By Stuart J. Thomas, OD,
and Ellen Byrum-Goad, LDO
Create excitement with a trunk show that features new and distinctive eyewear. Good planning and execution make for a successful—and profitable–event.
A trunk show offers a chance to show off your new merchandise to patients, and attract the friends of patients and others in the community. The special promotional offers on eyewear and presentations by vendor partners can entice an otherwise hesitant patient into making a purchase. These events also give you the chance to showcase your practice brand as fashion-oriented and even glamorous. You can show patients that eyewear is not just a functional product or medical device, but a fashion accessory. But to successfully pull off a trunk show, careful planning is necessary. Here is how our practice does it–including some hard lessons learned.
Choose Fun-Loving But Reliable Staff Member as Lead Planner
The first trunk show we attempted was an abysmal, embarrassing nightmare. We partnered with a local, upscale salon located one block away and used that venue to invite patients to attend. This was a woefully wrong approach. But we learned. The biggest lesson we learned is that you must have the right staff person to lead this endeavor, the fun loving social planner type–the one who has about 1,000 Facebook friends (you know the one) and who is tapped into sites like Twitter and Instagram. We didn’t have that person before, and now we do, and that alone was the major key to a successful trunk show. We now do trunk shows annually and they bring an evening of excitement to an office that usually closes at 6 pm.
The food, wine and music we provide creates a good vibe in the office and presents a unique selling opportunity.
Take Advantage of Help from Vendor Reps
Not only will frame reps arrange discounts on their products; they also sell the frames to patients, and will even help to fit them. They have the ability to show their frames with excitement and all the Atlanta reps we work with are gorgeous, smart and have amazing selling ability. We rely on them heavily and one of them worked for me years ago. He can do all the measurements and write the prescriptions up. These reps work for us while they are here and they have a great time doing it! In exchange, each vendor is given a cloth covered table that they decorate and display.
“First Friday” Opportunities
Many towns across the country have instituted “First Friday” campaigns. These retail events, held on the first Friday of each month, encourage art galleries, specialty shops and restaurants located in downtown areas to remain open into the evening hours. If you are located in a downtown vicinity and could benefit from enhanced foot traffic that a First Friday provides, this could be an ideal time to remain open—and to host a trunk show.
Consider Which Day Would Be Best
We think Tuesday or Thursday evenings are best for trunk shows, but we are seriously considering Friday night–a tip we picked up from practice management consultant Neil Gailmard.
You Can Keep Costs Under $500
Our trunk shows include food, wine and music, but we try to keep costs under the $500 mark. However, the ultimate amount spent on these events is determined largely by the RSVPs. One of the challenges is to buy the right amount of refreshments when many people no longer respond to invitations. The food we provide is ordered through local venues (small businesses just like us) and we invite the owners of those businesses to attend. Make sure all participants are on board for the event, and that you confirm each and every person multiple times including the invitation printer, music, food, staff and all other vendors.
We do eye exams during the show and pay our staff time-and-a-half to work the show.
Engage All the Senses of Guests
Make sure your office is spotless and think about some aromatherapy. Think about how Pottery Barn or Williams-Sonoma smells, and follow suit. Engage all the senses–sight, sound, taste, feel and smell! At our last event we had a local musician who plays an acoustic guitar and he was a hit. We will definitely use him again for background music.
Elements of a Successful Trunk Show
Evan Kestenbaum, MBA, of Optix Family Eyecare Center in Plainview, NY, believes that a successful trunk show should feature a top-selling brand with name recognition. Display that brand in abundance and enlist a frames rep to help present it. Use social media to attract existing and new customers. Specials and a gift with purchase also drive sales. When the trunk show is over, he says, measure the success of the event–to help you plan for the next one.
Profit of $25,000
The ROI on a trunk show depends on how well you advertise and get the word out. The first one for us–wow, what a flop! The second one we broke even and each time we learned what we could have done better and what we didn’t need to do. The third one was a hit and people have been asking when the next one will be. We were able to profit $25,000 on our last trunk show, but this profit was due to a combination of the vendors taking a cut in price on the frame, the labs throwing in additional discounts on the lenses and the receipt of many gift items from the labs and vendors which we used as giveaways. Believe it or not, yellow smiley face stress balls were a big hit. That one surprised me.
Tap Into New Patients
Our first trunk show only included existing patients. The second show included mainly existing patients, but we requested them to bring a friend, which helped introduce a few new people to our practice. Our third show, in which a portion of the proceeds went to a local charity, was our biggest event. We even got new patients from the businesses we purchased the food from.
Eight Weeks Lead Time Good
The hardest part is picking a date that suits staff members who may be asked to work hours they would not ordinarily work. For this reason and others, such as the printing and mailing of invitations, advance planning of about eight weeks is necessary. You also need time to choose and then invite frame vendor reps, who also will want time to plan their presentation.
Avoid “Homemade” Invitations
Do not have “homemade” looking invites. It is best to look upscale here. Many people will see these and your image may “stick” with them for a later date. Also consider that you have to send at least 1,000 invites to “get the party started.” A few hundred will leave you with an abysmal turnout.
Use Multifaceted Promotion
Promotion of the event is done many ways. We use DemandForce to e-blast our patients eight weeks prior to the event. There are captive marketing pieces throughout the office announcing the “Trunk Party!” We also give invites to local businesses that surround us and our practice web site’s Facebook page announces the event many times, as well. Our OfficeMate software allows us to tag our top-spending patients. These top-spenders get their own “come one hour early” invite that allows for private viewing of merchandise before the rest of the guests arrive. We serve the better wine during that hour with a little nicer tapas.
Create a Party Atmosphere
Vendor(s) will supply free giveaway items depending on the timing of the show and point-of-purchase material available. We do raffles for $50 gift cards to be used in our practice. The grand prize winner receives a FREE pair of glasses and the vendors cover that frame. Also Zeiss gives us a voucher for the lenses, which makes the grand prize a great gift for someone. In addition, we offer prizes of cozies, mugs and perfume, and have even given away Michael Kors purses as prizes. There also is a lot of music and we take advantage of the event as a branding opportunity using bags and tissue paper featuring our practice logo.
Offer Good Deals on Eyewear
Some of our higher-end frames at our trunk shows are 10 percent off. In addition, we have 10 percent off of lenses, as well. These discounts get deeper with second-, third- and fourth-pair sales. We haven’t hit a fifth-pair promotion yet, but we may say the fifth pair is on us at the next show and get another voucher from Zeiss for that one.
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