contact lens economics
to Hosting a Successful Open House
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
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: February 2006