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6 Businesses Putting Meaning Into Their Cause Marketing

Do you practice purchase with purpose?

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IS IT BETTER TO GIVE than to receive? Sure. But it’s best to do both. The nobility and karma you experience when you’re on the right side of charitable acts and social responsibility are certainly rewards in and of themselves. It is not crass, however, to see the potential for profit in pure acts. Again, when you give properly you tend to receive in kind.

Call it Social Good Marketing, Cause Marketing or Purchasing with Purpose. They’re all different names for the same concept – aligning your practice or optical’s public message with a good cause, socially responsible initiative or charitable organization. When this is done correctly and with finesse you actually help the underserved and reap the rightful benefits of your benevolence.

Many optical retailers have yet to adopt a Social Good Marketing strategy. That should change, as those who do have a plan in place are helping both their communities and their bottom line.

Who doesn’t like an initiative where everybody wins?


In the Can
Complete Eye Health, Holland, MI

Picture your kitchen pantry. We’re guessing you have enough canned goods to spare. Perhaps that’s why canned food drives are so ubiquitous. It’s not sexy. But it works.

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“We had a canned food drive in December to align with our nine-year anniversary. If you brought in a can of food it was 40 percent off prescription eyewear. We had so many people excited about donating!” said Bethany Cassar. She’s now sending thank-yous and sharing the donation total with clients. They’ll remember it and Complete Eye Health.


Not with a Bang but a Whisper
EyeShop Optical Center, Lewis, OH

There’s no end to the self-promotion tactics available when doing a good deed. But, the quiet approach has its merits and profitable benefits.

“We do a lot to support our community, especially our local schools,” says Dr. Cynthia Sayers.

“I find the success not so much in marketing this (which we do, but on a lesser level), but in the word of mouth from patients. We have acquired many new patients based on the fact that they loved that we support the local little league or placed ads in their children’s yearbooks.”


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Bi-Focused
O’Fallon Family Eyecare, O’Fallon, MO

Joe Hegyi of O’Fallon Family Eyecare found a brilliant way to do some good in the community and draw attention to the business while employing good taste and restraint. One of his programs provides eyecare and glasses for people in need. You can read more about that in The Big Story on page 42. Another program, however, sort of touts itself in a brilliant and effective way.

“It’s a monthly donation to local schools chosen based upon Facebook Likes. That’s successful for drawing attention,” he says.


Community Love
Precision Vision, Edmond, OK

Social good marketing is the norm at Precision Vision, and it changes with the seasons. In August, they donate a portion of proceeds to UR Special, a clothes “store” for at risk kids.

“In September, first responders get free eye exams so that we remember their service during the 9/11 attacks,” says Dr. Selina McGee.

“In October, we give away a Vera Bradley breast cancer frame and anyone with a history of breast cancer gets their Optos exam free.”

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December is food drive time. Those  who donate get a discount on blue light products.

 


Pet (Rescue) Project
look + see eyecare, minneapolis, mn

It’s almost impossible to go wrong with animal charities. Most people love dogs and cats and everyone feels good about themselves when they feel like they’ve rescued something cute from a dark fate. (Except comedian Bill Burr. Check out his hilarious bit about dog rescues on YouTube.) Look+See Eye Care combines people’s love of animals and the appeal of free food and booze in a partnership with a local restaurant and shelter.


Keep it Simple
Mill Creek Optical, Dansville, NY

“I feel that by being conscious of the needs in your community you can build your respect,” says Jennifer Leuzzi.

And you don’t have to invent new ways to give back. Stick with the classics like clothing drives and donation jars.

“We do a coat and clothing drive in November for being thankful for all you have. We put in time ringing the Salvation Army bell in December. Every month we have a charity of the month jar for handicap camp, the local animal shelter, kids school supplies, and the town’s Fourth of July fireworks display.”

After years covering some of the farther flung corners of the world of business journalism, Heath has more recently focused on covering the efforts of independent eyecare professionals to negotiate a fast-changing industry landscape. Contact him at heath@smartworkmedia.com.

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Thinking About an In-House Lab? 9 ECPs Share Why They Added One and What It’s Done for Their Business

So much for the cons: When it comes to the pros, we decided to ask around.

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THE PROS AND CONS of having an in-house lab depend on where you’re standing. Where some ECPs see an expensive headache —  which someone else can handle anyway — others see a money-saving customer-winner that’s actually a lot of fun. The size and shape of your market, your personal and professional priorities, your comfort with gadgetry and the age of your business all factor in. As should recent changes in the industry, in particular the nature of distribution, evolving lens technologies and shifting consumer behaviors. If you’re a one-woman or –man operation, it’s probably not for you. Some folks have plenty of manpower but find that having a lab makes employee management a little bit too complicated. For others, it’s a case of “let labs be labs, let opticals sell eyewear.” So much for the cons: When it comes to the pros, we decided to ask around. Here’s what ECPs with successful in-house labs had to tell us.

