How to Compete Against National Chains as a Private Practice Office
So, how can you as a private practice owner compete against the national chains, they have seemingly endless budgets. They have bigger efficiencies. They can compete on cost. There’s a lot of things they can do well today.
We’re gonna talk about how independent practices, private practices, even regional practices can compete against the big national chains.
So grab a notepad, hang on your seat belts folks. Here we go.
Today we’re talking about competing with national chains. So if you own a private practice, if you maybe work in marketing in a private practice, you know, you own maybe a handful of, of shops, of practices around an area. We’re gonna talk about what you can do. So I think to first kind of frame this up, like, let’s talk about what you probably can’t compete on. And I think this is really, really helpful to understand, first of all, if you’re a private at practice competing against the big names who, I may name at some point, but you, you know who they are, right. But if you’re a, a private practice things you cannot likely compete on are first of all, cost, right? They have massive, massive efficiencies that drive down their costs. They may have special relationships with either insurance companies or with provider of materials. Maybe even equipment, their costs are almost always gonna be lower than you. And so competing in the cost bucket. Like, yes, you need to be, you know, approximate, right. A lot of times.
Competing From A Cost Standpoint is Almost Always A Losing Venture.
Maybe you have something in your particular practice that makes you unique. Well, if that’s the case, then forget about it. Go ahead and compete on cost. Right. But for most practices, I see that cost is not something they can compete upon, on, because you don’t have the economies of scale. Right? Same with like trying to compete against the Walmart, other big national company. If you’re in retail, you gotta do something else. You’re not gonna be able to get a lower cost.
Smaller Company = Lower Efficiency
Similarly you’re probably not gonna be able to run more efficiently, right? Because their actual costs are often much lower. Again, discounts on equipment, on supplies. They can outsource a lot of their HR stuff. So a lot of times you’re not gonna be able to really compete on efficiency. So that’s not something that we wanna strive for on a competitive level. Obviously you want efficiency within your practice. But it’s not something that we wanna spend a lot of time dwelling on. So I wouldn’t focus on cost. I wouldn’t focus on efficiency. And also marketing spend, right?
Most of the Big, National Chains Have Big Marketing Budgets
They’re running television commercials, they’re running Facebook ads, you know, Instagram ads, they’re running Google ads. You know, they’re investing a lot into marketing. And so you can’t compete on spend. We’re gonna talk about some ways you can compete in marketing and which I highly recommend, but we’ll get into that in a second.
What makes you unique?
So if you’re going to compete, right, because these guys are moving into every area, maybe you’re in a teeny, tiny town somewhere, and this doesn’t impact you, but if you’re in even a, a small city, right. You’re gonna see that more and more, you know, of these big national chains are gonna move in and they’re gonna try and take a bite out of your market share. So the first thing to real dig down on and by the way, you’re not gonna solve this in this podcast. It takes a long time, but is what makes you unique? Why do people come to you particularly? What makes you unique from the national change? Just down the store in the strip mall?
Maybe it’s relationship. This is super true for a lot of doctors, maybe it’s that you spend those extra few minutes talking with your patients, building rapport, building a relationship with them and really trying to get to know them, get to know them individually.
Maybe it is the brands. So this is specifically with optical that you carry. Do you carry specific brands that others don’t now I know that almost all glasses are made in the same factory or have handful of factories in China. So this is something that may or may not be relevant to you, but it’s worth considering, right? What can you carry? What can you offer that makes you unique? Especially on the optical side or maybe on the contact side, what else can you compete on? So a lot of it is also the experience, right? Maybe you’re not the fastest, maybe you’re not the lowest cost, but you have a good experience, right? Do you actually take time to train your front desk, people in sales? And being kind and generous and making sure that everything goes right or as correctly as possible for the folks you are serving.
1. Train Or Hire The Best Employees for Your Practice
Another way to do this on the optical side, I actually know of a practice that did this very successfully is rather than just being opticians, right. They actually hired consultants to, to make and talk folks through their eyeglass purchase. Because eyeglasses, especially if you’re going to wear them a lot, I mean, it’s a very much a fashion statement. I know as medical professionals, it’s easy to look at it through only the medical side, but eyeglasses are fundamentally fashion. Otherwise you can wear contacts, things like that. And again, there’s always the odd exception, but for most people, their eyeglasses are actually a part of their identity. Right. So on the optical side, yeah. You can’t compete on cost, but you have people who really understand fashion. Can you train that? Can you hire people who are fashionable, who don’t just say, “hey, look, here’s a pair of glasses,” but instead, “I think this style suits your face,” and “here’s why I think this looks good with your style,” and “here’s why that can be a, a major value add.” People might pay an extra 20 or $30 for a set of glasses, maybe an extra, a hundred dollars. But the idea is that they are confident that they look good in the glasses that they get, which is way different than, the big Costcos or somewhere in like that, where it’s, you know, they have a dozen glasses in the case and you pick whatever one.
