LASIK Advertising Initiatives for 2008: Has LASIK Become a Commodity?
Lasik Price and Lasik Pricing Related Problems
Over the past ten years LASIK has become a very common form of laser vision correction. Millions of people have had successful LASIK eye surgery. More than 1 million Americans will most likely undergo LASIK surgery this year, and the majority will get improved vision. This relatively safe procedure can be very effective when provided by an experienced LASIK surgeon. With the success of this procedure has also come attempts to create the southwest airlines business model for LASIK. Although these corporate centers are not always successful, the state of the LASIK eye surgery business has moved closer to commodity levels. But has LASIK eye surgery become a commodity? Is this a good or a bad thing for prospective LASIK patients? What will this mean to the independent ophthalmologists and the small practices?
By definition a commodity is a homogeneous and undifferentiated product sold largely on the basis of price. Commodities are sold on price not on features and benefits or the quality nature of a product. Has LASIK eye surgery entered this realm? It is hard for me to grapple with the concept that this type of eye surgery has really met this level. It is hard for me to ascertain that someone would choose a low price for eye surgery over a quality surgical option. It does happen, however; the LASIK eye surgery business is not at the commodity stage yet! Some corporate LASIK centers would like prospective patients to think that getting LASIK is like buying sugar or electricity, however; the reality is that quality practices can still differentiate! Despite the surge of illegitimate LASIK advertising claiming “LASIK as low as $199.99″ or other bait and switch advertising techniques we somehow find the state of this medical procedure not in the depths of commodity, but in a position to add further differentiation. Although discount providers often advertise that LASIK is available for only a couple hundred dollars, many ASCRS members and leading market research experts, note and debate that the actual price of LASIK from a discounter averages $1000.00-$1500.00 per eye for the conventional procedure and in many cases higher than that for custom LASIK. (ASOA LASIK Marketing Roundtable ASCRS 2006)
There is no corporate center that has completely turned their business model into the southwest airlines of LASIK eye surgery. In fact many of these corporate centers have difficulty and have posted low earnings in years past. The question for your practice becomes do we just surrender or do we differentiate and compete? As an Internet marketing consultant I hear a lot of stories about selling LASIK based on pricing and how unfair this is. The good news is that you still have time to differentiate your practice but the bad news is that you have to deal with misleading advertisers because Federal and State regulation is rare.
Both Federal and State regulators have taken some action against misleading advertisers, but enforcement and regulation seldom occurs. It takes a lot of time and resources to pursue legal action against a corporation and not many doctors have this kind of time. The fact of the matter is that LASIK is surgery! Patients need a quality surgeon with experience and one that can determine candidacy! It still baffles me that lasik is still done on patients who are clearly not good candidates.
Can your LASIK Practice differentiate itself from the competition? TIPS for differentiating your practice
There are other differentiation ideas so check back with our website on a regular basis for NEW articles relating to differentiating your LASIK business.
1. Using Your Patients To Differentiate
Ophthalmology Social Search 101
In Internet marketing we are seeing increased results and awareness of social search usage. Social search can be detected on blogs, facebook, and even the new Kristin Cavaleri website developed by VISX (If you have not seen this it is a must see). I am often surprised to see very few patient stories on websites of refractive practices. This is a surefire way to differentiate your practice! Oftentimes practices will even have a book of letters at the practice. These patient testimonials need to become part of the overall differentiation strategy and eventually used on the Internet. With the increase in reality shows, and social networking it is important to grasp the value of a system geared toward attracting patients through this medium. There is a reason that word of mouth referrals dominate lead generation for practices all over the country.
2. Using EyeOR or Intraocular Refractive Surgery to differentiate your entire refractive surgery business!
Differentiate your practice with unique procedures
If we want to be able to offer refractive surgery to all perspective patients we must realize that LASIK alone will not get us there. For many years now the refractive surgery business has been under siege by price discounting corporate lasik centers driving this surgery to a near commodity level. The features and benefits of laser vision correction have become blurred. Product differentiation has been difficult for many practices to achieve. Bait and switch low priced advertising has been effective in attracting patients and the playing field has weak enforcement mechanisms to prevent this style of marketing. The overall effect is the commoditization of refractive surgery. With the advent of Intraocular multi-focal lenses, practices now have a new opportunity to differentiate their offerings. SEE: www.eyeor.com.
3. Doing what is best for the patient!
Refractive surgery candidates come in many shapes and sizes with varying levels of age. Each candidate has a unique situation. Lasik is not right for everyone. By having a wide base of surgical choices for your patients you can open the door to a new value proposition. The new position is quite simple. Provide surgical solutions that are the best for each patient. If the patient is 50 years old they might consider refractive lens exchange, If the patient is very myopic with a thin cornea but young maybe consider the new Visian ICL. Practices can do a good thing for their patients by offering multiple solutions for their unique situation. As a surgeon you can feel good about suggesting the best procedure for them not the most convenient. This is the first step to differentiating your refractive surgery business.
4. Create a value proposition and differentiation statement
Practices need to review their current communication strategies and create a differentiation statement that will surely be different than others. Does your practice have a value proposition? If not you should consider spending a little time to create such a document and furthermore educate and train your practice employees as to the merits of such communication. If your team understands the goals of the practice and has methodology for implementing these ideas you may be surprised that your internal patients converting to LASIK increases or that your word of mouth continues to grow.
You may understand that LASIK isn’t a commodity and you may also know what separates you and makes you different from your competition. Have you ever asked your practice employees what the main points of differentiation for your practice are? Have you ever invited your techs and COTs to a marketing meeting that discusses the practice value proposition and differentiation statement? Your staff has direct contact with patients and routinely has the opportunity to educate patients and interject their opinions on the matter. If your employees are not empowered to do this then they will fail at delivering this information. A simple marketing meeting with a marketing manager may make a tremendous difference and as the practice makes progress in this area good things will happen.
5. Develop a great and informative ophthalmology website
Developing a nice website with great information, patient education, and easy to navigate page structures can not only help you find new patients, but it is a great method of practice differentiation. If you are a practice that uses state of the art technology but has a very ugly website, you have a double standard in effect. The patient will actually question the technological capability if you present a poor practice website just like they would if the office was dirty and messy. For a small cost any practice can have a nice and functional website. What you choose to do to promote the website is a whole other story (SEE Building Brand New Ophthalmology Websites Article)
There are many other differentiation ideas so check back with our website on a regular -basis for NEW articles relating to differentiating your LASIK business.
Page Topics Include: Is LASIK a commodity?, LASIK pricing, LASIK commodity, alternatives to misleading LASIK advertising, differentiating your lasik practice, 5 differentiation TIPS for lasik practices, In office surgical suites, intraocular surgery suite consultants, LASIK patient testimonials, LASIK pricing.
According to the FTC, an advertisement is deceptive under the Federal Trade Commission Act if it contains a material representation or omission of fact that is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances. Advertisers are also responsible for claims that are reasonably implied from their statements. These rules apply to all advertisements, including consumer testimonials. In addition, advertisers must be able to substantiate all objective claims they make about a product or service.