The one summer event your optical should be hosting

July 2, 2018

Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Donna Suter, president of Suter Consulting Group. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.

What is an optical trunk show? Like the phrase “a broken record” or the act of getting up to change channels on an RCA-color television, the industry phrase “trunk show” harkens back to an era when ophthalmic frame representatives sold frames from the trunk of a car. It is my understanding that this back lot event was often paired with liquid libations, VIP patients, and friends of the practice gathering round and previewing the latest offerings from Paris and Milan. So why not bring trunk shows back to 2018? Here’s a handy guide to getting your feet wet into this fun model of business.

Set a date ten weeks in advance

Nimble fingers and a robust search engine should be able to answer all your “how to promote your event” questions so let’s skip right to the success tips that you, a planning committee, and your frame representative can discuss and customize. Know your goal and who you want to attend. Details increase your ROI (return on investment). By focusing on a particular theme, the better you can spend your promotion time and money. While women over age 45 might purchase more optical products, that is not a very narrow audience.

Here are my top picks:

  • Titanium Frames: Extremely lightweight modern materials pair well with larger lenses. Just like trade-show events and booths, add in-optical, short lectures throughout the day on surgical vision-correction options (premium IOLs, LASIK, etc.)

  • Pediatrics: In addition to having the latest in kids’ frames and sunglasses, bring in a pediatric specialist from another discipline. This also builds a relationship with a referral source for future patients.

  • Sports: Organized sports are the new neighborhood sandbox for toddlers to teens. All kinds of specialized sports frames can be highlighted with a polycarbonate or trivex tie-in. Is there a sports star in your town? Bring the local hero in to create excitement.

Be prepared

Behind-the-scenes preparation is imperative. Most failed trunk shows begin with a poorly thought-out decision made weeks before the event. Thinking things through and planning wisely is imperative. (Example: make sure the event isn’t the same day as local high school play-offs or the run-off date for a heated mayoral election.) Another planning step that is important is building a profile -watch a few episodes of “Criminal Minds” and build a profile that would make the BAU at Quantico proud.

  • Establish your goals: Are you trying to sell more frames? Increase visibility in the community? Promote a new frame line?

  • Budget: The practice will need invitations and stamps, flyers, decorations, refreshments, and media attention across all platforms. A shoe-string budget just means being more creative, knowing how to tweet and use Instagram, and spending more time reaching out to your target audience. One practice I coach has an eyeball costume, where one of the lucky employee goes to a high foot-traffic area and hands out DIY published flyers.

  • Ask for money: One client raised $10,000 from a cadre of business partners for a trunk show. This client’s method? No one-from the IT guy to the founder’s mom-was off limits in terms of her asking for donations. Some suppliers have co-op options and offer incentives for the practice to partner with their sales reps.

  • Train for the day: Remember, the goal is to create an image through your trunk show. Whether you are trying to establish yourself as a fashion expert or office-wear, spectacle lens specialist, talk the talk. Ensure your staff is properly trained. Booking patients for well-eye exams that match your profile is very, very important to your success. Having someone who knows how to measure new eyewear is as important as being able to verbalize the fashion elements of a featured frame.

Seek advice

Often the best advice goes unspoken because the giver assumes you already know. Simple steps often overlooked might be found in the following:

  • Shortly after your media campaign begins the phones may start ringing. Be prepared. Train your telephone handler to take incoming reservations and set up a special recorded message that specifically tells callers how to take full advantage of the event. – Some practices pay someone to answer all your RSVP calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

  • The best day for a show is generally your slowest doctor day. Schedule employee work-hours so that your salesforce has time to set up and decorate, get through lunch, clean up, and place orders all on the same work day. This might mean two overlapping shifts of workers.

  •  Don’t let your staff take a break or go eat during the business time of the trunk show. For some practices this might be 4 to 8 pm.

  • Ensure that employees have fun. Depending on your culture, this is going to be different for every practice. Giving employees a reason to enjoy the day adds that contagious enthusiasm element.

  • Make sure your office is clean and that everyone dresses beautifully. Your doctors’ appearance can’t be overlooked: hair, wrinkle-free scrubs, that ratty sweater and what’s worn under the white coat should all be taken into count.

  • Featuring lenses with frames works better than lenses alone. Fabrication of demos can’t be put off to the last minute.

  • Don’t call patients picking up finished eyewear the day before or day of or accept optical shipments the day of the event. Sales and VIP service have to be your focus.

  • While some greet and walk patients to frame collections that complement the patient’s face shape, consider using dispensing tables and counters as activity stations.         

  • Station one: frame selection and comfort adjustments
    Station two: lens package education
    Station three: pricing, vision plans and finance options
    Station four: collect co-pays and deductibles and set pick-up dates

  • Be sure to have multiple samples of no-glare lenses, photochromic and polarized options scattered around optical.

  • Ask customers who purchased for feedback and inquire about friends they know who might want to attend future events. It is a more personal touch to ask face-to-face when eyewear is being picked up than a survey.

  • Send thank you notes to sales reps and anyone who contributed co-op funds.

  • Include your staff in a planning luncheon and feedback celebration. They are your greatest resource.

Undaunted by failure

Your least successful optical event might become a stepping stone for future success. Even if, from an economic standpoint, you lose money, make sure everyone involved has a good time (#workplacefun.) To succeed as a small optical means showing the world daily your collection of hand-curated frames and featured lenses.  Build team pride and applaud attention-to-detail.

A well-orchestrated optical event sends a loud message of exclusive service to patients that had exams event-day (as well as to those members of your staff who secretly think patients can see just as clearly out of OTC readers or from lenses purchased online or at a discount chain) that seeing clearly and fashionable frames at several price-points is available in your office.