I do not work in a particularly affluent area, but regardless of that, my practice sees spikes in the sales of multifocal and high quality contact lenses.
If you have only ever marketed the cheapest products, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy that you will only ever sell the cheapest products. We use the word ‘courtesy’ a lot. If you have staff who are worried about being seen to upsell, change the spin, using phrases such as: “We have a new contact lens available. Out of courtesy, and as a member of our professional scheme, we must let you try it.” Or alternatively: “We don’t mind at all if you don’t feel it is for you after the trial, but out of courtesy, it is important that you are given the choice.”
The patient sitting in the waiting room with a smartphone may appreciate contact lenses. As a practitioner though, you have to be involved, despite the pressures in the practice such as a shortage of time.
Really get to know the patient, their hobbies, their work and what really matters to them. You need to ensure your practice processes allow for this. It may require more commitment and time from you and your staff initially, but ensuring your patients are offered the most suitable options for their individual lifestyle needs will allow for higher profits and long-term patient loyalty, as well as grateful and happy patients.
What are their everyday visual frustrations? Similar to asking a patient if their contact lenses are comfortable and getting the usual affirmative response, asking people if they find their reading spectacles okay, they will often say they are fine, when in fact they might not be.
"Ensuring your patients are offered the most suitable options for their individual lifestyle needs will allow for higher profits and long term patient loyalty"
Proactively use anecdotes to draw out information, especially if you can tap into specifics you have already gleaned about their personal lifestyle, not a generic principle. For example, do they find spectacles frustrating at times, such as with sports? While sport is the easy one for younger patients, other frustrations that really resonates with presbyopes is shopping, looking at price tags and text messages.
Improve contact lens knowledge
Have as many people in the practice knowledgeable about contact lenses as possible so they can advise anyone showing an interest in them. Do you have a spare room they could use to trial the lenses? This is part of practice processes.
Remember if you are the only one who can do something, you are doomed to remain that way. Create ambassadors, hand over to a co-professional, not a subordinate. Usually they do not need to know the technicalities; they just need to empathise with the patient’s frustrations.
Protect convenience sales. Use supporting marketing materials in the practice and improve product knowledge among the staff. Fit colleagues with contact lenses. Remind them that every patient has to walk out of the practice wowed. Even if nothing was sold, a wowed patient is a valuable patient.
Contact lenses could be the solution to a patient’s lifestyle problems. Encourage direct debits to lock in patient loyalty to the practice. Use separated fees. Patients are not price-driven but value-conscious.
Remind staff of this and use information leaflets to inform patients of your value. Unless you separate this, patients will forget. Regardless of whether you feel the patient has been informed, re-enforce, re-enforce, re-enforce.
Compete with the internet
This is easy and should no longer be seen as a threat. It is an absolutely invaluable tool to ensure patients realise that, product for product, independents are cheaper than the internet. Ensure they know to check your website and compare to others while on the trial. We ostensibly sell contact lenses on the web, but this is not the goal. The goal is to protect our patient base by being totally transparent and ensuring patients differentiate product costs from professional services.
But once the website is going, you can consider selling products over the Internet, most people, including optometrists, convenience shop. If a patient is going to convenience shop, they may as well do it from your website. Every independent should have a website. Actively direct patients to it. We can all compete with Internet contact lens pricing, but be clear about the value of the professional care you are offering.
Don’t hide the truth. Protect your business by ensuring that patients are aware of the true costs of you providing their eye care.
Loyalty comes from trust, trust comes from understanding, understanding comes with education, and education takes time and patience. We are the educators.
Don’t despair if patients don’t understand about the risks of buying contact lenses over the Internet. Emphasise that contact lenses are a medical device and encourage them to come to you, their trusted practitioner, for their clinical eye care.
Be clear that what you are selling with your contact lenses is access to a professional and highlight the practice’s opening hours. Highlight that you always have ‘experts’ in practice. If you have an independent prescribing qualification, market it to your patients. If you don’t sell it to them, they won’t value it.