Article Date: 10/1/2006

contact lens economics
What's Old is New Again

BY GARY GERBER, OD

Let's talk about a new type of contact lenses called silicone hydrogels. I know you're thinking, "Oh no, not again. Please, Gary. Not another article on silicone hydrogels! Isn't there anything else that's new in contact lenses for you to write about?"

With all the articles about silicone hydrogels over the last few years, it does seem that there isn't much else going on in the contact lens universe. A new set of parameters for an old design lens isn't that exciting. And a new indication for an old drug isn't anything to write home about either — unless you're a patient.

I often hear practitioners lament, "There's nothing really new to market to my patients." I think nothing is further from the truth. This journal comes out 12 times a year (this year 13 times). Throw in a few others you might read, two trade shows and 10 CE courses and you may have 50 exposures per year to "new" technology. No wonder you don't think it's new. But, how many of those articles have your patients read? Have you ever seen one of your patients in a CE class or at a trade show? What's old, routine and mundane to us can be new and exciting to a patient.

Sharing New Technology

If you've been marketing new technologies to your patients for a while, don't stop out of fear of boring them. If you do, it means you're making an assumption many in marketing make: When you communicate with a prospective or current patient, they pay acute attention to what you're saying and remember it. This assumption would have you believe that every patient has read every letter, e-mail or ad you've ever sent them. It also assumes that they read it, understood it, remembered it and will act on it. To prove this fallacy, just think about your last patient mailing. If you mailed 500 letters, did 500 people respond? Did 1,000 patients respond to your last e-mail campaign? Did the phones ring off the hook when you upgraded your Web site? Of course not. Marketing isn't that easy.

But instead of just thinking about response rate, ask yourself, "How many actually bothered to read what I sent?" Or, "Of those who visited my Web site, how many took the time to read the entire article on corneal reshaping — and if they read it, how many really understood it?"

As you take your marketing science queries to this level you begin to understand why it's acceptable, and in fact advisable, to continually market "new" technologies. After all, odds are that the bulk of patients you're marketing to never see or remember your messages anyway.

Focus on a Theme

That brings us to our last point. In the process of executing the repetitious marketing of new technologies that we're recommending above, resist the urge to make each successive marketing piece new. Instead, build on a theme and continually reinforce it with each follow-up piece.

If you're planning on talking about the extra oxygen benefits of silicone hydrogels, keep oxygen as your main theme. Don't start with an e-mail about oxygen and then mail a letter about vision. Keep the same look and feel with each message. We've had clients run successful marketing campaigns by essentially using the exact wording with different media. For example, you can use the copy from a direct mail piece in a brochure and then adapt it for your Web site.

It's Not Old News

One of the most powerful words in advertising is "New!" But remember, you aren't the prospect and what's old to you can be brand new to your patients.

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: October 2006