Sonoma Eyeworks Santa Rosa, Ca

Cindy Harmon at Sonoma Eyeworks in Santa Rosa, CA boils the pluses of having an in-office lab down to three things: It allows you to provide exceptional customer service; it differentiates you from other practices; and it serves as a business builder. Her full-time manager, Wayne Wilmsen, has greater quality control on one-of-a-kind frames, custom drill mounts, and “does so much more than just edge lenses,” she says. As an extra bonus, “Our lab is somewhat visible, so it allows customers to witness the complexity of fabricating eyewear. It’s very easy to discount the reasons for investing in laboratory technology and the additional staffing. We’ve always felt it is one of the silent partners in our success.”


D’ambrosio Eye Care Lancaster, Ma

“I love it,” says Jocelyn Mylott of the in-house lab at D’Ambrosio Eye Care in Lancaster, MA. “I wish more managed care would allow us to edge in-house; saves so much time for the patient.” Quality is a key factor in in-house edging at D’Ambrosio, which now has five locations but made the decision to set up a lab with the launch of the third office. The sheer volume of orders warranted the move, Mylott says, given the cost of edging, shipping the frames back and forth and time lost during that process. “Per job it’s cost effective to edge in-house and you save the job turn time two or three days. Money and time make it worthwhile,” she says. Other advantages include the stock lens costs, which are lower. Considering the cost of digital progressive lenses nowadays, any cost saving you can squeeze out on single vision is to be grabbed, she says. “We can also use our stock lenses to provide promotions to patients at a more affordable price.” The lab now serves as a central ordering hub, with a courier driving between the five locations. All orders originate from the opticians. Those that D’Ambrosio’s lab can handle are taken care of in-house. Orders that need to be sent out are submitted by the lab staff, which reduces employee errors. “All product is drop-shipped to the lab, centralizing receiving and invoicing. We also offer patients who cannot be without their frame an option to wait for their order while we finish their new lenses.”


Cherry Optometry Chelsea, Mi

“I love my Santinelli!” confesses Paula Koch, OD, at Cherry Optometry in Chelsea, MI. She decided to get an edger to increase turnaround on jobs, and quickly discovered that edging is not only satisfying and fun, but lends a personal dimension to the transaction. “Patients love glasses done quickly — I think of it as ‘Amazon Prime’ for eyeglasses. And they like the personal attention they get with me making their glasses.” When a patient comes in with a broken frame, there’s something deeply satisfying for us both about being able to cut them into another frame right then and there. “Talk about a ‘WOW!’ Patients are thrilled.” Koch’s Santinelli rep, Jaysun Barr, invited her to join the Opening Eyes program, which provides exams and makes glasses for Special Olympians. Her son comes in to help cut the lenses for the program. “It’s a little thing but it allows me to keep my kids involved in the business.” 


Alberta Eye Care Portland, Or

The motivation for Alberta Eye Care’s purchase of an edger (they now have one in both offices) was long-term cost savings. By buying stock lenses in bulk, explains co-owner James Armstrong, they saw significant savings on their cost of goods, allowing them to offer competitive pricing and faster turnaround. But a second benefit emerged: quality control. Armstrong finds that jobs edged by his opticians have fewer errors than those from an outside lab. Lastly, “Without our lab, we would not be able to afford to continue working with children in the Oregon Medicaid program.” Alberta stocks Trivex and 1.67 with AR, which Armstrong says saves money and reduces delays related to lab edging.


Dr. Bladh, OD Diamond Bar, Ca

Far from being a cool option, at Dr. Bladh OD in Diamond Bar, CA, a lab is viewed as a necessity. They’ve had their edger for nearly 20 years, and repeat patients know their Rx is usually in stock. The original aim was to provide quicker turnaround time; in the beginning they were lucky if their lab could get glasses back in two weeks. “Back in the day,” says Josh Bladh, “edgers required patterns, if anybody remembers that. We purchased a patternless edger when they came out and it changed our lives… we were able to have the job done in less than a week and when retail chains started to say glasses in an hour or less, it wasn’t a novel idea for our patients.” Bladh summarizes the main benefits as differentiation from non-lab practices and “being able to under-promise and over-deliver” -— staff tell patients their glasses will be ready in 7-10 working days, just in case, “But we know full well that if the lens is in stock we might be able to have that job done in less than an hour. We love exceeding patient expectations!” The practice only stocks CR-39 and Polycarbonate single vision lenses. They stock slightly higher powers than “normal” parameters, but anything with Transitions or AR coating they order. Those typically only take a couple days to get in, and the office usually has someone who knows how to cut lenses in five days a week. “A lot of our second pair $99 special deals get cut before the nice expensive pair because they’re just looking for a basic pair as a backup.” 


