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This Ohio Practice’s Refresh Gets the Details Right

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Many eyecare offices go 10, 15, even 20 years without a renovation. So why would a less than five-year-old practice opt to do one from the ground up? Well, Kevin Kretch, owner of Eyes on Chagrin in Woodmere, OH, can tell you exactly why. “When we opened, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing,” he admits. 

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Many eyecare offices go 10, 15, even 20 years without a renovation. So why would a less than five-year-old practice opt to do one from the ground up? Well, Kevin Kretch, owner of Eyes on Chagrin in Woodmere, OH, can tell you exactly why. “When we opened, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing,” he admits. 

Kretch, a licensed optician and son of an optometrist, got his first job at LensCrafters. “So, this was my first optical shop,” he explains. “My father owned seven practices selling low-end stuff and he told me I didn’t want the store to look like his. I wanted it to be nice.”

So, Kretch took his modest budget and hired an industry design firm. They did a fine job but as time passed he realized it wasn’t really what he wanted. “As I learned more, saw more, I realized this is exactly what I didn’t want. It was high-end but looked too commercial. It looked like a LensCrafters and wasn’t our identity anymore.”

Six months shy of their five-year anniversary, he took it down to the studs. Of course, the plan didn’t start that way. At first he was just looking to expand his Barton Perreira feature wall. “Barton Perreira and I have a great relationship; I sell a ton of them. My rep and I discussed that 75 pairs just wasn’t cutting it,” he says. “So, we created an entire wall concept. But if I was going to do the wall, I should repaint. And if I am going to repaint, I should pull up the carpet. And if I am going to do the floors, I should just do all of it.” 

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 In a snap, $20,000 turned into $75,000. “People love our staff, our frames, our doctor, our lenses but I want people to walk in and say: ‘This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen,’ walk out and tell their friends,” Kretch says. 

An ordinary store wasn’t going to accomplish that. “So, I threw out the budget. I wanted to get everything I wanted. From floors to ceiling, I want people to comment on it. We already do a lot of referrals and I’m giving patients another reason to refer us.” 


Smart Ideas From the Redesign

1. Hit the forums. “I came up with some ideas from the forums,” shares Kretch. “I looked at a bunch of different dispensaries on Luxury Eyewear Forum and Optical Independence of Facebook. The great thing about this industry is people are so willing to help … Stephanie Haenes of Art of Optiks has been a great mentor.” 

2. Plan, plan, plan. “I planned this out for a solid six to eight months,” says Kretch. “And hire a designer. Interior design has always been a bit of a hobby of mine but honestly I don’t think anyone could or should do it without some sort of professional help. Someone to help choose paint colors and floor colors. And they can help source stuff.”

3. Find the right contractor. Kretch interviewed contractors and the main thing he discussed was how they were going to stay open while they accomplished the renovation. “Our contractor worked all night. He’d sleep during the day and work from when we closed to 4am. Then he’d spend an hour cleaning up so we could open for business,” says Kretch.  

4. Add time. According to Kretch, whatever anyone quotes you about time, don’t believe it. “It never works out the way they tell you it will.” Add in some buffer time if you’re hoping to be done by a certain time. The contractor for Eyes on Chagrin quoted Kretch two weeks. It ran closer to two months. (See item number three again!)

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5. Just accept you’re going to pay more. “You’re never going to follow your budget and you never should,” claims Kretch. “I get that it’s hard to part with money, but the truth is the last thing you want is to spend money on something and then regret it later. Just get what you want the first time; pay the money and don’t live with the regret. Don’t make decisions that you could regret and have to change later. Do it the right way the first time because you don’t want to do it a second time.”

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New Jersey Ophthalmologist Stays Ahead of the Curve In Laser Correction

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Norden Laser Associates, a laser vision correction practice located in Ridgewood, is the first in the state to offer ReLEx SMILE minimally invasive laser vision correction. But Dr. Richard Norden, who has been in practice in Northern New Jersey since 1995, is not new to being first.

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A New Jersey ophthalmologist’s embrace of new procedures
establishes a clear point of differentiation.

Norden Laser Associates, a laser vision correction practice located in Ridgewood, is the first in the state to offer ReLEx SMILE minimally invasive laser vision correction. But Dr. Richard Norden, who has been in practice in Northern New Jersey since 1995, is not new to being first. He’s tried (and abandoned) many new technologies, always with an aim to offer his patients the best eyecare. 

“We’ve always been among the first in technology,” says Dr. Norden. “We were the first in North Jersey to do Lasik. We were the first to do LTK, a non-contact thermal laser, which worked great but the effect wore off, so we abandoned it. I suppose there we have the dubious distinction of being the first in New Jersey.” 

“I’ve also used other lasers, which I’ve not been happy with and returned,” he shares. “When this laser came out we thought we could do two things. One, it’s a very comfortable laser which is a small upgrade over the previous equipment. And two, we also wanted to introduce this SMILE procedure, which is widely used in Europe.” 

The laser he is referring to is the VisuMax femtosecond laser, which they acquired in December 2016 and is the only laser that can perform the ReLEx SMILE procedure. This is the newest, least invasive refractive laser vision correction technology currently available for treatment of myopia with minimal astigmatism in the U.S. Developed by ZEISS, the procedure uses the VisuMax femtosecond laser to create a lens-shaped layer just beneath the surface of the eye, which is removed through a tiny incision.

In September 2016, it became the first new laser procedure cleared for use by the FDA in 20 years. However, despite close to one million procedures worldwide, SMILE is limited in the U.S. to myopes, only about 30 percent of laser patients. Treatment for myopes with astigmatism should be approved within the year. 

