A Doc With a True Vision for Local Marketing

Ophthalmologist-turned-digital marketer Ron Herskowitz (above) has one word for the present and ever-growing power of digital marketing. “Shocking,” he says.

“The ability to do sophisticated local marketing is available to everyone,” Herskowitz says. “Take a pizza place. The lifetime value for a customer is probably high on the customer acquisition scale. Mobile marketing technology gives the business the ability to locate people who love pizza and bring them in. At a small business level, it doesn’t take a whole lot of people to make a difference.”

A doctor by training, Herskowitz is a marketer by inclination. Having beefed up his business bona fides at Harvard B-school, he helped direct R&D at a division of Bausch & Lomb and served as COO for LCA-Vision, now LASIKPlus. Today, Herskowitz delights in training his high-powered digital sights on potential patients for new procedures that turn struggling ophthalmology practices into highly profitable, multi-service operations.

“Given the declining reimbursements and shrinking revenues for medical practices, we look to identify trends and integrate new treatments,” he says. “It could be refractive surgery, it could be Botox treatments or multifocal implants. We look at prospects like consumers, not patients, because they pay for these services and their insurance companies don’t dictate where they go.”

The consulting firm Herskowitz works with—Medical Management Services Group (MMSG)—had been using social-local-mobile techniques for years to do this for clients. But Herskowitz says that “Google cut our legs off with Plus, Places, and Profiles.” That led the company to a local platform provider called UpSnap that focuses big-time analytics for small-time local businesses. UpSnap uses machine learning, caller analytics, and dynamic ad-serving based on context and location. Its case results may seem inconsequentially microscopic to big brand marketers. An auto body shop, for instance, got 117 landing page views from its mobile ad, resulting in four clicks for appointments and five clicks for directions. But those leads were harvested with a $100 investment in 20,000 impressions. Tens of thousands of results like these for UpSnap represent nothing less than the the democratization of digital marketing.

For his ophthalmology clients, Herskowitz starts with their current patient databases, builds clusters around the need for a new service, and immediately and cheaply uses mobile advertising to get prospective patients in the door. “We might know that a patient is over 55, so we’ll send them a message saying that, if they are experiencing night driving halos and flares, to click here and come into the office to get checked for cataracts,” Herskowitz says. “We go back to the database, run different iterations and adjust the algorithms and, at the end of 90 days, I’m talking to all the right people all of the time within the relevant ZIP Codes.”

The ROI numbers MMSG is returning for these independent, local businesses are compelling. Ophthalmology practices get between $1,200 to $2,000 out-of-pocket from patients who opt for laser cataract surgery, for instance. “Meanwhile,” Herskowitz says, “I’m producing a cost-per-call of $50 to $60.

The pace of advancement in digital marketing, to hear Herskowitz tell it, might rival that of medicine. “The digital marketing space is changing so rapidly. There’s better targeting, greater specificity, so the yield is manageable,” he says. “Only 10 years ago at the Academy of Ophthalmologists meeting, the big marketing advice was, ‘You’ve gotta have a website!”

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