Plan Your Way to a Successful Practice
A successful practice doesn't just happen; you need a marketing road map.
BY SUSAN ABRAMOVITZ, Cincinnati, Ohio
What do you want from your eyecare practice? To make more money? Work shorter hours? Retire early? Travel? Teach? Whatever your goals, an aggressive marketing plan will put your practice to work for you.
A marketing plan examines all parts of your business, sets a solid direction and provides a map to achieve your goals. As I'll explain, a good marketing plan will:
- identify problems and opportunities
- establish priorities
- set short- and long-term goals
- provide focus for the allocation of personnel and budgets.
Developing a successful plan forces you to take a hard look at the realities of your business (the bottom line, the sales figures, pricing, margins, patient counts, staff training and turnover, advertising, image). A plan begins with a clear snapshot of "where we are" including the good, the bad and the ugly. Question everything, especially the way you've always done things in the past. Use your data to find answers to questions such as, What are you selling? From where do you get most of your revenue (frames, medical care, expertise in a special area)? What products underperform? What would happen if you got rid of them?
Who buys what you sell? Consider sex, age and income when answering this question. Where does your target demographic live? How often do they see an eyecare practitioner? What's the average purchase per visit? Where do your patients hear about you? Are these the people whom you want as patients? If so, how can you get more of them? If not, who do you want, and how can you reach those people?
Who else serves your market? If a patient doesn't come to you, where does he go? Why? How do your competitors market their practices? Is price a determining factor for your patients? How do your prices compare?
The three classic questions
A good strategy solves a marketing problem and we can condense a strategy into three simple questions:
1. Who. Who are you trying to convince to try your services?
2. What. What are you trying to convince them of?
3. Why. Why should they believe you?
Patients must see a strategy as meaningful, true and competitive. Here's a sample strategy for selling a new product: "Athletes (the who) will find specialized eye gear for every sport at XYZ Eyecare (the what) because we professionally fit 10 national brands, the widest selection in the area (the why)." The words in the strategy may never appear in your advertising, of course; however, you must always convey the message of the strategy in your advertising.
Make it happen
If you want to increase revenues for the year, decide on four or five solid things that you can do to increase them. Be detailed. Perhaps you can add a line of designer frames, upscale sunglasses with each purchase or add services. Invest in the training or equipment necessary to achieve your goals.
Fill your plan with details, timelines, budgets and list the people responsible for each task.
Remember to keep it simple. A marketing plan is a tool for improving communication and spurring action. Make it simple enough for everyone to understand and implement.
A good marketing plan is realistic, even if it means that your sales projections are lower than you'd like. If your business has been flat for three years, then it's unrealistic to expect 200% growth without dramatic changes. Let your plan show you where those changes need to happen.
Constantly update your marketing plan; as you complete tasks, add new ones. To access an outline for a marketing plan, visit
Ms. Abramovitz is president of Ideopia, an advertising, interactive and brand
strategy agency with a special focus on the ophthalmic field.
Optometric Management, Issue: April 2005