When you visit most OD Internet forums, blogs or trade show talks, you’ll inevitably hear constant tales of woe about the demise of our profession. Many of these doomsayers lament too many doctors graduating from too many schools, all of which are competing for the same patients.

Fortunately, this common belief couldn’t be further from the truth in a contact lens practice. Consider this: approximately 80% of the US population requires some form of vision correction, yet only about 15% of the population wears contact lenses. Even if we remove patients who are difficult to fit, there is still obviously a huge opportunity to grow your contact lens practice.

Thanks to a healthy stream of new contact lens options having reached the market in recent months—including toric, multifocal and colored lenses—the number of patients who could successfully wear lenses has increased dramatically. The question is: have you seen this change reflected in your practice? Probably not, and it’s likely because you’re having trouble overcoming the two biggest obstacles to expanding your practice: competition and inertia.

Assessing the Competition
A good way to determine exactly whom your practice is up against is to use colored contact lenses. Patients have the option of wearing either clear or colored lenses to correct their vision. Those who opt for colored lenses are aware of this fact. So, what motivates them to “add” color to their lenses? And, if they didn’t do so, where would that incremental spending take place instead? Once you are able to determine this information, you can then use that intelligence to expand your practice.

Some practitioners describe colored contact lenses as frivolous, time consuming and even nonsensical in some cases. But, it’s important to look at colored contact lenses in a different way, as they can increase both self-esteem and self-confidence in many patients. Wearers tend to describe these lenses as life changing, fun, sexy and empowering.

Customers at a hair or nail salon, patients at a plastic surgeon’s or cosmetic dentist’s office, or clients of a personal trainer may use those very same adjectives to describe the services they receive. In this case, what’s really preventing an increase in your colored lens practice isn’t another practitioner at all—it’s the patients’ desire to spend their money on services such as teeth whitening or six months of personal training instead of contact lenses.

The point to consider here: the discretionary dollars the patient has allocated towards physical self-improvement can be spent on either colored contact lenses or nail tips. Taking that into account, you should change your marketing message from, “We can change your eye color from brown to blue,” to something that really grabs these patients. Good examples of effectively marketing your colored contact lens practice would be something along the lines of, “Put the finishing touches on your new hairstyle by changing your eye color,” or, “Working out to get six-pack abs is hard; changing your eye color is easy.”

Overcoming Inertia
Additionally, there is often an opportunity to cross-market your practice with all of the above competitors. Imagine this: a client walks into the nail salon and notices the salon operator’s brand new eye color. This will inevitably lead the client to ask, “Where and how did you do that?” When the operator responds and tells the client it was done at your practice, you reap the benefits.

The concept above is easy to understand. The only barrier to executing this marketing mindset is inertia. While not cognitively complex, it does require that you make use of some new marketing techniques. Specifically, you (or a representative from your office) must physically visit the nail salon instead of simply making a Facebook post. But, like most well thought out marketing initiatives, once it’s in place, actively tended to, monitored and constantly measured, it works.

Of course, none of these strategies are limited to colored lenses—they can be applied to all of your contact lens wearers. Have a fun and engaging staff meeting and put on your marketing thinking caps to discuss where presbyopes might be spending their discretionary dollars, and use the exact same concept as above.