Article Date: 10/1/2003

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Go for Quality, Not Quantity
Be careful of what you advertise -- you just might regret it.
By Gary Gerber, O.D.

Before putting together an overall marketing strategy and direction for a client, my partners and I must first get a sense of how the client has been marketing his practice to ensure that we don't upset his business apple cart. After all, if a doctor's current marketing and positioning in his community is sound and strong, then we can best serve him by augmenting what he's currently doing, not by starting over in a new direction.

But what happens when a doctor presents us with a marketing strategy that works in the sense of attracting high numbers of patient responses but doesn't work because it attracts low net revenues per patient? Or, as in the case of our client below, a doctor who wished to market new procedures?


Honey vs. vinegar

In these not-so-unusual cases, clients call on us to do a bit more detective work and what we typically uncover is referred to as negative advertising. Namely, had the doctor not advertised or advertised differently, his profits would've been higher.

Conventional wisdom would dictate that a marketing program that doesn't work failed to attract new patients or increase revenues. However, negative advertising is more insidious, having its owners believe that it works while it actually decreases revenues. The following case is a perfect example.

Growing a new practice

Our client, Dr. Aye, had been in practice for about 12 years. When he first opened his office, he ran deep discount price ads to get patients in the door. Throughout his 12-year career he ran these ads on a regular basis in his local newspaper. Sure enough, the ads brought in sizable numbers of patients.

Over the past few years before working with us, Dr. Aye had slowly attempted to morph his practice from what was essentially an optical store to a more medical optometry practice, yet he continued running those discount ads just because it brought in patients. Without a background in marketing, he was understandably hesitant to stop running these "successful" ads. He called on my company to help him grow the medical segment of his practice.

Taking control

After determining (via our market research) that most patients never considered him for their medical eyecare needs and didn't know that he offered these services, we convinced him to stop running his long-standing ad for low prices.

To uncover the exact drivers we would use for this new ad campaign, we carefully surveyed established patients who had already received medical eye care. These patients' responses would serve to provide the "hook" we'd use for our client's new campaign. In this case, we determined that the hook was availability and short waiting time for medical care. Now we knew what our client needed to change or eliminate in the future.

In fact, what we found was a classic case of negative advertising. After years of positioning himself as the discount eyeglass shop, Dr. Aye had convinced patients seeking medical care to go elsewhere. Patients told us they specifically didn't come to his office for medical care because of his advertising. Armed with this knowledge, we set up a plan to help Dr. Aye reverse this thinking in his patients. Ultimately we succeeded. Next month I'll explain how.

Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company specializing in making optometrists more profitable.  Learn more at or call Dr. Gerber at (800) 867-9303.


Optometric Management, Issue: October 2003