Contact Lens Hub

Contact Lens Hub

MEMBERS SHARE THEIR SECRETS TO SUCCESS

Optometry Australia members reveal the secrets of their success.
Find out how they did it and how you can too!

A selection of Association members reveal their best-kept secrets of success. Reading about the successes other optometrists have had in building their contact lens category will show you how achievable it really is. Association members reveal the secrets of their success and inspire you to start applying new strategies and head down the path of creating a thriving and successful contact lens practice.

These stories share how with belief, ambition, dedication and hard work, you can reach your goals by overcoming challenges. It’s a unique opportunity to learn from experienced entrepreneurs who have turned their ideas into business acumen. You’ll learn from some of the best so you can expand your business and make it even greater, achieving more than you thought possible.

Inspire members by submitting your own story of success below.

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dom wilson

    
     

Q & A with Dom Willson from NSW

Why was it important to you to grow the contact lens category of your business?
I believe contact lens patients are more interesting, more loyal and better referrers. Having a diversified patient base is healthier for the business than just concentrating on the sale of glasses.

What did you do to address your challenge?
We try to think of every patient as a potential contact lens wearer, including presbyopes who might only need a near correction.

What systems, strategies or actions did you take to make it work?
I introduced the idea of offering quick and easy contact lens trials at the end of routine eye examinations. Trained optical dispensers insert and remove trial disposable contact lenses in our second room, so as not to tie up the consultation room.

What resulted from your actions?
Some of our new presbyopic patients had never realised they were suitable for contact lenses and were very happy to have a new option. Many of the patients who had the trial didn’t end up going on to become contact lens wearers but some did, who otherwise wouldn’t have asked at all.

What does this change mean for you, your business and your patients?
Patients are often appreciative that we’ve given them a new option which other optometrists apparently hadn’t thought to mention to them. Our patients think of us as up-to-date and proactive.

The contact lens market is a competitive one. In what way did you differentiate yourself from competitors?
Besides offering the complimentary disposable trial fitting with our dispensers, we also fit specialty rigid lenses for keratoconus and other conditions, as well as orthokeratology lenses. This is a niche speciality which many optometrists don’t offer, especially those who concentrate on the sale of glasses.

How do you go about acquiring contact lens patients and growing the category?
Our website has a page dedicated to our rigid lens fitting services, which does help, but the most successful method has been to talk about lenses with patients in the consulting room chair.

How do you go about retaining patients and reducing drop-outs?
We proactively refit patients into new contact lens types as they become available. Patients appreciate this because often they thought they were happy with their previous lenses but then realise the new lenses are more comfortable than the old. This reduces comfort related drop-outs but the patients also realise it’s worth coming back because we’re always offering them new information or products.

What kind of mindset did you need to have to ensure success?
A ‘glass is half full’ mindset—there’s opportunity out there but if you assume that ‘times are tough’ and shrink back into a conservative philosophy of trying to compete on other people’s terms then you might not end up with the kind of patients, and the kind of practice, that you wanted.

          

heath davis

Q & A with Heath Davis from Tasmania

Why was it important to you to grow the contact lens category of your business?
When we look at our patients and who is spending money with us, contact lens patients come up as the patients most valuable to our business. This is not only through their contact lenses but also through their other optical needs.

Traditionally, the contact lens demographic was considered between 18 and 55 but we have seen growth at both ends of the spectrum.

We are fairly proactive in putting kids in contact lenses these days with the benefit of myopia control. At the same time, there are a lot of baby boomers out there that are either continuing their contact lens wear or are looking for that option.

Basically, a practicing independent optometrist would be crazy not to keep an eye of the expansion of the market at either end of the demographic spectrum.

