pyramid recruit

Recruitment is usually the strategy that begins every marketing overture from every marketing company, every ad agency, and every digital social media marketing group: “We’ll bring you new patients.”

That said, we’re going to pick a fight.

pyramid recruit

Do you know the myth of new patient revenue? Everyone thinks that in order to grow your revenue, you must focus on new patients – a true but misleading statement. The cost of acquiring a new patient often exceeds the net-net of what they bring in as revenue (unless you have a cross-selling strategy in place; more on that later). Think of the cost of establishing someone as a patient and keeping them long enough that this cost of acquisition is finally paid for with subsequent services and exams.

New patient acquisition is the thing everybody promises, but it isn’t necessarily the first or best strategy to employ.

That’s why we don't consider recruiting the foundation of your marketing. We are only just mentioning it now because every other strategy before this requires no new patients to execute successfully. The recruit strategy is the only one that depends on getting new ‘cold’ patients (as opposed to ‘warm’ patients referred to you by other patients).

Think about it.

Reputation: you can’t get an endorsement from someone who doesn’t know you.

Reviews: same thing. Your physicians can’t get reviews from people who are not patients.

Retain: well, these are obviously people who are already established, and you just want to make sure they keep coming back and keep buying more.

“Buying more” looks like Resell.

Reactivate takes care of established patients who are inactive.

Referral - which comes next - sends patients already ‘warmed’ to you by existing patients.

Recruit is selling to people for the first time.

So, recruit is the only one of all of the strategies in this book that strictly focuses on acquiring new patients.

Now, what is recruiting? Well, it’s often the most distasteful part of revenue growth. It’s cold prospecting. They don’t know you. They don’t know whether they like or trust you. They don’t know why they should even give you more than seven seconds of their attention, and you’d better have it dialed in as to why they should and what they should do next and what’s in it for them.

Recruiting funnels (good, effective ones, anyway) are the most difficult to set up and manage successfully and also the most expensive.

That said, the good part about a well-done recruiting funnel is that it’s scalable.

Here’s an illustration. Some industries rely on marketing and other industries rely on selling for their new customer acquisition. An insurance broker requires more salespeople if they want to have more customers. If every salesperson brings in only 5 new customers a month and they have 5 salespeople, their maximum is 25 new customers a month. If they want 50, they need to hire another 5 salespeople. 

This is not scalable, and it is definitely difficult to gauge, because every salesperson is just a little bucket of variables. Are they getting a divorce? Is their kid running off with a rock musician? Are they burnt out? Are they excited? Are they new, and lacking in experience? Are they screwing up the leads that you give them?

At the same time, a company that relies on marketing for new customer acquisition can be just as inept if they are simply throwing dollars at corporate identity and brand awareness campaigns without a scientific approach to gauging their effectiveness – without a shift into direct response marketing.

Relying on face-to-face selling, relying on factors that can’t be automated or scaled, is a hard way to get new clients. The same is true for new patients. As far as possible, your recruiting funnels need to be automated, need to be standardized, need to be scalable, and need to be repeatable.

Once you make any funnel that you decide to invest in all four of these things, you can dial it up (scale it) because you will know that every time you run this ad with this message in this newspaper, for every 10,000 people who are receiving the newspaper, you’re going to get X phone calls.

If you want more phone calls, run it more than once or pick a bigger audience. You don’t need to come up with new ads, new offers, and new headlines all the time; you just need to track the ones that you’ve been using and know the return on investment in terms of how many times the phone rings and how many of those phone calls turn into new patients.

So recruiting funnels are a special kind of strategy. Let’s look at the ways they can bring in new patients.

Farming with Direct Mail Funnel

The term “farming” is popular in the real estate world. It refers to investing in a particular geographic area in hopes of growing your clientele list. You can farm local neighborhoods by singling out a zone of addresses. The United States Post Office has a very affordable, exciting, and easy-to-implement service called Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). An EDDM postcard campaign sent to 10,000 homes is going to be very affordable.

The interesting part is that you don’t need the name of the person at the residence. You drop off the postcards in bulk, the Post Office stuffs the postcards into the bag of the mail delivery person, and they just put it in the mailboxes of everyone on their route. So you’re farming by routes.

