The Business of Contact Lenses

Practices Should Take a Lesson from College Marketing

The Business of Contact Lenses

Practices Should Take a Lesson from College Marketing

By Gary Gerber, OD

It's no secret that even though the cost of college increases every year, it's still very difficult to get accepted to a better school. It would seem then, that the laws of pricing and supply and demand don't apply to higher education— especially in a faltering economy. You'd think that with fewer dollars to spend, that college tuitions would at least stabilize or decline. You'd also expect that it would be easier to get in. Yet none of this seems to be happening.

Equally confusing is that colleges that expect to have 50 applicants for every available slot continue to market their “product” to prospective students. Websites are carefully designed with well-written content. One of their most effective marketing tools is the campus tour for prospective students. During these events, a well-trained alumnus delivers an informative sales presentation. His full-time job is to conduct these events. The presenter is well equipped to answer just about any question that might arise. Keep in mind that in a room of 200 students, only about four will get accepted!

After the presentation, a “greatest hits” tour takes place. Given by a trained current student, the best the school has to offer is proudly shown: the new media center in the library; the computer labs in the business school; and, of course, the state-of-the-art recreation facility, complete with Olympic-sized, indoor, heated pool.

Why the “sales pitch” given that the college holds virtually all of the admissions cards? While they certainly don't need to market themselves to acquire the large yearly pool of future rejected applicants, they do need to continually support their brand and image. Just as McDonald's would continue to serve billions of Big Macs even if it reduced its advertising budget and Starbucks would keep its loyal caffeine-addicted customers with virtually no advertising, colleges are acutely aware of the importance of the maintenance and management of their brand and image.

Applying Collegiate Strategies

A caller says, “I'd like to make an appointment to get some contact lenses and I've never worn them before. How much do they cost and do you take my insurance?”

Can you use any of your image and brand management tactics— you do have them, don't you?—to convert this shopper into a patient? Do you offer office tours? Is your website carefully crafted, captivating, easy to navigate, and free of typos? Are staff members experienced to answer questions beyond the one that the phone prospect just asked?

What would happen if you offered the caller a tour of your office, either in your office itself or on your website? What if you talked this prospective patient through your office web tour while you were on the phone with him? Might that simple gesture alone convince this patient to come to your office instead of going elsewhere?

Do Your Homework

We typically don't consider “recruiting” callers like this even though we are generally in exactly the opposite business box as colleges. For most practices, fees are generally flat or decreasing. Instead of turning 49 patients away for every one we see, we seem to be competing with one another for that one single patient.

It's time to step up our marketing game and realize that no matter what position our practices are in, we need to be brand-focused and brand-conscious and relentlessly put a continual fresh coat of paint on our practice marketing façade. You can't expect to build a Harvard-type practice while offering an out-of-date preschool message. CLS

Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company offering proven and comprehensive practice and profit building systems. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @PowerYourDream.