FREE-FORM MARKETING: LABS THAT STAND OUT

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SpecTech, Walman’s dispensing application, can help ECPs demonstrate the difference between a digitally processed lens and a conventionally processed lens.
CENTRAL’S SUCCESS Central One Optical uses a mix of its sales force, mailings, proprietary lists, and national advertisements to promote its free-form products to ECPs, says Lou Giordano, director of sales. In particular, it markets several of its own proprietary lenses, such as the iCentauri, iCentauri Pro, and iVista by using fliers, social media, and email blasts.
Robertson promotes its proprietary Cozé lens design with a flyer.
Many labs do a great job of advertising free-form capabilities, but only a few, like Luzerne, actually market them.

Educating ECPs about a lab’s free-form products and services is a way to remain competitive.

To survive as a successful lab in today’s high tech-savvy market means operating a competitive lab. To be competitive, a lab must process digital free-form lenses. But, the ability to process this product is only half the battle. The lab must also have customers who will buy it and the way to get that result is to have a marketing program that works.

MARKETING VS. ADVERTISING
Understanding the difference between advertising and marketing is crucial when labs think about getting the word out about their services and products. While many labs do a great job of advertising free-form capabilities, only a few market free-form products and services.

Advertising is primarily spreading the word about what a lab has to offer; it attracts the attention of customers. In this case, it is saying, “We have digitally processed free-form lenses.”

Marketing is convincing existing and potential customers that you have the right product for them. It involves understanding who your current and potential customers are and identifying what they want to get from your products or services. It is a matter of educating them.

EFFECTIVE MARKETING
The following criteria can be used by both labs and ECPs:

  • Point-of-purchase marketing: Labs can provide educational and marketing materials directly to the ECP to be used at their place of business.
  • Website marketing: Does the lab’s marketing program provide web-based education, training, and easy access to information for the ECP?
  • Marketing materials: Does the marketing program provide educational materials, e.g., seminars, brochures, access to videos, for the ECP?
  • Does the marketing program help ECPs educate and inform their patients?

The following is a look at three labs that provide exemplary free-form marketing programs to their ECP customers.

WALMAN
One of the largest labs in the country, Walman Optical offers a comprehensive point-of-purchase marketing kit to ECPs. The materials include a patient brochure, mirror cling, poster, and dispensing mat. Walman also provides its own dispensing application (SpecTech), which assists ECPs in demonstrating to their patients the visual difference between a digitally processed lens and a conventionally processed lens. It shows how the difference in technology benefits the patient, while focusing on technological advancement.

Other training materials focus on ECP-specific training on digital lens technology. What sets Walman’s marketing program apart, says Kristin Miller, director of marketing, “is that we have put a lot of focus on training for our ECPs…to educate them on new technologies. We also offer webinars as well as hosting on-demand education on our website. We have package pricing that bundles digital, non-glare, Transitions lenses, and frames to make ordering these products easy. Our ECPs can create their own packages, simplifying the decision-making process for the patient. We have used growth promotions, incentivizing our ECPs to change their habits.”

ROBERTSON
When it comes to educating its customers, Robertson Optical Laboratories, Inc. is passionate about the benefits of digitally processed and customized free-form lenses. Consequently, its marketing program is all about hands-on, face-to-face education.

According to Dan Floyd, sales representative at Robertson, “Training is an ongoing and evolving subject. Read any literature from any lens company and all you learn about is minimum fitting heights, materials, or reward programs. Where is there something about how this lens works? If people ask how it works, then they will learn why it works. When I visit ECPs I show different versions of a PowerPoint program called ‘The Missing Piece’ which is just about optics.”

Robertson covers these areas in educating and training its ECP customers about digitally processed free-form lenses:

  • Defining/misidentifying free-form.
  • Understanding compensated versus non-compensated free-form lenses.
  • Defining hard, soft, or hybrid design in progressives.
  • Teaching how each lens style works concerning corridor lengths, lens designs, how to take fitting measurements, etc.
  • Defining spherical, aspheric, and atoric lenses.
  • Managing expectations for patients and practices.

Robertson’s website is clear and informative, as well as easy to navigate to its free-form technology page. It is here where customers can connect with the most convenient Robertson facility to arrange the free seminar, “How Free-Form Can Help Your Practice Grow.” This emphasis on educating practitioners as well as their patients makes Robertson’s marketing program stand out.

LUZERNE
As one of the largest manufacturers of free-form lenses in the U.S., Luzerne Optical Laboratories, Ltd. makes a substantial amount of information available on its website. This includes two downloadable free-form lens handbooks and First Vision Media Group’s 2013 Free-Form Progressive Lens Resource Guide. The handbooks are very informative and comprehensive for the ECP and their patients. They include marketing tips for the ECP, as well as information concerning every aspect of digital processing and free-form lenses. They even share empowerment strategies on what the ECP should expect from their free-form lab.

Luzerne doesn’t just advertise its huge selection of AR lenses, or the brands and lens designs from all the major digital free-form manufacturers, but shares its knowledge of free-form technology. Its desire to help the ECP understand this cutting-edge technology is apparent in all it does.

Ralph Kent, Luzerne’s territory manager for central Pennyslvania, shares his view of the importance of education and marketing programs: “We passionately believe in free-form and the priority of our marketing strategy is to get it into the hands of the ECP. This technology will be in a comparative situation, and then, and only then, can it be evaluated and fully appreciated.” To get this technology into the hands of the ECP, Luzerne promotes a free trial offer on its proprietary free-form products.

Kent further explains that Luzerne looks at the whole market, not just their products and services. “ECPs need to relate the benefits of digital technology to their patients, but many companies fall far short by either being too technical or not addressing the concerns of the ECP.”

While Luzerne provides a vast amount of free-form technology information on its website, it’s not overwhelming. The site is easy to navigate, uncluttered, clear, and concise. The reader doesn’t feel bombarded by self-promotion, but rather experiences marketing at its best: the sharing of knowledge.

The three labs mentioned above focus on educating their customers and their customers’ patients and provide substantial learning opportunities and educational materials to ECPs. But, most importantly, they are passionate about free-form technology and the benefits that this technology can offer and this comes across in their marketing programs.

Steven Warfield is a lab technician and freelance writer based in Harrisburg, PA.

WHERE TO FIND IT:

Luzerne Optical Laboratories, Ltd.
800-233-9637 • luzerneoptical.com

Robertson Optical Laboratories, Inc.
800-929-2765 • robertsonoptical.com

Walman Optical
800-926-9276 • walman.com

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