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Tom Bowman: Open the door to new business

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Create and promote a practice Vision Benefit Plan and fill your appointment book, help other local firms

BY Tom Bowman

Published in the July/August 2014 issue

Many marketing ideas only bring in patients one at a time. This slow-drip approach isn’t especially effective, and it can be a drain on your budget.

But what if you could create a marketing tool that truly tapped into a huge underserved market — including families whose children have new vision care benefits — and filled your appointment books much more quickly, too?

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Small business owners and managers typically have two distinct challenges: hiring good employees, and keeping good employees. The best people also look for companies offering the best benefits. But extra benefits are expensive — and they often involve a lot of extra administrative headaches.

That’s where an in-house Vision Benefit Plan comes in. Offer one, and you can help fellow local small businesses while building your own market share.

The best Vision Benefit Plan would be one where there is no charge to the business to offer it to their employees. That alone should grab their attention!

There may be “fine print” in major vision plan agreements that say you give up the right to offer a custom vision benefit plan through your practice. However, most vision plan companies focus their attention on businesses that have over 400 employees, which means that there are a lot of local businesses that vision plan companies will never attempt to reach. They are yours to capture.

A small business with 25 employees could add that many or more new patients to the practice. Employees will typically utilize any benefits that their employers provide for them. Pitch your practice as a family vision care specialist. (The Affordable Care Act’s essential benefits for kids get them in your door; your vision care plan can keep the parents there, too.)

As you create your Vision Benefit Plan brochure, consider these points:

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  • Tailor savings so they help your patients but won’t hurt your bottom line like some existing vision benefit plans do. Consider giving a simple 25 percent savings on both goods and services.
  • There are no discounts on planned-replacement contact lenses “due to our already low prices” that rival those found online..
  • Have a local printer create a punch-out membership card on the brochure that each member gets..

Who will promote your program? It could be a staff member, or you might hire an outside source. A radio advertising salesperson could add your vision plan service as another option to what they currently sell since they are meeting with business decision-makers every day. Of course, you should promote it on your website and social media, too.

Consider paying outside marketers on a commission basis: something like $100 for each company that they sign up, but no commission is paid until the first employee from that company comes in for services. This will help ensure that the marketer meets with a decision maker who will tell each employee about the vision plan and its benefits. That’s good money for the promoter — and an incentive that they make sure the services get used.

The promoter should call the decision-maker of each company and briefly explain what the plan has to offer. Then they’d set an appointment to field questions and deliver promotional materials.

Participating companies would either hand the Vision Benefit Plan brochures to each employee or add them as payroll-stuffers in their next paycheck (and leave some extra brochures for new hires). A poster by the time clock, newsletter items and announcements at staff meetings are other ways to remind employees of their new vision benefits.

Your own Vision Benefit Plan helps local small businesses and brings new patients to you. It’s a win-win marketing method you can start today..

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You Can’t Meet Everyone’s Needs, So Why Try?

Know your niche.

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Know your niche as a retailer and stay true to that niche. Don’t try to meet everyone’s needs – if you try you will compromise somewhere else. – Carter Johnston, OD, Physicians Optical Luxury Eyewear, Oklahoma City, OK

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Robert Bell

The Single Best Tool to Help Your Staff to Sell In and Outside the Office

Plus it has the added benefit of showing them you value them.

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JUST BETWEEN US, have you ever fantasized about wanting to give a playful smack to a patient or customer because they did something incredibly stupid? Or, they didn’t do something they were supposed to do in the no-brainer category?

No? Liar!

Well, here’s a no-brainer scenario in which I’d like to smack (playfully!) a hefty percentage of optometric business owners. Ok, honestly, I wouldn’t hurt or embarrass any of you. However, I’ll tell you this: this “no-brainer scenario” makes me pull my hair out of my head. And, folks? I’m bald!

What’s the no-brainer scenario? Business cards.

“But Robert, I have a business card.” I’m sure you do, doctor. Does everyone on your staff have one, too? Everyone? Uh huh. I’m losing more hair as we speak!

From your front desk personnel to your licensed opticians, everyone on your staff should have printed business cards with their name on it, their title (if they want one), the name of your practice, your location(s), your phone number and your website.

Everyone on your staff should be required to carry a few in their purses or wallets 24/7.

Why? So many reasons! Here’s one example from one of my favorite conversations with an optician:

Optician: I was in a Target once and standing behind this woman wearing the most G-d awful glasses. I was thinking, “Omg, who the hell did that to you?”

