Article Date: 12/1/2006

practice makeovers
Here's how an extreme marketing makeover fuels practice growth.
BY SUSAN M. ABRAMOVITZ, Contributing Editor

Invision identified its target market as women, ages 30 and older, who are typically the healthcare decision-makers for their families.

In 2005, Haag-Streit USA, Ideopia and Optometric Management co-sponsored "The Extreme Marketing Makeover," a contest to help O.D.s learn the value of marketing. Of the 3,000 entries, Dr. Scott Mann of Invision in Salem and Christiansburg, Va., won a package that included $35,000 worth of Haag-Streit equipment and a one-year marketing plan, valued at $100,000, from Ideopia.

The game plan

The "Makeover" began with a thorough examination of the practice and its market area. It yielded a plan with the following goals.

Achieve 10 to 15% growth in both offices by: attracting new patients; encouraging loyalty in current patients; increasing eyewear sales (multiple pairs, specialty lenses); and increasing the average per patient sale from $275 to $315 or more.

Increase cash flow in both offices.

The practice used marketing that spoke directly to its target demographic.

Add private pay patients so the practice is less dependent upon insurance.

Develop a referral network of patients as well as professional sources.

Build the eyewear business by: selling more eye wear and contacts; adding upscale women's lines; adding sunglass lines and selling 150 to 200 pairs per year; promoting specialty lenses, i.e. sports eyewear; bringing in outside prescriptions; maintaining 95% or better in patient satisfaction ratings; building medical credibility in the patient's mind; and updating the Salem office in a cost-efficient manner.

Facing the challenges

Invision had to overcome several marketing challenges. The practice faced an aging and insurance-dependent patient base, especially in the Salem office. It faced competition from lower-priced, big box retailers which, coupled with insurance restrictions, compromised the practice's patient retention.

Invision lacked awareness in the market area due to little or inconsistent advertising and was plagued, as many practices are, by the patient perception that eye care is a commodity.

Invision at A Glance

Target market

BEFORE: Untargeted. Patient base primarily elderly or insurance dependent.
TACTICS: Brand research and planning.
Fashion conscious females 30+ who make healthcare decisions for family. Educated. Disposable income.


BEFORE: Little to none.
Logo, Web site, radio, billboards, stadium signs, direct mail, merchandising, interior and exterior signage.
Income increases 15%.


BEFORE: Inconsistent.
Drive all marketing decisions with new brand strategy, including graphics, colors and tone of copy.
Brand permeates everything from signage and staff uniforms to point-of-purchase (POP) materials and paint colors in the offices.

Recall program

BEFORE: Sporadic.
Implement systems; postcard reminder mailings.
Patient recall and pre-appointment is consistent.

Facilities (Salem office)

BEFORE: Dingy, outdated. Decorating highlights included sports memorabilia.
Removed equipment and decorations that didn't match branding.
Paint, carpet, POP, plants, banners, in-office signage and meticulously clean patient coffee bar. Sports collection moved to Dr. Mann's office.

The results

BEFORE: Average income per patient: $275.
Average income per patient: $350+.

The battle plan

At the start, Invision defined its most lucrative target market. Through research including psychographics and demographics, Invision and Ideopia identified the target market as female, ages 30 and over — that is, the family's healthcare decision maker.

The research also yielded a tidbit that would directly drive the creative work. Women in the region were twice as likely to have cosmetic surgery than the average American woman. This told us that these women were fashion-conscious and had disposable income. We would have to "super-serve" them with meticulous medical care and high-end, fashionable frames. Ideopia developed the slogan, "Eye Fitness + Fashion," to speak directly to this market.

In adopting this target market, Invision understood that its patient base would change. A solid marketing plan attracts the right people. As an example, Invision's seasonal and trunk show direct mail program was refined to go only to the target market. The practice reduced direct mail costs by 66%, saving thousands of dollars, while the historically high patient response to these mailers remained stable.

The commodity mindset

Through years of discounts, eyecare providers have trained patients to make decisions based on price alone. In line with the health-conscious target market that places a higher value on service, Ideopia encouraged Invision to raise prices to be equal to or slightly higher than competitors.

Building medical credibility

At the conclusion of an eye examination, Invision patients receive "The Eye Fitness and Vision Report" that documents findings, along with nutritional and preventive advice.

As Invision doctors hand the report to the patient, they ask for names of family doctors so that they can forward copies. The doctor-to-doctor communication tells the patient that she has received important medical care. It places Invision squarely in the medical arena. It also demonstrates professionalism and creates an avenue for referrals.

Zero-in on the brand

The first creative step for the practice was to design a logo to attract the target group. We chose unconventional, upbeat colors, which draw attention. They are prominent wherever they are used.

The staff was so excited about the new colors that they decided to wear uniforms and alternate the orange and green of the logo during the week.

Invision adopted the logo colors in the offices as well. Paint colors are complementary, and splashes of the logo colors are used throughout the offices.

Ads deliver

The media plan for Invision included billboards and radio. The billboards built brand recognition and were placed in high-traffic areas as well as in close proximity to the office. Striking graphics and few words delivered the message in seconds. The billboards ran for nine months during the make-over, and recently Invision has reposted them.

Unconventional colors draw attraction to the practice.

Radio reached a large number of women while they were in their cars. The radio schedule ran for nine months and has extended life as the "on-hold" messages at Invision.

Invision developed a Website to educate patients on eye health as well as the practice. It includes interactive activities, such as a fashion selector for frames, a guide for children's visual development and a quiz about equipment used in exams.

Using a secure login, patients can pre-register for appointments to save time in the mother's hectic schedule. Patients can also order contact lenses directly through the Web site.

Collateral pieces

Our goal was to make sure that everything a patient sees from Invision had the same feel and tone, including patient brochures, reminder postcards, appointment reminders; and care information for contact lenses and glasses.

Perception and reality

The purpose of advertising is to drive customers to make an appointment. When they actually visit, it's crucial that their experience is consistent with their expectations. At Invision this meant replacing inventory with the designer, high-end frames the new customers would demand. It also meant a facelift for the Salem office.

A comprehensive marketing makeover is most demanding in terms of time, effort and money. As Dr. Mann notes (see "My Experience," left), the process is not for the faint of heart. But in the end, this serious investment creates a stronger practice.

Visit for more information on the Invision story.

Ms. Abramovitz is president of Ideopia, an advertising, interactive and brand strategy agency with a special focus on the ophthalmic field. For more on the makeover, visit


My Experience

Based on our strengths, Invision targeted its message to health and fashion conscious women. This guides decisions from the frame vendors we use, to our office's vibrant colors and décor, to the music (Starbucks channel on XM).

Our consultant, Ideopia, encouraged us to give our office a facelift that would appeal to our demographic. The response has been overwhelming. We create happier patients, which results in higher spectacle sales, greater patient retention and more referrals.

We now embrace the concept of branding (think Coca Cola). We use our new colors and logo in marketing through external and internal signage, quality surveys, stationary, documents and staff uniforms (use uniforms! Patients comment on how professional our staff looks).

Our new equipment from Haag-Streit and Reliance Medical Products makes our examinations more efficient and reliable. The Octopus perimeter, Haag- Streit slit lamp with imaging software and the Reliance chair impress our patients with their state-of-the-art look.

This process is not for the faint-hearted. It takes money and time and forced us to take an honest look at our practice. But our practice is much stronger due to the strategic and creative efforts of Ideopia and hard work by our staff and doctors. — Scott Mann, O.D.





Optometric Management, Issue: December 2006