Article Date: 8/1/2009

It's Back-to-School Promo Time
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It's Back-to-School Promo Time

But, savvy doctors will find a better time to connect with their patients.


I'm writing this in the middle of summer and today's newspaper has a slew of ads for "Christmas in July" and "Back-to-School (BTS) savings." While I don't necessarily have anything against seeing St. Nick in shorts and flip flops, I think seeing "BTS" promotions two months before school even starts should be both a marketing red flag and a reminder for the savvy optometrist.

Yes, you want to grow that segment of your practice for two obvious reasons: First, that age group has extended longevity and through their lifetime, typically outspends an older patient. Second, by definition, an adult will escort these young patients, and the adult can also become your patient — if she isn't already. But, as anachronistic as Christmas in July is, so too is the concept of BTS promotions for optometrists.

Timing and mindshare

Consider these two issues with the classic BTS marketing model – mindshare and timing.

As parents prep their child or children for school and the list of requisite essentials (e.g. school supplies and clothes) grows, it becomes hard for your message to break through the increasing marketing noise. Yes, eye care and great vision is obviously important to a students' success. But, parents view pens, spiral notebooks and new sneakers as critically essential and needed immediately. The perception: "My kid can see fine, so the examination can wait" is real. I'm not saying it's admirable or clinically advisable. But, fighting that perception is usually pointless — especially during BTS season.

Next, is the timing of a classic BTS marketing program. It makes sense to us to talk about "ensuring your child has great vision on the first day of school." However, as noted, if the parent believes her child has good vision, and the child has yet to exhibit otherwise (as they aren't yet in school) she'll wait to take her child to an eye doctor.

When should you market?

You should start to market a month after school starts: "Now that your kid is back in school, and the chaos has slowed from a rapid boil to a simmer, it's time to make sure your kids can see the board clearly and read and use their computer comfortably." Just as you wouldn't evaluate a cars' performance without a test drive, your promotions will be more productive if you give the prospective patient the chance to see whether he's actually experiencing any vision problems. I acknowledge that the child certainly may have problems of which he's unaware. However, by delaying your message, you at least have a chance to break through and get a response from those who do have problems.

Alert vendors that have products relevant to your promotion, such as the frame vendors you use for children's or young adult frames, those who supply sports-related eye guards, lens manufacturers who will work with you on photochromic and scratch resistant lenses, and contact lens companies who can help you promote lenses to students and budding athletes.

The exception to the rule

The only exception to the above may be a "Back to College" message. If you're practice is in an area with few colleges, and most of your college-age students live on campus, being proactive and getting in the fray with other BTS advertisers is essential. Remind them of the importance of going back to college with a full supply of contact lenses, up-to-date eyeglasses and sunwear. This marketing strategy can be very productive. OM


The Practice-Builder Lens

Michael Pier, OD
Professional Relations
Bausch & Lomb Vision Care

Daily disposable lenses are the fastest growing sub-segment in the soft contact lens market in the United States with a 2008 growth rate of more than 20%,1 even in a "down" economy. However, daily disposables are not prescribed as frequently in the United States as in other parts of the world;2 they represent only 10-13% of lens fits, while 2-week lenses dominate with a 44% share.2 The U.S. daily disposable modality seems poised for even stronger growth.

For many patients, a daily disposable lens is an excellent option for healthy, comfortable vision and convenience. Daily disposables also represent a tremendous opportunity for contact lens practice growth. Yet, some eyecare professionals are concerned about the increased cost to patients. The recently introduced SofLens® daily disposable contact lens from Bausch & Lomb is affordable for patients and can be profitable for the practice. This lens is truly a practice builder.

An Everyday "Go To" Lens

The SofLens daily disposable is the only daily disposable contact lens featuring High-Definition™ Optics with an aspheric anterior surface that helps reduce spherical aberration and provides exceptional vision. Outstanding all-day comfort is achieved through ComfortMoist™ Technology, which works with tears to create a cushion of moisture around the lens. Plus, the lens is easy to handle and it has all of the benefits of a daily disposable, which makes it a great everyday lens for many of your patients.

An Affordable Daily Disposable

What makes this daily disposable even more unique is its affordability. The leading 2-week lens costs a patient about 88 cents a day, based on the cost of an annual supply and the cost of lens care solution. With Bausch & Lomb's high-value rebate program and no solution costs, your patients can experience the advantages of the SofLens daily disposable for about 96 cents a day — a difference of only $28 a year.

With SofLens daily disposables, patient cost is no longer a barrier to the benefits and convenience of daily disposable lenses. When patients learn they can wear fresh, new lenses with great optics every day at about the same out-of-pocket expense, they'll be more than willing to go with your recommendation.

A Practice-Building Lens

Recommending SofLens daily disposables to current 2-week wearers benefits the practice as well. A recent study has shown that daily disposable lens wearers are 85% compliant with their wearing schedule, while 2-week lens wearers are only 41% compliant.6 Better compliance leads to obvious benefits, and contact lens patients are more likely to return regularly for their eye exams. More frequent exams bring added profitability to the practice and improve patient retention.

The practice also has the opportunity to profit from the sale of an annual lens supply. With the SofLens daily disposable, the profit to the practice from an annual supply can be greater than that derived from an annual supply of the leading 2-week lens, even when the 2-week patient is compliant. When comparing sales to patients who purchase the average annual number of boxes for their modality, SofLens can be even more profitable, as shown in the example below.7

A Growth Opportunity

Why not take advantage of a contact lens market segment that is growing? The SofLens daily disposable has benefits for both patients and the practice. So now is the perfect time to recommend SofLens daily disposables to your current 2-week lens wearers — to satisfy them and build your practice.

  1. CLI Q4 2008
  2. Nichols JJ. Contact Lenses 2008. Contact Lens Spectrum. January 2009.
  3. Based on Q1 2009 published online pricing at 1-800-CONTACTS.
  4. Based on Acuvue online rebate form as of April 2009.
  5. Assuming 100% compliance.
  6. Dumbleton K, Woods C, Jones L, Fonn D, Sarwer D. Patient and Practitioner Compliance with Silicone Hydrogel and Daily Disposable Lens Replacement in the United States. Eye & Contact Lens. 2009;4.
  7. Data on file, Bausch & Lomb

Optometric Management, Issue: August 2009