What did you do to address your challenge and what systems, strategies or actions did you take to make it work?
The first step is to realise that contact lens patients are important to your business. Then we had to find a way to make it easier for those contact lens patients to buy contact lenses from us. We set up a pricing structure that encouraged more contact lens purchases. In other words, the more contact lenses a person buys, the cheaper they become. We implemented this structure across all modalities—dailies, fortnightlies and monthlies. If the patient took a six-month supply, they would receive a 10% discount. If the patent took a one-year supply, they would receive a 20% discount.

 There is a replenishment date in the practice software that we use so we can print out a report and see who is running low on their contact lens supply. That has been quite successful in some of our practices instead of just relying on the standard practice of people running out of lenses and calling us.

If I were setting up my practice from scratch, I would definitely be sure that I had the automatic replenishment date software in use. I wouldn’t automatically send out the replacement lenses, I would call them at some point close to when they need new lenses and use the opportunity as a touch point with the patients.

The contact lens market is a competitive one. In what way did you differentiate yourself from competitors?

A product is a product is a product. We can’t differentiate ourselves on the product, so it’s the service that we have to differentiate ourselves on. For us, that’s offering after-hours service. With Optomeyes, that means there’s always an optometrist on duty, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

That means, yes, that patients can call at midnight (and they have) to discuss any problems they might have had with their contacts. It’s actually pretty well used and managed, we probably receive maybe 10 calls per week after hours.

As a paediatric optometrist, I know this service gives parents extra peace of mind, even if they don’t use it. Obviously, this sets us apart from online retailers as well.

‘White-boxing’ or putting your own label on the contact lenses is useful—brand your contact lenses so that patients think of your practice every time they put in a new pair.

We also developed our own contact lens guide, which provides information on caring for contact lenses, how long they last and what to do in an emergency. These guides are branded with the Optomeyes logo and they look very professional.

How do you go about acquiring contact lens patients and growing the category?

Your patients are your best referrers so it pays to stay on top of the current advances in optometry and share that knowledge with your patients. Keep up with the latest research and product developments.

How do you go about retaining patients and reducing drop-outs?
Again, that goes back to our use of the replenishment-date software and using that as a touch point for our patients. If we are selling a patient a year’s supply of contacts, we automatically remind them, at the time of purchase, to come back for their yearly exam. The replenishment software is critical in keeping the patients coming back.

How do you plan to keep growing the contact lens category in future?
We don’t have any new plans, we are just concentrating on what we are doing now and consolidating our knowledge and doing what we do in the best possible way.

What were the most important factors that contributed to your business success?
Contact lenses are a product. A contact lens in this office is the same as it is in any other office, or online. I don’t think that we will destroy online competitors. There will always be people who are looking for convenience. We can make our own contact lens products more conveniently available for our patients, as well as offer the things that the internet just can’t offer: professional service and individual care.

Jessica Chi

Q & A with Jessica Chi from Victoria

Why was it important to you to grow the contact lens category of your business?
Contact lenses are my passion. I have been wearing contact lenses since I was 13 years old and they have made such an impact on my life—in terms of confidence, convenience and performance—as I was very active in school.

Contact lens patients, I believe, are the most loyal patients. They return more regularly, especially in the initial fitting process, and they are often the source of word of mouth referral.

What did you do to address your challenge?
I was fortunate enough to land a job in one of the leading contact lens practices in Australia. The practice owner, Richard Lindsay, already had a successful contact lens practice when I joined.

I also work at In2Eyes, a busy suburban practice with a strong Asian clientele. Here I have helped to develop the orthokeratology side of the business, generating approximately 90 patients in the first year.

My enthusiasm for contact lenses is what drives my success. My patients, my colleagues, my referral sources,  they all know how genuinely enthusiastic I am about contact lenses. I always ensure that I am abreast of the latest contact lens developments by attending regular continuing education events, conferences, reading contact lens journals and so on.

What systems, strategies or actions did you take to make it work?
As above, attending regular conferences and meetings, as well as presenting at some is great for networking and building a profile. I have a good working relationship with local ophthalmologists and other optometrists and this helps to generate more referrals.

