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Article Date: 12/1/2006

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contact lens economics
Beware of Stale Tales When Marketing Your Lens Practice

BY GARY GERBER, OD

"Our (fill in the blank) offers a large selection, friendly and knowledgeable staff, high-quality service and affordable prices." If you filled in the previous sentence with "contact lens practice," try  changing it to "electronics store" or "tire and auto parts center" or even "pet shop." You'll see that the sentence is so bland and generic that regardless of the business entity it refers to, it still makes sense. That's because, at very least, consumers expect these most basic traits in their transactions with any business.

Yet these hackneyed phrases do nothing to support something special that the business or your practice might really have to offer patients. In fact, they're so overused and unnecessary that they commonly take up valuable advertising real estate that you could use to say something meaningful that genuinely sets you apart from your competitors.

Stand Out on the Page

Consider a Yellow Pages ad with these typical bullet points:

• Convenient hours
• Experienced doctors
• Fit all types of lenses
• Most insurances accepted

Is there even any rudimentary contact lens practice that can't lay claim to those four features? If you have one, take a look at your Yellow Pages ad and see how it compares to the above bullets, as well as to your competitors' ads. Putting yourself in a patient's place, is there anything compelling enough in your ad to cause you to think, "This practice is the one I'm going to!"?

Flaunt Your Specialty

The challenge you have in communicating an effective ad message is to find an attribute or quality that you possess and your competitors don't. Once you find it, it's a good idea to exploit it to the exclusion of everything else. For example, if you really do have the lowest fees in town, say so. If you have technology that's not available elsewhere, then flaunt it. And flaunt it to the exclusion of the other worn-out phrases.

If you're using wavefront aberrometry to assist you in fitting contact lenses, then "friendly and knowledgeable staff" and "convenient office hours" are fluff detractors from what could be a powerful marketing piece.

Instead of talking about your huge lens inventory, zoom in on how you use space-age technology to assure a customized perfect fit. From here, expound on the benefits of that fit. For example, "Vision you won't get with off-the-rack lenses and comfort that rivals an old pair of slippers."

The Net Result

If you advertise "We accept most insurance plans," you shouldn't be surprised if your practice is suffering from the modern contagion of contact lens practices — a high gross, high volume, low net practice. After all, you're soliciting patients that put you in that exact place.

This comment isn't intended to give advice regarding which plans you should join or drop or to tell you how to set your fees. It's pointing out that if you advertise and promote that you "accept most insurance plans," don't be surprised if most patients who walk through your door have insurance.

Set Yourself Apart

The easy part of marketing a healthy and profitable contact lens practice is deciding whether to take an ad in the newspaper or to mail a letter. The hard part is deciding what to say and finding those core traits, characteristics and features that your competitors can't claim. If you can't find anything, keep looking or be prepared for your vanilla message to result in a middle-of-the-bell-curve practice.

Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice – a company offering consulting, seminars and software solutions for optometrists. You can reach him at (800) 867-9303 or DrGerber@PowerPractice.com.



Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: December 2006

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