Article Date: 6/1/2006

contact lens economics
Simplify and Specify Your Marketing Message
BY GARY GERBER, OD

The headline of your ad says, "We offer a large selection of contact lenses." Your prospect reads this and thinks, "Oh, really? Didn't I just read a similar message from the tire store? Or was it the cell phone store? Maybe the grocery store?"

With the thousands of marketing impressions your patients receive, putting out vague statements centered on "the best" or "the biggest" will set your marketing efforts up for failure. Messages espousing superiority in whatever category you choose — selection, price, clinical expertise or technology — are no longer believable because prospective patients have seen it or heard it, and not gotten the goods delivered many times over — not necessarily from your office, but from advertisers who promised "the best" and didn't deliver. These negative consumer experiences are now affecting your ability to reach prospective patients.

What's the Patient Benefit?

Be specific and explain in concrete language what sets your practice apart from the pack. Use terminology patients can relate to and grasp without having to invest any time or cerebral energy. Otherwise, they'll gloss over your content and move on.

For example, "Because we stock 25,000 contact lenses in our practice, we're able to fit 98 percent of patients the same day they're seen" is more compelling than, "We have a large inventory of contact lenses." Similarly, your "Well-trained staff" will sound better trained if "Our staff has 26 combined years of experience and undergoes more than 65 hours per year of ongoing training and education." In fact, these statements — which are all features of your practice — can be stated as patient benefits and become even more compelling and meaningful to prospective patients.

Continuing with the inventory example above, take a look at what 25,000 lenses means to a prospective patient. First, is that a lot or a little? Sure sounds like a lot to us, but to a patient, perhaps they think 1 million lenses is the number that qualifies as a lot. So, use the concept as a patient benefit instead of a practice feature.

"We know you're busy — that's why we keep 25,000 lenses in stock. Having enough lenses to fit 98 percent of patients the same day means you can spend your time enjoying your lenses instead of sitting in our office."

The benefits of "We offer evening hours" might not be readily apparent to patients who need the advantages given to them more directly. "Located across from the commuter train station, we're open until 8 pm so you can visit us on the way home from work."

Stay on Message

These concepts don't only apply to advertising. The way you and your staff communicate with your patients in your practice — verbally, with point of purchase materials or telephone scripts, etc., should have the underlying theme of specificity of benefits in place.

When a prospective patient calls and asks, "What are your hours?" your staff should relay the same specific message when they answer, "We know you're busy so we're here when you need us. We're open until 8 pm, two nights per week."

Get to the Point

David Olgilvy, the godfather of advertising, warned copywriters to avoid puffery and challenged them to write pointed copy that sells products. Olgilvy's advice rings true in a contact lens practice, and astute practitioners will ensure that all of their patient communications are to the point and stated in such a simple way that patients easily relate to their benefits.

 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: June 2006