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Six Back To School Promotions That Worked For ECPs

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IT’S JUST AHEAD: the season that children dread and parents love — back-to-school time. Kids will soon be sharpening those No. 2 pencils and picking out their first-day outfits. (Will new eyeglasses be part of their ensemble?) Meanwhile, college students are getting ready to pack for their new semester, too. (Do they need extra supplies of contact lenses to see them through their holiday break?)

Now is the time to remind parents of the important role vision plays in their child’s education, and to encourage families to book their annual eye exams before the big rush. Getting that message out is easier — and often less expensive — today than ever before. Although broadcast spots and print advertising in parenting magazines and community newspapers are still viable options, creative eyecare practices and optical shops have also found success with blogging, electronic billboards, YouTube and Facebook.

Discounts and sales are a tried-and-true way to bring in families, but there are other ways to drive traffic. For instance, some businesses have had great success tying their back-to-school promotions with events, like holding a book drive for a local nonprofit or sponsoring an annual back-to-school themed 5K run. (They get extra credit for being more visible in their communities, too.)

Also be sure to ask your vendors about co-op back-to-school materials. For example, Hoya offers sample emails and social media posts to help you deliver the message that your business can offer better service and fit than online eyewear sites. People want to give their children the best.

Here’s a look at what six practices and shops did last year that helped them earn top grades in back-to-school marketing.

This article originally appeared in the July-August 2015 edition of INVISION.


HELP OTHERS

EyeCare Specialties, Lincoln and Beatrice, NE

EyeCare Specialties worked with brand experience agency Eleanor to make the traditional back-to-school sales event more meaningful. Eleanor owner Christine Weeks says her firm created Looks & Books, which included a book donation drive for a local nonprofit and a 30-percent-off frame show. “The charitable nature fostered goodwill and reinforced the idea of EyeCare Specialties being a practice that cares about families, vision and education,” Weeks says. The ad campaign included direct mail, posters, radio spots and digital promotion via the Web, email and social media.


IT’S ELECTRIC

Eye Candy Kids, Delafield, WI

Eye Candy Kids got a lot of mileage from this ad, using it in a local parenting magazine as well as on electronic billboards. Owner Paula Hornbeck prefers electronic billboards to the traditional variety. “You put up a static billboard (and) people might notice it the first time or two they go by, but then they don’t notice it because it’s just like the landscape,” she explains. “(With) electronic billboards you’re one of a rotation, so … every time they drive by they’re going to be glancing up at it to see what’s (on it).” The ad’s design paired a pensive boy ready to learn in his new glasses with a positive message and fun colors that reflect the playful nature of the store.


Back to school Facebook post from Bright Eyes Kids

HEAD OF THE CLASS

Bright Eyes Family Vision Care, and Bright Eyes Kids, Tampa, FL

Note the 199 shares on this one — and the July 21 post date. Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford used his website’s blog as part of Bright Eyes’ back-to-school marketing last year, and this post generated a lot of interest. “The link between visual skills and school performance is complicated, so I wanted the space to cover it,” he explains. Bonilla-Warford promoted the blog post through his email newsletter, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. Of the big Facebook buzz, he says, “It goes to show you that it is very hard to predict what will be the right post at the right time. In this case it was successful in part because we put it out a little earlier than usual and other ECPs shared it for their patients.”


Back to school ad from Cristall Opticians

TIMELY REMINDER

Cristall Opticians, Ontario and Manitoba, Canada

Just as eyecare coverage for kids and teens is now mandated in the U.S. as part of the Affordable Care Act, Canada has similar benefits — a point reinforced in this message emailed to patients. “Parents do not know that exam is covered by their provincial health plan,” manager Gina Kay explains, adding that free lenses with scratch guard is an appealing offer for budget-conscious parents. This year, Kay plans to send more emails and boost social media, as well as reach out to existing patients by phone. “Communicating with our clients is key — they respond best to a clear message with a simple promotion,” Kennedy says. “We always have to keep that in mind when looking to improve our ads.”


Back to school ad from Kennedy & Perkins opticians

READY TO LEARN

Kennedy & Perkins, New Haven, CT

Owner Rick Kennedy had this back-to-school ad created last year for use on billboards and in local newspapers, as well as for use on their website and Facebook page. The business has run a free lenses for kids campaign for many years, finding it to be moderately successful in gaining a few new young customers each season. The special originally included standard scratch-resistant lenses, “but a few years back we decided to include polycarbonate lenses as an added feature and a safer lens feature for the kids,” Kennedy says. This year, Kennedy plans to expand back-to-school advertising with sponsored Facebook news feed posts aimed at their demographic.


