Features: Successful Retail Strategies

Sep
2010

Culture, Community and Eyewear

A Midwest practice with style


By Patrisha Zabrycki

DYNAMIC DISPENSING

Who Groetken Family Eyecare and Sunwear Port
location LeMars, Iowa
Number of Locations 1
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES 3
20/20 take A small practice with a big impact.

In a quiet, unassuming professional center in the quiet, unassuming town of LeMars, Iowa you can find one of the most unexpected sources of cultural influence in the region. The façade of Groetken Family Eyecare and Sunwear Port doesn’t advertise its status, but a sign that reads, Come as Strangers, Leave as Friends says everything necessary to convey the sense of helpfulness and community that Elizabeth Groetken, OD, and her staff have worked the last four years to cultivate.

Everything about this Mediterranean-themed optometry office, from the six-inch maple borders of the door jams to the hand-carved wooden furniture crafted by Dr. Groetekn’s father, Jack, sets patients at ease and lets them know they are going to have a first-rate experience. All the extra effort to create a sense of style and ambience is no accident. “I look at eyecare as both a science and an art,” says Dr. Groetken. “Not only is it my responsibility to provide the best possible medical care, but I get to help people find glasses that make them feel good about themselves.”

This philosophy isn’t carried out merely in the décor of her office. Dr. Groetken believes staff education is a key aspect of her success. “It became quite evident that taking the entire staff to International Vision Expo West  in Las Vegas was invaluable,” she says. “Not only did we obtain the highest quality continuing education, but we were given the opportunity to see all the frame styles in the industry.”

The meticulous attention to staying up-to-date can also be seen in the practice’s state-of-the-art equipment and testing. They offer Optical Coherence Tomography and 40 point automated visual field screening among other high-tech care. After the optometric technician takes an auto-refraction, patients are treated to fresh brewed coffee and baked goods from the local bakery just across the street while they wait for the doctor. Following a comprehensive eye exam, patients are taken to the frame styling area, where they will find a plethora of stylish frames displayed in hand-crafted solid maple cases.

Boasting a wide range of modern eyewear, Dr. Groetken and staff take their commitment to giving their patients the royal treatment to the next level. “We talk to our customers and learn about them so we can help them find a frame that enhances their personality and natural gifts, not change them.” Whatever the customer’s personality or lifestyle, they’ll have a selection ranging from Ray-Ban and ProDesign to Porsche and Burberry to a recent addition, Tiffany & Co. “We want our patients to feel like they are walking the red carpet from the time they pick up their glasses to when they walk out our door.”

As Dr. Groetken talks about the philosophy behind her business, one gets a real sense of a much larger plan at work than eyecare. “The Midwest wants East and West Coast fashion. That’s when we realized our niche,” she explains. “We decided we’re going to bring the styles that give patients the ability to personalize their look to the heart of a town with a population of 10,000.”

Once she was satisfied with the details of her 25,000-square-foot optometry office, Dr. Groetken and her staff began to look beyond it. “The first step toward our goal was when we met Melissa Blaise, the eyewear designer for Tommy Bahama.” The meeting led to a brilliant marketing opportunity. “We were preparing for an eyewear show in our hometown. Melissa flew from Paris to California to LeMars to show her newest eyewear designs. She did television and radio shows and helped provide us with newspaper press. The first Groetken Family Eyecare and Sunwear Port International Eyewear show was established.” They used the eyewear show to further develop their brand and bring a sense of prestige to the practice. “We decided to hold the show annually on October 30th and give a 30 percent discount on a complete set of eyewear. This is the only discount opportunity we offer all year.”

Hot on the heels of the eyewear show’s success, a promotional giveaway was also added to Groetken Family Eyecare’s expanding strategic repertoire. “Instead of a discount, last May we registered everyone who scheduled an exam for a drawing for a free pair of sunwear. Every week we had a drawing and the winner got to choose any pair of sunwear from our collection. This promotion doubled our number of appointments for the month,” she notes. Furthermore, patients who stopped by the store hoping to win the free eyewear ended up coming back to the store to purchase the eyewear they were fantasizing about. This promotion was such a success that Groetken Family Eyecare will be holding it again this year. 

Not to ignore the tried-and-true, Dr. Groetken and her staff also use traditional media advertising. In addition to advertising in the medical section of the newspaper, “We decided to have Sandi [Berendes] talk live on the local radio station in the area.” Berendes is Dr. Groetken’s head of marketing and the optical technician. Every Wednesday Berendes goes on the airwaves to discuss the importance of UV protection and how eyewear can be a valuable accessory to a person’s look and lifestyle. “This spot has proven to be a wonderful way to extend our hospitality to a wide range of people and let them know they don’t have to be a patient to come to our office to try on eyewear and sunwear.”

Again, Dr. Groetken brings the larger philosophy of community to her practice. It’s not just an optometry office; it’s a cultural hub that pulls together the fashion of the East and West Coasts with the famously familiar hospitality of America’s heartland. Not only does she believe in educating her staff and her patients, but Dr. Groetken also does her part to educate the population at large on how to protect their eyes. “To support our community and local non-profit organization, we donate sunwear for fundraisers,” she notes. Always keeping it local, some of the organizations sponsored by Groetken Family Eyecare are No Child Left Indoors and Plymouth Co. Pheasants Forever, for which they are one of the largest supporters.

It is a precision blend of quality customer care, staff education, precise marketing and a sense of community that has established Groetken Family Eyecare and Sunwear Port as a rousing success. “Our goal is to invite the patient in as if they were coming into our home,” says Dr. Groetken, “and for them to leave feeling as though they have the best eyewear they have ever owned.” Come as Strangers, Leave as Friends. 

For more information on Groetken Family Eye Care and Sunwear Port, please visit groetkenfamilyeyecare.com.

 

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