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November 2010

One of the aspects of a new practice that was particularly exciting for me was my first trunk shows, or frame sales. It was rewarding to see more than five people in my optical at one moment, considering I sometimes would only see five patients a day in my early days of practice ownership! The cash boost, though short lived, was also a nice bolster to my business confidence. However, the owner of a practice in its early stages may have some questions about the logistics of the sale itself that more established practices might not face.

What should I offer?
The first question I faced was what sort of discount or deal I should offer for my very first sale. There was no precedent, so I was free to offer what I thought would work. I decided to just offer a simple cash discount for complete spectacle pair purchases. I think this was all right the first time around, but I have found since then that patients seem attracted to a discount on the frame with lens purchase as well. More important than the immediate discount, think of what will draw new patients to return to your office. For me, even if they didn't purchase any product, it was a victory for prospective patients to come in, see how beautiful my office was, experience our welcome, and observe our professionalism.

How should I market this sale?
This is also a tough question, because you don't know what will work since you've never done it before! In today's technological age, emails and texts are great, but if your practice is a cold start like mine was, you don't have a database of established patients to draw from. So promote though your website, blogs and Facebook, but you will probably have to include some sort of direct mail campaign as well. Utilize your frame reps for free postcards that


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you can detail with your sale info. Or, create a newsletter introducing your practice and highlighting your first trunk show.

I would love to go entirely electronic when it comes to my marketing campaigns, but when I track why new patients come to my sale, direct mail is still number one. My caveat to this is that patient demographics may alter this for your practice, but you won't know until you try.

How do I staff this sale?
When my practice was new, I had only one full-time employee. I decided for our first couple of sales that the two of us were going to make it work. This is a little bit of a gamble, because you may not know what sort of response you will get to your sale. You may have a slow and steady trickle of people throughout the day. There may also be a short period of time where it is extremely busy, usually around the end of the work day when people are on their way home.

I would suggest bringing in another floating optician if you are at all worried about having a back log of customers. I did not do this my first two sales, and we did have some minor theft of plano sunglasses. With only two of us (and a frame rep whose line we were showcasing), we were unable to keep a constant watch on our inventory. This was a hard lesson learned for me. I now probably over-staff my sales, but we ensure there is almost no waiting, great personal attention, and a major deterrent to theft because most people won't be left alone in the optical.

Sale Away!
Whatever methods you decide to implement, I suggest tracking marketing and specific sales for that day. This way, you can improve and modify your strategies to work with your region and patient demographic. I recently had a trunk show, and I learn something new every time. I think the real focus is getting the word out about your practice. Don't forget positive exposure can have a lasting impact, if not today, in the future.

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