Article Date: 11/1/2003

view from the top
Plan Before You Advertise
Learn how you, like Dr. Aye, can survive negative advertising.
By Gary Gerber, O.D.

Last month I told you about a client (Dr. Aye) whose practice suffered from negative advertising. When Dr. Aye first opened his practice, he spent years positioning his practice as a discount eyeglass store. Now he was faced with the challenge of attracting more medical eyecare patients. This month I'm going to tell you how we helped him accomplish this new goal.

Learning about the patients

First we interviewed Dr. Aye's existing base of medical eyecare patients. We asked them why they trusted him to care for them and why they didn't go elsewhere. They essentially told us that they'd been long-standing patients and never really thought of Dr. Aye's practice as an "eyeglass shop." Interestingly, most patients who had a shorter relationship weren't medically based.

Next we drafted a direct-mail letter and sent it to a small sample of existing patients. In it, we reinforced what the patients whom we interviewed had told us (namely that patients who had a long relationship with the doctor were comfortable with him expanding his medical services).

Photo by Laurence Dutton

Time to get serious

Next we called patients who received the letter and asked pointed questions to see which aspects of the letter stuck with them. We then took the most salient points and created a newspaper ad that ultimately replaced Dr. Aye's original eyeglass ad in the same newspaper.

This strategy worked because we based it on sound marketing principles of research, testing and sampling: We carefully identified the problem, tested the concept and wording and finally ran the ad full force. Similar to treating patients, we first diagnosed the problem and then initiated therapy.

Sharing my marketing lessons

Dr. Aye's story brings to the fore the following points:

Sleep on it

Short of working with marketing professionals and consultants, one technique to perfecting your ads is to show them to patients who are already affiliated with your practice and ask their opinions. Again, approach your marketing as scientifically and with as much thought and logic as you would a complicated glaucoma case. Look at all of the data before making a decision.

It's also helpful to lay an ad aside for a few days before you submit it. What looks great today and appears to gel perfectly with your practice might not be so pretty once you distance yourself from it. Also, consider the viewpoints of prospective patients who might infer things not readily apparent to a doctor.

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: November 2003