By Will Burdeaux

So you want to have a trunk show?

Don’t worry. It’s really easy.

At least that’s what everyone will think if you do it right. But where do you start? What do you need to do?

First, get everyone on board. Opticians, doctors, front desk staff, technicians—all need to be engaged and excited about it. Create a buzz in your office. Take the time to discuss the goal you are striving to achieve with every person in your organization, and make their roles clear to them.

Think strategically about when you want to have the show. We have ours on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This is the last weekend before the holiday shopping season rockets off, and people have FSA and HSA money to burn up. It also allows us to plan a holiday theme and to create a relaxing atmosphere for our patients. Be consistent if you plan to have it annually. Try to keep it on the same day. That will keep it in the back of people’s minds, both staff and patients. You need to know when your patients are most likely to have available funds and also the time to spend that money, so doing some research into your demographics will be vital.

We offer coffee, juice and snacks to our browsers. If you are having it in the evening, offer wine and cheese. Make them feel appreciated. You can hire catering or make a trip to Sam’s Club and get this done relatively inexpensively. One year we hired a flautist. Once again, know your demographic. Door prizes also help as a draw and offer your patients a reason to stray beyond their first purchase. Some of them will go back to the reps for more intense browsing, and more often than not they might well end up getting a second or third pair.

Decide on which frame line or lines you would like to show. Remember that most trunk shows are lukewarm as far as the return on investment for the rep (in terms of time-to-volume of sales) so make it worth their while. Not to sound like a broken record, but once again… YOU MUST KNOW YOUR DEMOGRAPHICS. If you are a practice that sees mostly conservatively incomed patients, bringing in a high end or luxury rep might well be a waste of your time.

Figure out a method of covering your frameboards on trunk day. The only product being sold at the trunk show is what the vendors you invited brought. We use wrapping paper to make the boards look like giant Christmas presents. Use tip-offs and ideas from whatever is the theme of the party to better help you devise cover-ups. If you are looking for negotiating tips, get creative in enhancing your usual buy-in terms. I would ask for a deep discount, with the caveat that for every frame sold, you will buy another for our frameboards. If it sells at the trunk show it will sell on your boards, so that’s actually an enhanced win-win.

The same goes for your lab rep. Ask for discounts, but only on premium product. You both come out looking good that way.
Have a doctor that is willing to see walk-ins (preferably with a very light schedule). You will need it.

“You need to know when your patients are most likely to have available funds and also the time to spend that money, So doing some research into your demographics will be vital.”

Once again, KNOW YOUR DEMOGRAPHICS. We use email blasts and local radio spots, as well as in-house flyers the week of the show. You are going to take a hit for the month leading up to it. It’s like watching the tide go out before a tidal wave. Invite the local paper and try to get photos done before and during the show.

I would suggest not accepting insurances during trunk shows. That is your prerogative, but experience has shown us that with a 50 percent discount, the amount the patient pays out of pocket is the same as they would with most billable insurance plans. Besides, this is an opportunity for your insured-contract patients to get those second and third pairs at a discounted rate. Think of it as a way to say thank you to them for their loyalty.

If you are doing volume like we do, quote three to four weeks for turnaround. You will also run into backorder issues, so be prepared for that with whatever strategy you wish to employ. We are pretty straightforward about it. The volume of jobs we send our lab and our frame-ordering department that day is too heavy to expect super-efficient expediency.

This is how I personally see this, so take this as you will. Make sure that you do not schedule yours at the same time as any of your local competitors if they have one. These things take a LOT of planning and work... just because we don’t work in the same offices doesn’t mean we can’t respect each other.

Well, your margins aren’t going to be what they usually are, but that isn’t what you are after. The object is to get people into your shop in increased numbers. You want them to remember the experience and tell EVERYONE they know about the great time they had at your event. They will likely come back to you again, next time with friends and family in tow. Also remember to have your reps selling multiples, especially as regards sunwear. And be prepared to have your reps selling because if your trunk show is a success (like ours!), you will be chained to your desk for the duration. Getting a break is next to impossible when you have a line out the door.

We’re opticians. After having been bolted to a desk for six hours, then spending two hours putting things back where they belong and finally cleaning up, you had better have refreshments available. Show your staff the same appreciation you show your patients—that will pay dividends down the road.

Will Burdeaux, ABOC, NCLEC, has been an optician for 20 years. He has worked in private practice, box stores, labs and at one point owned a mobile dispensing business. In that ownership he learned the importance of preliminary demographic research, public speaking and the difference between being an optician and a business owner.