the business of contact lenses
Finding the Narrative of Your Contact Lens Practice
The newspaper ad says, Our restaurant has something for everyone. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, kids menu, creative appetizers, tantalizing entrees and wonderful desserts. If you're hungry, we have something for you. We also do banquets and catering, have a great take-out menu and offer free delivery.
The ad on the next page has a photo of a piece of chocolate cake and says, Just Desserts. If you only wanted dessert, which restaurant would you choose?
There's an old saying in marketing that says, You can be all things to everyone, but you'll go out of business trying.
So, consider the practice that puts forth this sentiment, Our practice specializes in all types of contact lenses, including bifocals, astigmatism, continuous wear, daily wear, colored, gas permeable and contact lenses for kids. It probably wouldn't surprise you that a prospective patient could read this and think, Oh really? You specialize in all of those?
A prospective presbyopic contact lens patient would probably gravitate more toward a message that espouses, You're not getting older, you need contact lenses for your shorter arms. And our office has the latest technology to measure your arms. While the attempt at humor may or may not appeal to the prospect, the message is more targeted to the exact needs of a presbyope. The prospect reads the two messages and thinks, Yes, the first guy says he specializes in bifocals, but that's all the second one does. And, he seems to understand my particular problem better.
This type of sharply focused marketing sounds good and perhaps obvious until you do the reality check math and discover that trying to build a practice and survive on nothing but presbyopic patients probably isn't a good idea. And I'd agree. However, sticking to one theme and changing the products offered within that theme is an effective marketing strategy.
Writing Your Story
Let's say you went with the original presbyopic message and now wanted to talk about your abilities to fit astigmatic patients. A good technique would be to keep the same graphical elements (layout, colors, fonts, size) that you used in the presbyopic ad but to change the copy. Perhaps, We have years of experience with footballs, spoons and eggs. So fitting your astigmatism with contact lenses should be a piece of cake. As above, this message lets prospective patients know that you intimately understand their unique circumstances. Once again it sets your practice apart from the do-it-all marketing that is common and not credible to patients. The benefit of this continuing theme is that the previous ads add credibility to the successive ones. While they deal with two different modalities, if run repetitively the prospect now starts to put the pieces of your specialty together.
Marketing works best when you view it as story telling. A story can be one paragraph or can happen over volumes of books or movie sequels. Regardless of the length, it's one story. Star Wars isn't about the Wild West and The Godfather doesn't have Disney characters. One common element is thread through all of the movies. You can run a series of ads, letters, phone messages or e-mails that tell a similar common story. And if you really do fit nearly every type of lens, you can change the lenses and the supporting characters in each chapter or successive communication.
Done this way, a relatively small niche, like a contact lens practice, can be un-niched and unleashed to blossom into a productive and sustainable marketing campaign.
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.