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Up Front | Jan 2008

Troubleshoot Your Marketing

How to put all the right pieces together in the right order.

I was speaking with Rich Harshaw, founder of Monopolize Your Marketplace (Grapevine, Texas), and he explained a marketing lesson to me. In the lesson, he mentioned those children's books that hold sections of animal parts—where you can flip different parts of the page over and mix and match different heads, midsections, and legs. The object is to make the goofiest looking animal imaginable, like for example a walrus head, on a pig's body, with pelican legs. Then, you would call it something like a wal-pig-ican.

Now that you are older, you probably (hopefully) do not spend much time with those kinds of books anymore. But, if you are responsible for sales and marketing, then you still play a mix-and-match game all the time, even if you do not realize it.

Each marketing activity has several specific components, all of which must work perfectly together to achieve optimal results. This same principle applies to LASIK. If any component is wrong, you could end up with wal-pig-ican marketing.

Wal-pig-ican is fine for a children's game. It is disastrous for your LASIK business.

Just because you have all of the pieces (ie, head, body, legs) in place does not mean that you have the picture the right way. First, I will provide an example, and then I will discuss some of the different components.

A doctor recently mentioned to me that he was advertising in a local newspaper with some success. The newspaper's ad representative told him that he should advertise in the publication because they had the best readership in the area.

The doctor committed to a large budget for the entire year, but the advertising budget ate up almost the rest of his budget. The problem was that he had the ad (head), he had an offer with the same text of every other surgeon (body), and it went to the whole distribution (many legs of assorted kinds). It simply was not creating the desired results, so this program was falling on its face.

Upon my examination, I found that the overall plan was poorly executed. The ads appeared in a portion of the newspaper that was not read by the public he wanted to reach. The days the ads ran also held many other ads, and his were getting lost.

The ad made no compelling case for LASIK; it basically said, "Here we are. We offer free consults and are the best." He might as well as have run his competitor's ad and just changed the name—they were both saying the same message.

This man had the right generic pieces (head, body, legs), but he had the wrong specific pieces (walrus, pig, and pelican mixed together). Or, in other words, a wal-pig-ican that laid a huge egg and was costing him dearly.

Herein is a brief description of six components of any marketing or sales effort:

  1. Targeting. You have to be talking to the right crowd of people. I know this is obvious, but it often gets messed up. Realize that you may want to sell the same thing to different targets, which means you have to use various messages. For instance, I use separate approaches for practices of different sizes, which include start-ups, practices that are running but also having trouble, or those that share good successes in their area but want to continue growing. Just make sure you are cognizant of the audience that you are trying to reach.
  2. Vehicles/media. There are more than 25 types of media outlets, and usually four or five are appropriate for a given project in your highly targeted market. If you are trying to sell LASIK in a classified ad in Auto Trader magazine, you may have trouble.
  3. Techniques. Each vehicle has its own techniques that make it work the best. For instance, in the United States, there are 17 components that a letter must contain to be considered direct mail. Leave any one out, and you will soon be flirting with the wal-pig-ican. At our Fast Track Workshops, we provide complete lists of the techniques for all of the different media. Then, you can market with confidence.

    Most business books and consultants will only talk about targeting, media, and techniques. We talk about them a lot, too. But, for your marketing to really take off, you have to master the last three components of articulation, execution, and systemization.
  4. Articulation. What you say is only fractionally as important as how you say it. Let us say you get the technique right by putting a headline in your newspaper ad. The way you articulate your headline could mean as much as 21 times the results. Articulation is difficult to learn, but it is the essence of expert marketing. Test different articulations often.
  5. Execution. The greatest plan in the world will fail if incompetent people are executing it. Most marketing plans are underexecuted.
  6. Systemization. Each marketing effort must be consistent with the others. This is the main focus of the Fast Track LASIK Marketing Workshop.

Whether the laws of your country limit your marketing or not, these rules apply to any marketing piece you produce. If done expertly and fully implemented your practice will grow.

Doug Sims is the President of Fast Track Marketing, a marketing company specializing in LASIK and refractive surgery marketing and advertising. Mr. Sims may be reached at doug@fasttrackmarketing.com; www.fast-trackmarketing.com.