Article Date: 1/1/2007

view from the top
Common Marketing Mishaps

Some advertising avenues are better left alone.


I've often written about new and different ways to market your practice. It's gratifying to get e-mails that you've used the strategies and witnessed success. But this month, I'd like to concentrate on marketing that, while popular, is historically poor and has a low return on investment. Just as with previous articles, your mileage may vary, and your results may differ from what I'm writing about here. Those differences between "expected" and "actual" are attributed to the "art" part of marketing as opposed to the "science." Here are some generalities of marketing that don't work.

Yellow Pages

In our experience, nearly 85% of doctors have a Yellow Pages display ad. Keep in mind that in most parts of the country, if you have a phone (and we think that applies to 100% of you), you'll get a listing in the Yellow Pages for free or for a very low cost. We have measured no difference in return on investment between having a free or low-cost listing and having a display ad. We believe this occurs because by the time prospective patients look in the Yellow Pages, their buying decisions have already been made — usually from referrals. Patients use the Yellow Pages as a directory and reference to find your phone number.

Screenings and seminars

Many of you believe that if you uncover a problem in a prospective patient, he will transition to a patient. The oft-overlooked fact is that many or most of these prospective patients already have an eye doctor or will seek the referral of a friend or family member. A school screening might actually leave you marketing for other doctors instead of yourself.

Receipts, park benches, etc.

The use of grocery store tape, park benches and other similar marketing efforts collectively go into the category of "wrong place at the wrong time." Are you considering putting your practice logo and phone number on a pharmacy shopping bag? If so, think of the circumstances under which someone would respond to that sort of "ad." The prospective patient is presumably sick, which is why he is in the pharmacy. If the prospect isn't sick and is in the store for a birthday card, for instance, he will leave the store eager to get to what's in the bag, not what's on it.

Assuming the prospective patient even sees your message on the bag, he would have to write down your name and phone number — assuming he doesn't currently have a doctor or that your message is strong enough to break that relationship. While this type of marketing could be productive, a lot of planets need to align for it to do so.

High-school yearbooks, band programs and little league schedules are also not targeted enough or timed correctly to be effective. This isn't meant to say you shouldn't support these types of programs. Just recognize that they aren't typically effective marketing tools.

New mover lists

Marketing to people who have just moved into the neighborhood is very popular and also generally ineffective. The success of this type of marketing assumes the new mover is motivated enough to save your announcement, remember where he put it (remember, he just moved into a new house) and that this person won't seek a referral from a friend or coworker.

Marketing your practice in these ways might work for some O.D.s but, there are better places to spend your hard-earned dollars.


Optometric Management, Issue: January 2007