Practice? Use it to Your Advantage
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.
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
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
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
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: July 2006