PineCone Vision Center Back to School 5K

MAKE A RUN
FOR IT

PineCone Vision Center, Sartell, MN

An event can be effective advertising, and a Back to School 5K has become tradition for PineCone Vision Center. The race supports local schools, and community outreach coordinator Cathy Vande Vrede says, “It’s an incredible way to give back to our community. Our hope is to get community members out and moving while giving to a great cause.” To promote the race, Vande Vrede uses the practice website, as well as a YouTube video (see it at invmag.us/7151) to share via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, e-newsletters and websites.

 

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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Benchmarks

These Exam Rooms Pack a Lot of Wow

Forget a sterile white box, here’s a handful of eyecare businesses whose exam rooms make the patient experience more memorable.

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EXAM ROOMS — IT’S where the cold, hard science happens. But does that mean the spaces themselves have to be cold and hard? Not according to the following half-dozen practices, who swapped whitewashed walls, modular carpet tiles and a sterile vibe for wit, humor, style and antique conversation pieces.

The Optical. Co
Columbus, OH

e Here’s a practice that understands that the coherent aesthetic you’ve developed for you showpiece optical doesn’t have to end at the door to the exam lane. Explains owner Dr. Craig Miller, “The custom designed Baltic birch paneled wall in the exam room was designed with two purposes in mind. One, we needed the wall to, in essence, ‘glow’ to provide subtle lighting during an exam, while at the same time create a piece of art that captures your attention as soon as you walk into the room.” The jigsaw wall is the piece de resistance here.

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Todd Rogers Eyewear
Andover, MA

“If you poke a small emotion inside someone … they are going to remember you.” Owner Todd Rogers Berberian was talking about his marketing strategy, but he could’ve been talking about the exam lane at Todd Rogers; a room that carries on the feeling that you first get when you walk in the practice’s front door: that you’re being told a story. This is a place that conveys charm and authenticity through details; in fact many of the cool little touches around the place come with their own museum-like place cards telling you where they came from. In short, the exam room at Todd Rogers, combining fancy tech with cheeky touches — whether it’s the giant blue hand-shaped seat or the retro, wall-sized chart of the functions of the eye — demonstrates that the medical side of your practice can have personality.

Eye Care Center of Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs, CO

After nearly 20 years in its first location, Eye Care Center Of Colorado Springs decided it was time to move, mainly because it wanted to add more exam lanes, but owner/optometrists Sara Whitney and Reed Bro didn’t like the medical buildings they were being shown. The practice now occupies a historic building dating to 1902. It was first used as a commercial carriage house and a number of original fixtures were preserved, including the original 12-foot sliding barn doors, which now serve to separate the business’s retail and clinical spaces — a brilliant touch that manages to preserve the heritage of the site while conveying, along with the exposed brick, salvaged wood and other chic finishes, a sense of style that’s industrial but never clinical.

Ziegler Leffingwell Eyecare
New Berlin, WI

For their exam rooms, Ziegler Leffingwell selected six iconic sites from Milwaukee and had full sized wall murals made for each. The murals are duplicated on plaques outside the exam rooms, and each room is named for that specific Milwaukee landmark. “The images were custom colored to match our interior colors,” explains co-owner Dr. Dave Ziegler. It’s the kind of touch you’d expect from a practice that dispenses eyewear in branded cloth shopping bags with a case that is personalized with the patient’s name embossed on it and a piece of Ghirardelli chocolate. But it’s the unique chair time that folks really seem to remember. “The themed exam rooms are the most talked about feature by our patients,” Ziegler says.

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Spring Hill Eyecare
Spring Hill, TN

Spring Hill Eyecare is adorned throughout with artifacts reclaimed from an 1870 farmhouse originally on the property, or found elsewhere. Many of these have found their way into the exam rooms, each of which is themed: travel, garage (the practice’s logo painted on a 1940s truck door), trains (working light and crossing signs); music (with 100-year-old instruments), science lab (microscopes and periodic tables). The dry eye treatment center is named ‘The Greenhouse’ after an actual one on the original property. “We decorated it with all the rusty tools we found in the old greenhouse,” says owner Rob Szeliga, OD.

Writings on the Wall

When you’re not refracting them, give patients’ eyes something to settle on and scrawl or paint something educational or entertaining on the wall. Clear Eye Associates + Optical in Fort Worth, TX, went for a Dr. Seuss gem on the wall of their testing area (top left). At SEEK Eye Care in Victoria, MN, patients get a dose of optometric humor (above), while The Optical. Co in Columbus, OH, went for something more educational (top right).

