Optometric Management Tip # 526   -   Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Need more patients? Host a multifocal contact lens event.

I really like to see practice owners take control of their destiny. Most optometric practices need more patient demand, so if youíre in that category, consider this idea: host a bifocal contact lens seminar and screening event. I like this marketing strategy because it works with contact lenses and presbyopia. Contact lens business is highly desirable because you can set your fitting fees wherever you like and collect at least 85% of that even with vision plans, plus a good profit on the lens product side. Presbyopia is a great vision problem to specialize in because it affects such a large segment of the population and it is a demographic with high income levels.

Do something
The whole point of hosting an event like a contact lens open house is that you are doing something! Donít just sit back and hope more patients start calling. What have you done lately to market your practice in a big way? When you decide to host an event, a whole world of promotional opportunities opens up; you have something to talk about. You create a buzz among patients, staff and your community at large.

The basic concept I have in mind is for the doctor to present an in-office seminar on contact lenses and presbyopia and follow that with a screening to allow interested people to try on multifocal contacts in their prescription. Refreshments will be served and the doctor and staff can answer questions about contact lenses and presbyopia. The goal is to schedule appointments at the open house for a complete contact lens fitting for as many people as possible.

Plan it
I suggest you work with one of your contact lens reps and a staff member to plan the contact lens event. Here is a good list to start with:

  • Choose a date and time. Set it for a couple of months out to allow time for promotion. I would choose a time like 4pm to 6pm to catch people coming home from work.
  • Do a target search in your computer system for people over 40 years old who have an Rx in the range you wish to fit. You may wish to limit astigmatism and remove emmetropes.
  • Invite the general public as well.
  • Design a nice invitation that can be sent by email or postal mail. This should have your practice logo and describe the nature of the event.
  • Always state that space is limited and must be reserved in advance. Call all people to confirm and plan to get 20% no shows. Accept enough to make it a full house.
  • Decide on refreshments: Starbucks coffee and cookies from Panera Bread? Wine and cheese?
  • Design your seminar. This is important: do not make it complicated! You are not teaching how to prescribe and fit contacts! Patients can be easily bored. I would limit the presentation to 15 minutes then take questions.
  • Donít worry about public speaking Ė you can do it just fine. I would use PowerPoint slides which makes it easy to remember all the points you want to cover Ė but limit the number of slides to less than ten. Consider buying a small LCD projector and a screen for this and many future seminars and staff meetings. Just plug in your laptop. The projector is tax deductible and makes your events very professional.
  • You might (but you donít have to) offer a discount on the contact lens fitting and full year supply package if the appointment is booked at the open house event.
  • Be sure your multifocal fitting set is fully stocked in all powers.
  • Have all your staff present for the open house and place each one at a work station. Call patients in who want to try on multifocal contacts and use their previous record if they are established with you, or do an autorefraction if they are new to your office. Place the trial lenses on and have the doctor meet with each person for a few minutes. The doctor and techs can take near and far acuities, and look at the lenses with the slit lamp. Questions are answered, but any further work will require an appointment for a fitting. Lenses are removed and discarded before the patient leaves the office.
  • Promote it
    The great thing about planning a contact lens open house is that you now have something to promote! Even if people donít attend, you and your practice are now considered as experts in this field in your community! People will seek you out months later for bifocal contacts because they saw you held this event. Your patients who are not even interested in bifocal contacts will see that you are doing something big and they will call for that routine exam they are overdue for. The major benefit to your practice is in the promotion of the event.

  • Put the invitation on your practice Facebook page.
  • Use other social media to promote the event.
  • Have regular updates and more information on Facebook.
  • Post about the event afterward on Facebook.
  • Add a blurb about the open house on your practice website. (If you canít make easy updates yourself on your website, you need a new website).
  • Put up posters around your office about the event.
  • Place an ad in the local paper, inviting the public.
  • Send invitations to your patient base by mail and email.
  • Print flyers and ask other businesses to cross-promote it for you.
  • Mention the open house to patients in your practice who are good candidates.
  • I am quite confident that this process will result in several new contact lens fittings for you, but the publicity and promotional value is worth even more.

    Best wishes for continued success,

    Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
    Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management