Evaluating your competition: industry and non-industry

November 1, 2008

Losing even one patient to another local practice is one too many. To achieve and maintain an edge in the LASIK market, you've got to stay on top of your competitors with research and analysis, and regularly evaluate where you fit in terms of image and consumer perception.

Key Points

San Diego-Are you providing an unparalleled LASIK experience that clearly outshines your competitors?

Losing even one patient to another local practice is one too many. To achieve and maintain an edge in the LASIK market, you have to stay on top of your competitors with research and analysis, and regularly evaluate where you fit in terms of image and consumer perception. Once you get potential patients to seek you out and make your phone ring, providing a pleasant experience from start to finish will prove priceless in winning long-term loyalty and leaving your competition in the dust.

Do your research on the two types of competition you're up against: industry and non-industry.

LASIK providers are competing for consumer dollars against other goods and services-vacations, elective cosmetic and dentistry procedures, home improvements, and so forth. In the midst of fighting for a piece of the discretionary-income pie, ask yourself, "What can we as an industry do to identify, evaluate, and outdo competition from other industries?"

To answer that question, begin by analyzing your target market's demographics and spending patterns with help from your marketing or advertising agency. Then, brainstorm ideas with your staff to come up with ways your practice can communicate the benefits and long-term value of choosing vision correction over other purchases. For example, you can mention how, in just minutes, patients can achieve a lifetime of clear vision. When compared with, say, a one-week vacation, the long-term benefits are crystal clear.

Industry competition

To analyze your industry competition accurately, you'll need to seek out specific information on what other practices are doing to get patients to call, and how they convert calls to consults and consults to surgeries.

Surf the Internet for blog posts or reviews on other local LASIK providers, and keep notes on what you perceive your competitors' strengths and weaknesses to be. Ask your patients if they considered other centers, why they chose not to go with a competitor, and what it is about your practice that ultimately won them over.

Get creative about tracking consumer data. Evaluate your competition's patient experience by talking to those who've been treated by other LASIK providers, including family members, friends, and others in the community.

Identify competitors' strengths and weaknesses, and compare them with your own. You even can go so far as "mystery shopping" your competitors-by completing inquisitive phone calls and consultations with them-to evaluate their customer journey.

Position your practice uniquely

Effectively positioning your practice to an ideal target audience means exploiting your unique strengths to the fullest. Whether you are offering the top laser on the market, highlighting a surgeon who helped pioneer LASIK, or pushing personal care as your biggest draw, focus on that one aspect that makes you different and then extract maximum mileage from it.

To do so, don't simply promote the attribute or feature. Educate consumers on how that attribute translates into a tangible benefit they can appreciate. For instance, promoting technology alone will not get your practice miles ahead of the competition. But concentrating on technology as a means to an end-i.e., "Our new laser [LADARVision, Alcon Laboratories] enables us to provide a safer procedure with better vision results"-puts this feature in benefit-focused terms that will help patients see the value and move them closer to commitment.

Show and tell

Whatever unified image you decide on, promote it aggressively in your marketing materials, your advertising, and your face-to-face interactions. Be consistent in the practice attributes you highlight.

And don't just tell prospective patients how you're different; show them. Use testimonials, endorsements, and other authenticating resources to build patient trust. Then, make sure that everything you promise is delivered throughout each patient's LASIK experience.

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