2. What are your specialties?
Another way to really make you yourself unique is really focus on your specialties. And so obviously there’s the medical specialties, right. You know, diabetic eye care, myopia control, dry eyes. I mean, you can really dive into some of those, again, depending on the size of your market, your location.
There’s a lot of variables, but you can dive into those. But are there other opportunities? If you’re next to an area that has a ton of athletics, perhaps a university, can you really focus on athletes. How to give athletes the eyecare that they need to perform their best. And you can do original research to publish content around. You can get to know the coaches and the athletic directors and the trainers of all, as well as the athletes on a lot of the big sports teams. Obviously that gives you a feeder for athletes and also gives you kind of a, niche within the industry.
There’s a practice in town where that just of sort of happened organically, with vet students. Vet students on campus are a very tight niche community. A handful of them started coming to the same practice where it got around that it’s a great practice pretty soon, you know, they’re getting one or two vet students a week and sometimes more just coming to get their glasses because they had a good experience. So can you get into those micro and those niche communities?
Another example, would be workers right now as the world shifts largely into remote work. Can you focus on more of the ergonomic ice strain kind of parts? Can you provide expertise on that? Right, and brand yourself and around that. And so that it’s like, Hey, I know that I’m gonna be working in a chair eight, 10 hours a day at my house. For example, what do I need to get? What monitor do I need to get? What types of glasses? Sure every, optical and every optometry office can help with that, but can you really build a brand around that? That’s kind of the difference that makes a difference.
Find A Niche and Amplify Your Value
Can you be better even 10% better at a particular niche than the national chains? If you can, then you can build your whole reputation around that. You know, is it going to grow your practice massively? Over time, it actually might, again, depending on the size of your city but at the end of the day, it’s about what makes you unique because you can’t compete on cost and efficiency. What’s the value add that you can provide that actually makes makes your practice more valuable. So then let’s actually talk then once you have that. So that’s kind of the big is like what makes me unique from everyone else? In, in sales, we call this a P right, the unique selling proposition. What makes you unique from everyone else? Why should somebody go with you?
Research Your Niche
So once you kind of have an idea of what that is, and again, you can test a couple of things, right? What if you try and maybe you have a handful of athletes. You really try to work that out and build relationships there again, this takes time. This isn’t something that just happens overnight, but these are just things to think about as you’re growing your practice.
Once you have that identified, or at least something that you wanna really try and test that’s when you move into the marketing around that, right. If it’s athletes, right, I’m just gonna use that as an example, then you figure out, like, what are the athletes reading? What communities are they in? Can you sponsor local games, maybe high school games or college games. Can you, you know, be involved with the local a or B league teams, right? Or AAA again, depending on what sport you’re talking about. A lot of those are desperate for sponsors. And so for a thousand bucks, $2,000, you can get a sponsorship there. Now, I always recommend that sponsorships be a part of a bigger marketing spend. And generally, I don’t think sponsorships are a great idea that said, if you’re really trying to reach athletes or people who are fans of athletics, then it might make sense.
We can talk about later the are ROI and how to measure that, because it’s really, really hard with sponsorships. But just general marketing. Here’s a few things that we’re seeing right now that I think are, are worth noting.
Google Favors Independent Practices
First of all, is that Google, most of the time is still favoring independent practices in their search results. So if somebody’s searching for iCare optometrist in your city, again, the example I saw is Phoenix eye doctor, Phoenix eyecare, Phoenix optometrist both the Google, my business listings as GMB listings. Those are typically local practices as well as usually the top two to three, sometimes more, sometimes less, but the top two or three results are typically local or at least regional offices.
They not yet fully favor the big national chains and they are not usually favoring the Yelp or, OC or some of these other competitors basically to Google. There’s a reason they don’t do that. So a lot of times what I see because we manage search for obviously a lot of optometry offices is in search. You have three or four of what I would call like the local practices. Then underneath that that’s when you get the Yelps and all that. So you really wanna shoot to be in the top three or four again for keywords like optometrist in your city, eye doctor in your city.
