Article Date: 3/1/2006

contact lense economics
Coming in First by Promoting Your Practice
BY GARY GERBER, OD

I've written many articles about the importance of remaining current in our field. Just as being first is important to success in auto racing, it's also important to success in building your contact lens practice. Over the last few years, there's no question that we've had many opportunities to embrace new products and technologies. Wavefront aberrometry, silicone hydrogel contact lenses and corneal reshaping are but a few of the many new topics that you've already heard and read about.

Promotional Do's and Don'ts

While we still recommend to our Power Practice clients to stay on the forefront of what's new, we also advise them to be careful not to attach their practice persona and brand to the new object. After all, what's new today is old tomorrow — especially at the pace that technology is changing. There's a fine distinction between telling prospective patients, "We specialize in fitting new SuperOxy contact lenses" or saying, "We have continued our commitment to remain on the forefront of vision correction."

Not being conscious of this subtle difference is risky and can damage your practice brand. First, as I mentioned above, sooner or later, not only will SuperOxy contact lenses not be so super, but other practitioners will be fitting the lenses too. And, as all products do, SuperOxy will go through a product pricing life cycle. Initially, as a new product, the profit margins are higher than they'll be in the future when the product matures. If you've built your cost structure around delivering this product at its original higher price, then you'll be in financial straits when prices and margins start to fall. And fall they will, because no product is immune from this pricing life cycle phenomenon.

Attaching yourself to a new product rather than promoting yourself as a purveyor of all new products runs another risk, although much more remote than the first: Not all new products succeed.

When You've Got it Right

You'll know you're succeeding in correctly positioning and identifying your practice as the place for new technology when patients start calling you to inquire about new products. Not just to see if you have them — they should assume you do — but to find out your opinion of them. After all, patients will surmise that you can only offer a qualified opinion about a new product if you have experience with it. Alert your staff to be very aware of how patients inquire when they call. If patients ask, "Do you have those new SuperOxy lenses?" then you aren't doing as well as if patients ask, "What does Dr. Bill think about those new SuperOxy lenses?"

Embracing new technology and products is critically important to your practice's long-term success. Real benefits arise from being the first practice in your community to offer something new to patients, and continually doing so will position you ahead of the pack in a very favorable ranking: First. But, be cautious to avoid directly latching your hard-earned reputation to new products or devices. After all, you wouldn't want to be known as the practice that specializes in fitting PMMA contact lenses, would you?

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: March 2006