If you're concerned about the effect of escalating costs on your bottom line, you may want to consider joining a buying group or alliance. Membership in a group improves your buying power, decreasing the price you pay for supplies and equipment.
What's the Difference Between a Buying Group and Alliance?
Buying groups usually focus on providing discounts on equipment and supplies, while alliances may offer other benefits in addition to discounts, such as practice management guidance and marketing advice. Because some alliances require a membership fee, you'll need to decide if you'll really use the extra services they provide before you join.
How Can a Buying Group or Alliance Help My Practice?
A group with many members can negotiate more significant discounts than a single practitioner or practice. Joining a group or alliance is a simple way to decrease your expenditures. Alliances and groups offer discounts on:
- Contact lenses
- Lab costs
Alliances, and some buying groups, may provide additional benefits, including:
- Consulting services
- Networking opportunities with other optometrists and industry experts
- Discussion boards
- Practice management consulting and staff training
- Practice building advice
- Educational conferences, courses and webcasts
- Industry newsletters
- Website development
- Social media management
Should I Join?
It's fairly easy to determine if membership in a buying group or alliance is a good choice. Groups list discount amounts on their websites or will provide the information upon request. Once you receive the figures, you can calculate your savings on equipment and supplies by reviewing your costs for the last three or six months. Compare the amount you spent to the amount you would save with the discount to determine if a buying group discount would lower your expenditures significantly.
How to Choose a Buying Group or Alliance
Choosing the best group or alliance takes some research. Keep these things in mind when you evaluate each group:
- Vendors. Groups and alliances usually have relationships with a limited number of vendors. If your favorite vendors aren't on the list, you may want to move on to the next group on your list, particularly if your patients expect you to offer certain frame brands.
- Discount Amounts. Compare discount amounts offered by each group or alliance. Discounts may vary based on the service. If impressive discounts are only offered for services you won't use, the group may not fit your needs.
- Membership Fees. If a membership fee is required for participation, will the fee offset the financial benefit you receive by buying from alliance vendors or using practice management services?
- Practice Management Tools. What practice management tools are important to you? Do you want marketing advice, or are you primarily concerned with connecting with other optometrists? Spend some time evaluating practice management services to ensure that they really offer value.
- Contract Length. Find out how long the contract lasts and if you can leave the group without incurring a penalty if you're unhappy.
Buying groups and alliance can help you save money, but every group isn't right for every optometrist. Carefully consider how much you would save and the benefits you would receive before you sign a contract with a group or alliance.
Optometric Management: Buying Groups and Alliances, 10/1/16
Review of Optometric Business: 7 Questions to Ask Before Joining an Optometric Alliance
Optometric Management: How to Evaluate Consulting and Buying Groups, 11/1/12