|HOYA has different categories of free-form lens products which it markets in stores using a range of media formats.|
Lens companies are providing a variety of P-O-P and collateral material to their eyecare professional customers.
In a December 2012 VCPN survey of eyecare professionals (ECPs), 75% of respondents predicted an uptick in the amount of free-form lenses they expected to sell. An almost equal number of respondents rated their knowledge of free-form lenses as good or excellent. But a mere 41% said that they offered free-form lenses only as a best choice option, keeping conventional lenses for their middle- and lower-end products.
This much is certain: every business seeks ways to maximize sales and not leave any money on the table. To that end, the ways that free-form lenses are promoted and the marketing materials supplied by the manufacturers are key to boosting the sales potential of any ECP.
HOYA Vision Care, North America, has different categories of free-form lens products. The Summit iQ lenses are an entry-level free-form for patients who are very new to a progressive lens and aren’t sure that the advanced technology is right for them. A step up or higher is the iD Lifestyle and the iD InStyle. HOYA’s top-of-the-line model is the iD MyStyle that can be fully personalized for the patient.
After conducting focus groups and studies, HOYA discovered that patients didn’t understand the difference between free-form and conventional lenses. Without a clear understanding, ECPs had a harder time making a case for the new technology. Based on this feedback, HOYA revamped their Web site into a patient-friendly resource that was light on the industry jargon—and they also built the collateral material for ECPs along the same lines.
Their new in-store marketing integrates a range of media formats. For example, ECPs can draw on a series of simple, straightforward brochures with clear illustrations that explain the different lens designs. For ECPs with light boxes in their offices HOYA provides duratran graphics that can be inserted and backlit for an eye-popping effect.
“We also have lighthearted, consumer-friendly videos that the patient can watch in the office,” said Heather Padgett, HOYA’s national project marketing manager. “Some are real-life scenarios and some are animated. If the practice does children’s lenses, the kids can watch.”
The company recently launched the HOYA Vision Consultant Viewer, or the HVC Viewer, an iPad app that lets patients experience the benefits of wearing free-form lenses before they buy them. After the ECP picks the appropriate lenses, the patient looks through the iPad camera and “sees” what their vision would be with the new technology. A variety of lenses—including progressive, single vision, and indoor—as well as polarized and tinted lenses can be sampled.
HOYA also provides a flyer for their recently launched free-form measurement app for iPads called Spectangle. Used for the MyStyle lenses, “it takes all of the patient’s lifestyle requirements into the design of the lenses,” said Padgett. Each member of the ECP staff needs to be educated in the proper use of these tools or results will be poor, HOYA discovered. For ECPs who are uncomfortable handling the iPad apps, HOYA offers training sessions through their territory managers.
Padgett reports that sales of their premium progressive lenses have grown since launching the Spectangle app and the HVC Viewer. ECPs are reporting good results, too. “It’s not only helped grow their patient database,” she said, “but it’s also helped grow their sales because they’re using a better technology.”
|For the office, Essilor gives ECPs a brochure that focuses on the Essilor brand and design.|
Each manufacturer shapes their marketing material to best reflect their product line and serve ECPs. It’s not uncommon for that material to differ from one maker to another.
In the case of Essilor of America, Inc., it begins with the language itself. “The marketing of free-form is a lit bit misleading. What you call free-form lenses is only a manufacturing process to me,” said Jean Marc Leroy, vice president of product marketing. “I know the focus of the market today is mainly on progressive lenses, but we can technically manufacture any kind of lens with that digital surfacing technology.”
That said, Essilor uses a mix of traditional and online marketing material. For the office, ECPs are given a brochure for the patient that focuses on the Essilor brand and the design—and not necessarily on the digital technology that produced them.
Leroy compares it to the way flat-screen TVs are marketed today: Manufacturers promote the individual features and benefits of their particular brand, but don’t talk about the flat-screen technology itself. “We always put the design on the front of the product first and after that we mention the fact that they are digital,” said Leroy. “The technology is not necessarily the main driver of the communication.”
Training ECPs in the breadth and scope of the product line plays a central part in the marketing strategy, too. With over 1,000 Essilor products launched last year, it’s impossible for ECPs or dispensers to master the details of all of them.
To solve the problem, Essilor is developing a spate of online programs and in-person training to help ECPs manage patient experiences, be conversant in emerging technologies, and sell more products. In particular, ECP University is an online resource that offers courses on business-building and technical topics. ECPs and their staff can choose from over 90 modules, such as how to select the best optical product for each patient, how to explain the benefits of different lens materials, techniques for fitting patients in their frames, and more.
“My recommendation is to give the ECP access to all the information about the product,” said Leroy, “because consumers are expecting good vision and they’re willing to spend the necessary money to get it.”
|Augen uses two low-tech marketing tools that reinforce one another: a four-panel patient brochure and a countertop display.|
SIMPLE, BUT EFFECTIVE
It’s one thing to market a new product like free-form lenses when you’re a recognized company with an established product line. But it’s quite a different problem when you’re introducing your own portfolio of lenses and you’re not well-known in the market.
Case in point: Augen Optics entered the market within the last five years. They were primarily a supplier to many existing manufacturers before starting to create designs for their own laboratory network in Mexico.
Augen began making free-form lenses within the past two to three years and currently have three key products in its HD Trinity line: The HD Trinity 13/17 progressive is a general-purpose progressive; the HD Trinity Spacia is a special design for people who use a lot of mid-range or distance vision; and the HD Trinity 8/12 Short Progressive is a short corridor lens for people who prefer smaller frame styles. Augen uses two low-tech marketing tools that reinforce one another. The first is a spare, four-panel patient brochure that compares the benefits between conventional and Augen’s high definition lenses.
Accompanying the brochure is a countertop display which the ECP can use to demonstrate these benefits to the patient. The display has a conventional progressive lens and an Augen high-definition lens embedded with a lined grid on the back. Patients look through the lenses side-by-side to see for themselves the improved clarity and lack of distortion that the high definition Augen product delivers.
Even a simple but dramatic countertop display that demonstrates the product can help ECPs sell lenses with a high price point. ECPs also receive two-sided sell sheets with features and benefits of each Trinity model. The early results are promising because Augen has gained quite a significant increase in market share in five years.
Whether your marketing tools are decidedly old school, cutting edge or a combination, getting the right message to the right prospect at the right time still drives business.
Robert Lerose is a freelance content provider and marketing copywriter in Uniondale, NY.
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