Article Date: 3/1/2003

contact lens pearls
10
Pearls for Better Cosmetic and Color Contact Lens Profits
Learn effective ways to approach patients about contact lens options.
BY MITCH CASSEL, O.D.

Are you properly positioned for the next color contact lens explosion? Are you and your staff well versed in color contact lens products? Are you well organized and do you have a plan to provide color lenses in your practice? If you're not, you'll lose out on an easy way to increase your profitability. Consumer awareness of cosmetic lenses alone (excluding therapeutic and novelty categories) continues to spurn from an influx of major advertising and marketing from some of the leading manufacturers.

In addition, statistics from a 2000 Gallup Poll study indicate that 25 million current vision-corrected patients and 13 million nonvision-corrected (38 million people total), are interested in purchasing cosmetic lenses.

 

ILLUSTRATION BY LAEL HENDERSON

While most major contact lens manufacturers are vying for major market share of color lenses (expected 15% to 20% growth over the next few years), most eyecare practitioners (ECPs) are reluctant to take advantage of this unique opportunity. In the past, our industry was plagued with color lens issues including comfort, naturalness, product availability (backorder issues), parameter availability, profitability and chair time issues.

Fortunately, new colors, palettes, natural designs, enhanced comfort, disposable modalities and extended parameters all have revamped the market. In addition, companies offer customization to vary pupil sizes, iris diameters, color intensities and designs. Following are 10 pearls to help you successfully become profitable with color and cosmetic contact lenses.

1. Communicate visually

Typically, displaying educational materials, having the staff wear color lenses and motivating the staff to communicate about lenses is a given. However, a color lens purchase is a process that first starts when the patient enters your office. Provide subtle messages by communicating visually to your patients with manufacturer posters, brochures, etc., right in the waiting room.

2. Be proactive

Knowing that 51% of opaque lens wearers and only 37% of enhancement tinted lens wearers planned to purchase cosmetic lenses before their appointment strongly suggests the need to become proactive in approaching this category. Most ECPs wait for a patient to ask about color lenses rather than suggesting them by asking, "Have you ever thought about wearing color lenses?"

Getting to know your patient better with a thorough questionnaire inquiring about the need for contact lenses for sports use, their interest in novelty lenses for fun, etc. can make a difference in your profitability.

The single most important step is taking a few minutes to update patients on new products. When you spend time educating patients on the latest in technology and advancements in products, patients feel that you're with a cutting-edge practice.

Suggesting color lenses for various applications including sports, cosmetic changes, therapeutic use or just for fun can benefit your patients and your profitability.

3. Know the products

It's important to familiarize both your staff and yourself on available products from all color lens categories including cosmetic, therapeutic and novelty lenses. Learning prosthetic choices for cosmetic and therapeutic applications, cosmetic parameters and color pallets or just knowing sports applications (cloudy days use yellow lenses, tennis green tints etc.) is important to communicate to your patients and inevitably increase your profitability.

Custom coloring lenses is also an area to be familiar with, as this can lead to additional profit with specialty lenses. Added benefits to patients including handling lenses, cosmetic enhance ment and changes, sports applications and therapeutic use (e.g., albinism and color deficiency) all command a professional fee.

4. Know each lens's usage

Can you use an enhancer lens with standard intensity on a brown eye to result in a color change? Probably not, but it's interesting to note that several custom colors with various intensities can subtly change a dark brown eye to perhaps a golden brown or lavender.

Knowing how to fit a colorblind patient with a color-deficient lens, or a photophobic eye with a tint needing certain color intensity, pupil size and base curves are some examples of what you need to know about when and how to use color lens products.

5. Don't overlook anyone

Although the standard, young female is the leading target for selling color contact lenses, it's not unusual to have both older patients and males also interested. Don't let vision correction be the only driving force, as a huge untapped plano market exists (30% of the color lens market comprises plano patients). Don't prejudge patients, either, as everyone is a potential candidate.

6. Use your staff

When approaching a potential cosmetic patient, you plant the seed for the patient to consider trying a color lens or other new product. Then have your staff follow up with what I call the "two-to-five drill." Your staff takes control when they suggest a maximum of two colors of contact lenses and use up to five minutes to trial them.

Additional responsibilities of the staff besides promoting other color lens options include keeping a current and complete inventory of color lenses and having a well-lit working area with clean mirrors (equally important to convey the correct coloring to the patient).

Some offices use digital cameras or other tools to communicate the color benefits. This may work for your office setting, but using these tools usually slows down the chair time and prolongs the completion of the sale.

7. Charge for your time

Color lenses can provide you additional revenue if you charge for your professional time. I typically charge extra for fitting a color contact lens and match or often lower the fees on materials so the patient isn't lost to a mail-order dilemma.

Offering different services including sports tinted lenses, therapeutic applications, color blindness correction, etc. brings many interesting and challenging patients that all require your professional time.

8. Offer staff incentives

My staff works as a team and doesn't require a commission for motivation. Your office may work differently, but there is one perk I offer to my staff to show my appreciation -- a yearly free trip. Paying off all my invoices with a credit card provides accumulated mileage that I exchange for airline tickets for my staff. This is a one way I thank them for their loyal and hard work. It goes a long way and it doesn't cost you anything!

9. Keep in touch

With postage on the rise, the least expensive way to communicate to patients about new color lens options is with e-mail. Collecting e-mail addresses (make sure it's part of your information form) allows you to inexpensively communicate to your patients about your practice several times a year. A quarterly newsletter keeps your name current in the minds of your patients and continues to update them with pertinent eyecare news.

10. Become a specialist

You must position yourself to encounter new color lens options. If you're not prepared, patients will notice other choices and easily find your competitor willing to offer new products and techniques; not only color lenses but other related products.

Being viewed as a specialist and constantly offering new products makes you look like the leader in the field and a professional on the cutting edge.

Benefits for everyone

You create your own luck when taking a proactive approach, reaping increased revenue from your patients, new color options and let's not forget -- their kind referrals!

Dr. Cassel is a leading consultant, lecturer and provider of prosthetic, cosmetic and special effects movie contact lenses. In addition, he's an owner of a prosthetic contact lens company and an optical boutique in NYC. You can reach him at (800) 598-2020 or visit www.customcontacts.com.

 



Optometric Management, Issue: March 2003