Article Date: 5/1/2013

Identify Your Target Markets
patient marketing

Identify Your Target Markets

Determine which shopper segments your patients fall under and how to streamline your practice to retain them.



Patients choose your practice, or reject it, based on how well the value proposition you offer aligns with their own shopping philosophies, says the findings of a recent survey performed on behalf of Vistakon Division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.1 Specifically, the Internet survey reveals five visioncare shopper segments: (1) Discriminating investors, (2) Skilled shoppers, (3) Effort minimizers, (4) Constrained budgeters and (5) Cost minimizers.

A total of 7,500 visioncare consumers (ages 18 to 60) answered 624 questions created to determine the factors that play a role in their purchase decisions of spectacles and/or contact lenses. The survey participants underwent exams and afterward acquired spectacles and/or contact lenses within the previous 18 months.

Here, I describe these five visioncare market segments and how you can streamline your marketing and business decisions to match the values of your prevailing, or target segments. One caveat: You can’t appeal to all market segments (at least not at a single location). In fact, trying to do so is counterproductive for obvious reasons.

1 Discriminating health investors

These patients, who make up 19% of the visioncare shopper segment, want the very best, and they’ll pay for it. They value high-quality products and advanced technology, seek to develop trusted relationships with providers, and they expect an excellent customer experience. While discriminating health investors have the highest average income, they may also have insurance that neutralizes the impact of price. Attracting and retaining these patients can be challenging, as they often rely on word-of-mouth recommendations to choose a provider. (See “Attracting Discriminating Health Investors,” page 18.)

Streamlining advice: Make the visit personal. This translates to excellent customer service in the patient’s view. To accomplish this, meet with your staff every morning to review pertinent details about the patients scheduled for that day. Your staff can use this information during the visit, says Thomas Barreto, O.D., owner of Eyes on Broadway in Portland, Ore.

“I want Mrs. Jones to be pleasantly surprised that we remember her daughter’s visit two weeks ago or the fact that her husband just won an award from the Chamber of Commerce,” he explains.

2 Skilled shoppers

For these folks, who also comprise 19% of the visioncare shopper segment, they want to feel like they’re getting a good deal. They make a purchasing decision based on product quality or personal lifestyle factors, such as playing a sport. Then, they seek to minimize their spending to get what they want. These patients tend to be highly compliant with and very organized about their healthcare purchases. In addition to competitive pricing and quality merchandise, they value a fun environment and great service.

Streamlining advice: Provide patient education on the value of purchasing frames or contact lenses from you vs. others, suggests Dr. Barreto. He says that, in his practice, he informs patients he uses the highest quality spectacle lenses only, fixes scratches for free within in the first year, replaces or exchanges contact lenses if a problem occurs or the patient’s prescription has changed within the first year and focuses on specialty contact lenses and offering unique frame lines. All this, he says, has positively differentiated his practice from others, enabling him to attract and retain these patients.

3 Effort minimizers

This group, which makes up 25% of the visioncare shopper segment — the largest of all five segments, mind you — is similar to the skilled shopper except these patients are more concerned than the skilled shopper about saving time vs. money. In addition, they tend to be young (18 to 34), male and single. Effort-minimizers may make spur-of-the-moment decisions and impulse purchases, as they are busy and, therefore, don’t put a lot of advance thought into their visioncare needs.

Streamlining advice: Make practice parking easy, look at ways of decreasing patient wait times, post a “Walk-ins Welcome” sign, and provide external patient convenience, says Jeri Schneebeck, O.D., F.C.O.V.D., who practices at Highline Vision Center in Aurora, Colo.

“We offer online [contact lens and spectacle] ordering, and we’re working on being able to send out text-message appointment reminders,” she says. “We also strongly encourage annual supplies of contact lenses for both our skilled shoppers and effort minimizers to get a return on their investment of time and money…”

4 Constrained budgeters

This bunch, comprising 22% of the visioncare shopper segment, wants the best care and products within a budget. As a result, they are willing to make purchases in different places to get the best deal. This group often manages their vision care by stretching their contact lens replacement cycle and/or the time between comprehensive exams to defer cost. Also, these patients may fall in the low-income bracket and/or have a large family.

While these patients must consider cost, it isn’t the only consideration driving their choice: They are interested in the highest quality in terms of materials and services that they can afford, and are making compromises and sacrifices due to budgetary constraints, often prioritizing who in the family healthcare dollars are spent on or which health concerns are dealt with at a particular point in time. They would spend more in the healthcare market if they had it to spend.

Streamlining advice: Practitioners who serve this segment operate at high volumes of patient flow using management and purchasing approaches to keep overhead low. Locations, furnishings, etc. help in overall cost containment, so they can offer goods and services at a price point affordable to this segment. The keys to garnering this market segment are low cost options, either through insurance participation, discount programs or bundling services and/or materials.

Attracting Discriminating Health Investors

To attract this visioncare shopper segment, you must put your message where they are looking. For example:

► Cultivate professional referrals. As this market segment is the most discriminating, professional recommendations are the most powerful.

► Support private school athletics and extra-curricular programs.

► Advertise in high-end real estate magazines and those reporting on the fund-raising activities of the local philanthropic community.

► Become part of the local philanthropic and cultural scene. Join clubs, such as the garden club, support the arts, join community service organizations or affinity groups (Corvette or Porsche clubs).

► Network in business circles and recreational circles. Participate in business roundtables, and attend sporting events in which this market segment is interested, such as the private high school football, baseball and basketball games, as well as pro sports of any kind.

5 Cost minimizers

This patient population, which makes up 15% of the visioncare shopper segment, desires the lowest price possible. (Many O.D.s believe this group constitutes roughly 40% of the visioncare shopper segment, says a recent O.D. survey during a webinar, explaining the aforementioned research.) These are the patients who have the least discretionary income, so credentials, frills or “add-ons,” such as AR, are not viable options. In addition, because they are laser focused on price, these patients often don’t perceive much difference in value, other than price, among providers.

Streamlining advice: Make sure your practice is high-volume to make up for this frugal faction. The key is strictly low price. Include a value-priced section in your optical to show these patients you want to meet their cost requirements and vision needs. “Buy one, get one free” promotions, in particular, appeal to these patients.

A new concept

Looking at our patient populations in market segmentation terms is a new concept for anyone who isn’t a marketing executive. But this analysis offers some important lessons in what our patients want and expect from us and in the value proposition that we, as eyecare providers, can best deliver to them. OM

1. Petito, GT, Olivares GE, Schnider C, Alford J. Study of market segmentation in vision care: how consumers make choices in vision care purchases. Optometry 2012 Jun (6): 83:94-102.


Dr. Petito practices in St. Petersburg, Fla. He is a consultant to Vistakon, though has no financial interest in the company. Neither Drs. Barreto nor Schneebeck have any financial relationships related to this article either. E-mail Dr. Petito at, or send comments to

Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: May 2013, page(s): 16 18 19