At In2Eyes, offering orthokeratology was a way to provide more comprehensive services. I firmly believe that orthokeratology is the safest and most effective way to control myopia progression and as a practice with many children with Asian origin, having orthokeratology was a no-brainer.

Having up-to-date websites and information is important for the decision making for patients and parents of patients committing to contact lenses of any type. 

What resulted from your actions?
A very busy appointment book and a strong following of contact lens patients and referrals who regularly continue to refer.

What does this change mean for you, your business and your patients?
Being able to provide the most comprehensive service helps to retain patients. If they feel they are receiving the best possible service they are less likely to go elsewhere. 

The contact lens market is a competitive one. In what way did you differentiate yourself from competitors?
Providing the best possible service is essential. In this day and age patients are savvier and are finding other ways to access their consumables. Trying to compete on a commodity level is almost impossible unless you are a multinational company. Whilst you can shop around for a better price for commodities, however, services vary significantly across any market.  Ensuring that the patient is completely informed and completely satisfied at all times will drive loyalty.

How do you go about acquiring contact lens patients and growing the category?
At Richard Lindsay and Associates we are fortunate enough to have many good referral sources. Maintaining these referral sources is important. We ensure we write thank you letters once the patient management is achieved. As mentioned before, having up to date websites also helps make the practice easily accessible to people. 

How do you go about retaining patients and reducing drop-outs?
I like to address problems before they become problems. Patients are not going to return to you to tell you that they have stopped wearing their contact lenses, they will simply stop wearing them. They may return a few years later and say that spectacles were just easier, however by then you have already lost them.

If a patient returns for review and they report that their contact lenses are comfortable, I may ask when they begin to notice their contact lenses. Patients will often perceive end of day dryness as normal. If the patient is presbyopic or pre-presbyopic I always discuss presbyopic contact lens options.  I’m beginning to do this at earlier ages even if the patient is asymptomatic, as an educated patient will know that there are options which may keep them in contact lenses longer, prompting them to return rather than to simply cease wearing their lenses.

Having a pleasant experience will bring patients back. When I see my patients for review often it doesn’t feel like an appointment, it almost feels like a catch up with an old friend. Remembering little things about patients will bring loyalty. Whilst you have many patients, they only have one optometrist so make them feel like they are your only patient.

I also spend a lot of time educating patients, telling them of the newest developments, yet reminding them of the importance of continued care. Thus, when they are due for their review, they can come in and we can discuss whether their lens type or lens-care needs to be upgraded.

What kind of mindset did you need to have to ensure success?
There is a lot of negativity surrounding the future of contact lenses and optometry. With online sales and more competitive pricing, optometrists in Australia are often loath to spend time educating and prescribing patients with contact lenses. However, contact lenses are a very important part of optometric practice. Whilst it is nice when patients purchase their lenses off you, I do not ever make the patient feel pressured. Once you do this, you have lost the patient forever.

Being as up to date as possible with the latest contact lens technology advances is essential, but knowing the latest information is not enough. Just because you know it doesn’t mean your patients know you know it. Talk to them, educate them, make them want to come back to see you.

What were the most important factors that contributed to your business success?
I was very fortunate to have a great mentor like Richard Lindsay. He had already set up an excellent contact lens practice and reputation. When I first began, I was able to ride on his coat-tails. I have since built my own reputation as someone who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about contact lenses and that has gained me respect throughout optometry and contact lens industry but most importantly with my patients.

hugh bradshaw

Q & A with Hugh Bradshaw from QLD

Why was it important for you to grow the contact lens category of your business?
I think it was important to grow the contact lens part of our business because, especially contact lens fitting is an area that is not quite done by enough people and not done properly by enough people. For us, we specialise in fitting all the lenses that no one else can, so this is our chance to be in the niche market where we can develop things further and push the boundaries to be more advanced than anyone else in our area.

What did you do to address your challenge?