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Benchmarks

These 6 Practices Found Ways to Get Patients to Buy Annual Contact Lens Supplies

Have you tried these ideas for boosting sales?

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THE MEDICAL BENEFITS alone — avoiding the hazards that come with stretching out the supply or otherwise abusing the lenses — should be enough to sell most CL patients on the advantages of an annual supply. Or failing that, just the convenience of not having to re-order. If only the business of optometry were so simple. Alas, getting patients to do what’s best for their vision seems to require sweetening the deal. Here’s how six ECPs entice patients to sign up for contact lens deals — or otherwise make CL sales work for them.

Shoreline Eyecare
Shoreline, WA

Erika Tydor, OD, at Shoreline Eyecare says BoomContacts.com has helped her practice, describing it as a “flexible, real-time tool that can be used in-store as a tablet or on-screen, and can also be sent to customers by text or email for follow-up.” BoomContacts simplifies product information, allowing the user to toggle comparisons of order types, between monthly and annual sales, or between products, and shows a clear quote for purchase. Customers can pay through text or email. Tydor says the system’s strength lies in giving patients a visual breakdown of the cost. “I believe it has kept patients that would have gone elsewhere in the house, so I see it as moneymaker,” she says.

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Lifetime Eyecare
Jenison, MI

Lifetime Eyecare has had success offering half off plano sunglasses with a year supply of contacts. Optical manager Tiffany Firer says CLs are moneymakers when you consider the whole experience. “CL wearers tend to come in more for their yearly exams and many still purchase backup glasses.” She says belonging to Vision Source gives the practice access to “some amazing contact lenses at a great price point.” She urges ECPs thinking of trying their own offer to remember the culture of their practice and that how you message the offer does a lot for how patients approach the discount.

Dr. Texas L. Smith & Associates
Citrus Heights, CA

In addition to applying manufacturers’ rebates for a year’s supply, Dr. Texas Smith finds CLs allow him to offer the kind of service that generates great word of mouth. He puts together a Vacation Kit of one-day contacts for travelers and offers kid athletes daily lenses as spares. “This is full service eyecare, and may generate a positive Yelp review,” he says. And here’s a free tip: “During an exam on a high hyperope or presbyope, I always offer to put on a pair of contacts so the patient can see the frame they will pick out for their new Rx. Sometimes that yields a new CL patient.”

Insights Eyecare
Manhattan, KS

In a twist on the usual “discounted or free frames with an annual supply of CLs” model, Insights Eyecare offers a 20 percent discount on contacts when purchasing a fully loaded pair of glasses. The goal is to give patients the incentive to purchase from an office rather than a grey market retailer. Says Lindsey Pulford: “They know their contacts are supplied and stored in a safe environment while also supporting a local business. If they purchase the glasses — this is also with no insurance involved — then we are making the total profit on the glasses. And let’s face it, every CL wearer should own a pair of glasses.” Pulford says she notices that presbyopes are the most likely to show interest. “They are a bit older, understand the value of backup glasses more, and know they may not always want to wear the CL.”

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Monson Eyecare Center
Owatonna, MN

Kim Hilgers at Monson Eyecare Center says patients have responded well to the MyACUVUE subscription program through Vistakon. Patients with a valid CL prescription can sign up for monthly free delivery and are charged monthly as well, which makes an annual supply easier to afford. The program works with insurance benefits, but the practice sets pricing and is not charged for participating. “Compliance of contact lens wearing schedule seems to directly increase with purchase of an annual supply, so it’s a win-win,” says Hilgers, adding that the program has made the competitive team at Monson more aware of the need to get patients into an annual supply right away. “One of our clinics increased annual supplies by 7 percent. That may not sound like much, but our capture rate for all contact lens orders was nearly 80 percent last year.”

Thomas Vision Clinic
Leesville, LA

Thomas Vision Clinic has learned there’s more profit to be made in offering free inexpensive products than offering a dollar amount off a year supply. An annual supply of contacts now gets patients a free pair of non-branded sunglasses, a contact lens case, manufacturer’s rebate and 20 percent off back-up glasses and/or designer sunglasses. “We noticed a pretty big increase in the number of contact lens Rxs walking, and had to come up with a game plan to keep them in the office,” says Jessica Gattis, adding that VSP patients are the most likely to take them up on it. Thomas Vision also lets patients know that should they lose or tear a lens, they will replace it. “They actually seem more impressed by this than the free sunglasses,” jokes Gattis.

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Benchmarks

Harnessing the Power of the Selfie to Boost Social Media Engagement, Drive Foot Traffic … and Have Fun

These five practices added an extra dimension to the optical experience and became genuine destinations.

