contact lens economics
Tell Your Patients
What's in It for Them
BY GARY GERBER, OD
When asked, "What does Revlon sell?" Charles
Revson, the founder of Revlon, answered, "In the factory we make cosmetics. In the stores we sell hope. Revlon sells hope in a bottle." Ask a savvy marketer, "What does Kodak sell?" He won't answer film. Instead you'll hear, "The ability to capture memories."
These thoughts certainly beg the question, "What do we sell?" For those of you who feel that "sell" is a word that belongs in a retail store and not a professional contact lens practice, I would like to subtly rattle your cages and remind you that for most patients, contact lenses are viewed as cosmetic devices that replace eyeglasses. I would also like to remind you that wearing contact lenses is usually voluntary. Finally, I would like to remind you that most patients pay for their lenses with discretionary income.
Cosmetic, voluntary, discretionary... it's not optometry it's retail. Let's talk about the thing we retail to our patients those pieces of plastic that we sell.
Sell Benefits, Not Features
When discussing presbyopic contact lens correction alternatives, you could say to your patient, "Newer bifocal contact lenses work much better than earlier ones due to enhancements in technology. They have the reading prescription built right into the center of the lenses so each eye sees far away and up close at the same time. That's called simultaneous vision."
Or, you could say to this patient, "I'm going to fit you with some new bifocal contact lenses. You're going to love them. They'll make you feel younger."
In the first presentation we are talking about the lenses themselves and how they work. You are discussing features, but not telling patients why those features will appeal to them. You are not discussing benefits.
The second presentation gets straight to the heart of the matter for nearly all
presbyopes. Their eyes are getting older and you're going to make them feel young again. THAT is a benefit. That fills the fundamental marketing criteria of WIIFM (what's in it for me.)
non-presbyopes? Here's a conversation you might have with a patient who is about to try contact lenses for the first time: "The results of my examination show that you should do well with contact lenses. In your prescription there are many lens alternatives available. You could change your lenses every day, every two weeks or, due to new breakthrough technology, only once a month. You can even change your eye color. Which lenses would you like to try?"
There are two main problems with this presentation. First, you are asking the patient to pick a lens vs. telling him what's best for him. Next, as before, you are once again talking about features of different modalities available instead of the WIIFM benefits.
Try this instead: "I'm going to fit you with single-use disposable lenses. You're going to love them because they are the most convenient way to wear contact lenses. There is no solution or maintenance; there isn't even a case! They're comfortable, too, and you'll see great because they're always clean. And because they're so clean, they're very safe and healthy for you."
Convenience, comfort, vision, health these are all valuable benefits to patients that touch them much more than discussing
Dk/t or edge design.
When discussing contact lenses with your next "retail" patient, remember that in order for him to say "Yes, I want contact lenses," he needs to be provided with tangible, meaningful benefits just like every other consumer.
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice a company offering consulting, seminars and software solutions for optometrists. He can be reached at 800-867-9303 or
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: September 2002