Back to School: Opportunity for Sales & Community Enrichment
By Mary Hollis Stuck August 09, 2021
It’s no surprise that when summer wraps up, there is an influx of calls from frantic parents needing their children to have an eye exam before the school year begins. Like the end-of-year rush, most offices can count on their schedules being booked up with school-aged kids. At the end of summer, it’s important to be proactive about getting children in for their eye care needs. To do so, you need to follow three important steps:
1. Promote your products
2. Educate your patients and their parents
3. Maximize your profits
Promoting your practice and your products may seem overwhelming, but in this day and age, it can be quite simple. Sure, things like SEO and market research come into play, but, especially if you’ve been in your location for some time, your doctors and staff are the ones that know your market better than anyone. Have a meeting with your management team and optical staff to discuss how you can promote your optical to parents and children. These days, there are tons of online tools available at little to no cost to help you design flyers, posters, and social media posts with an inherent theme in mind. Sites like Canva.com, or resources from your labs and buying groups, may help you design customized images you can use to promote kid-friendly products geared towards both thoughtful parents and trendy kids. Use your social media to promote the importance of annual eye exams and blue-light anti-reflective coatings. Get in touch with the local elementary school, and be sure the nurse has your information (or even a handy flyer) to give to parents if their child doesn’t pass the vision screening. This will lead parents to your door, with their kids in tow.
To assist with promoting the care you provide for children, talk to organizations in your area. There are occasionally programs that assist in providing healthcare for children, whether they are on Medicaid or uninsured. In my practice, particularly, we partner with a non-profit organization called Healthy Learners, which assists parents by helping provide coordination and transportation for children to get to medical appointments. In cases where children are uninsured, they will even cover the cost of glasses for the child, with a package similar to what Medicaid provides. While programs like this are not financially rewarding, it allows you to provide services to those children in need, and also opens up the opportunity for you to educate parents of school-aged children. By providing services and partnering with non-profits such as this, you are able to promote your practice’s services to the community, and also provide an important service to those in need.
During the handoff to the optician, it can be incredibly valuable for a parent to hear the doctor tell the optician exactly what is recommended for the child.
Educating your patients starts before the patient even enters the exam lane. Be sure to have education information posted on readily available avenues, such as your website or social media. This includes lens materials, coatings, properly fitted eyewear, and the importance of seeing a trained optician. Once the patient is in the exam room, it is the doctor’s responsibility to discuss their recommendations with the patient. Many parents may have no idea about the benefits of safety eyewear or anti-reflective coatings for their children. During the handoff to the optician, it can be incredibly valuable for a parent to hear the doctor tell the optician exactly what is recommended for the child. It’s not uncommon for a parent to not want to spend a large amount of money on eyeglasses that will likely get broken or lost, but by educating them on the difference between standard lens material and a high index, anti-reflective coated, light-reactive lens for their child, it opens their eyes to options that they may not have been made aware of. It is then the optician's job to discuss those options in further depth, as well as finding the properly fitting frame for their pediatric patient.
Maximizing profit seems simple, but with the ever-growing online optical industry, it can be daunting to regularly hear “may I get a copy of my kid’s prescription, so I can get him cheap glasses online?” Make it a priority to simplify the process for parents to get their children affordable eyewear in one stop. While most vision plans cover polycarbonate lenses with a reasonably priced frame for a child, they rarely (if ever!) cover additional products like anti-reflective coatings or light-reactive lenses. Talk to your vendors about what promotions they offer to get discounted rates on products. Many frame vendors offer promotions for children’s frames at the end of the summer, when everyone expects the back-to-school rush of pediatrics. While you may end up with more backstock than usual, it can save you a great deal in the long run. In addition, discuss any current promotions with your lab. It’s not uncommon for labs to offer second pair discounts. There are generally stipulations (must be within X amount of days, must have product XYZ on both pairs), but they can be a great way to pass on savings to your patients, and increase the likelihood that Mrs. Smith will buy little Johnny the super sporty frames he likes, with the blue-light protection to help him while he’s gaming. By offering extra discounts on private pay orders, or multiple pairs, you can assist parents with getting their children into the eyewear they need to function at their highest level.
While it may be August already, the back-to-school rush is really just beginning. Take some time to review your plan to optimize sales during this time of year. Assess what the trends are for students in your area, and order frames accordingly. Educate yourself on the percentage of schools that are opening up fully in-person learning after COVID-19, and find out how much of the classroom learning and homework will be put on a computer screen. Review the statistics on benefits of sports eyewear for children playing sports that are popular in your area. Come up with a plan for 2021, but keep in mind that planning ahead for the end of summer 2022 can only help your practice succeed.