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Article Date: 2/1/2006

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contact lens economics
Secrets to Hosting a Successful Open House
BY GARY GERBER, OD

Many of you have heard of or tried in-house contact lens seminars or open houses. And most of you who've tried these events haven't repeated them because of poor success. Following are some strategies for turning these failed marketing attempts into events that help fill your appointment books.

Jazz it Up

One way to host a successful open house is to envision it as something bigger — an event akin to a trade show. Vision Expo comes to your office — now that's something to get excited about!

You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on building a booth or have an NFL quarterback in attendance (although if you know someone notable who can attend, it certainly helps!). Rather, the secret to making these events profitable is to spend more time planning than executing them — in particular, planning what happens after the show.

The preparation list for a "What's New in Contact Lenses" seminar is relatively straightforward. Like a trade show, you need to decide on the look and feel of your "booth," which will be your office. Try some decorations or rearrange some furniture to send a message to your patients and staff that this is a special event and not just another day at the office.

Get the Word Out

Market the event to your patient base as well as to prospective patients, using mail, e-mail, Web site announcements and possibly newspaper ads. One often overlooked, inexpensive and effective marketing tool is the telephone. Your staff (or software such as that found at www.4patientcare.com) can call prospects and invite them to the event.

Have Plenty of Helping Hands

Make your staffing plans well in advance — this is certainly one instance where more staff is better. Staff members should be on hand to take coats, help seat guests, serve refreshments and answer questions. Role play the answers to some anticipated questions in advance to ensure that all staff members deliver a consistent message.

Finish with Follow Up

If everyone who attends your event says, "Wow, great stuff – I can't wait to get those new lenses you were talking about," then you'd have nothing left to do except book appointments. But alas, that's rarely the case. As most trade show veterans will tell you, a lot of selling happens after the show — often more so than at the show. However, these same veterans will tell you that it's not uncommon for up to 70 percent of leads to not be followed up on!

To avoid that pitfall, preparation is again your ally. Make sure you plan to follow up, including with those who did not attend. This often overlooked category of prospects commonly includes people who wanted to attended but were unable to.

In addition, when you plan your open house follow up, include planning for multiple communications. I again recommend using the telephone. Call prospective patients to thank them for coming and ask if they have any additional questions or if they would like to schedule an appointment for a more personalized, in-depth consultation. Have thank you letters or postcards ready to go before the event and mail them the next day.

Follow up again a few weeks later with either another letter or an e-mail that is more tailored for each prospect's vision needs. This time enclose relevant collateral information. Persistence, when it's genuine and customized, will not be perceived as nagging and will typically yield excellent results.

Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice – a company offering consulting, seminars and software solutions for optometrists. You can reach him at (800) 867-9303 or DrGerber@PowerPractice.com.



Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: February 2006

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