By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
An ophthalmologist approached us for marketing help with his well-established vision care practice. It’s a story we’ve heard from time to time in the past, and perhaps you can relate.
It seems that the return on marketing ophthalmology services has, somewhat to his surprise, quietly slipped downhill. He believed that he, personally, was a recognized colleague among his professional peers, and that his practice was well known to the public and community.
But we found that “what he believed” had disconnected from reality. While he was occupied with the clinical routine, several factors had, until now, largely escaped his attention, and eroded profitability. Again, you can probably relate:
- The nation’s soft economy and shifts in insurance coverage are significant.
- Consumers have become increasingly cautious about all medical expenses.
- Competition among ophthalmic surgeons, and with medical centers, has increased.
- Elective categories, such as refractive surgery, LASIK, PRK and others, are a “tougher sell.”
- The Internet is pervasive and informed, empowered consumers intensely shop for vision services.
How to refresh and restart your Marketing for Ophthalmology
Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated example. Vision care practices in various corners of the nation tell us that operating an ophthalmology practice, and marketing ophthalmology services, isn’t anything like it used to be. The good news, however, is that a fresh approach, and an ethical marketing system can make a dramatic difference and bolster the business bottom line.
The business structure, style and emphasis of ophthalmology practices vary significantly, but here are some of the first steps to up-date and refresh your business objectives and optometric business plan.
Use an unbiased SWOT analysis. The daily demands of a healthcare practice can easily distract attention from the dynamics of change. But a high-level examination of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats is the vital strategic planning step to refocus. (And schedule time now to revisit the SWOT analysis in six months.)
Look inside first. Your internal audiences—those people and patients who already know you—usually represent a low-barrier opportunity to reach a large and important audience. Examine your patient recall routine. Those practices that do not have or follow an established clinical recall system simply lose business to neglect.
Existing or previous patients are prospects for routine follow-up care, and possibly, second-LASIK or second-cataract surgeries, for example. What’s more, satisfied patients provide positive recommendations, testimonials and/or online ratings.
Tell all your patients what you do. Any given patient knows almost nothing about your full range of services, practice or procedures. Your considerable capabilities may seem obvious to you, but the patient, or someone they know, may benefit from knowing more about refractive surgery, or that you do screenings for glaucoma, diabetic or macular degeneration.
Cataract or glaucoma cases may be commonplace to some, but it helps the patient to know your story about the benefits of cosmetic eyelid surgery, laser vision correction or ocular plastic surgery. Have and use a brief story to raise awareness with patients, family and friends who may have a need.
A practice representative inspires professional referrals. Ophthalmology practices that are referral dependent often retain a practice rep or physician liaison to protect and expand the income stream. Referring physicians—family or general practitioners—as well as optometrists, opticians and others is a valuable business resource. Other practices need to hear your story, know your capabilities and understand how you can help their patients. What’s your system?
Have an ophthalmology marketing plan and stick to it. The ophthalmologist who approached us for help tried the “set-and-forget” approach…with equally forgettable results. An annual marketing plan will be implemented monthly and reviewed against goals at least quarterly.
And a bonus tip…
Successful marketing and business development also requires a commitment to achieve personal and professional goals. Winning in today’s competitive environment often requires a candid, third party assessment as well as experienced, professional support. If we can help with an unbiased marketing assessment, please give us a call today.