Article Date: 7/1/2002

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Sounding Off the Bells and Whistles
Patients want well-known brands, but should you give in? Find out.
Gary Gerber, O.D.

You see a TV commercial for a new car. With 150,000 miles on your own, you're certainly in the market. Persuaded and ready to buy, you visit the dealership. The salesman says, "That car you saw on TV is indeed a good one. But why not take a look at this one instead? I think you'd really like it."

"But the one in the commercial really seems like the right car for me," you reply.

For reasons you don't understand, the salesman seems reluctant to show you the car you really want. You leave the showroom without purchasing the car you really wanted to buy and end up getting it at another dealership.

ILLUSTRATION BY BOB KAYGANICH

Give 'em what they want

There's a simple yet powerful concept that drives all marketing: "Give the people what they want."

In the scenario we painted above, you weren't offered the car you wanted. Similarly, your patients might leave your office if they don't get what they want. And when it comes to products, typically they want nationally advertised, popular brands.

Last month I discussed establishing a brand for your office. This month, I'll talk about branded products and why it's important to use them.

It's all in the perception

If in my last example I was talking about your next contact lens patient who asked for a new 30-day continuous wear lens that she saw on a TV commercial, only one of two things could happen:

1. she gets what she asked for

2. she doesn't get what she asked for.

In the first case, the patient is happy and assuming that she's an appropriate candidate for the lenses, you got what you wanted -- a happy patient who's using a clinically sound modality.

In the second case, you might tell the patient something like, "Those lenses aren't any good." And it's this response that can significantly and negatively impact your practice.

Bad mouthing a nationally advertised and recognized brand rarely succeeds. Even if you're correct, the strength of a well-known brand is typically stronger than anything you can probably say to change a patient's mind. Your single opinion is going against thousands of dollars of market research and consumer testing that has gone into making the brand as strong as it is. While you might indeed be right on the mark in that the product may be inferior to other similar products, it's difficult -- and often impossible -- to convince your patient that you're correct -- and the TV pitchman is wrong.

Also, as I mentioned last month, at least one study has already shown that patients perceive branded prescription medicines to me more efficacious than non- branded medications. So all other factors being equal, a patient may perceive a branded contact lens to give better vision than a non-branded lens. She may perceive more comfort with a branded progressive than a non-branded one.

Please them or lose them

Should you let a patient dictate what contact lenses you fit her with? Should she pick her own glaucoma medicines? No. That's unquestionably your job. But if a lens or drug is clinically appropriate for a patient, and she asks for it by name, then yes, give her what she wants. If you don't, and it really was okay for her to use it, she'll eventually get it elsewhere.

DR. GERBER IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE POWER PRACTICE, A COMPANY WHOSE MISSION IS TO MAKE OPTOMETRISTS MORE PROFITABLE. LEARN MORE AT WWW.POWERPRACTICE.COM OR CALL DR. GERBER AT 800-867-9303.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: July 2002