Facebook Ads Funnel

Facebook ads are another incredibly easy and precise way to recruit new patients. Facebook has profile details way beyond the usual zip code, age, and gender. Facebook lets you select a custom audience who, for example, own their own home, are aficionados of certain cars, and have high income.

You can precisely target the people who see ads you run on Facebook.

There are inherent “gotchas” with this approach. One of the gotchas is that the ad needs to be thought out in terms of its place in a sales funnel. An ad in and of itself is not a funnel; it’s just a waste of money.

If you’re going to run an ad for new patients using Facebook as your ad network, you need to know “Where do we send them when they see the ad and then take action?” “What do they consume as content messages?” “What is the call to action and offer or incentive?” and “How will we track it?” Then, of course, Facebook happily lets you set a very affordable daily minimum spend, so you can test different ads before you commit to a large ad buy and hope that it works.

Educational Event Funnel

The third kind of recruitment funnel is an open-to-the-public educational event. Maybe you send an Every Door Direct Mail postcard to a certain zip code or a certain mail route in your town and you invite just those residents to an event at your practice or at a conference room or wherever you want to hold it. The same is true for ads that invite them to webinars and seminars.

The reason that we’re differentiating an event from an online webinar orand a live seminar is because an event helps build community. It’s a social thing. It’s not necessarily purely an educational evening or afternoon. A webinar is an online-only event, and a seminar is a live, face-to-face, in-person event.

Trunk Show Funnel

Trunk shows are generally sponsored by an optical frame or glasses vendor. This is like a subsidized or co-op sort of promotion. 

The vendor supplies some of the latest models or styles of frames to showcase at an event held in the practice, which might be on a Saturday. You’ll have all your optical staff there. They will help in the promotion of the event, sending out invitations through whatever medium you decide to use – emails or postcards or social media. Then prospective and established patients come for the event and get all sorts of discounts or perhaps a free gift just for coming to the show.

Referral Network Funnel

In the resell chapter, we talked about the thank you card and the gift for a friend as part of chairside marketing.

A referral network can also be a distribution channel for gift cards, for example, from your practice. The network could, of course, include optometrists – that’s a natural referral network – but also primary care doctors. Perhaps PCPs have patients with diabetes on their roster but don’t have an easy way for their staff to give information to those people who need eye exams more often. You put together a little packet of information, and all they have to do is hand it out to their patients.

Joint Marketing Ventures Funnel

Joint marketing allows you to co-promote your services with a merchant that services the audience that you both seek.

You split the costs of whatever marketing you choose to do together. Each partner gets access to the same number of prospects, but your marketing costs are halved, at least, depending on how many joint marketing partners you get involved with.

We have a simple strategy that we’ll share here for a local joint marketing endeavor where you farm an area with others but your postcards are free. Remember the Every Door Direct Mail service? Well, a 9 x 12 postcard is the largest size allowed in the EDDM postcard prospecting option.

You need the services of a graphic artist to design a 9 x 12 postcard divided into four quadrants, front and back. That means you have eight ad slots. You get one, and seven joint marketing partners get the rest. Just divide the cost of printing and dropping it off to EDDM at the Post Office by seven, and your ad is essentially covered – your ‘cost’ is the time spent putting it all together. The other advertisers don’t need to know the cost of doing it.

Maybe you join up with a high-end law firm or a dentist. Maybe you invite a Mercedes dealer. Maybe you get a cigar shop. Maybe you get a bespoke tailor. If you can find vendors or merchants in your town who want to market to the same prospects that you’re going after, you’ll get postcard marketing for free every time you do one. If they sign up and agree to do one a month with you, you get 12 marketing postcards at no charge.

A local joint marketing campaign also gives you access to something that many marketers covet, something called OPLs – other people’s lists. Another business will contact their entire client list, either through email or direct mail, and they will make that client list aware of your joint marketing offers. This is the cheapest way to get recruiting of new patients done, and you come in on the coattails of a trusted supplier.

Although there is no guarantee, prospects are more likely to open the email or read the direct mail piece if it comes from a familiar business than from your unfamiliar business, and you can return the favor. If your joint marketing partner is willing to co-market with you something that benefits both of your organizations, you both have access to a new, warm audience. It’s a hide-in-plain-sight idea that very few practices are doing. 

One very important point: You do not share your list, nor do they share theirs. The marketing message combines offers from both firms but is sent individually to each firm’s prospect list.

