fix this practice
Strategize Your External
Stop wasting your time on ineffective
marketing methods. Consider this advice.
Richard S. Kattouf, O.D.
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
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
ILLUSTRATION BY PATRICK
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:
- credit card logos
- frame inventory
- contact lens inventory
- hours of operation
Add information that patients don't already know such as:
- professional degrees
- professional certification
- medical treatment and emergencies
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
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 email@example.com.
The information in this column is based on actual consulting files.
Optometric Management, Issue: November 2003