Article Date: 5/1/2005

profit building
Using Trunk Shows to Build Your Bottom Line
This profitable strategy will set your practice apart and show your patients a good time.

BY KEN YOUNG, O.D., Brentwood, Tenn.

Recent statistics indicate that frame sales in the private practitioner's office continue to decline every year. With more competition from commercial chains, independent O.D.s need to find a way to differentiate what they do. Trunk shows may be one answer to help you retain those frame sales in your office.

Plan ahead

The first thing you must do to host a trunk show in your office is to pick a date. Give yourself enough time to make all of the preparations and to get organized; it's a good idea to allow yourself 60 to 90 days beforehand. Consider picking a time of the year when business is slow to help boost your revenue at that time. We typically host a show in the spring and in the fall.

Next, call your frame reps to see who's interested in participating. If you're excited about a new line or have had great luck with a particular style, consider offering that invitation first. Most reps are willing and excited to participate. We ask all of our reps to donate one frame so we can give it away during the show; that's their cost to participate. Depending on the size of your office, you may only want two to three reps for each show.

Finally, in the planning phase, set a goal. This may be difficult for the first show if you're not sure of the turnout. However, a good rule of thumb is to pick the amount of revenue you bring in on a typical day; wouldn't you be happy if you could get that in two or three hours?

Get the word out

If you want people to know something, then you have to tell them. If you want them to come to your trunk show, then you have to let them know when it will take place. This begins in the office.

Have a graphics artist design a professional announcement that publicizes the time and date of your trunk show. Make copies and place them throughout the office about a month before the show. You might want to make a list of people who tend to buy more than one frame each year or those patients who like new and trendy eye wear. Call them to make them aware of the date of the show. When a patient decides to look elsewhere for his eye wear and asks for his prescription before the trunk show, let him know that you have the show coming up, where he may be able to save a significant amount of money.

Consider a direct mailing to your patients. They are your main target anyway. Statistics show that in-house mailings have a far better response rate than just a generalized mailing to the community. Use local media such as newspaper and radio to get the word out to the general public. Once you have these people in your office for the first time, there's a greater chance that they'll come back.

Make it fun

At all of our trunk shows, we try to pick a theme. Our most recent show had a Mardis Gras theme, complete with beads and decorations. We served small bowls of Shrimp Creole made by one of the doctors and had a King cake. We've also used beach themes, emphasizing sunglasses; a BBQ picnic; and a fall/Halloween party. The staff may wear clothes that match the theme. The point is to let the patients and staff have fun, interacting at a different level than usual.

One idea that's gone over well in our office is "Pop a Balloon." Inside one balloon is a percentage-off discount that the patient can use once she's picked out a frame and lenses. And inside several other balloons is a 100%-off frame discount -- remember this was the frame reps' contribution to the trunk show. So if you have three reps participating, then three balloons will have 100%-off vouchers. We also have other giveaways such as T-shirts (again usually supplied by the frame rep), gourmet chocolate, movie tickets or dinners that patients who own businesses have and for whom we advertise.

They'll pay off

Your first show may be small and not so eventful, but don't give up. The first one usually is. Trunk shows have a tendency to grow each time you have one. We've had to add hours and staff to help each time. Our last show, six hours long, grossed three days of typical production.

Now that we've been hosting them for several years consecutively, the patients have begun to ask for the date of the next one. Having trunk shows and setting your office apart from what's typically done at other offices may help you keep more of those frame sales and add new patients to your practice.

Dr. Young is in private practice and is a member of the American Optometric Association. He's an adjunct faculty member at the Southern College of Optometry and has worked as a clinical investigator for the FDA and for many different contact lens, solution and pharmaceutical manufacturers.



Optometric Management, Issue: May 2005