Contact Lens Business
In Sync: Matching the Message to the Patient
If you have a middle-of-the-bell-curve general practice (after all, that's where bell curves come from) like most of us do and contact lenses aren't the only service you offer, then you already know that all your patients aren't candidates for all your offerings. Kids aren't good refractive surgery candidates and glaucoma patients usually aren't interested in colored contact lenses.
This thought process leads to what's referred to as market segmentation, categorizing exactly which group of individuals will buy which of your products or services. Not all of your marketing can reach all groups. Each group has unique needs, buying habits and problems that need solving.
Your challenge in creating a successful marketing message is to Sync it to the particular segment you're trying to reach. Attempt to find a match between your patients' likes and your message delivery vehicle. For example, advertise contact lenses for golf in a golf club newsletter.
Of course, in that same golf club newsletter you can't effectively advertise the merits of myopia control with corneal reshaping. That belongs on a PTA bulletin board or Web site.
A Little Detective Work
Begin this exercise in segmentation by asking patients about their hobbies, favorite stores and favorite Web sites. You can also casually ask which magazines and newspapers they read, which radio stations they listen to and what types of TV shows they watch.
Carefully collecting and sifting through this data may lead you to discover, for example, that younger pre-teen male contact lens prospects prefer playing tennis over football. While in middle school, about 20 percent play a musical instrument but rarely practice it. They spend 30 minutes per day instant messaging their friends and use AOL to do so. Their favorite music is hip-hop, and they're acutely concerned about their self-image.
Armed with this knowledge, you can begin creating a targeted marketing message. For example, you might consider holding a sports vision-related seminar for the local tennis club. While waiting to speak and while the crowd fills the room, you would refrain from playing classical music in favor of hip-hop. When speaking and attempting to relate to the parents, you can mention, Caring for contact lenses takes only two minutes per day - certainly a lot less than the time your kids spend chatting with their friends on AOL or about the same amount of time they spend practicing their trumpet. And while it's only a few minutes, the increase in self-esteem and confidence that you'll notice will be profound.
Doing the cursory detective work above lets you build a factually based and meaningful relationship that shows you under-stand your prospective patients.
A Focused Approach
Contrast this approach with more conventional marketing that would have you sending out a coupon to 10,000 households in your ZIP code. After reading an offering from a dry cleaner, your prospect goes on to read about your (yawn) large inventory of disposable contact lenses and learns that we accept most insurance plans.
A focused, directed approach will generally bring in fewer numbers of patients than would throwing a broad marketing fishing net over the entire community. But, it costs less and the fish you catch won't be ones you'll want to throw back! Rather, because of your homework they'll be ready and willing to spend money in your practice.
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.