Connecting with patients provides a proven approach to compete with online retailers.

E-commerce business has grown tremendously over the years and will continue to innovate and revolutionize how our patients seek knowledge, choose providers and purchase healthcare products. Emotional branding could be a different approach to how eyecare professionals can compete with online retailers. It can be a way to provide the best customer service as consumer trends change and patients seek more of an experience rather than solely focusing on price.

Understanding what might emotionally trigger a patient to buy products or seek services from your office can be one way to combat online retailers and create loyalty and retention. Tapping into the emotions of your patients from the first interaction to promote your service or products is called “emotional branding.” Your brand image is very powerful. It triggers your patients to engage with you. Once you have them engaging with you, emotional branding builds those lasting relationships that create patient retention, loyalty and trust.

The patient brand experience depends on it telling your story. The way you create emotional engagement is critical to getting the results that you want, whether it is making a sale, retaining patients or building a reputation.


One reason why many young optometrists join corporate optometry is because they don’t have to sell glasses; they just focus on patient care. What many corporate ODs don’t realize is that they have to sell themselves. You may not be selling glasses, but you are selling your service, your name and an experience. You need to demonstrate your clinical skills to patients in a timely manner and provide a quality experience.

You are selling yourself on performance for a pay raise or for the opportunity to take on an additional location. You are setting yourself apart from others with the way that you sell yourself, and this can open doors to opportunities that may not have presented themselves otherwise.

You are selling the experience to create patient retention and a good impression with the patient. If you are confident with difficult cases or situations, your patients can sense that. In turn, if they are hesitating on a treatment or even on trying out progressive lenses, patients will value your recommendations because of the impression that you have left on them.

Important to success in any industry is the reputation that you create for yourself. We all want our patients to be happy with our services. Reputation in the medical community for services is highly regarded. Use your reputation to create an experience of excellence for your patients. Corporate optical should promote that reputation. It attracts a different target audience that is not solely focused on pricing.

In a tough market, a personal brand will help you stand out. If you follow the top three suggestions above, you will gain recognition among patients and employers. You are selling your personal brand to that patient and to your employer. It includes your professional attire, body language and communication style. It needs to be consistent. Word-of-mouth is a very powerful selling tool that is based on patients’ experience with you, and it will create referrals.

Bring it all together by combining storytelling and emotional branding. It seems tough to be able to do all this in the 15 minutes you are with a patient, but it can be done. Project confidence; know the main reason the patient is there, and deliver a solution.

Being able to provide quality eyecare while also telling a story during the exam will create a different experience for the patient that will be memorable. They will tell their friends if it was a “custom” experience. It can be as simple as recommending a certain progressive that would be specific to their individual needs. Emotional branding is a way of making a connection with your patients. It creates trust.

Share your experiences that relate to that patient to make the patient understand that you care and to bolster your patient/provider relationship. Master this skill and you will have patients for the long term.

Create a story of you. Let your patients or potential patients know who you are. A parent, animal lover or sports fan, whatever it is, promote it via eblasts or social media to create a personalized approach to your brand strategy. Engage your patients and learn what has attracted them to you. Understand the lifestyle of your patients and promote products or services that your patients will benefit from. You want to know what triggers them to choose your office.

Promoting yourself through storytelling is a powerful way to get patients talking about your office and referring others. Storytelling creates a brand story that educates patients, inspires them or makes them feel something. Those feelings create lasting impressions that keep people coming back and not going to your competitor.
Let your patients know about your volunteer work, your struggles and accomplishments to provide a “human effect” that online retailers can’t compete with. Your goal is to make them feel or experience something during the interaction.

Once you have successfully promoted your brand through storytelling and understand what your patients want, you can determine which emotional drivers influence your patients. Some emotional drivers in your practice include being healthy and improving your appearance and self confidence. Knowledgeable eyecare professionals can use these drivers to cultivate a personalized approach to a treatment plan, recommendation of products and ultimately a defensive strategy against online retailers.

People don’t like change if they are comfortable and happy with your services. They are used to a certain experience and value. Develop a brand-specific strategy that is inviting to your patients. Whether it is that your services are provided in a timely manner or a friendly environment for families, being consistent will differentiate your office from online retailers.

The value and emotional experience that your patients feel outweighs e-commerce pricing. When returning patients ask about your vacation or children, you have successfully accomplished the art of emotional branding.

Maria Sampalis, OD, of Sampalis Eyecare in Cranston, RI, is founder of Corporate Optometry on Facebook, CorporateOptometryCareers.com and the Corporate OD blog. She offers strategic planning services through Corporate Optometry Consulting.


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