An often, over- looked principle of growing a business is that you can decide what type of practice and customers you would like to serve. It really is up to you. The most important step in setting goals, a critical first step to achievement is deciding what kind of practice or business you want. What kind of optometry do you want to practice? What is the profile or description of your “ideal customer”?
The critical mistake most practices make is that they never really make the decision themselves but rather just open their doors and hope for the best. This will result in the success of your practice being left to circumstances and the ups and downs of economic, demographic and regulatory changes. You have chosen to let others decide what kind of practice your own.
If you do not have a clear, well defined picture of the practice you want and the patients that you desire to serve, then take an hour and shut off the phones, close the door and focus on deciding what it is that you want. Take out a piece of paper and pen and begin to write out a detailed description of the characteristics of your ideal patient. How old are they? Are they male, female, low income, middle income, high income, do they have families? Are they urban or suburban, millennial’s or baby boomers? Do they pay for their care with cash or with third party payments? Who are your high value customers. Who are the customers or patients that you value most?
It is not that you will necessarily exclude any patient that does not fit your idea, but what this does is that it begins to direct how you will construct your practice and the way services are provided. You must design your practice physically, design it’s policies and, most importantly offer the types of products and services that appeal most to those whom you desire to serve.
There is not a singular, best type of practice, it is yours, you decide. There are very successful practices with high-end, boutique optical’s which offer professional services as a convenience. On the other end of the spectrum, there are successful practices that serve a medicaid or low income group of patients and everything in between. Each has their advantages and disadvantages but the important point is that you must decide on what type of practice and patient that you want to serve.
The next series of steps you are to take will become logical and amazingly clear when you have made this decision. These steps will provide you with a clear path of actions to create the type of practice that will appeal most to this group of customers.
You will look at your office with the question, does my office look like the kind of office that my desired customers will want to visit? Do our customer service policies and conveniences appeal to my high-value customer? What type of inventory will they find most appealing? What type of services best suit their needs?
You will begin to think in terms of how to best communicate to this group of customers, what are the issues that are most important to them? What community activities will provide you with the greatest exposure to this group of customers?
Are my high value customers involved in social media? Do they appreciate technology? How can I best go about building a relationship with them?
It is a fundamental truth that people associate with those most like themselves. This provides you an opportunity to build this group of Value customers through referral of their friends and family. The more you appeal to the customers and patients that you have decided are those you value most, the more referrals you will build from this group.
The truth is that building a successful practice is not about finding a magic gimmick or chasing after the latest trendy idea heard at a conference.
Building a successful practice is from making yourself appealing to those you wish to serve in such an effective way that it differentiates you from all of those who are simply hoping for the best.
This column by John D Marvin is published with permission from INVISION magazine.