Basically, in four years I’ve gone from fitting very few advanced contact lenses, to fitting disposables only, to doing the most advanced fitting of lenses that you can probably do outside paediatrics.

The biggest thing for me was learning as much as I can through all different ways that I could, for example, going to conferences that specialised in ortho-k or contact lens fitting, getting journals and magazines that are specifically for contact lenses and also talking to fellow contact lens fitters and lens labs about how you go about learning to do things different in different areas that you need to do.

What systems, strategies or actions did you take to make it work?
So, basically getting as much information and learning as much as you can but also learning from your peers and talking to your peers and lens labs. Getting experience from other practitioners is really important as well. Don’t be afraid to talk to people.

What did the change mean for you, your business and your patients?
I think the change that I see is your confidence as a practitioner. You are far more comfortable with any sort of problem or complicated patient that faces you. I’ve had some really complicated patients that you never thought you’d be able to help as well as you can and you get amazing results. For all these patients it’s really rewarding. The way I see it is, contact lenses for some patients can change people’s lives and I don’t think we as practitioners give ourselves enough credit for that, that they really change people’s lives when we fit them.

It has absolutely made a difference to our business. In our area we are seen as the practice to go to if you’ve got major problems with your eyes and no one’s been able to help you. I think that having that name in the area is great because we’re seeing people who we really can help.

The contact lens market is a competitive one. In what way have you differentiated yourself from your competitors?

I think marketing ourselves differently helps. The way we market ourselves is as an eye health care professional not as a shop or a dispensing outlet. I think you’ve got to take yourself seriously to market yourself that way. You’ve got to be the best you can be. In some ways that is difficult to do and it’s difficult to get out there but I do talkback radio and I use that as an opportunity to educate the public as what optometrists do, not what they sell but what they do.

How do you go about acquiring contact lens patients and growing the category?
Well, essentially word of mouth marketing is probably our biggest tool. It’s hard to reach out to new patients in terms of contact lenses because a lot of people really only see whoever is providing the cheapest contact lenses, so for us if we see a patient or recommend contact lenses to a patient, then that’s what we do. We give someone all the options possible and if they decide to go with it and they’re happy then they’re going to tell five different people.

We really try to work on what we call internal marketing where you help one person, you help four people and then things grow. It’s a slower process than external marketing where you advertise but it’s a better way in terms of growing a practice slowly.

What compelling reason do you offer our patients to remain loyal after their initial consultation and fitting?

Well, I think the big thing is that if you make a patient happy and you solve their problem and satisfy their needs, you’ve got the highest chance of earning patient loyalty. You’re always going to run the risk of losing patients based on price but if you offer patients value rather than the lower price, you are more likely to retain them. It’s always a tough one and in the current market as it is, you’re always going to lose patients based on price. Being competitive in terms of pricing but also in terms of quality of service and the value of your service is probably how I try to market it.

What kind of mindset did you need to have to ensure success?

The mindset I had to have, was to believe in the quality of my service and believe in my abilities that I could provide services that were required. I think the mindset that the patient, if you give them the wow factor and really satisfy their needs, you can really change their life and make them see clearly and comfortably when no one else can do that.

We see a lot of patients with keratoconus who have previously worn lenses, been fitted with lenses that have either been uncomfortable or they can’t see through them and I always get responses like “I’ve never been able to see this clearly” or “I’ve never been able to see this comfortably” in lenses before.  I think that’s how you change your mindset, by getting those results, believing you can do it and doing what you tell your patients you can do.

How do you plan to keep growing the contact lens category in the future?

Well, I think that by keeping up to date with anything and everything that you can to do with contact lenses. For instance, there are a lot of new disposable lenses with increasing ranges so a higher percentage of the population are able to be fitted with those lenses. So as long as you can keep up-to-date with those sorts of things and keep up-to-date with what’s new in the industry you will do well. Also, look at going to the next step by getting involved in the designing of lenses or helping labs to work on better designed lenses. I think if you keep at the forefront of it and you’re aware of everything that’s possible, your patients can then benefit from your knowledge and they’ll be aware that they’re getting the best care possible.

