Smart use of coupons can build business and customer loyalty

As a general rule, most professional service providers and retailers, including optometry practices, don't always use discount coupons effectively because they're not trained or skilled as marketers.

As a general rule, most professional service providers and retailers, including optometry practices, don't always use discount coupons effectively because they're not trained or skilled as marketers, said Adrian Miller, who owns Adrian Miller Sales Training consulting firm in Port Washington, NY. She has consulted with a variety of organizations, including a large distributor of eyeglass frames, for the past 23 years.

Coupons as marketing tools

Just like any effective marketing campaign, she said optometrists must establish measurable goals for coupons and track their results to determine which coupons work and which ones don't for specific zip codes or times of year.

Maybe one coupon that offers discounts for children's eyewear is more popular in one zip code than another. Perhaps current customers use more coupons in the fall versus spring. But it's just the opposite with potential customers, she offered. Track every detail. Even the slightest difference could provide additional insight into customer shopping habits.

The first step in using coupons is to ask customers for their e-mail address. Tell them you will be periodically mailing them special promotions. Miller explained that the least expensive way to distribute coupons is through an e-mail blast.

"As someone who has purchased eye glasses many times, no optometrist has ever asked me for my e-mail address," she said.

Also, pay close attention to the subject line. Avoid statements such as, "20% off frames" or anything dealing with numbers and exclamation marks, which may push your e-mail into spam. If the e-mail is being sent to ongoing customers, the subject line could read: A message about your eyes from Dr. Smith.

For cold e-mails to new residents, consider: Welcome to our neighborhood. Likewise, for customers who haven't returned to your practice in more than 2 years, Miller suggested: Dr. Smith would like to see you back.

Some optometrists distribute coupons on postcards or print them on the back page of monthly newsletters. Either way, the coupon's effective date should be the beginning of the following month. That way, if the postcard or newsletter arrives late, you won't anger customers. No one appreciates a coupon for eyeglasses that expires within the week.