The Business of Contact Lenses
Stay the Course with Your Practice Strategy
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Articles often inform us that you can’t compete on price because someone will always be able to sell an item for less. The stated antidote to price competition is to “compete on service.” However, using the same logic, isn’t it possible that someone can always provide better service? Of course they can. Someone can always hire nicer staff, have more convenient hours, easier payment policies, and faster service. If you can’t be the cheapest, is it realistic to think that you could be the nicest, fastest, and easiest? Can you really win that war?
The point of this article isn’t to tell you which strategy to pick: low price or high service. The message here is that your practice is best served when you choose one direction and stick with it. Wavering back and forth dilutes your brand and sends a message to patients that you are a little bit of everything with no clear-cut dominant focus. Instead, pick one direction and stay with it.
Picking either is fraught with risks. If you are genuinely determined to be the leader in your catchment area, you have to be committed to sticking with a model before you choose it.
You decide to have a low price-based practice and advertise $1 boxes of lenses. The phone starts ringing. Patients are straying from higher-priced competitors and flocking to your practice.
You’re currently set up to comfortably service 20 patients per day and stay profitable. But the low-price promotion is bringing in 40 patients per day. This in turn, forces you to hire more staff. However, the extra payroll cuts into your margins.
Should you raise the price of your lenses to $1.01? No! If you do, you are not being true to your model of being the low-priced leader. Instead, consider strategies to increase each unit sale from one box of lenses to two. Role play sales scenarios with your staff whereby single boxes are never even discussed. That way, you can sell twice as many boxes and have extra revenue to hire more staff and maintain your margins.
You launch a campaign that says your practice runs like a Swiss watch. You are always on time. You market this directly to busy, overscheduled parents. Your marketing claims that if you run more than five minutes behind schedule, there will be no charge for the examination. Your book starts to fill up. Now, it is getting harder and harder to stay on schedule. The first month you announced this, it was easy. Now, 90 days into this, nearly twice a day you find yourself backed up due to increased volume.
Should you drop this marketing claim from future promotions? If you’re following the gist of this article: No! Instead, if you want to continue to stake your claim as the ultimate uber on-time contact lens fitter, do what it takes to get your schedule humming as you said it would. Hire more staff, update your technology, expand your office hours and spread out your appointments, etc. Do something to continue to support your claim.
Pick your proposed position in the marketplace carefully, and consider what happens if you succeed. Be willing to defend your unique niche, and have the perseverance and fortitude to protect your brand. 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 www.PowerPractice.com and follow him on Twitter @PowerYourDream.