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AS A BUSINESS OWNER or manager, you have access to a wealth of information on your customers, from their hobbies and occupations to which social media posts they respond to most. This intel can be used to enhance the customer experience and yield financial gains — provided you’re collecting the right data. We consulted our ECPs on the customer information they collect (and how they use it) and checked in with some experts to put together a list of 11 types of data you need to be mining.

Email Addresses

According to marketing company Data Axle, nearly half of all retailers fail to collect email addresses at time of sale. As they put it, it’s “much easier to maintain a customer relationship than to foster a new one,” and email is the perfect tool for this, whether through email blasts ahead of sales, regular newsletters or customer surveys. Dr. Laura Miller at Northwest Hills Eye Care in Austin, TX, says, “Our most valuable data is email addresses. We use this to send out monthly newsletters, quick updates about products or specials.” And Carissa Dunphy at Monroe Vision Clinic in Monroe, WA, adds, “We send out bulk emails when having a promo and the click/capture rate is always great.”

Phone Numbers

Like email addresses, this is low-hanging fruit — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t super valuable. MonsterInsights co-founder Chris Christoff told “I suggest asking for this information after someone has already subscribed to your email list. These are the people who are most likely to subscribe for text notifications.” Optician K. Elizabeth Bouravnev at Bergh White Opticians in Springfield, IL, says, “Our best engagement is text and telephone.”

Preferred Mode of Communication

Don’t assume all your customers want to stay in touch by email; ask how they like to be contacted. Providing options creates an eager-to-please impression and keeps you from losing touch with those who are inclined to ignore non-work or personal emails. “The more we know the more we can serve our patients. We ask about communication preference so we are respectful of how the patients want to be contacted,” says Melanie Jenkins, office manager at Spring Hill Eyecare in Spring Hill, TN.


Vision Use

Knowing exactly how a patient uses their vision can maximize the value of their visit, allowing your team to make a full range of recommendations to ensure optimal patient care and optimized sales. “We find out what activities they use their eyes for such as reading, work, school, hunting, computer…etc. This helps the doctor recommend [various] glasses and helps the opticians sell multiple pairs,” says Caitlin Wicka at San Juan Eye Center in Montrose, CO.

Lifestyle Details

Personal details beyond screen time and occupation are rich with potential. Asking about hobbies might lead to a chat about polarized lenses for a fishing enthusiast. And “data” isn’t limited to replies to questions: Keep your antennae up. “I stay up to date on sports, which is important when the patient is wearing a team hat,” says Dr. Texas Smith at Dr. Texas L. Smith & Associates in Citrus Heights, CA. “I have patients that have a Super Bowl Ring, World Series Ring and a Bassmaster Classic Ring. I have their pictures in the office which easily starts a conversation if my patient is interested in baseball or bass fishing.”


Optometric practices have a marketing head start in terms of information gathered with health records. At Urban Eye Care in Phoenix, AZ, demographics are tracked via EHR, and used to target email marketing based on patients’ characteristics. Using EHR for such activities is subject to legal restrictions, though. Depending on your jurisdiction, you may need written permission before using it for marketing purposes; get legal advice first.

Sales Patterns

All businesses keep sales records; not all make full use of it. “If you track it, you can increase it,” says Jenna Gilbertson at McCulley Optix in Fargo, ND. “In 2020, we made it a goal to sell five annual supplies of contact lenses per month. Staff would make a $50 monthly bonus if that goal was met. It was in line with what we had done in years before. However, by tracking it and talking about it, our staff became invested in selling annual supplies. We sold three times as many annual supplies in 2020 than we did in 2019!”

Online Engagement

Dr. Scott Mann at INVISION in Christiansburg, VA, has this one down pat. “We look closely at reviews, then I track website hits, which pages, page load speed (part of the experience) and social media engagement. Google analytics, SEO & key words [are tracked]. Some are graphed and hang on my office wall, others in PC dashboards and some in Excel spreadsheets. I visualize these, and many more, metrics — like a gas gauge or speedometer in a car — and would not want to drive my business without them!” (Tip: Don’t forget to monitor newsletter opens and conversions, too…)


‘How Did You Hear About Us?’

Learning how your customers discovered you lets you pinpoint which marketing tools are giving you the best returns. Tracking referrals also gives you a chance to thank those who send business your way. The question “How did you hear about us?” is a key intelligence gathering tool says Gilbertson at McCulley Optix Gallery. “When you pull the report and see all the newbies say ‘Google’ you invest time and money into redoing your website, asking for more Google reviews and increasing your online presence. Meet them where they are!” At Pend Oreille Vision Care in Sandpoint, ID, “How’d you find our office?” is on every check-in form. “Not that the results are particularly surprising; they simply confirm that street frontage and word-of-mouth truly are worth 1,000,000 paid ads,” says Jen Heller.

Pain Points

If you could find out which parts of the purchasing process caused your customers the most grief, and offered them solutions, you’d have a leg up on your competition. (Think Warby Parker.) You may not be looking to cater to that particular audience, but you can find out what would make life easier for your patients by sending them a feedback survey and asking them about what kinds of information they lack, affordability, how the process of purchasing eyewear could be improved, etc. Take the guesswork out of improving your customer service.

Product and Service Feedback

At St. Peter and Belle Plaine Eyecare Centers in Saint Peter, MN, “When a patient is seen by the doctor they are instructed if anything goes wrong in their care or if they do not like a product, we want to know. This has made our patient base very open to sharing issues, both positive and negative, as well as things they would love to see our office do. We try to meet these demands,” says Dr. Zachary Dirks.

…And More

Certain types of data can require more sophisticated analysis to make the most of, and there are a number of business intelligence products to help with this, such as OpticalCRM and EdgePro, as well as consultants such as marketing4ECPs. These can help you track and use customer engagement data, geolocation, RFM (recency, frequency and monetary value — basically, how recently a person bought from you, how often a user buys, and how large their purchases are) and more.


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