EYEcare Plus antioch, tn

When Kevin Schmidt, OD, launched his practice, he provided most of the glasses out of his own lab. That changed after a while, but with recent industry developments bringing a higher percentage of antireflective coating and new digital designs requiring even more outside lab use, “I had to decide again to be in the lab business. Financially it has increased my AR percentage to numbers I never thought possible.” Schmidt has been able to add digital design, while still providing it as an upgrade to pay for the new equipment. “Turnaround time is unbelievable and patients are even happy occasionally with the great service,” he jokes. Running a seven-location practice, he’s taken some extra tech on board, using a robotic edger to return lenses to the other six locations; they only have to be inserted into the frame. “Schneider Box AR coating and two digital generators in a practice our size is unique, and sputter mirror coating has enabled us to do almost any Rx in house,” he says.


Optical Alternatives Milford, Ct

Optical Alternatives in Milford, CT, has edged in-house since it opened, says Dorothy Reynolds. They stock single vision with AR and find that being able to tell customers they can have their glasses that day helps make a sale. And there’s a feel-good factor in being able to provide single vision lenses if someone has broken their glasses, especially when in Milford visiting family. “It allows patients to use their own frame without having to give that frame up for a week,” she points out. Besides which, “It gives children a thrill, and some adults too, to see their glasses lenses being ‘made.”


Casa De Oro Eyecare Spring Valley, Ca

Jeff Grosekemper recalls how the doctor at Casa De Oro Eyecare in Spring Valley, CA, wanted to install edging equipment to save money; they found many insurance companies would let them do in-house edging — mostly single vision but some were OK with multifocals too. “Uncuts cost less in the long run — less labor cost so the equipment will pay for itself over time, and then create profit.” Grosekemper can cut stock lenses in-house in 15 minutes, which appeals to patients. Also, uncut lens orders arrive quicker, which allows him to cut down overall wait time by a few days. “Plus, I know it will be done right the first time,” he says with a laugh. As for the lab itself: “Love it. Gives me something different to do. We’re a small office so I do pretesting, sales, dispensing, repairs, billing, etc. It’s fun to escape to the lab and make lenses. Having the in-house lab lets patients know that we are fully equipped to handle little emergencies and everyday problems that come with wearing glasses.”


Eye Can See Eyewear Mcdonough, Ga

Being able to provide badly needed in-house finishing-lab services to the two small communities it serves is a huge advantage for Eye Can See Eyewear in McDonough, GA, says practice manager William Chancellor. So much so, in fact, that they have one at each location. “We can say, ‘I can have those glasses ready for you today.’ The surprise that we have that ability is a great value in itself!” The cost reduction of not having to use an outside lab keeps a lot of money in house and that is passed on to the employees. Eye Can See carries a good assortment of power ranges in single vision CR39 and single vision Polycarbonate with AR. “Ninety-plus percent of our orders are edged in-house, saving our practice thousands of dollars a year in edging fees. It truly warms our hearts to see a child be able to receive glasses for the first time the same day and say our name…Eye Can See!” says Chancellor.

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Ways ECPs Are Benefiting from Short Intro Videos for Their Practices

Practice introduction videos have multiple benefits, and these days they’re a cinch to produce.

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Introducing yourself to potential patients and customers, eliminating the element of surprise for first-timers, and boosting your SEO and Google rankings: Producing a professional-looking intro video for your practice has multiple benefits and doesn’t have to bust your marketing budget. Check out this handful of practices that have embraced multimedia.

Precision Vision

Edmund, OK

Precision Vision in Edmund, OK, designed their video to help patients get to know the practice before coming in. “The video was structured to try and eliminate surprises,” says owner Dr. Selina McGee. It plays on the website and her Facebook page, boosting SEO across channels and driving traffic to the practice. McGee hired a videographer to shoot and edit the video for about $800. “I wanted it to look completely professional.” McGee’s main goal was boosting SEO, but now that she’s got the video up and running she concedes she could probably do an even better job of getting patients to see it. She’s also come to realize it has other potential benefits. “Customers always want to see the real you, so create something authentic that shows your personality,” she advises. “Have fun with it. Remember, your patients and customers can’t buy YOU down the street.”