How long will this be true? I don’t know. I think Google is incentivized to not send a lot of competitors to Yelp because they’re a competitor of Google? They don’t want Yelp to succeed because Google’s doing all their own Google my business stuff right now. Here’s the other value that you get with that though is because a Google is favoring these independent practices. It also allows you to optimize your individual website or series of websites to rank for those keywords. So if I’m working for a big national chain there’s probably a handful of people, let’s call it three, four people at most that work in search engine optimization, SEO copywriting, they’re the ones who are trying to rank the local website.
And what they’re doing is they have a giant website, you know giant national practice.com and they have a locations page and they have a location for Phoenix, right. Or for north Phoenix or whatever that looks like. They are very limited. They’re not building microsites for each individual area. They can only do so much.
The idea is that over time, they improve everything a little bit, but they don’t have the flexibility that they need organically or otherwise to run specific advertisements or specific optimization strategies within a market. So they have to optimize for everything and maybe they’re in a hundred or a couple hundred cities? They maybe have a thousand practices they’re trying to optimize and they’re only four people. So yes, they have sort of a bigger foundation than most practices, but it’s really easy most of the time to surpass them in Google search results. Because again, everything they do gets spread out over hundreds of cities.
They’re not optimizing for your individual area, they’re not tailoring their strategies.
This is one of the biggest things that I see as a problem with private practices. Let me back up. So you have these big national competitors. So they have three or four people on their SEO team trying to rank their Google, my business websites. They usually just can’t do a very good job because they can’t focus anywhere. So then you have private practices who have this amazing opportunity, right? To rank their site uniquely. The problem is a lot of private practices will hire optometry specific marketing and SEO companies. And I know we’re one of those, but hang on. This is where we’re a little different and that they will try and use this really, really cookie cutter approach, very similar to what the national chains are doing. And that gives up the very opportunity that they have. Right?
If you’re doing a copy paste, per practice you’re doing the same of what your competitors are all doing, you’re no different than the national chains.
You have this amazing opportunity to rank, to build brand, to build reputation, to rank your Google, my business, to rank your website.
That is unique to you by having a unique website by having neat content. But when you’re just copying and pasting, what’s already been done using a lot of these folks who are practice marketing experts. You’re no different than the national chains. And this is like, I guess my biggest frustration when I talk to people who are like, oh yeah, we work with, you know, name, big company running tons of ads, right?
What happens is you are not be benefiting from the very thing that makes you unique, IE, your small practice, your nimble, everything needs to be customized to you.
So anyway, that’s my kind of word of warning and word of opportunity is if you are in a small to medium size market, it’s worth it to invest heavily in search, right. And all these other brand things for sure, but in search because at the moment, and don’t know how long this is gonna last, right? But at the moment, Google is still favoring independent practices in their results, both, both for Google, my business and for organic. So if you’re not taking advantage of that, if you’re not positioning yourself to take advantage of that, if you’re not creating custom content, if you’re not optimizing title tags, doing all this stuff, building back links, that’s unique to your market, you’re just wasting an amazing opportunity.
National chains are going to eat your lunch. If I could just talk to every optometrist, I would just say, look, here’s the problem with a lot of the cookie cutter approaches is a national change. You’re giving away fundamentally the biggest value that you have for your business.
Recap of Competing Against National Chains As A Private Practice Office
Competing with national chains, don’t compete on cost. You probably can’t compete on efficiency and you certainly can’t compete on marketing spend.
Focus on what makes you unique.
Again, relationships, brands, experience, specialties, whatever that is marketing, really focus on your unique area. What are the needs in your area? How can you communicate that via web, via digital, via even print media, whatever that is, focus on that hometown, that, you know, relationship that uniqueness, whatever you decide, build your entire brand around that.
And then double down on Google, for lead generation, because we see that that works all the time. So anyway, that’s kind of a super high level overview.
If you wanna talk more hit us up optometrymarketing.com. Send me an email.
I’ll be happy to hop on a phone, chat and elaborate if you have any questions or concerns, or if you have topics that you’d like covered on the optometry marketing podcast, reach out to me via the website or via email. I will be happy to do my best to cover them. So good luck!
You’re competing with people with deep pockets, but I believe in you, I believe in your practice. I know you’re offering something valuable to folks. So go out there. These guys are cheating. They’re getting free money, but you can beat them. I believe in you.