John Marvin: If You Can See It, You Can Be It

When it comes to creating the sort of practice you really want to build, the choice is up to you


Published in the March/April 2014 issue

Did you know that in growing your business, you can decide what type of practice you want and the kinds of customers you want to serve? It really is up to you. So ask yourself: What kind of optometry do you want to practice? What sort of eyewear do you want to sell? Who is your “ideal customer”?

Most practices never really set these goals. They just open their doors and hope for the best. But this means your practice is left to circumstances and the ups and downs of economic, demographic and regulatory changes. By deciding not to decide, you choose to let others decide what kind of practice you own.

If you do not have a clear picture of the practice you want and the patients that you desire to serve, here’s what you need to do: Take one hour. Shut off the computer and phone. Close the door. Focus on deciding what you want.

Using paper and pen, with words or pictures, create 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, millennials or baby boomers? Do they pay for their care with cash or with third-party payments?

The bottom line is this: Who are your high-value customers? Who are the customers or patients that will bring you the most business and cause you the least grief, year after year? You won’t necessarily exclude patients who do not fit your ideal. But this exercise will begin to guide decisions on how you will run and grow your practice. You’ll get insight into your practice’s physical design, its policies and — most importantly — the types of products and services that appeal most to those whom you desire to serve.

There is not a single best “type” of practice. Your business is yours; you get to decide. Some very successful practices focus on high-end frames, with professional optometry services offered as a convenience. Other optometrists feel a call to serve Medicaid or low-income patients and help them see the best they can. Our field includes practices that cater to children, or to athletes. Each model has its advantages and disadvantages. The important point is that you must decide on what type of practice and patient that you most want to serve. Once you’ve made this decision, your next steps will become logical. You’ll see a clear path of actions to create the type of practice that will appeal most to your target group of customers.

You will look at your business anew, asking, “Is this the kind of place 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’ll also have new insight on 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 them? What are their favorite social media platforms, radio stations and TV networks? How can I best go about building a relationship with them?/p>

It is a fundamental truth that people associate with those most like themselves. So use this truth, and focus on getting referrals among friends and family of your best customers. The more you appeal to the customers and patients you have decided you value the most, the more referrals you will build from this group.

Building a successful practice is not about finding a magic gimmick or chasing after the latest trendy idea. Building a successful practice comes from making yourself appealing to those you wish to serve. And it beats simply hoping for the best.

With more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry, JOHN D. MARVIN writes about marketing, management and education at the blog. He is president of Texas State Optical, a member-owned cooperative of 120 independent, professional optometry practices. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..