Me: Did you say anything to her?

O: Um, no.

M: Why not?

O: Whaddya mean, “why not?” What was I going to say?

M: Oh, any number of things. How about, “Hi there. I’m Darla. I was looking at your glasses. I’m an optician. Then … are you happy with them? … or how long ago did you get them? … or where did you get them? Anything to get her talking about her glasses.

O: Why?

M: So you could engage her, find out if you, as an optician, could be of help to her. If so, then you could’ve given her your business card and said, “Here, take my card. Next time you need glasses or an eye exam, come in and ask for me and I promise I’ll take very good care of you.” Then, before you give her the card, you say ‘I’m gonna write on the back of my card to give you $20 off on a pair of sunglasses, if you’re able to come in within the month.’

O: (spurts out a laugh) Yeah, right. Like my OD would pay for business cards for me. Get real. She’s too cheap.

Lord, I’m so bald.

Doctors, by purchasing business cards for your staff (such a minimal investment that can reap in beaucoup rewards), you do the following things:

  • You’re telling them they, as your employee, are important to you.
  • You’re telling them they are an integral part of your team.
  • You’re telling them you’re proud to have them on your team.
  • You make them think you appreciate them and show them so with something tangible.
  • This usually makes them proud of where they work and proud of working for you.

Either you’re proud of your practice and the people who work for you, or you’re not. If you’re not, please disregard what you’ve read here. If you are, well, you know what to do next.

Once your staff is stocked up on cards, it’s time to train them. For Robert’s business card sales training tips visit invisionmag.com/extras.

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Danielle Richardson

Feel Like Your Wellness Routine Could Be Missing Something? It’s Probably Sleep

We spend nearly a third of our life sleeping, which makes getting quality sleep as essential as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

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WHEN YOU THINK OF your health and wellness, how often do you think of sleep? Chances are not often — but you should. Sleep is the newest frontier in wellness as public health consciousness continues to increase and we move to a more holistic idea of health. We spend nearly 1/3 of our life sleeping which makes getting quality sleep as essential as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

The National Sleep Foundation defines quality sleep as occurring when you’re asleep within 30 minutes of laying down, wake no more than once, and sleep for at least 85 percent of the night. Unfortunately, quality sleep is an uncommon occurrence as the CDC reports a third of American adults experience poor or inadequate sleep on a regular basis. An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep-related problems or disorders, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, or restless leg syndrome. As a country, we need to get some rest!

Sleep deprivation increases the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and triples the risk for type 2 diabetes according to Johns Hopkins sleep researcher Patrick Finan, PhD. Those not getting adequate sleep suffer from a weakened immune system, irregular metabolism, and obesity secondary to increased levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Not limited to just the physical body, sleep deprivation can also manifest as cognitive impairment and/or mental health changes including depression, irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness, and brain fog. Poor quality sleep is far less recuperative, which causes us to not feel rested when do we wake up.

Sleep depends on a number of factors, our body’s internal regulating system is chief among them. Our Circadian Rhythm functions as the body’s biological clock and regulates the experience of alertness vs. sleepiness. This rhythm is sensitive to fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol peaks in the morning allowing us to be alert and focused throughout the day. The secretion of melatonin — which helps us sleep — is highest at night.

These days, our minds are moving a mile a minute and we’re constantly on light-producing digital devices even though increased high-energy blue light exposure from devices decreases melatonin production and causes insomnia or sleeplessness. The disrupting culprits aren’t limited to devices though; increased stress, irregular work schedules, frequent jet lag, and sleep disorders can also disrupt our cycles.

The CDC recommends 7-9 hours of quality sleep for adults and more for teens and children. Here are some easy ways you can get better sleep tonight:

Build Consistency. It’s important to wake and head to bed around the same time each day — even on the weekends.

Use Sleep Monitoring Technology. Smartphones and wearable tech devices can help monitor the duration and quality of your sleep through downloadable applications and Bluetooth technology.

Sleep Habits. Limit screen time and diminish light sources in the bedroom. Additionally, use the automatic setting on your phone to warm the screen at night.

Bonus — Zen Out! Use essential oils or pillow sprays in scents like lavender as aromatherapy to help you sleep. Also consider meditation, light music, or other soothing sounds as a relaxing way to send yourself to bed.

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