By Aaron Neufeld, OD, FAAO
Jan. 31, 2018
Sports eyewear, specialized to the activities of each patient, is a key way to accommodate the patient’s total lifestyle needs. In the process, sales of these products build revenues for your practice, profitably expanding your optical offerings.
At our practice in Los Altos, Calif., we serve an active patient base in an area with a wealth of outdoors activities. Since we began to specialize in sports eyewear, we have built this specialty into a segment that accounts for 10-15 percent of our optical sales.
If we were to total our Rx suns, we would probably add another 5-10 percent, at least, according to our opticians. When it comes to prescribing, my philosophy is to educate the patient. Tell them why they need Rx sun (whether it be to prevent cataracts, help with sports performance, etc.), and show them how it benefits them. It seems to have more staying power when it comes from the doctor. I always like to start with the “why.”
Two Types: Sports Eyewear & Safety Eyewear
We offer two main types of sports eyewear: sunglasses for sports and fashion, and safety goggles for sports. Sunglass brands include: Oakley (our bestseller), Revo, Maui Jim and Carrera. The safety goggle brand we sell is Rec Specs.
Each of these brands caters to a specific niche of active living. Young patients playing sports, such as basketball and baseball, and adult patients playing sports like squash or tennis, use Rec Specs. Oakleys and other sunglasses are utilized more for active-lifestyle activities like running and road biking, which is probably the most popular leisure activity of our patients.
Highlight Products for Most Popular Sports
With so many patients of our practice participating in road biking, we have a large Oakley display in the center of our optical that showcases the sunwear we most often prescribe for bikers.
Also, on our web site, we have a section on the benefits of sunwear, including prescription sunwear, and photochromics. We have another section on specialty eyewear for such sports such as swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving, as well as shooting and hunting, in which eye protection is critical, and where specialty lenses can enhance performance.
Many of our children and teen patients participate in basketball and baseball, so we have all the eyewear best for young participants of those sports organized in one section that we can easily direct families to.
In a higher-end practice, such as ours, we position Rec Specs near the dispensing tables, so that patients see them when picking up their glasses and “add them on.” In a practice serving a lower-income base, a buy-one-get-one deal, or another discount, may be a better way to market sports eyewear to the patient base.
Learn 3 New Things About Each Patient
The key to making sports eyewear a success is knowing all the activities patients participate in. You need to take the time to get to know each patient. We don’t use lifestyle questionnaires. Instead, we prefer to engage face-to-face with patients on the things they most love to do.
One of my practice philosophies is to make it a point to learn three new things about each patient who walks through my door, whether it is an existing or new patient. I always ask what sort of activities they are involved in. My associate doctor has a similar protocol with his patients. We ask:
“What do you like to do when you’re not working?”
“How do you like to spend your vacation time?”
“What are you doing these days for fitness?”
“Have you started any new activities, or sports, since I saw you last year?”
Train Opticians to Take Lifestyle Conversation to Next Level
The conversation I begin in the exam room is taken to a more in-depth level by our opticians. For example, if a patient has said they like to bike, and I have recommended an Oakley lens, our opticians might ask the patient the times of day they like to ride, the kinds of environments where they like to ride, and how competitive about the sport they are. Those questions will allow them pinpoint not just the brand, but the best lens within that brand for every patient.
For instance, they might ask: “The doctor tells me you you’re an avid bike rider. Are you more of a cyclist in wooded areas, or do you prefer to stick to city roads? What time of day do you most often find yourself riding?”
Explain the “Why” Behind Sports Eyewear
When educating a patient on specialty eyewear, it is important to always start with “why.” An appeal to improving the patient’s experience while performing an activity, as well as making the activity safer, are both very important. Regardless of the sport, all discussion should angle toward the benefit the eyewear brings to the patient (rather than other factors such as appearance or “coolness”).
An example of how the conversation can be focused on product benefits, rather than features, would be how I talk to the parent of a child who just started playing basketball. I would explain how basketball is the sport with the highest number of eye injuries, and not just from the ball, but from flying limbs and fingers. We would then delve into the possible improvement in play if the patient has a prescription for sports eyewear filled with us.
Use Marketing Materials from Vendors
We mainly market in our our office with counter cards and displays given to us by our reps. With these materials given to us for free, our displays cost virtually nothing. With marketing in your office for the same brands you prescribe and sell, you can easily make the segue from exam room conversation to optical offerings. When handing the patient off to the optician you can point to the counter cards, posters, or displays, and show the patient exactly what you were talking about.
Let Them See for Themselves
Another important way to market sports eyewear in the office is to use lens demos that allow patients to try on the glasses, and step outside to see the difference the lenses make in how they see the world.