The procedure’s advantage is the small-incision lenticular extraction with no flap. “Because this laser technique is so minimally invasive, we’re able to treat patients who — because their jobs are physical — weren’t suited to earlier forms of laser correction,” says Norden. “Including firefighters, police officers, and contact-sport athletes — all of whom are likely to be struck in their eyes.”

 
How To: Add New Technology to Your Practice

Really think about it. Adding expensive new tech is not a decision to be made lightly, says Dr. Norden. It costs him $10,000 a month for the laser, maintenance and click fees … that’s $10,000 a month for 5-and-a-half years. “If this procedure catches on the risk becomes less as it gets adopted more widely.” 

Do the math. For what it costs Dr. Norden’s practice, he needs to do approximately two patients a month to break even. “We’ve done 17 patients so far, so it’s more than paying for itself very quickly but if there were more in my market I’m not sure we’d be seeing that adoption,” he explains.

Don’t forget tried and true. “In Europe, they promoted it as the new technology and it cannibalized Lasik. We don’t want to do that here,” says Dr. Norden. “We can’t treat all prescriptions, so we don’t speak ill of Lasik.”

Offer options. “We educate patients about their options. SMILE does offer some advantages over Lasik. Especially for people who are “afraid” of the idea of the flap [Norden estimates this at 5 percent]; that if they get hit its going to come loose. And the two are comparable in price so we don’t want people to gravitate towards one or the other based on cost but on an informed decision.”

Get the word out. Dr. Norden isn’t big into marketing technology as a means of patient attraction, but his practice has come up with a clever way to bring attention to their new technology. A tagline: “Let us put a SMILE in your eye.”

 

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 edition of GO/OD.

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GO/OD

Pens and Notebooks Are Deadly Dull Swag. Instead, Try Giving This

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Craft beer from Dr. Craig Miller

Dr. Craig Miller loves finding ways “outside the box of norms” to market and brand his optical businesses in the Columbus, OH area. One of his favorite ways to build B-to-B relationships and stand out from the crowd is really crafty. “We all have local businesses that drop off pens and notepads, but when was the last time someone dropped off a 6-pack of local craft beer and custom printed pint glasses?” he asks. “That makes a lasting impression.”

Dr. Craig Miller is CEO of Twenty Brands (twentybrands.com), a branding and creative solutions agency;  clients include Eye Columbus, The Optical. Co, and Eyewear 2020.


This article originally appeared in the September 2017 edition of GO/OD.

 

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GO/OD

Take These 5 Steps to Become Your Community’s Most Trusted Vision Expert

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How do you become the name that means trusted vision care to your community? Well, it doesn’t just happen by chance. You need to make a concerted effort to gain a reputation as the go-to vision expert. With this 5-step plan you can establish your vision expertise and your relationship with the local community to propel yourself into “local trusted expert” status.

Step 1. Know Your Patient Demographics

Based on your location, you have a unique patient demographic which includes the general age, lifestyle, income, maybe even race and education level. In order to speak expertly to the population you serve, you need to step back and look at who you are talking to. What eye and vision related issues are most relevant to them? What’s the best ways to reach them (community events, television spots, social media, newspapers)? What’s the average age of your patients and what do they do in their spare time?

Create profiles of your target population including their demgraphics and other relevant details (e.g. are you in a ski town or a high pollen area?). Then you’ll know who you are talking to and what needs they have.

Step 2. Pick a Focus

Use the profiles you created to select a topic or specialty on which to focus. While you might think limiting your area of expertise will limit your patient base, this couldn’t be further from the truth. When you focus on an optometric specialty, whether it’s children’s vision, dry eyes, contact lens fittings or low vision, you create a general sense of competency about your skills and knowledge. You demonstrate that you’ve gone the extra mile to gain the knowledge and expertise necessary; that makes you stand out from the crowd and creates trust. Once you are considered the expert on one topic, that association will spill over into general eyecare. We’ve seen how focusing on promoting a specialty experience results in a general increase in bookings even for basic eyecare. 

Step 3. Design Your Marketing Message 

Once you pick a focus you need to get the word out that you are the local expert. You want to become the face of this topic. Highlight it on your website, social media, in-house promotions (flyers, posters, postcards etc.) and local news outlets. Create the imagery to be used on graphics and the copy that will show your expertise, then invite patients to learn more. Include a clear call to action in your promotions that prompts your audience to book an appointment.  

Step 4. Reel Them In

Once your specialty is defined, you want to promote it heavily. Start with writing articles, creating some short videos for your website and blog, and by posting on Facebook and social media. You can also invite your audience to participate in live video chats and in-house events. We have helped clients with some very successful educational events, such as glaucoma screenings, dry eye treatment information sessions and more. Invite relevant patients and tell them to bring friends and family, then open the event to the public. As more and more people learn about your specialty, the word will spread.

Step 5. Reach Out

Once you have promoted it through your on- and offline presence, it’s time to reach out to the community to expand your reach. Participate in local health fairs, visit schools and nursing homes to give free information sessions or screenings, contact local news, distribute press releases or articles. Being where people can see your face and get to know you is key. This is where your presence will extend beyond your patients to give you the recognition and reputation as a community expert on eyecare.

Keep an ear to the ground for events, news, trends or timely issues for which you can share your expertise. It may require significant time and energy, but in the end it will pay off when you see an increase in appointments and greater trust and loyalty from your patients.


This article originally appeared in the September 2017 edition of GO/OD.

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