If the joint venture partner does not use email or direct mail, they can simply hand out your gift cards. Just as in chairside marketing, these envelopes with offers can say, “A Gift for You.” The cards could have a “new patient only” offer (and a call to action). They should also have an activation code and a call-tracking number.

We recommend that you print a different set of cards for joint venture partners, separate from other gift card offers you want to track. You don’t have to print special cards for each individual joint venture marketing partner, unless they have a whole lot of traffic at their place of business and they’re going to burn through a lot of cards and you want them to feel special. The important thing is the ability to track which joint marketing venture campaign the activation came from. Then, of course, when you contact the patient and they come in, you can confirm from whom they got the card.

Practice Publishing Funnel

Practice publishing is how you get your message out with the maximum syndication and exposure possible but with the least amount of effort. We call it practice publishing because you will be publishing a message that is broadcast on many media channels. The nice thing about this strategy is that you’re not writing new content all the time in order to be publishing pretty frequently.

Practice publishing starts with doing a podcast, typically in a sort of interview format. You write down, for example, the ten most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about a treatment, procedure, eye condition, patient experience, or whatever else you want to speak to. Then think of ten “If only patients knew more about this, they might ask these questions as well.” We call these “should ask questions” (SAQs).

Once you have this list of questions, all you do is talk your answers into a voice recorder. Your cell phone probably has a voice recorder that you could use, though we recommend a higher-quality mic. (A Yeti USB microphone is what I use to record interviews for my blog.) 

The big idea with practice publishing is that this one audio file becomes many marketing content objects. Let’s think about that and drill down. You have an audio file. Take that audio and have it cleaned up by a sound engineer. Take out all the “ums” and the “ahs” and the pauses. Take out any hisses or clicks if you have mediocre audio quality. Then it can be served out to an iTunes channel and any number of audio syndication services, such as That’s your first content object type: a podcast.

Now have it transcribed. The text file becomes a blog post, and maybe it becomes an email sequence, and maybe it becomes an article that you post on your website.

Turn that transcript into a PDF. Make the PDF downloadable from your website. By taking excerpts, you can then turn that PDF into slides in a PowerPoint show. Have someone put in some good graphics and illustrations or transitions. You can syndicate PowerPoint slides on a service such as 

So you’ve taken your podcast and turned it into a text file that becomes a patient education PDF and an email campaign and a blog post, and now you’ve got a PowerPoint show! If you want to take it to the next level, you can sync up the PowerPoint show with your original audio file and turn that into a video that can go on your YouTube channel and Wistia and Vimeo and a lot of other video syndication platforms.

Don’t stop here. Take a bunch of transcripts and make them into a digest. Have a graphic artist create a magazine cover with a headline. Let’s say it’s “LASIK Today at [your practice name].” Take it to a printer, and now you have a hard copy for your waiting room, a hard copy for your shock-and-awe box, a hard copy for your new patient welcome kit, a hard copy to hand out at the chili cook-off event.

So, with this podcast, one becomes many. It can lend itself to upwards of a dozen different types of content, each of which has the capability of being syndicated on lots of free services, all of which can be used to drive patients and prospects to take action.

There is a caveat, though. Just pushing it out there isn’t going to achieve anything unless you really think it through. When you get people to take the action you asked them to take, how will you really know that they took it? Where are you taking them? Is there a funnel? Who’s picking up the phone if you’re telling them to call? What inbound phone script are you using?

Don’t just think of producing something to get their attention and engaging them. Think about where they go when they enter your funnel and how you can pick them out of the herd.

Prospecting for Emails Funnel

This one can be dicey because of medicolegal issues related to marketing. We’ll get into more about this in the appendix but, generally speaking, you should check with your legal counsel as there are statutes that vary from state to state that can affect what you are trying to do.

Prospecting for emails (a.k.a. leads) isn’t going to work unless something causes a prospect to opt in and give you their email in exchange for something of value: information or a free offer of some kind.

When you do campaigns prospecting for new patients, it is smart to include a requirement that they submit their email address to get the information or the offer. The goal is to get their email.

Once you have a database of prospects, you can reach out and touch them for pennies with an email drip campaign.

Done right, every touch you send brings them closer to readiness. This is called nurturing.

You not only send them offers but also send them education, testimonials, and doctor profiles. You send them holiday greetings and Valentine’s Day greetings and Fourth of July picnic invitations.

