Today’s world is changing. Disruptive technologies are becoming a new normal. Everything that we used to believe was important seems to be losing its importance. Blockbuster realized this when we all started streaming our movies. Radio stations are acknowledging this with downloaded music and satellite radio. This is all happening at such a rapid pace that any skilled business person knows to trust nothing and evaluate everything. With that mindset, I recently took a look at my contact lens business and my contact lens distributor.

Our contact lens business today has more complexities to it than it ever has. Patients can find the price of a contact lens within seconds of you fitting them into the new brand. They can order a year’s supply before they get to your front desk. They are able to utilize services that set them up on monthly or quarterly payments for their year’s subscription of contact lenses. They can order contact lenses 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. What is there that allows you as a business person to be competitive in this changing world?

A natural “normal” response is to say that your patients prefer your service and that although other practitioners’ patients prefer these technologies, your patients do not fall into these “traps.” This is said by the same people who promised that they would never use a smartphone. And remember your thoughts on Facebook? Now even your grandma uses social media.

The reality is that if it is a buzz in your ear now, and if some millennials are doing it today, then we will likely all be doing it in five years, possibly three.

Evolving Role of Distributors

Contact lens distributors have typically been just that—organizations that help consolidate contact lens purchases with various companies into one invoice. But just like Uber isn’t a car service but a smartphone app, contact lens distributors are becoming more than just a warehouse for shipping product.

Competitive distributors are innovating. They realize that for them to be successful, practitioners must be successful. They should be able to provide practitioners with tools to combat online sales.

Today, practitioner websites must contain an online contact lens ordering platform. Practitioners must be able to offer patients easy subscription services for their contact lenses. They must know competitors’ prices, manufacturers’ rebates, and how patients want to buy. Unless practitioners have an incredible amount of time to investigate prices, develop resources, and follow patient trends, they need a distributor that can be a member of their sales and marketing team.

“Live in Zeal” is what I call my distributor representative. Equipped with tools to make my practice better, she has become a member of the team. Her company provides analytics on my lens usage, and then we sit down together and review how we can be more effective.

A distributor should be working with practitioners to develop strategies for ways to improve. Distributors should be ahead of the curve, always looking for ways to make a practice better. I suggest calling your distributor rep to see whether you are missing out on anything. If you haven’t shopped around to see what else is out there, I recommend exploring the field. It may be time for a change. CLS