend or any relative who benefited from your services. Not only will this help your patients relate to you on a closer, more friendly level, but it will also build their confidence in trusting your brand for their own eye health.
  5. Be yourself
    Last but not least, be your true self. Be genuine and authentic and center your attention on what you do and why you do it. After all, doing what you do best is the ultimate way to create a great personal brand that people will love and be proud to endorse. Be you!

These tips on personal branding will help you get started in the right direction so that you develop a practice that is well known by everyone. Personal branding is a lifelong venture that requires sincere commitment and dedication to your work as well as having a firm belief in yourself.

Dr. Maria Sampalis has both a private practice and a corporate practice in Cranston, Rhode Island. She is a member of the HEA National Advisory Board.