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HomemifeatureDon’t Compete, Find Your Niche… Then Unlock Your Practice Potential

Don’t Compete, Find Your Niche… Then Unlock Your Practice Potential

Nothing stands still, especially within the increasingly competitive operating environment of optometry and optical dispensing. While the challenge of surrounding competition may seem overwhelming at times, you are in a position to capitalise on your uniqueness… but first you need to find it.

New corporate players and online competition continue to put heat on the market. Eyewear retail prices remain stagnant despite increasing fixed costs. While the freeze on the Medicare Benefits Schedule has finally been lifted, the revenue from Medicare still lags years behind where it could be today.

There was once a time when all an optometrist had to do was put a sign up saying ‘Optometrist’ and people came

Figure 1

Yet despite all these challenges, optometry practices are well positioned to grow their share of the market if they embrace what makes them unique, understand what their ideal patient wants and needs, and are able to create the type of experience that turns them into an award-winning business.

FIND YOUR UNIQUE POINT OF DIFFERENCE

There was once a time when all an optometrist had to do was put a sign up saying “Optometrist” and people came. There was no window display. No marketing. Being an optometrist was unique enough.

But things have changed and today, to unlock your business practice potential, you need to differentiate your practice with a clearly defined unique selling proposition (USP).

Being unique means when someone thinks about your practice, they can clearly articulate what makes it special. And, when they walk past your practice, it stands out from the rest.

The reality of being unique also means that you will never be all things to all people. This in itself makes good business sense because, when you try to appeal to everyone, you end up attracting no-one. General department stores that tried to appeal to everyone now appeal to no-one and while there may be a multitude of reasons why this once successful business model is now struggling, a key component is the inability to communicate being special in something. A retail example is Myer and David Jones. Retail experts have stated that they are in the midst of a ‘death spiral’.

A logical way to differentiate your practice is with clinical excellence in areas such as contact lenses, children’s vision, dry eye, specialty equipment, behavioural optometry, myopia management or low vision. Pricing structure, product range and service are other ways to create a USP that will clearly differentiate you and attract a loyal customer following.

Figure 2

However, this is not the only way to create your niche.

Think about what you love most in life and how this might attract a particular type of patient… Wouldn’t it be nice if every day you went to work, you looked after patients who enjoyed and appreciated the same?

Optometrist, Dr Garret Wada from California has turned his love of Star Trek into a Star Trek mecca for eye care. His tagline is corny yet appropriate: ‘The Next Generation of Eyecare’. Guess who he attracts to his practice? You got it!

So how can you manifest what you love most in your practice?

If you love animals, and specifically cats, make it clear with your interior design and practice collateral. Have cases with cats on them. Use cat quotes.

If you love art, plaster your practice with art based on a theme. Better still, showcase your own artwork with the frame displays!

Love vintage? Take the look of your practice back to the 50s and have a wonderful display of vintage frames.

I once attended a workshop on creating your practice vision, mission and value proposition. What I realised afterwards was that everyone had almost exactly the same vision and mission. Everyone, without exception, said they provided quality eye care services and quality eye wear. No one had a USP – and that was the problem – no one had a way to stand out.

BE AUTHENTIC

Your ability to stand out and be relevant to your local community is your ultimate advantage. What you need to decide is whether to do this with your pricing structures, your product selection, your services or the way you present your practice.

Ultimately, your decision should closely reflect your personal values so that the experience you create is authentic, heartfelt and sustainable. How you like to travel may give you an idea of how you like to receive and provide service. Are you adventurous? Do you like luxury? Are you the more rustic traveller? Do you like it simple and natural?

If your practice is not currently differentiated to reflect your values or attract the patients you want to care for, it’s not too late to make change. There’s no need to continue doing things the same way things have always been done.

