contact lens economics
Use Manufacturer Marketing Materials to Your Advantage
BY GARY GERBER, OD
I recently arrived at a client's practice as I usually do unannounced. When I approached the front desk, I noticed an optician wearing a button that read, "Ask ME about glare FREE." Catchy.
Catchy. In another direction was a contact lens technician wearing a button that said, "Ask me how to make your brown eyes blue." I approached the receptionist and as she turned to me, I saw that her button said, "Ask me how to make your glasses lighter."
That's an awful lot of asking and not much telling.
Manufacturers mean well when they support our practices with brochures and other collateral materials. However, we must be careful to not become complacent and to use these tools to our benefit.
Beware the brochure Certainly, a well-written brochure can educate patients. Some concepts like astigmatism or orthokeratology are difficult to explain, and a manufacturer's brochure can help. However, you should use them only to reinforce what you tell patients and not as a substitute for your explanations. For this reason, I carefully select the brochures my clients keep in their waiting rooms. I typically advise clients to keep them close at hand in the exam room and give them to patients when appropriate. Also, make sure to read brochures before you distribute them. What you tell a patient and what's written in the brochure may not be the same. Professional censoring is a good thing in this case.
"Ask Me" pins If your staff members are enthused about promoting procedures (for example), why would they need to wear an "Ask me about..." pin? Be extremely judicious in your use of these seemingly innocuous marketing "tools." Remember that what these pins prompt patients to "ask you about" generally includes treatments or modalities. How would you feel if the nurse in your physician's office wore a pin that said, "Ask me about DrugX?" After all, shouldn't the nurse and your doctor already know if DrugX is right for you? And if they do, don't you hope they would tell you about it?
Posters Do not leave it up to a contact lens sales rep to decorate your office. I am not advocating that you rip down all the posters you have in your office. I do, however, recommend that you read them. More than once I have visited client practices in which the doctor had stopped fitting a particular lens months ago, but still displayed a poster for it!
Also, make sure posters fit the image of your practice. And if you do use them, make sure to hang them where patients can easily read them not behind unopened cases of starter kits.
To POP or Not to POP
Point of Purchase (POP) materials are not all bad, and that is not the take-home message of this article. Rather, remember that POP materials should:
- Never be a substitute for your personal recommendations with patients
- Gel with the main focus and theme of your office
- Be for products you readily approve of and routinely support
Who's in charge here anyway? You are that's who! Yet, often you don't have time to stay on top of what promotional materials are in your office. I recommend that you appoint a "PO" or Promotions Officer whose job is to make sure that your materials are current and relevant.
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.