Article Date: 7/1/2006

contact lens economics
Small Practice? Use it to Your Advantage
BY GARY GERBER, OD

It's been said that a small business isn't a little big business. Inherent in this axiom is the inference that big businesses move slowly. As when comparing an ocean liner and a sports car doing a three-point turn, the maneuver takes much more manpower, energy, decision makers and time for the ocean liner.

How Size Affects Practice

At no time was this difference in the way small and large businesses operate more readily apparent than in recent months. When news first broke about fungal keratitis among contact lens wearers, smaller private practitioners had a significant advantage because of their agility and lack of bureaucracy. While big manufacturers were contemplating and posturing about what to do next, small and smart practices were already notifying their patients about this important contact lens news event. As huge corporations involved their legal departments, marketing committees and inventory forecast specialists to dwell over possible strategies, savvy contact lens fitters had already e-mailed, snail mailed or called their patients to give them proper direction and instruction.

I'm not trying to slam how big companies do business. By necessity, big companies do business in a big company way — that's how they got to be so big. Instead, use this article and the recent Fusarium episode as a marketing wake-up call to maintain and sharpen your stealthiness — not only to effectively communicate important news as was the case here, but also as a practice building tool to communicate positive events.

Staying Lean

The Internet is the best way for practices to maintain a sleek marketing waistline. Make it a practice policy to collect patient's e-mail addresses and immediately enter them into your practice management software. Because these addresses can change frequently, you should also make it a policy to ask patients at each visit if they're still current.

Additionally, e-mailing patients from time to time with regular newsletters or with important news announcements helps you keep your list up-to-date. When addresses bounce back, call patients for the correct one.

Also make sure your Web site is current and contains fresh and timely information. For the fungal keratitis news, a home page notice with appropriate links to the FDA or CDC announcements would have been perfect to add to your Web site. Our favorite Web building tool for allowing instant changes is www.eyecarepro.net. Clients using this builder literally had the proper links on their sites in seconds.

Don't Forget the Phone

Several of our clients enlisted one of two Internet services to alert patients about the recent Fusarium news, and they've also used them to alert patients about new products, new office hours and other important practice changes. One service is 4patientcare.com and another is Datappointment.com. As a small business, you can make the decision to use these services in a matter of seconds. While your larger competitors get stuck on budgeting items and corporate politics, your patients can be listening to your important messages on the phone. At the close of each call you can instruct patients to view more information on your recently updated Web site!

Make the Most of it

Being small may not be a competitive advantage in the NBA, but for a contact lens practice the speed and flexibility that comes with being your own boss is a powerful business building edge.

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: July 2006