The ABCs of Building Your Business with Kids' Packages

By Liz Martinez, ABOC, NCLC
Every lab could use an extra competitive edge. One of the most potent recipes for success is to position your lab as the premier provider of children’s eyewear packages–frames and lenses that are sold together in a package for a price that is a good value for the patient, the dispenser and the lab.

Being successful with kids’ packages isn’t as hard as you might think. The formula is as simple and easy as ABC to implement.

A... Advertising

You could make a Nobel Prize-worthy discovery, but if no one knows about it, don’t expect to get that phone call from Sweden. The key to jump-starting your business with kids’ eyewear packages is advertising.

Getting the word out means letting your customers know what you have available. But it also means providing your accounts with a means of informing the patients about the kids’ packages.

Sending fliers to existing accounts will advise them of the types and brands of frames you stock, your lens availability, coatings, turn-around time and price. Fliers can be included with completed jobs so you don’t incur additional postage costs. They can also be faxed to customers.

Alternatively, the information can be e-mailed, and it can be posted on your Web site. Doing a broadcast e-mail to every account on your e-mail list can be accomplished by pushing the “send” button just once. Adding the information to the Web site also makes it visible every time a prospective customer checks your lab out online.

Sales reps are another way to get the word out to clients. As they call on accounts, they can explain your children’s package offerings and present customers with a one-page flier to keep. Ryan Roth, general manager of Elite Optical in Sacramento, Calif., says that when the lab began offering Essilor of America’s Kids’ IQ Package last year, it distributed fliers touting the all-in-one package for kids. The package, which includes a frame plus polycarbonate lenses with anti-reflective coating, hardcoat and hydrophobic coating, also offers a replacement option in case of damage or loss within 12-months for an additional fee.

While reps are visiting with the accounts, they can also provide in-store signage that announces the special packages for pediatric patients. If your lab teams up with your frame or lens supplier, these large companies will often design the materials for you, so you get the benefit of high-priced creative work without spending a dime. Your frame or lens manufacturer partner may also be persuaded to provide the in-store materials at no charge.

Other in-store advertising that can be effective include large lapel buttons for the dispensers. The buttons can say something like “Ask About Our Kids’ Packages” and feature a character from a frame line you offer, such as Sponge Bob or Bratz. This visual will be certain to draw the kids’ attention, which will open the door for dispensers to explain the package deals to the parents.

Other effective tools are display boxes for kids’ frames and lens displays. They allow dispensers to show frame choices and lens options easily. If you offer anti-reflective coatings or photochromic lenses as an option, a simple display can make the difference between making a sale and having the patient take the Rx down the street.

B... Benefits

You’ve used advertising techniques to get the word out to customers that your lab offers kids’ packages. Now that the eye care practitioners know about the availability of the packages, the first thing they’ll think is, What’s in it for me?

Communicating the WIIFM factor is the key to moving any product or service. Fortunately, with children’s eyewear packages, explaining the benefits is as easy as rolling off a log.

Many eye care professionals shy away from providing eyewear to kids. For one thing, they’re not sure which frames to offer, and they don’t want to be stuck with loads of unsold inventory. Then there’s the polycarbonate versus CR-39 issue with its duty-to-warn component. Now Trivex adds another element of potential confusion into the mix. And of course, kids are rough on their frames—so parents and doctors want to know about breakage and scratching? Faced with these dilemmas, a lot of dispensers throw up their hands over kids’ eyewear and concentrate on adults.

By providing a complete kids’ eyewear package, labs are providing eye care professionals with big benefits. A package takes the guesswork out of dispensing to kids, which leaves eye care professionals more free time to devote to pediatric exams, proper fitting and other important issues. With a package from a lab, dispensers don’t have to figure anything out from scratch or worry about dead inventory. Providing eyewear for pediatric patients becomes as simple as ordering from a Chinese menu: one from column A, one from column B (or this frame with that lens, plus a warranty on the side). Another benefit labs can offer is some sort of giveaway with each pair of children’s eyewear sold. When Gerry Shaw, president of Western Carolina Optical in Asheville, N.C., began offering the Nexus Kids’ Package, he provided a 10-dollar Office Depot gift card with each order. The card, which went to the child or the parents, helped launch the kids’ eyewear program for the lab. Now, Shaw says, the lab has increased its business by 75 children’s package pairs a month.

C... Convenience

Providing a package to dispensers makes offering children’s eyewear as convenient as it gets—for the dispensers. But the labs also have to ensure that they’re not overwhelmed by the demands of supplying the packages. If the administration becomes too time consuming or labor intensive, the packages will no longer be worthwhile to the lab.

One way to keep the headaches at bay is to select a frame line that your lab can work with easily. That means choosing a reputable company that provides quality budget frames. Many frame manufacturers are reputable, but don’t offer products at low prices. Some frames can be had for next to nothing—but do you really want to buy something that “fell off the back of a truck?”

Many of the branded lines that have kid-appeal are available at prices that are just right for inclusion in packages. Alicia Ruchinski, purchasing agent at Luzerne Optical in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., says her lab uses the Bratz and Sponge Bob frames in the Nickelodeon collection from Nouveau Eyewear because they are available at a reasonable price and there are no problems with returns.

Other budget eyewear lines, such as Capri Optics and REM Eyewear are also good choices, according to Shaw, who says he hardly ever gets a patient return on these frames.

If you’re not accustomed to selling children’s frames, ask the manufacturers which styles are the most popular and start by stocking those. Many labs add the loss-breakage warranty option to kids’ packages for a small sum. By paying the low additional fee, parents get peace of mind, dispensers can provide hassle-free replacements, and the lab covers its costs—a win-win-win situation. Labs can easily add to their profits by offering children’s eyewear packages. The set-up is quick and simple, and the payoff can be huge. You don’t have to wait for September to introduce these packages; after all, kids need glasses year-round. Making a foray into kids’ budget packages now can put you head and shoulders above the competition before your rivals even think about “back to school” specials.

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Labtalk-November/December 2017