What's your plan for 2010?

December 15, 2009

It's the time of year when optical chain executives take time to review their company's performance and revise the strategic plan.

In a few days we will celebrate the end of 2009 and begin dating our memos and patient records with 2010.

The past 12 months have been tough, but the ophthalmic profession has weathered the recession better than most industries. Industry-wide optical dispensary sales were reported to be off by just 2.5%. I have only one client who reported sales being lower than last year.

1. Benchmark your dispensary's performance. The planning process always begins with research. Looking back at where you've been helps you decide where to go. Benchmarking will gauge your dispensary's performance against others and evaluate how it compares with best-in-class practices.

2. Set goals. The goals you set should depend on which benchmarks you exceed and which you don't exceed. When setting goals, I always start with the premise that "our practice will exceed all of the industry benchmarks." In other words, this practice always will strive to have above-average performance.

3. Create a marketing calendar. Dispensaries are pure retail businesses. Retail businesses promote themselves. Those promotions need to be budgeted and planned well in advance. Ask yourself, what will we do and when will we do it? Will we run sales? If so, when and for how many weeks? Will our sales be advertised or "in-store" only? Will we hold events such as trunk shows, vision screenings, or makeover nights? How will we tell dispensary customers and prospective customers about these activities?

4. Improve your dispensary's Internet presence. Ninety percent of ophthalmology practice Web sites I see could be improved significantly. It is true that any Web site is better than none but now that everyone has a Web site it is time to take your Internet presence to the next level.

Investing $5,000 to $10,000 in your Web site is one of the best investments you can make. Over time, the cost of each impression made by visitors to your site will be peanuts compared with other forms of marketing and advertising. Sadly, many practices with good Web sites have substandard dispensary pages.

This is partially the result of the practice not giving the dispensary its due and partially not knowing what information to post when it does. Remember, 30% of the revenue generated by a comprehensive ophthalmology practice comes from its dispensary. Patients spend time online researching frame and lens options. Shouldn't they be able to do so at your site?

5. Consider the effect of social networking. If you follow marketing blogs you are aware that social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are beginning to have an effect on the retail landscape. Briefly stated, people are changing the way they shop and savvy retailers are beginning to harness the power of this method of communication.

It may be too early to ask ophthalmology patients to become "friends" of your dispensary on Facebook but you should be aware that disgruntled customers have used social networking sites to convey their message to literally millions of prospective consumers. To see one example, go to the Nov. 6, 2009 posting on my blog (http://adgablog.wordpress.com/). There you can play a post from YouTube that has been viewed more than 6 million times. Then ask yourself, what will you do next year to improve your brand, image, and dispensary customer experience to such a degree that anything posted to a social networking site about your dispensary will be positive?

Arthur De Gennaro is president of Arthur De Gennaro & Associates LLC, an ophthalmic practice management firm that specializes in optical dispensary issues. De Gennaro is the author of the book The Dispensing Ophthalmologist. He can be reached at 803/359-7887, arthur@adegennaro.com
, or through the company’s Web site, http://www.adegennaro.com/.