When the Road Is Closed
Roadrunner Eyecare, Albuquerque, NM
Generally, when people contemplate opening a business, the amount of traffic a potential location experiences is a big factor in the decision.
Location was certainly a priority for Erik Lawrence and partner, Dr. Jon Q. Montoya, when they opened Roadrunner Eyecare 3½ years ago. “The daily car count was a big factor for the location we chose. It had nearly three times the number of cars a day than the next on our list,” Lawrence says.
Unfortunately, six months after opening, one of the biggest road construction projects in their city started about a mile away, and people were advised to avoid their area completely. Not great for a new office looking to attract new patients and customers.
“We had great momentum, things were building extremely well, then we had all the wind taken out of our sails,” he says. “The project reduced cars by about 80 percent. When we gave our address or area, you’d hear the life being sucked out of the conversation.
“We noticed traffic was way down right away. It really impacted us within about six to eight weeks,” he says. “Six months in we felt the full effects hit. The phone wasn’t ringing, the parking lot was bare. That’s when we had to start working new ideas and come up with something to keep going.”
It went on for 18 months but Roadrunner came up with creative promotions and directed people into the area in a way that avoided the mess.
“We knew once we got them in the door, they would love us, love our selection and we’d knock their socks off. We had done really well with referrals, so that was our focus,” he says.
“Our most successful promotion was an eye exam at no charge with an added referral twist to give to a friend, family member, co-worker, etc. We called our previous patients and offered to give an eye exam at no charge to up to three people they recommended. Then for each that came in, we gave the patient 10 percent off their next purchase. It did very well for us. It increased our new patients and brought in many of our previous patients for second or third pairs,” Lawrence says.
The lesson? Don’t wait until it affects you to react, Lawrence advises.
“If you can start something — anything — a few days or weeks before it happens, the better,” he says. “There were other businesses around us that weren’t able to fight through it, but here we are almost two years later, going strong and building every day.”