Article Date: 2/1/2011

Your Turn to be Somebody
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Your Turn to be Somebody

Are you somebody's or nobody's optometrist?

Gary Gerber, O.D.

Does your practice marketing (website, direct mail, radio or TV ads, etc.) include phrasing similar to the following statements? “Our office provides comprehensive, state-of-the-art eye care with a caring and experienced staff.” “We have a large selection of eyeglasses and fit most types of contact lenses.” “We belong to most insurance plans.” If so, you're in good company: You've positioned your practice to be like just about every other practice. You've also set yourself up to be an optometrist to everyone and perhaps no-one at the same time.

What patients expect

Patients seeking eye care have a certain set of baseline expectations. For example, if you say you're an optometrist, they assume you really are. And if you profess to have the title, they'll assume you know at least the very basics necessary to provide what they believe to be optometric services.

Similarly, looking at our first paragraph, I'd think most sane patients would already believe that the doctor they are choosing cares, has some experience and has an ample selection of eyeglasses. Or at the very least, enough experience and eyeglass frames to take care of their patients. Along these same lines of thinking, few patients would expect you to say: We use outdated equipment, and our staff doesn't care about you.” While staff often get a bad rap and “caring staff” might seem like something you feel obligated to say, you have to be careful to recognize that a prospective patient would certainly expect you to say this, and, as such, lines like this get glossed over and remain unprocessed and unnoticed.

I often counsel our clients: “You can't be all things to all patients, but you might go out of business trying.” With that in mind, it would be better to be a specific “someone's optometrist” instead of “everybody's optometrist.”

Becoming somebody's O.D.

Look at your current patient base for ways to define “someone.” Once you've done that, expand and exploit those characteristics. For example, if patients tell you they love your office because of your unique display of funky eye wear, talk about that to the exclusion of everything else.

Yes, I'm saying you should not say things like: “We cater to patients of all ages.” And, I really do mean you should not mention that you accept 847 insurance plans. (As an aside, if you're trying to pare down your involvement with third-party plans, as many doctors are, why would you promote that in the first place?) Instead, talk solely about your ability to satisfy the most discriminating or unusual tastes in eyeglasses, and build your message around that one single fact. It will take discipline to not mention the new OCT you just bought, but keep in mind the cohort of patients who might be attracted to your OCT are different than those who want to have glasses that no one else does — and want many pairs of them.

Focus on one message

It's one of the biggest practice building challenges O.D.s face — picking a position in their individual markets and continually exploiting it. With so many services and products that we could, and usually do offer, it can be frustrating to concentrate on so few. Yet, time after time, the principles of marketing prove that it's very difficult to credibly declare you are an expert or leader in all the products and services that most of us could list. Resist the urge, stay focused and watch your profits grow. OM


Optometric Management, Issue: February 2011