Article Date: 11/1/2003

fix this practice
Strategize Your External Marketing
Stop wasting your time on ineffective marketing methods. Consider this advice.
By Richard S. Kattouf, O.D.

Q  The ophthalmic marketplace has changed so much in the past 20 years. How have these changes affected yellow page advertising for external marketing? What are the trends and returns on investment with yellow pages?

Dr. R. E. Leng, Via e-mail

A: As with most other markets, the ophthalmic market is ever changing. And because managed care has diluted our profits we must be aware of costs and returns on investments.


Times are changing

Years ago, patients based their loyalty on a doctor's location, clinical skills and personality. Today, however, patients are loyal to their provider list. In fact, many of us have had at least one former patient say, "You're a great doctor, but I can't come to you anymore because you are not a provider to my vision plan." Patients used to scan the yellow pages to find doctors. Now they search their provider lists.

Redirect your resources

Because of these drastic changes in the marketplace, the yellow pages are no longer a good method of external marketing. Therefore, I would advise all doctors to minimize their ads, which would in turn lower their monthly advertising costs. Remove information that patients already know, for example:

Now invest the savings on the yellow pages in creating or updating a Web site, which can go into detail about orders of contact lenses, specialty and medical services, etc. Keep in mind that you want a three-to-one return on your investment. On your Welcome to the Office form ask, "Who may we thank for referring you to our practice?" This gives you a pulse on how patients choose your office.

Target profitable areas

If you're an independent O.D., then you must carefully control your external marketing budget. Television, radio and newspaper ads are costly and often cover a radius beyond your patient draw.

Depending on your community, 30% to 50% of patients don't have vision coverage and aren't tied into provider lists, making them highly marketable. Find the businesses in your community who don't have vision care insurance. Develop a vision care program between your office and these businesses. The cost of externally marketing directly to these employees is low while the financial return is high.

Any external marketing should bring in a three-to-one return. If you invest $3,000, then you should get a return of $9,000.

Keep it simple

As I've often stated, not only do we have to be skilled doctors but we must also be good business people. And, as owners, we must be stewards of our money. Yellow page ads are the least effective method of advertising, so only make a small investment. Don't fall for the tactics of the yellow page sales force gimmicks or deals. Simply down size.

Dr. Kattouf is president and founder of two management and consulting companies.  For information, call (800) 745-EYES or e-mail him at The information in this column is based on actual consulting files.


Optometric Management, Issue: November 2003