IDOC actively shares industry-focused articles, blog posts, podcasts, videos and other thought leadership with our members and other optometric practitioners. Below, you will find links to our growing library of educational materials and multi-media assets written and created by IDOC's team of seasoned industry experts.
Dr. Steve Vargo | 7/11/2018

Warby Parker, big box, shopping malls, oh my! While some private practice ODs respond to local commercial competitors with (typically irrational) fears of a mass exodus of patients leaving their practice for the cheap prices and convenience of a low-cost retailer, other respond with a nonchalant shrug and a defiant “That’s not my competition!” However; these entities can quickly become your competition if you fail to differential yourself. Somewhere between an overreaction and an underreaction lies a solid and sensible strategy to combat lost business from commercial eye care competitors. Ask yourself the following questions.

Am I likeable?

As the saying goes, people do business with people they know, like and trust. If your practice is surrounded by cheaper, highly recognizable brands, these 3 factors become very important in attracting and retaining patients. As a consultant, something I’m always looking for are commonalities among successful practice owners. Having worked with hundreds of practice owners, I’ve observed a very strong correlation with likeability and business success. Most of the successful practice owners I know have great relationships with their patients. Having shadowed many of them in the exam room, something interesting happens when the doctor walks in the room to greet an established patient. The patient smiles! A brief yet pleasant conversation often ensues, gently easing into the exam portion. The patient leaves feeling valued and appreciated, less likely to be swayed by a low cost competitor. A great personality and chairside manner does not go unnoticed! If you love your own doctor, this is probably the reason why!

Am I remarkable?

While it’s probably an overgeneralization, I’ve observed that most low-cost retailers I’ve done business with deliver very average customer service – nothing memorable, at least not for a good reason! When was the last time you recommended an average movie or average restaurant to a friend? You probably didn’t, because there was nothing “remarkable” about it. As in, nothing worth remarking about. Many of our consulting members track the source of new patients, and “word-of-mouth” is almost always near the top of the list. If it’s not, it might be time to ask why. Happy patients can be your best source of new business. It’s like having your own marketing team promoting you in the community – and they work for free!

Am I substitutable?

When consumers fail to see the difference between competing products, price becomes the dominant factor in a sale. While most ODs know that not all glasses and contact lenses are created equal, many eye wear consumers are not as knowledgeable in this area and strongly consider price in their eye wear purchasing decisions. Services, on the other hand, are less “substitutable”. There is a large and growing area of specialty services that optometrists are uniquely qualified to provide. While the candidate pool for these services may be smaller, many of these services are in high demand and have fewer if any low-cost alternatives. With higher barriers to entry, there is less local competition for these services – driving greater word-of-mouth and referrals. In these cases, purchase behaviors are driven by value, not price.

Am I budget friendly?

Most private practice ODs recognize that it’s difficult to compete on price with commercial retailers. These corporations have greater economies of scale and purchasing power, allowing them to pass on greater savings to the consumer. While we typically do not advise attempting to compete on price, we also have to be realistic that a segment of society is what you would classify as “price shoppers”, less likely to be swayed by claims of higher quality and superior value. For some people, price savings are their primary motivator. For these patients, don’t let them walk out the door without hearing about your budget lines. “Ms. Smith, I understand price is a concern. We strive to meet all our patient’s needs and have eye wear options to meet all budgets. Would you be willing to let our optician show you a few?” These won’t be your heavily showcased frames, but hopefully will serve to keep your price shopper’s business in-house.

Am I innovative?

In the book Good to Great by Jim Collins, one of my favorite chapters is titled “Confront the brutal facts”. With all the disruptors impacting the eye care space, I understand the concerns this creates for many independent practice owners, but I do believe that adaptability will be a defining characteristic of success for many practice owners moving forward. While change tends to happen slowly in eye care, if we look far enough out we may find two groups or practice owners, those who chose to complain about change, and those who chose to adapt. Sometimes when you peel back the layers of a threat, you’ll discover many opportunities. IDOC has no intention of sitting on our hands with regards to the future. If you’re ready, join us for the ride!

Dr. Steve Vargo
Practice Management Consultant
Steve Vargo, OD, MBA is a 1998 graduate of Illinois College of Optometry. After working in a clinical optometric practice for several years, Dr. Vargo pursued his passion for practice management by earning his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Phoenix in 2008. A published author and speaker with 15 years of clinical experience, he serves as IDOC’s Optometric Practice Management Consultant and advises members in all areas of practice management and optometric office operations. Steve and his wife Melanie have two sons, Lucas and Ryan. In his spare time, he enjoys running, cycling, sports and music. A native Chicagoan, he is an avid fan of the Cubs, live music and deep-dish pizza.
Trending Blogs

12/2/2022 | Author: IDOC

Hayley Stewart, IDOC Financial Services Manager

The end of the year is quickly approaching, which means you are probably thinking about your practice’s bookkeeping and all the many year-end deadlines that are going to be here before you know it. One of those deadlines you... Read more

11/4/2022 | Author: Nathan Hayes

IDOC is excited to announce the first benchmark report for our new Books & Benchmark; Financial Statement Benchmarks are live.  With over 30 practices connected to the database, we’re now able to run benchmarks.  Let us share a couple of aspects of how we do benchmarks that... Read more

9/9/2022 | Author: Maddie Langston


If you are looking to increase the number of new patients at your practice, then your marketing strategy should include working on how to get noticed in local online search results. One powerful way to increase your visibility in local search is to optimize and maintain the... Read more

8/22/2022 | Author: Kelsey Garcia

So you created a Facebook and Instagram account for your practice, but now what? Coming up with post ideas can be overwhelming and can quickly leave your creative “well” feeling dry. By categorizing your posts into three main buckets, you can easily streamline the brainstorming... Read more

8/5/2022 | Author: Dr. Steve Vargo

As I type this, the news is dominated by concerns over the economy, including unease around inflation and a looming recession. This has practice owners understandably concerned and asking, “What should I expect, and how can I prepare?”

I’m not an economist, and I... Read more

7/22/2022 | Author: Nathan Hayes

Do you worry that your staff aren’t consistently doing the little things in your practice? Do you lose sleep because you just ‘don’t know’ what’s happening outside your lane?  Do you struggle to find the time to oversee things?

Let me suggest that... Read more

7/15/2022 | Author: Amy Alvarez

I think I would be hard pressed to find an independent practice owner who doesn’t understand the power that marketing has on their ability to attract patients to their practice. Keeping patients, new and existing, visiting the practice is an important part of a successful... Read more

7/8/2022 | Author: Lana Greene

I have never spoken to a practice with a zero patient-owned-frame (POF) percentage. I encourage practices to strive for less than 25% POF percentage at a minimum, and less than 15% for the best-in-class. You may see a slight increase year-over-year, which will happen when you sell quality... Read more

5/19/2022 | Author: Dr. Steve Vargo

As research for launching a new service called IDOC Specialty Services, I interviewed several industry experts of various specialties. At the end of each call, I asked everyone the same question: “What prevents more ODs from succeeding with a specialty?”

Their answers were insightful.... Read more