What were the most important factors that contributed to your business success?

I think probably getting great results from difficult patients gives you a couple of things: the most important is that it gives you the experience and the knowledge to help those people. Your hardest patients will also be your best referrers as well, so if you can help someone who’s very difficult patient to help, they’re most likely to then bring their family and friends in to see you. They’re the real practice builders. I think all our other marketing strategies like talkback radio and community services we do, they pale in comparison to word of mouth marketing, because that’s what our practice is built on.

Lily Wall

Q&A with Lily Wall from WA

Why was it important to you to grow the contact lens category of your business?
It was important primarily to complete the full service of ophthalmic needs of our patients and to be viable in today’s competitive optical market place.

What did you do to address your challenge?
I researched the contact lens market for quality products and how each can service both new and existing patients.

What systems, strategies or actions did you take to make it work?
I had meetings with contact lens sales representatives, staff feedback on contact lens enquiries from patients and customer feedback with existing wearers on product performance.

What resulted from your actions?
I gained the ability to confidently service the contact lens needs of new and existing patients to the practice.

What does this change mean for you, your business and your patients? 
We now have a strong reputation for excellence, product knowledge and loyal and compliant contact lens patients.

The contact lens market is a competitive one. In what way did you differentiate yourself from competitors?
I pride myself on my clinical knowledge and we also offer reasonable discounts and encourage regular aftercare to review patient needs.

How do you go about acquiring contact lens patients and growing the category?
By advertising in practice both with visual aids and through staff interaction and encouraging the discussion of contact lenses in the consult, we continue to grow the number of contact lens patients we have.

How do you go about retaining patients and reducing drop-outs?
We use annual health checks and constant communication with existing contact lens patients when their supplies have run out via clinic management programs.

What kind of mindset did you need to have to ensure success?
You have to be positive and progressive, always keeping abreast of new developments in current research and products (solutions, lubricants and contact lenses).

How do you plan to keep growing the contact lens category in future?
By keeping in touch with both ends of the process, that is the patient and the contact lens suppliers. We offer the best products for the individual patient at the most professional and competitive circumstances.

What were the most important factors that contributed to your business success?
A particularly important factor is the ability to make contact lens suggestions from the entire product range to best meet the needs of the patient.

Q&A with Sally Atkins from NSW

Why was it important to you to grow the contact lens category of your business?
Well, I certainly found that contact lens patients are loyal. I’ve experienced that when I’ve moved locations over the years that it’s my contact lens patients who primarily follow me. I also see them more often, so it probably establishes more of a relationship I guess. Especially when you start off with new patients, you see them very regularly in the first six months and then we see contact lens patients at least every year—that’s a recommended visit.

I’m in a practice that also sells glasses and sunglasses as well as contact lenses and contact lens patients usually get something else along the way too.

What did you do to address your challenge?
In one respect, over the past 15 years contact lenses were our only interest other than consultations. It was something that I enjoy and also contact lenses were an obvious avenue to grow the business. We are now moving into consulting and dispensing.

You have to make a mental note to speak to everyone about contact lenses, regardless of age, so don’t have a cut off in your mind that it’s only the 20–40 year olds, and speak to those who are even in their early 60’s, to try get them into contact lenses. Some of them still need glasses for reading, so with the new multifocal lenses now it is easier for them to modify their monovision.

We speak to everybody and we display contact lens material in our front area, we have contact lens boxes up, we have transparencies of contact lenses and trail contact lenses from the contact lens companies as well as frame manufacturers.