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Spanish Oaks Eyecare

Cedar Park, TX

Spanish Oaks Eyecare’s video involved some luck. It was professionally done. “However,” says owner Dr. Dina Miller, “we were approached by [a crew] wanting to use our waiting area for a film. So in exchange they offered to do it at no charge.” The video walks the audience through Spanish Oaks’ office, with both exterior and interior shots, before showing Miller examining a patient and reviewing their optomap results. It ends with the patient in the optical working with her optician Bob. “During that part, we let people know how we’re different than most opticals and why ­— we carry only independent frame lines.” The video, whose main goal Miller says is to introduce Spanish Oaks to potential patients and customers, is posted on Facebook. “It’s a great way to … make yourself ‘real’ and familiar.”
She advises other ECPs to make sure the video features actual staff. “That’s one of the most important parts; making it personable. I was tempted to have someone else sit in for me but at the end of the day, I knew that would really take away from the video and its purpose.” And don’t be afraid to edit: Miller opted for voice overs, as they had felt uncomfortable speaking to camera, and added captions for things she wanted the audience to know (for example, the fact that her optician is one of just two people with an active American Board of Opticianry Advanced certification in her part of Texas). “Also,” she advises, “consider having parts where you and possibly your main staff talk to the camera about what’s important to you, what sets you apart from others — not the generic ‘We have the best customer service/patient care,’ etc.”

Ziegler Leffingwell Eyecare

New Berlin, WI

According to Dr. Dave Ziegler, Ziegler Leffingwell Eyecare hit on the idea of making an intro video as a way of giving “strong visual exposure of what it is like to be in our office.” And they found a striking way to do just that, hiring a real estate photographer to use a drone, which opens the video hovering outside the front of the office, then enters through the front door and flies throughout the office. “This flight path through the office is the way our patients experience our office during a typical eye exam,” he says. The video boasts a script written by Ziegler himself; he hired a professional to do the voice over for maximum impact. He felt it was important that the video should be less than a minute long; it’s now posted to the practice’s website, one among many features that he says win their website routine praise. Asked whether the time and expense that went into making the video were worth it, he replies that more than that, “it is necessary” for any practice, in his view.

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Dr. Bladh OD

Diamond Bar, CA

The folks at Dr. Bladh OD, a Diamond Bar, CA practice, understand the power of videos to increase a business’s Google ranking by boosting the amount of content that links back to its website. They signed up with a company called Promo! that allows them to make multiple 15-second videos. “The [Promo!] site has a ton of content with professional videos to use.” Once you edit it, the video is yours to keep. So the video is professionally done, but everything added to it is DIY.
“Video marketing gets so much more traction than pictures or boring blog posts,” reports Josh Bladh. The videos are similar, but each has its own emphasis. Most feature music and a few lines of text to get people’s attention. “Search engines are putting more emphasis on video content so this seemed like the best option to get our foothold with video before paying for anything professional,” he says.
The videos are posted to Facebook and Instagram. “We will add videos to blog posts on our website where relevant.”
In the practice’s experience, consumers typically need six to eight touch points before they’ll call and commit to an exam. So, using videos to boost these contact points for the service’s relatively low monthly fee makes sense. Bladh warns ECPs to do their homework before signing up for such a service, however, as some companies will give you a hard time if you attempt to use any unused video credits after letting your subscription lapse.

Anthony Aiden Opticians

New York, NY

Anthony Aiden Opticians went for a more adult approach in their video, a 30-second short about … a misunderstanding. It may seem like male fantasy, but optician Anthony Gaggi swears it’s based on reality. “My sister’s friend was a stylist; she was working alone one night and…” Well, we don’t want to spoil it; suffice it to say whether you find it hilarious, titillating or offensive, there’s no denying it conveys the store’s edgy, fashion-conscious style. “My goal,” Gaggi says, “was to bring a high-quality fashion video to my website.” The video is also displayed in the store’s windows. A friend who works in TV offered his services for free; Gaggi says clients love it.

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Boo! ECPs Killing It with Novelty Contact Lenses

Here is our handpicked selection of ECPs’ novelty contact lens dos, don’ts and a couple horror stories.

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COMBATING BOOTLEG RESELLERS,enlivening your marketing, getting into the swing of Halloween and hopefully — if you operate in a neighborhood with a large zombie population — adding a healthy new revenue stream … There are several reasons to consider selling and fitting novelty contact lenses. Color contacts have become a popular item, especially during prom season and other special events, and if you already fit and sell contacts, providing a legal avenue for these attention grabbers to customers is an easy add-on. But with the witching season almost upon us, you may want to consider adding them soon. Here is our handpicked selection of ECPs’ novelty contact lens dos, don’ts and a couple horror stories.

