By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Depending on what you read, statistics say that today’s ophthalmology market is either up or down. But the business of optometric surgery and related medical eye care is definitely changing.
On one hand, the big-picture numbers peg ophthalmology growth at four to five percent, due in part to a large and aging population evidencing cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. But the number of practitioners is static at best, and thus not keeping pace with greater demand.
What’s more, the competition among ophthalmic surgeons is increasing. This is especially challenging in elective care categories such as refractive surgery (LASIK, PRK and others), as well as intraocular, oculoplastic and cosmetic surgery. The nation’s economic and employment picture has been a significant negative force on elective procedures.
What emerges from this dynamic landscape is the sobering realization that what worked in your ophthalmology marketing in the past (last month, last year or maybe yesterday) is not working as well today.
Ophthalmology practices differ widely in size, structure and business emphasis. Group practices vary in size. Some practices employ optometrists while others do not. Still others are surgical specialty driven. And so, by necessity, your marketing tune-up will recognize the value of the individual business silos and how each contributes to the total enterprise.
Before the competitive picture turns darker—and to protect your market share—here’s how to tune-up your marketing effort.
Document exactly how change has impacted your business. Most ophthalmology practices can benefit from a completely fresh, and unbiased, planning step. Begin with a blank page and work through a high-level SWOT analysis. Critically assessing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats is a level self-exam that can boost your bottom line quickly.
Define your SMART goals. Account for your most marketable services and ideal mix of cases. Define goals that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Tangible. Identify responsible people, necessary resources and a reasonable timetable.
Adjust your ophthalmology marketing plan and budget. Busy surgeons have been known to neglect their marketing plan, or opt for the convenience of “rolling over” last year’s plan. (But now you know that doesn’t work, and your SWOT analysis is a guide to change and opportunity.) Plan for 12 months with quarterly updates. And support the plan with enough resources to make a difference.
Professional referral-reliant practices need a well-tuned referral system. When a vision care or ophthalmology business depends on a steady stream of professional referrals, a “practice representative” is a sound investment. A Physician Liaison understands the life-blood importance of professional referrals to specialty practices. Their job is to protect and expand the referral base.
Your existing/internal patient audience requires special attention. Think of “previous patients” as a current and important and connected part of the practice and likely candidates for additional vision services. In addition to having an active recall system in place, this group of patients often requires second cataract or LASIK surgeries or other care. What’s more, patients who know the practice are a source of testimonials and friends and family referrals.
Your website and Internet presence is not a “set-and-forget” proposition. For some practices, a lingering “old school” attitude regards the website as digital “brochure-ware.” A contemporary perspective recognizes the Internet and your online presence as a means to deliver new patients and new business to your office. If your site is static and unproductive, it’s not doing its job.
With more than two decades of experience in the industry, we know how complex and challenging ophthalmology marketing can be in a highly competitive, and constantly changing, environment.
Please reach out to us for help with any of these marketing challenges. Call 800-656-0907, and let’s talk about ophthalmology marketing and advertising that produces measurable results.