What systems, strategies or actions did you take to make it work?
That would be to try to mention contact lenses to everybody that you can and have contact lenses on display. We get our front desk staff to ask whether it’s regarding contact lenses or spectacles when patients are making an appointment. We have a contact lens care program that people can join, which is free of charge, where we we ring patients before their contact lenses are due to be reordered. We enquire how they’re getting on with their lenses and ask if they’d like us to order them for them to make it easier rather than them having to remember to call up to order.

We have a website so they can order through us online or by email,  we have free postage for patients where we utilise two companies that do free delivery and even the companies that don’t, we still send or deliver to the doorstep. We also have a courier that delivers the contact lenses, solutions, products, anything they need to do with contact lenses.

We have actually kept quite a large amount of stock from various companies in the past, although now that we send out a lot of products, the inventory requirement isn’t quite as necessary. If you’re in a high traffic zone, as in one of our previous locations, people would come in and we’d have their lenses for them there, so it made it more accessible. I also make sure we have a lot of trial lenses, I don’t just keep the regular set, so we have a really wide range of trial lenses available. We can do a fitting and assessment on the same day; we don’t say come back another time, we put lenses in their eyes straight away.

What does this change mean for you, your business and your patients?
I’ve always been interested in contact lenses, so when I graduated I joined the Contact Lens Society and I’ve done contacts lenses ever since. There hasn’t been a specific change, however moving from a fully dispensing practice which incorporated contact lenses to a dispensing and consulting practice alone shifted the focus primarily to contact lenses. Now having moved to a fully dispensing practice again, I still have that focus on contact lenses, so it’s probably geared a bit more towards that.

The contact lens market is a competitive one. In what way did you differentiate yourself from competitors?
Well, service is important and that is a differential across everything. You just have to do everything that you can for your patient, so if lenses are out of stock or on back order, we supply them with diagnostic lenses to keep them going. We switch boxes for change of prescription, we get lenses in as soon as we possibly can for patients and if that means getting them diagnostic lenses first and delivering the lenses to them so they have them and don’t go without then we do that. If there’s some delay we make sure that they have enough product to keep them going, we do everything that we possibly can to keep those patients and make it easier for them—we don’t give up.

When we’re fitting a patient we don’t say “that will do”, we go that extra to make sure that will work for them. We spend a lot of time with them. We get them back frequently and follow them up to make sure everything is going smoothly, to help maintain them in contact lenses. If there’s new technology available then it doesn’t matter if we’ve given them a new lens last week, we’ll always tell them about something new, we don’t hold back—always keep them up to date with things. 

How do you go about acquiring contact lens patients and growing the category?
I suppose just making it evident that you can get contact lenses from us and then being proactive in talking to patients and having it easily visible for them when they come to our practice. Having information about contact lenses on the website  also helps in making the patients more aware of it.

Our website is really very basic but it’s got necessary information and it does say on our front page contact lenses, free postage and so on so people see contact lenses almost straight away.

Other marketing strategies we use include regular recalls to ensure patients have the best contact lens experience possible, which should generate plenty of word of mouth advertising for your practice.

What compelling reason do you offer your patients to remain loyal after the initial consultation and fitting?
Our whole thing is just service and making them comfortable and welcome and treating each patient as an individual but knowing each patient and making sure they feel comfortable to come into the practice; we get patients that pop in just to say hello.

So the more comfortable they feel about our practice and coming back, the more that they remember our name, the more that we stay in contact with them, the more like the patient is to keep coming back to our practice.

What kind of mindset did you need to have to ensure success?
You just have to keep working at it and be positive. Try and keep up with everything that’s new, technology, techniques and products and offer that to your patients. Be excited and be passionate about what you’re doing because patients can tell if you’re interested in them or  if you just see them as a dollar sign. So just treat every patient like a friend.

How do you plan to keep growing the contact lens category in the future?
No plans. I think that you have always got to be on top and not think that things will just continue. You’ll always have to go out and speak to GPs and other referral resources, keep up-to-date and listen to other practitioners to see if they have things that are working for them.


 Inspire members by submitting your own story of success below.

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