KNOW YOUR AVATAR

In marketing, a customer avatar is a detailed profile of the ideal patient. Rather than making assumptions or generalising people into groups, the idea of creating an avatar is to really get to understand your one ideal customer and their needs. In doing so, you can come up with targeted marketing tools to attract and retain their business.

Who is the ideal avatar for your practice? If you aren’t clear on this, it can be very easy to waste time, money and resources trying to sell to the wrong patients – people who may not understand or appreciate your eye care offering. A simple exercise to help you get to know your avatar is to imagine placing an ad in the local paper for the patient your practice is best equipped to care for and a joy to look after.

Once you have clearly defined the ideal avatar for your services you will be able to determine where your practice can find more of the same – and this will ultimately determine your success as a business.

BECOME AN AWARD-WINNING PRACTICE

Business awards are an incredible credibility builder and a great way to get the word out about what is special about your services (even if your practice doesn’t win). They’re also an effective way to get your entire team thinking about, and taking pride in, your practice’s point of difference and its potential for future growth.

Some of the awards you could consider entering are:

  1. Telstra Business Awards
  2. Optus My Business Awards
  3. Australian Small Business ChampionsAwards
  4. Women in Business Awards of Australia
  5. The Business Awards
  6. Women of the Year Awards – NewSouth Wales
  7. Your State Government (Google “YourState” + “Government” + “Awards”)
  8. Your Local Business Chamber ofCommerce (Google “Your Region” +“Chamber of Commerce” + “Awards”)
  9. Your Local Council (Google “YourCouncil Name” + “Awards”)
  10. Optometry and Optical DispensingIndustry awards (eg. Eyecare Plus,ODMA, OA, ACBO, CCLSA….)

Business awards, such as the ODMA awards of excellence and Eyecare Plus’ practice success awards are a powerful acknowledgement of your optometry practice and your team’s achievements. Importantly, they also provide an opportunity for positive publicity within your local region where patients and potential patients need to be aware of your brand and what it stands for. At the end of the day, you need to make sure your local area knows why your practice is special.

In 2019, Eyecare Plus won the Canstar Blue Award for the second consecutive year. This is an incredible testament to a group of independently owned practices that while being heterogeneous, share the same values of quality and care. Within the Eyecare Plus group we have practices differentiated by clinical expertise, brand and product ranges, pricing and services – yet we are united by our desire, and proven ability, to satisfy our patients’ needs. The Canstar Blue Award acknowledged our group’s efforts and sent a powerful marketing message to the Australian community.

Over the years, our own Sydney group of practices has won multiple awards for business branding and has been an award finalist many times as well. These awards have accelerated business growth, brand awareness, provided positive feedback to our team about our services, and helped attract patients who may have been looking for a new optometrist. Each business award has provided us an opportunity for positive PR and marketing – otherwise known as bragging rights!

I encourage you to consider your practice’s unique selling proposition and to capitalise on it. In the process you and your team will achieve recognition, acquire new patients, and unlock your business potential.

Soojin Nam graduated with a Bachelor of Optometry / Science from UNSW, went on to complete the Executive Master of Business Administration (AGSM) and recently completed her post-graduate Masters in Optometry (UNSW). She has a special interest in children’s vision, myopia control and learning difficulties, and in particular, the, impact vision has on learning and attention. 

Ms Nam is on the board of Eyecare Plus, Optometry Australia NSW/ACT and the Australian Optometric Panel. She is a part-owner of six optometry practices in Sydney. Find out more about Soojin Nam and her business by listening to mivision’s podcast on miconversations: mivision.com.au/2019/06/newmivision- podcast-dr-soojin-nam 

References 

www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/deathspiral- will-david-jones-and-myer-still-be-around-in-10- years-20190802-p52d6k.html 

www.ibisworld.com.au/industry-trends/market-researchreports/ health-care-social-assistance/optometry-opticaldispensing. html 

www.optometrystudents.com/the-unconventionaloptometrist- taking-optometry-to-a-new-frontier/ thebusinessawards.com.au