A free-form progressive lens like Seiko’s Superior is customizable so it’s popular and therefore attractive to patients.
A digital measuring system like Essilor’s Visioffice 2 is becoming part of the dispensing landscape.
Explaining the difference between how traditionally surfaced lenses and free-from lenses like Shamir’s Autograph III are created can help patients understand the digital product.
Newer technology trumps old as evidenced by Nexus’ Provectus free-form lenses.

Three practitioners talk about the tried-and-true methods they use to promote free-form lenses to their patients. 

If you believe in free-form lenses like I do, you’ll want to sell them to every patient. How do you market them to patients in order to maximize sales? Here’s what some of my colleagues are doing.

Kevin Harrison is an optician and owner of Heritage Vision Center in Hattiesburg, MS. Harrison presents free-form lenses as though they were the only choice available. He and his staff explain that the problems inherent in surfacing progressive lenses with older technology have been addressed with the new digital designs and processing methods. “I find that the best way to present the features and benefits of free-form lenses is by talking about my personal experience,” Harrison says. “I explain that the ‘swim’ I experienced with older progressive technology is virtually non-existent. I tell the patient that premium free-form PALs let me look straight ahead and see clearly as well as glance to the side or read the computer screen clearly. I explain that with the lenses made with the older system of grinding, I had to hunt for the area in the lens that would let me see the screen the clearest.”

Because free-form lens technology is proprietary for each manufacturer, Harrison’s unique way of presenting the technology poses questions such as: “Does Coca Cola share its secret formula? Does KFC tell you what its 12 original herbs and spices are?”

His marketing techniques seem to be working. He says that 85% of the progressive lenses sold in his store are free-form. And he says that because price is the main objection to buying free-form lenses, he usually points to the smartphone patients have with them and asks if the newer smartphone was more expensive than an analogue phone. If they respond by saying “no one sells analogue phones anymore,” he then tells them that he chooses to sell the latest and greatest lenses for the very same reason. Newer technology trumps old.

The free-form lenses Harrison likes best are Kodak Unique and Kodak Unique DS (from Signet Armorlite, Inc.), Nexus Vision Group’s Provectus, and HOYA Vision Care, North America’s MyStyle iD.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE Digital eyewear selection, fitting, and measuring systems are becoming part of the dispensing landscape. Products like the Optikam system from Optikam Tech, Inc.; Essilor of America, Inc.’s Visioffice 2; HOYA Vision Care, North America’s Spectangle; Shamir Insight, Inc.’s Spark™; and A.B.S. Inc.’s Smart Mirror put digital measuring, frame try-on, and lens education and simulations in the hands of the optician. These instruments enhance the optician’s skills and exhibit the professional image most offices want to convey to patients who are buying premium free-form lenses.

Robert Martinez is an optician and owner of Palo Alto Eyeworks, Palo Alto, CA. Once Martinez analyzes the patient’s Rx and finishes with the lifestyle questionnaire, he talks about the new free-form lenses he has. “I tell them that the new digital lenses are made with state-of-the-art technology that will increase their visual acuity and peripheral vision as well as reduce eye fatigue,” he says.

He has Essilor of America Inc.’s Visioffice measuring device in the dispensary. “This helps us show patients the advantages of the new free-form lenses and the benefits they can experience,” comments Martinez. Visioffice is a digital measuring system that provides a full range of measurements, patient education modules, and access to exclusive lenses. ECPs can personalize patient lenses with exclusive measurements like the eye rotation center and natural fitting posture. The Visioffice system provides accurate results and measures within 0.1mm for distance measurements and the nearest degree for angles such as pantoscopic tilt, vertex distance, and wrap angle. All measurements are calculated and displayed on screen within 20 seconds and can be inserted into the patient’s file.

“We also sell AR treatments to 100% of our patients,” Martinez adds. “We offer them a two-year unconditional warranty on it, which makes it even easier to get them in and keep them in premium lenses with AR that block 100% of UVA and UVB. This way they get the best protection, vision, and value. Price is never an issue because I tell them that free-form lenses are the only lenses we currently fit.”

Martinez’s lenses of choice are from Essilor. He feels the company has a great selection for all types of lifestyles and Rx’s.

PARTNERING WITH PATIENTS Relationship marketing is the ability to create an emotional connection with the patient. It is a way to foster patient loyalty and long-term associations. It is designed to develop strong connections with patients by providing products that are suited to their needs and interests. As opticians we are in a unique position to nurture relationships with our patients. Once they see us as their personal eyewear consultants, they will look to us every time they need or want excellent optical products.

Frank Gimbel is an optician who owns Gimbel Eye Associates in Philadelphia, PA. Gimbel mentions that in his main office in Wayne, PA, he uses a mix of different devices for presenting free-form lenses. His newest is the Optikam system from Optikam Tech, Inc. Gimbel explains that, “the Optikam pad is used in conjunction with an iPad 4 and has several modules for presenting free-form lenses. The augmented reality module simulates real-life situations such as office and outdoor scenes, which can compare the lens style and treatment options the patient has chosen to a lens without them. It even has a virtual mode that allows you to scan the room via the camera on the back of the iPad. This is a very neat feature because it uses the camera to demonstrate the options the patient has chosen with a live real-time view inside or outside the  office.”

Using the latest round of brochures to show the variation in corridor lengths and widths is another way Gimbel explains the features and benefits of free-form lenses. He also utilizes his business’ blog, website, and other social media sites to build lens awareness. “We explain the difference between how traditionally surfaced lenses and free-from lenses are created. And we emphasize that free-form lens manufacturing can even refine the optics in their lenses to the hundredth of a diopter rather than in quarter steps.”

Gimbel’s office offers a 90-day trial warranty with all frame and lens purchases. “If a patient wants to try a new lens, we allow them that amount of time to get acclimated. If they need to change lenses for any reason, there’s no additional cost if the new pair is of equal or lesser value. If it is a more expensive change, the patient is responsible for the difference in cost.”

He says that price is the biggest objection to free-form lenses. Gimbel, however, has a very loyal patient base, and they can justify the cost with his reputation for providing great products.

“Our lens of choice is Shamir Insight, Inc.’s Autograph III. We have had less than a 3% non-adapt to the lens design,” Gimbel says.

These ECPs have discovered effective ways to market free-form lenses in order to increase sales. Why not try some of these marketing strategies and see if you can improve your free-form lens successes?

Dee Carew is a licensed optician and ophthalmic writer in Holland, OH.

A.B.S., Inc.
Essilor of America, Inc.
HOYA Vision Care, North America
Nexus Vision Group
Optikam Tech, Inc.
Seiko Optical Products of America, Inc.
Shamir Insight, Inc.
Signet Armorlite, Inc.

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