Cynthiana Vision Center Cynthiana, KY

Cynthiana Vision Center makes all patients aware that “anything bought at the flea market, comic convention, or gas station does not belong in the eye,” says Angel Miller. They ensure the patient is a contact lens wearer before ordering them (usually from ABB Optical). “If not, we set up a lens fit and tear film analysis along with teaching the patient the dos and don’ts of novelty lenses — for example, some schools don’t allow them,” she says. Miller (who’s also handy with a make-up kit — check out the above photo) said the most intriguing request she had was from football players looking to intimidate the opposition. “Make sure you differentiate between what can be Rx’d, and what can only be plano,” she says, adding that it’s important to start advertising in September, as there can be a wait for lenses.


Eye Can See Eyewear McDonough, Ga

It’s the stuff of a horror film: Periodically, the staff at Eye Can See Eyewear looks out their windows to see a troop of pale-eyed, head-rolling zombies stumbling through town. Actually, it IS the stuff of a horror film; McDonough, GA has provided the backdrop for a number of zombie flicks including The Walking Dead. According to practice manager William Chancellor, novelty contacts sell year-round. “We are in a community that oozes movie themes … We have patients from all walks of life interested not only in traditional color lenses but in cosmetic lenses as well.” Eye Can See doesn’t necessarily fit the actors in those films, Chancellor says, but their presence boosts demand. “With The Walking Dead being filmed here on our block this has brought tours and non-residents into our small community and boosted not only color lens requests but also sunglasses and prescription ophthalmic lenses.” 


Attleboro Vision Care Attleboro, MA

At Attleboro Vision Care the most popular novelty designs are cat-eye and whiteout lenses. Christine Howard says that after an initial expression of interest, “Nine times out of 10 once they discover the cost/process involved, patients decline. They often assume it’s a grab-and-go thing.” If the patient is new to contacts, Attleboro insists on an insertion/removal class, and they must demonstrate they can do so before leaving with contacts. Attleboro sources from ABB. Demand skyrockets at Halloween, though one of the more memorable patients was an actor who needed theatrical lenses for a play. “We don’t actively market these, but we will work with patients who express an interest,” she says.


Behavioral and Developmental OptometristS MIAMI, FL

“This is the optometrist’s place to shine!” says Pauline Buck, OD, about novelty lenses. “It is so cool when a patient comes in and wants me to help them complete the perfect costume.” She often follows up with a post-Halloween phone call to find out how the costume went down. Buck is a big fan of Orion Vision Group’s “great-fitting” lenses. “They have totally done right by me in the past. I started using them for a patient who had no iris and moved into the funky lenses for fun.” If the patient has never worn contacts she’ll teach them proper lens care and hygiene, and insertion and removal. “They will stay in the room until they can remove them several times.”


HD Optical Express Lansing, MI

HD Optical Express provides costume and novelty lenses to patients year round, but by special request only, sourcing the products from Orion Vision Group. According to office manager Cassie Nash, HD Optical provides contact lens exams to all patients requesting the lenses in order to ensure that comfort and vision are as good as they can be, along with instruction on insertion and removal.


Fox Valley Family Eye Care Little Chute, WI

Selling and fitting novelty (or “theatrical”) lenses has won Fox Valley Family Eye Care some low yal patients. “We had a patient that wanted them so the doctor fit him with clear trials. After coming back in a week for his evaluation he was approved,” Scott Felten says, adding that the store ordered Eyedia Clearcolor “Phantom the Snow Cat” lenses for him. This lens devotee has since ordered “Midnight” and the all whiteout “Blizzard” lenses. The practice provides lenses upon request to patients whose eye exam is current and who have been fitted for contacts, says Felten. Patients new to contacts have to be fitted and trained to insert and remove them. They are scheduled for a follow-up appointment a week later so the doctor can assess their vision and fit. For Halloween, Felten and his wife join the fun. “I wear all white-out contacts. It’s pretty freaky; I always get looks and comments.”


Visualeyes Optometry Sherman Oaks, CA

Given Visualeyes Optometry’s proximity to L.A.’s movie studios and legion of actors, demand for theatrical contact lens evaluation and sales is sufficient that Dr. Lee Dodge offers the lenses all year. Staff train all patients in insertion and removal; none leaves the office until they can do it. Dodge says the horror/zombie styles are perennial favorites. He sees offering such lenses as part public service, part marketing exercise, part just good business, but mostly it fits in with his desire “to offer everything that has to do with the eyes that patients like.” Dodge says he’s worked with “many, many patients that have come in with corneal ulcers, abrasions, and contact lens-associated red eyes secondary to ill-fitting contact lenses.” 

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