As back to school season approaches, we took a moment to discuss strategies for practice success with Shane Foster, OD of Drs. Quinn, Foster & Associates in Athens, Ohio.  Dr. Foster sees patients of all ages with various ocular conditions. He is experienced in fitting specialty contact lenses for patients with corneal diseases, corneal scarring, or prior corneal surgeries. He also has an interest in pediatric optometry and the role children’s vision plays in learning.

What marketing strategies do you think are most effective during back to school season?  How do you approach this time of year in your own practice?

Dr. Foster: Hands down, the best marketing strategy for back to school eye exams is educating parents while they’re in my chair. When I discover a patient has children, I make sure to remind them of the importance of annual eye exams for all school-aged children. I explain to them that one in four children has a vision problem that may interfere with their ability to learn and succeed in school. When I ask about the child’s last eye exam, parents will often say, “they passed the school eye exam…”  I take that opportunity to educate them on the difference between a vision screening and a comprehensive eye exam and encourage them to bring their child in for a vision and eye health examination.

How do awareness campaigns like the AOA’s back to school campaign or other industry support materials help in your overall message this time of year?

Dr. Foster: Think About Your Eyes is one of the best public awareness campaigns our profession has ever had. The first round of radio and TV ads gave consumers fun facts about their eyes and vision, but the latest round of ads really touches on consumers’ emotional response by using images of children playing, laughing, and exploring the world. The ads go on to remind us that “so much of what they learn comes through their eyes, yet one in four school-aged children have a vision problem” and encourages the consumer to take care of their most precious sense by visiting an eye doctor yearly. This kind of campaign may or may not drive new patients directly to my practice, but getting the message out there for public consumption surely is raising awareness about the importance of an annual comprehensive eye exam.

Another way my practice gets support for back to school is through our membership in Vision Source.  Vision Source helps us create a marketing calendar throughout the year. We always include a back to school campaign that includes professional social media resources we can use to promote children’s eye exams and in-office counter cards and other promotional material to educate our patients. This helps us provide consistent messaging in the office, on our website, and on social media channels.

Does your practice work directly with any schools throughout the year to promote your services?

Dr. Foster: I give the AOA pamphlet “A Teacher’s Guide to Vision Problems” to all teachers who visit my office, and I educate them on the warning signs to look for in their students’ behavior and their performance in the classroom. I have a close relationship with the school nurses and the special services team for our local public school system to make sure their students with IEPs are being appropriately referred for a comprehensive eye exam as required by Ohio law.

However, back to school season isn’t just for children. My practice is located in a college town, home to Ohio University and more than 20,000 college students. We are providers for the university’s student health insurance, and we have a close relationship with the primary care providers at the student health center. They are welcome to contact us for guidance and advice, and they frequently send us referrals for medical eye care as well as comprehensive eye exams.

What other strategies do you think are most effective for back to school season?  What other opportunities does this time of year provide for practice growth?

Dr. Foster:  Back to school season is a time when my practice gets many referrals for students who have failed a vision screening at school. Those referrals present a great opportunity to educate the children as well as the parents about the importance of an annual comprehensive eye exam. One referral can often bring a whole family of new patients to the practice.

Children with newly diagnosed refractive error can create opportunities for revenue growth: spectacle sales, contact lens sales, vision therapy services, and myopia control management. Managing a child’s myopia progression when appropriate is not only the right thing to do for the patient, but it can also generate increased revenue for the practice. Myopia control patients will require multifocal contact lenses or orthokeratology lenses and will return for more frequent office visits to monitor progression. This kind of advanced care can differentiate your practice and help drive referrals to grow your business.

CooperVision further supports your back to school success with the clariti® 1 day Back to School toolkit.  The kit includes:

  • Back to School tent card for display in your office
  • An excellent article to share with families: “What Teens and Parents Need to Know About Contact Lenses”
  • Chairside aides for both the clariti® 1 day and MyDay® families of lenses
  • clariti® 1 day brochures and holder
  • clariti® 1 day trial reinforcement cards
  • Tips and tricks card for daily disposable lenses

Contact your CooperVision sales rep for more information and to get your clariti® 1 day Back to School toolkit.