By Gina M. Wesley, OD, MS, FAAO
Call attention to your practice by hosting special events like trunk shows and themed office events and by participating in community events.
SET UP FOR SUCCESS. Pick a good time for an event and offergreat deals on eyewear.
KEEP IT SIMPLE. Make it easy for patients to benefit. Avoidbarriers like minimum spending requirements.
BE CREATIVE. Generate excitement with a children’sstory time or a magician.
In-office special events my practice participates in publicizes our services to prospective patients, and even sometimes generates sales. Here is how we do it, including what worked and what didn’t.
Dr. Wesley talking to school nurses at a special event in her office intended to educate local school nurses on detection of visual and eye health problems.
What Makes an Event Successful?
My most successful events are my trunk showsor frame sales events. I also had success hosting a business networking event sponsored by a local business magazine. My office served as the site of this event, and other businesses in my community were featured along with mine in the magazine enabling great mutual promotion and support of one another’s businesses. I also host a school nurse symposium every year, which is well-attended.
For frame sales, consistency of time of year, and patients understanding they will be able to see expanded product lines and get special deals on eyewear, is important.
For business networking events such as the one we hosted for the local magazine, the fact that it’s coordinated by a third party and everyone has the mutual interest of promoting and supporting each other’s business is appreciated, and not seen as purely self-promotional.
The school nurse symposium is just me getting the word out about kids’ vision, and showing I care enough to pass along helpful information to those doing the vision screenings, even if those kids are never my patients. The event creates a goodwill feeling about my practice.
We use e-mail blasts to patients and internal marketing such as posters in our office to advertise an upcoming event.
Know What Doesn’t Work
When we tried to host events that were RSVP-only, and made to sound exclusive, it didn’t work for my patient population. We tried to have a dry eye event to educate patients further on what they could do to feel better, and that didn’t spark too many patients’ interests, and was not well-attended.
I think these events were too topic-specific, and maybe had too many hoops participants had to hop through. For instance, I wondered whether the RSVP-only event made people feel like it was too hard to attend. I will never know, but I do know that it didn’t draw that many people in. For the dry eye event, one problem may be that we had the event in the summer, when dry eye is probably least problematic for patients in Minnesota, where my practice is based.
People socializing last year at an event to celebrate the opening of Dr. Wesley’s new office.
Calculate Revenues Generated
The frame sales within trunk shows generate between $10,000-$20,000, but keep in mind, I started these when my practice was brand new after opening cold. IfI were to do a trunk show now, the sales would probably be much higher. I know of practices that generate as much as $60,000 in revenues by hosting frame sales/trunk shows.
Other events, such as the business networking party for the magazine, generated about 10 new patients. The school nurse event is harder to measure, but I know all the local school nurses now have information about my practice. Many of these nurses also are my patients, so I am especially hopeful that they will refer parents and children to me.
How Costly Are Special Events?
For each frame sale/trunk show, I spent about $2,000 on mailings. However, we noticed that most people who came in on the day of the sale were established patients. New patients attracted by the mailing still came in, but not necessarily on that day. Because of this, we changed our marketing strategy to only e-mailing our existing patient base. This resulted in the same revenue generation without the cost of the mailing. This works, of course, only when you have an existing patient base to e-mail, so it would not have been a good strategy when my practice was very young.
The business networking event cost me nothing but the time my office was open past hours. The school nurse event only cost us the time it took one of my staff to notify the school nurses in our area, plus the costs of some refreshments during my presentation, which lasted an hour, included PowerPoint, and involved me explaining to nurses what they should be doing during school screenings, as well as red flags to watch for in kids’ vision.
The great thing is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on an “event” to make it successful and widely publicized.
Window advertisement to publicize a promotional event last year to move out old frame merchandise ahead of Dr. Wesley’s move to a new office.
Next year we are planning a story time event for children in which I will read a story to children in our optical, along with a show from a magician. The goal will be to show our patients appreciation, and to generate interest in our children’s optical offerings, and the need to bring children in annually for comprehensive exams.
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