NOV 2013

EyeWorld is the official news magazine of the American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.

Issue link: https://digital.eyeworld.org/i/220233

Contents of this Issue


Page 61 of 122

November 2013 EW Ophthalmology Business 59 Marketing to Millennials by Ophthalmology Business Staff Writer How to reach the upcoming generation of potential LASIK patients L ASIK surgery today is far superior from a safety and efficacy standpoint than it was 15 years ago. Yet demand for the procedure is the lowest it's ever been, with the current state of the LASIK market 50% or more below its peak in 2000 and 2007, according to Shareef Mahdavi, president of SM2 Strategic, Pleasanton, Calif. Witness to the decline firsthand, Richard L. Lindstrom, MD, adjunct professor emeritus, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; and founder, Minnesota Eye Consultants, Minneapolis, said, "We [at Minnesota Eye] peaked in 2001, and the volumes have been down every year." While most say the decline in demand is just economics, Dr. Lindstrom and Mr. Mahdavi say it's demographics. "The numbers haven't been with us because we're in between the Baby Boomers now; the youngest Baby Boomers, being 48, have moved beyond what we would call the sweet spot of LASIK," Mr. Mahdavi said. For years, the average age of the myopic LASIK patient was 40, he said. While there are people who are 60 who still have LASIK, that's the exception not the rule, so presbyopic and/or lens-based treatments like cataract surgery are going to be more appropriate for Baby Boomers, Mr. Mahdavi said. The next big demographic to come up is Generation Y or the Millennial generation, said Dr. Lindstrom. Depending on which demographers you follow, Dr. Lindstrom estimates there are 105 million Millennials, a larger demographic than Baby Boomers, while Mr. Mahdavi says there are about 80 million of them, the same amount as Baby Boomers. What both parties agree on is that this demographic is not quite LASIK ready yet. "Right now they're 17–27 [years old] and most of them are quite successfully wearing contact lenses, they have not yet experienced contact lens-induced dry eye and con- tact lens-induced red eye, and they are finding contact lenses an effective alternative to glasses," Dr. Lindstrom said. In the U.S., the Millennials are also the most financially challenged demographic because of their large college debt and the hostile job environment where the unemployment rate is high, he continued, so for them to think about paying $3,500–$4,000 for LASIK is out of the question, unless they're getting support from their parents or grandparents. "I think starting in their 30s, we're going to see more of the Millennials getting interested in LASIK, but that's still two to three years away," he said. According to Mr. Mahdavi, the oldest in Generation Y are now in their mid-30s. They will soon be hitting 40, which is an ideal age for LASIK because they are becoming intolerant of contact lenses and they now have money saved up, he explained. The same factors that made LASIK appealing to Baby Boomers will also be true with Millennials with two additional factors, Mr. Mahdavi said. One factor is that LASIK has been around for nearly 20 years, so there's a history and familiarity with it. The other factor is Generation Y is much more technologically savvy, so the notion of doing something like LASIK, which is related to technological advancement, has a much greater resonance with them than with their parents, he said. Mr. Mahdavi is bullish about the LASIK market. "I think the LASIK market has a very good chance of meeting and exceeding the previous high. We're four to eight years away from seeing that, but we have a pop- ulation that's going to be every much as impactful as the Baby Boomers, and we should do better." Dr. Lindstrom said he doesn't think there will be a big rebound right away, but in two to three years the industry will start to see some steady growth. "It'll come both from the fact that the Millennials are turning 30 and have a little more money and are a little less comfortable in their contact lenses, and from the fact that we'll have a presbyopia treatment for the Baby Boomers," he said. A change in strategy In terms of reaching this new market, Mr. Mahdavi said, "You almost want to throw out everything that made you successful in the last 15 years marketing to LASIK patients." He explained that Generation Y doesn't read the paper or listen to the radio. "They listen to Pandora or satellite radio, and they're not into your brochures. The LASIK provider is not as credible as their peers," he said. How practices work with patients online and how they work with them in the office has got to change, he said. It must be easy for this new generation to access information and create a dialogue, not a monologue, he said. Transparency is key, and the Millennials sniff out corporate speak very quickly. Practices may want to focus on the fact that LASIK surgery is an investment because it has a much longer pay off for those getting it in their 20s than in their 40s, Mr. Mahdavi said. It is also important to hire staff in this age group. "Your office has to be reoriented for this age group, and the designs that worked for the cataract patients aren't going to work now," he said. Dr. Lindstrom also believes that a complete change is needed in your LASIK marketing strategy for Millennials. "The testimonials that drive a Baby Boomer to have surgery are totally different than the testimonials that will drive the Millennials to have surgery. The Millennials tend to run in packs, they trust each other, they believe what's on the blogs, and they communicate on the internet much more. They're not so impressed with formal, corporatetype ads, and they are not very impressed with authority figures," he said. It is a continuous flow of interactive social media communication that is going to be the most effective, Dr. Lindstrom said. Therefore, his practice believes they need to hire a brilliant 20- to 30-year-old marketing person, who is totally different from the person they might hire for the 70-year-olds to encourage them to go in for cataract surgery. This young person would be continuously on social media, driving interactive discussions about LASIK and the impact it's going to have on patients' lives. "[Potential patients] want to talk to someone who is in their age group, doing the same kind of things they are, who had the surgery and loved it," he said. Dr. Lindstrom said that currently, his practice isn't spending very much on LASIK marketing. "I'm not very optimistic when I'm doing my business planning that we're going to see much growth in LASIK for another two to three years," he explained. However, he said his practice is getting ready for this resurgence. For starters, they have hired a younger marketer and are trying to engage more on social media, which is going to be critical for the future, he said. EW Editors' note: Mr. Mahdavi and Dr. Lindstrom have no financial interests related to this article. Contact information Lindstrom: rllindstrom@mneye.com Mahdavi: shareef@sm2strategic.com

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Eyeworld - NOV 2013