Article Date: 10/1/2002

contact lens economics
Advertise What You Sell
BY GARY GERBER, OD

How we perceive what we sell when we fit contact lenses can dramatically change our approach to marketing them. If we think about selling tiny pieces of plastic that help patients see better, we point our marketing towards the lenses themselves and talk about comfort, lenses that allow your eyes to breathe and good vision.  In advertising such conventional features of lenses, we turn to conventional means of advertising them, such as coupons, newspapers and yellow page ads. And what we find is that these common marketing efforts are commonly ineffective.

When we conclude that what attracts patients to contact lenses are benefits like freedom, self-confidence, positive self image and youth, our marketing gestalt and landscape changes. Instead of coupons for $30 off of a supply of disposable lenses, our marketing palettes open to an entirely new spectrum of possibilities.

Start selling true consumer benefits of contact lenses instead of inherent lens features. Doing so touches patients in ways they can intimately relate to in their personal lives. It's not that patients don't care that their lenses allow their eyes to breathe. They assume and expect that their contact lenses will do so. "Good vision" is an implied given and not worthy of advertising space. Selling clear vision in a contact lens ad is like a car ad that says, "It takes you to work so you don't have to walk."

Putting New Ideas Into Practice

Sell "freedom" to those most likely to relate to it. Consider targeted marketing to extreme sport clubs, hiking and camping enthusiasts and auto-racing clubs. Pro- spective patients in these groups will be attracted to liberation from eyeglasses, and high oxygen permeability claims may confuse them.

One of our client projects targeted plastic surgeons and, by proxy, their patients. We set up a program to help these doctors describe how contact lenses can help their patients. We used similar words and emotions that these surgeons use when describing liposuction and face-lifts. We did not belabor the client's friendly staff and convenient office hours, but discussed how contact lenses help enhance overall appearance.

Similarly, we have helped clients co-market with makeup artists, hairdressers and personal shoppers. These projects all proved infinitely more profitable than taking a yellow page ad and waiting for the phone to ring. By recognizing the hot buttons that drive patients into contact lenses, we significantly increased our clients' bottom line revenues.

One of our more successful client marketing campaigns involved sponsoring a Senior Golf Tournament. We delivered a presentation and demonstration to the group just before they teed off. We focused on core benefits of lenses that we knew would appeal to this special group of older golfers: athletic performance and youth. Of the 21 golfers in attendance, nine became patients over the following two months.

Conventional advertising and marketing isn't necessarily bad, but make sure you have a firm understanding of exactly what you are trying to sell. Put yourself in a prospective patient's shoes who may think, "The doctor's ad says he takes most insurance plans. That's nice, but I wonder if he can help me feel a few years younger?" If you do not have the marketing smarts to see thin line differences that have major profitability impact, brush up on marketing or hire someone to help you. Otherwise you may fall into the "negative advertising" trap ­ a marketing campaign that results in fewer patients.

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 DrGerber@PowerPractice.com.

 


Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: October 2002