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ONE OF THE defining characteristics of our modern retail world is that no purchase or experience, whether it’s buying sneakers or sitting down to a gourmet burrito, is really complete until it’s been photographed and posted to social media. iPads are even showing up in clothing store changing rooms. Like it or not, people are going to bring cameras into your store; the question is how to take control of that experience. Selfie walls or stations are a great way of doing this; they grow your social media following, increase customer engagement, drive foot traffic and boost your store’s fun quotient. There are sophisticated options out there—fully integrated systems for retailers, like Halo by Simple Booth, or The Digital Booth’s rental services, which are great for events—but you can get results using a smartphone and a colorfully branded sliver of free wall space in your optical. These five practices show us how it’s done.

Falls City Eye Care
Louisville, KY

Falls City Eye Care boasts two features that get customers taking snapshots of themselves. One is their trusty Polaroid camera—patients and friends are urged to snap a couple of photos, post one on a cork board in the optical and take the other home. The other is a 12-foot sculpture of a pair of frames in the front yard made especially for owners Dr. Michael and Theresa Martorana by a local artist. Falls City Eyecare now sees a steady stream of small groups and individuals stopping by to take selfies with the giant specs. City ordinances prevent them from labeling the sculpture, but customers usually find ways of slipping in a store-related hashtag themselves, Theresa says. “We were easy to walk right by on a busy fun street. Once the sculpture was created and painted, we became a destination.”

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Eye Love Optometry
Pinole, CA

EYE LOVE OPTOMETRY’s iPad-based selfie photo station allows photos to be taken and sent to smartphones and e-mail or shared on social media. Branded galleries can be made public, while owner Park L. Hsieh, OD and his team are sent marketing reports to track performance. Patients are given a “Selfie Card” that says, “We love that you love EYE LOVE OPTOMETRY! This is a ‘SELFIE CARD,’ so share your photos of your new eyewear with friends on INSTAGRAM/FACEBOOK.” The station uses Simple Booth’s Halo software, which makes the service fully customizable. “The appearance of the selfies taken are all consistent and in line with our desired brand,” says Hsieh. The sharing function leads to re-engagement long after the experience is over, he adds. “It’s a wonderful word-of-mouth marketing tool, which I think is invaluable.”

Eye Candy
Delafield and Mequon, WI

Eye Candy has smartly branded, professional-looking selfie stations at both of its locations in the Milwaukee area. The stations themselves are alcoves bound by three floor-to-ceiling walls, each covered in custom vinyl wallpaper with the Eye Candy logo. Owner Paula Hornbeck says her original inspiration for the design was the photo wall at the Oscars. When customers pick up their new eyewear, staff ask if they can take a picture for the store’s social media. “Some are shy and decline,” says Hornbeck, “but most are flattered and we encourage them to show us their personality. They take a seat on the stool provided and we take candid shots of them rocking their new look with our iPad. Some are silly, but they always look like they’re happy and having fun.” Family members are invited to join in the photo session. The images are used on Eye Candy’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Hornbeck says the selfie stations are a definite plus for the business. “Friends and family will go on our FB and IG to see their loved one’s new look and hopefully get excited about coming in to get their own.”

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The Eyeglass Lass
New London, CT

What became The Eyeglass Lass’s selfie wall wasn’t originally designed for that purpose. Owner Siobhan Burns wanted to do something with the wall, which is visible from the street. “Local artist Rob Guess covered the wall with funky, graffiti-style eyes. The next day I asked someone to pose in front of it for their ‘glamour shot’ and boom: the selfie/eyeball wall was born.” It’s a low-tech affair. Says Burns: “This one woman show uses portrait mode on her phone!” Simple as it is, the feature “has turned into something great; people recognize frames from posts on social media, and ask if they can have their picture taken before I get a chance to ask them,” Burns says. “If we only see airbrushed models with frames superimposed on their faces, we don’t stop and think, ‘Oh yeah—I could wear that!” Besides which, “It’s another special thing that will stick out to your clientele that wraps up the individual experience they’ve had working with you.”

Optical Connection
Studio City, CA

Armen and Rita Kanberian at Optical Connection had an empty wall they didn’t know what to do with. They decided they wanted an area dedicated to fun. “We imported this beautiful patterned wallpaper from the U.K. and custom ordered our neon light hashtag, #wellframed. This has been such a great hit with clients, especially during our fun trunk shows and events,” says Rita, adding that the feature is now a firm customer favorite. “Having a place to have fun and see yourself try on different frames is what we love… We had a client who bought a dress with glasses and came in just to take pictures.”

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