Article Date: 8/1/2006

contact lens economics
A Marketing Message for Young Patients and Their Parents
BY GARY GERBER, OD

Contact lens manufacturers are correct in telling us that children and teens are a formidable market to help grow our contact lens practices. With the higher safety margins of newer technology lenses, parents are becoming more comfortable allowing their kids and teens to wear them.

With respect to marketing, children and teens represent a unique subset of prospects: typically they're patients, but not buyers. However, as anyone with kids will tell you, they can be convincing when asserting their purchasing power. Given that an adult will usually make the buying decision, it makes sense to have two sets of data points on which to construct your marketing.

Benefits for Both

As with all marketing, for either group you should focus on the core emotional benefits of wearing contact lenses. For young patients, it's cool to wear lenses. Contact lenses don't have quite the technological allure of an iPod or PSP, but there is somewhat of a "geek factor" for new wearers. Additionally, new lens- wearing kids and teens gain a sense of emancipation both from the physical confines of eyeglasses as well as the newfound sense of self-confidence and self-assuredness. There is some carryover of this benefit for parents in that their contact lens-wearing children have finally arrived and come out of their youthful shells.

Focus on Lens Care

The next marketing level focuses on the different drivers for the two groups. For parents, safety and the ability to care for lenses is a high priority. Strongly market the health message to the parents and stress that new lenses are convenient to maintain. "So easy in fact that even your 15-year-old son can do it."

The message to the patient is different. Children and teens are invincible (just ask them). Safety is of little concern to them. You need to stress maintaining good wearing habits such as keeping the proper wear and replacement schedules, when necessary, and using the correct solutions. This is important to us, and parents appreciate it as well. However, if you focus too hard on this point, the patient will lose interest.

Delivering Your Message

The media you use to deliver your message should be different for each group. For the prospective teen patient, think of Web sites, e-mail blasts and Podcasts. For their parents, more conventional methods will probably work better. Direct mail, newspaper or public relations efforts will appeal to the purchasing parent. Make sure your message is where they'll see it.

In most households, the mother is the final arbiter and wields the ultimate purchasing power for contact lenses. Therefore, put your message where she's most likely to see it. A bad idea would be a co-marketing effort with the local auto-parts store; a better one might be the PTA newsletter. The exact media will vary by region and demographic. Determine where your target is most likely to see your message and keep in mind that the message and the media will be different for children and parents.

Making the Connection

The final level of marketing art comes in connecting the two apparently disparate messages. For example, the teen message about colored contact lenses being cool might include language that says, "Of course your parents have to OK this and chronic nagging might not be the best strategy. Instead, promise to wear your lenses as prescribed." When parents view this teen marketing, they will appreciate your understanding.

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: August 2006