Capturing their name and email (and even address and/or phone number) into a database that you can email over and over is the goal. If you don’t collect their information (if you just present an offer that encourages them to call without requiring an opt-in), you are going to get only the respondents who are ready right now. Even if you have a web or Facebook page with pixel targeting on it, all you can do with pixels is serve them targeted ads. Without a compelling offer they won’t be inclined to submit their info, and you will have no way of following up and nurturing the lead.

An important caveat here is that prospects should be told they’re going to be sent marketing info and they should agree to let you send it. This is what we mean by opting in. And it is critical to keep the prospect list separate from the email list you use for patient communications from your practice management system or a third-party system such as DemandForce.

After opt-in, a follow-up drip campaign is very powerful because when prospects are ready to get a procedure done or ready to find a new provider, you want to be the one who is top of mind and the one that they come to. The only way to make sure that you’re on their shortlist is to be in conversation with them when they’re ready.

Lead Magnets for Email Prospecting Funnel

A lead magnet is something prospects are offered in exchange for giving you their contact info. If they want it badly enough, they’ll give you their name, email address, and/or phone number in exchange.

A lead magnet is something free. Maybe it’s a voucher or a coupon for a deep discount or an extra service or an upgrade. It’s what you promote. It’s a barter. It’s an ethical bribe in exchange for their contact information along with permission to send them future offers and education.

The other thing to consider is that you can have different segments to whom you make overtures based on characteristics such as ability to pay. Think in terms of how these people like to be marketed to. Where do they live? What publications do they read? You may feel like doing a cattle call using mass media and having their curiosity carry the day, but we encourage you to narrow the net you cast. The tighter the market and the message, the better your odds.

You might have a completely different premium cataract offer for people who are affluent seniors, for example. You know these people are going to be able to drop $5,000 without flinching. Let’s say you promote a premium cataract event. When marketing to the affluent, you don’t have Diet Coke and cheese chips; you have it catered. You might limit it to no more than 50 people, and you make it an exclusive VIP event.

Event Marketing Funnel

Your practice might already be putting on events to bring in new patients, but it is important to start thinking of these in terms of marketing funnels. Also bear in mind it is more important to have a smaller number of more qualified prospects than a larger number of tire kickers.

The case study that follows is an example of how an event marketing funnel can be developed and deployed effectively.

Key Takeaways:

  • Recruiting new patients is the most likely marketing strategy to be pitched by marketing agencies; it is also the most expensive one 
  • Spending some time upfront designing your recruiting funnel is crucial in determining your ROI
  • Partnering with other complementary businesses can keep prospecting expenses down

Bonus Case Study: LASIK Seminar Event Marketing Funnel

This was a live seminar we did at a fitness club that promoted a series of weekly lectures on a variety of health-related topics. The event was promoted using Facebook Events on both the fitness club’s and the practice’s Facebook pages. Flyers were handed out to club members the week preceding the event. A contest was run among practice employees to see who could bring in the most qualified prospects. As a thank you to those attending the lecture, a gift of sunglasses was offered in return for texting their email information to a preset number, using an SMS marketing platform.

This system instantly responded and, in a sequence of texts, collected their contact information. This info was sent to the refractive coordinator for follow-up. Prospects who expressed interest in LASIK (or other refractive procedures) were offered a free evaluation and were given an envelope with two gift cards (remember chairside marketing and gift card prospecting?). The cards were redeemable at the time of their appointment. All highly motivated lecture attendees had their contact information collected through this process, not only for immediate follow-up to identify those who were ready to make a decision but also for sending information via drip campaigns to those who were not quite ready. This event cost about $600 and had only about 20 attendees (again, quality prospects over quantity is what you want), yet it yielded 4 LASIK/PRK eyes and 2 refractive lens exchange eyes, for an ROI of 20:1 (so far). Small events like this can be expanded into quarterly lectures rotated among different fitness clubs.

event marketing funnel

Event marketing funnel for recruiting new patients: Promotions from contests to postcards to flyers to social media are used to bring new patients into a seminar event. Information is gathered on all attendees as many will need time to be educated and to build trust before making a purchasing decision

Peter J Polack MD FACS

Founder of Emedikon Marketing Systems and a practicing cornea specialist in a large multispecialty practice. Peter specializes in refractive laser and cataract surgery, cornea, and external diseases.

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