I like trunk shows. I like them a lot. They are the quintessence of the kind of marketing activity that is ideal for dispensing ophthalmology practices.
This type of marketing is known as "guerrilla marketing." The term refers to any low-cost, unconventional marketing activity that is deployed in an unforgiving or hostile market environment. Trunk shows' success relies heavily on human energy and imagination to plan and execute. They are interactive and generate lots of buzz (customer interest).
Last week I visited a practice in Indianapolis (20/20 Eye Physicians; 317/871-5900) that recently held a successful trunk show. The manager, Wendy, raved over the results, saying that in one day her dispensary did about three times its normal weekly volume. I asked Wendy if she would share some of her secrets. The following is adapted from her comments and includes some of my own.
• Be consistent. One trick is to hold a trunk show the same month each year. Wendy holds hers in May and October. By being consistent, the practice's best and most affluent customers can plan to attend.
• Find a good partner. Wendy polls the people who represent her most popular frames. She is looking for a company that is willing to be her partner. Wendy is particularly interested in three things:
• Food. "Feed them and they will come" is an adaptation of a line from the movie "Field of Dreams." People are more willing to attend a function when refreshments and food are served. Food for a trunk show ranges from snacks to light or heavy hors d'oeuvres. One practice served sushi.
The closer the event is to mealtime, the more important it is to serve food. This year one of Wendy's friends brought a cappuccino maker and served freshly brewed espresso. This was a nice touch and filled the dispensary with an intoxicating aroma.
• Time. You will need to decide how long the trunk show will run. Wendy's ran for an entire 9-hour day. This is a long time for a trunk show. Generally 4 hours is enough time. However, I have seen such events run 2 days. It all depends on how much your customers will support the event.
Decide what time of day to hold the event. Some practices try to avoid evening hours. Other practices think more people will attend if at least some of the event takes place after regular business hours.
• Advertising. The success of a trunk show depends on the ability to get the word out to customers and potential customers. Wendy created fliers. These were placed in the optical department and on the front counter. I know of practices that distributed fliers to the other tenants in their building, who distributed them to their customers and patients. One practice even asked a local drugstore to stuff customer bags with the fliers. This proved to be very productive.
Signage is also important. Besides placards on countertops throughout the practice, such as pretest and examination rooms, it may be possible for temporary signage to be placed in hallways within your building, in the parking lot, or even on the street.