In a couple of weeks, a few thousand of my best friends (our readers and those who don’t yet read us regularly) will convene in Orlando for Vision Expo East 2021. Some of you will be going for Continuing Education Classes. Some of you will be going to buy new exam room equipment to further your mission of improving your patient’s eyesight. Some of you will be going to pick up new lines of eyewear. Some of you will be going just to network and party with your colleagues from across the country and around the world. All of you will be going with some mission of coming back with something that can improve your business or the business you work for.
Vision Expo is THE place for you to step up your marketing for your store or practice and if you don’t take full advantage of the opportunities such a trade show offers you and your store, then you have no one to blame but yourself. You are excited and rightfully so. So too are the vendors with whom you will happily give that money in exchange for their goods or services.
Before you hand over a single dime. Before you sign on the dotted line, be sure to talk marketing. Almost every brand you deal with spends tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and a few even millions of dollars in creating marketing images and materials to promote their brand. Most every one of those companies is more than happy to share those images or marketing materials with their authorized dealers, if only you ask.
Some vendors offer co-op advertising programs for their products. That is money that you get back from your purchase to help you promote their products. Do you ask companies you purchase from if they have a co-op program? If not, you are paying more for your products than you should, because that money is yours, if only you know about it and use it correctly.
Most co-op advertising will be found with the larger multi-national companies. They have the power of scale working in their favor. When a company prices a frame, for example, they might build in $1 to the cost of that frame for co-op advertising, knowing full well that less than 50% of the available co-op funds they make available will ever get used. They can then offer the equivalent of $2 a frame in co-op because only half the people who buy their frames will never ask and never use that co-op advertising. It takes only seconds to ask about any company’s co-op program, and should always be part of your buying checklist.
While the companies who do offer co-op are less than 50% of the optical companies out there, over 90% of all optical companies create professional marketing materials, if even just for themselves. Almost every frame company I’ve ever seen hires a professional photographer to display each and every frame with intricate detail, often from various angles. Most frame companies spend money on models and photographers to create lifestyle imagery that showcase their eyeglasses and sunglasses beautifully. Before you sign on the dotted line, ask these companies to share those images with you. Some will make you sign agreements to prevent you from using those images to promote their products at sale prices, but you are probably signing dealer agreements when placing the order that commits you to sell the eyewear within a certain price range anyway.
Are you getting the latest in Point of Purchase signs and banners? Some companies want to sell these materials to you. Unless whatever you are buying is diamond-encrusted, I would suggest never buying POP, but negotiating whatever it is you want as part of your purchase order. Again, this can only be done before that order is handed in and best done at a trade show.
Want a trunk show? Schedule it with your rep at Vision Expo. Want the rep to train your staff? Schedule it at Vision Expo. Want help with a branded promotion? Negotiate it at Vision Expo. To be fair, many companies are more than willing to work with you after the sale, just like you are with your patients and customers. However, it’s no secret that we are all our most accommodating when the sale is made and not as much after the fact.
Vision Expo is your best opportunity to not just plan what you are buying for the year, but what you are promoting for the year. With a bit of planning and a bit of discipline on your part, you will find the companies you meet with and do business with at Vision Expo are more than willing to work with your marketing requests at Vision Expo than they are months after.
In some cases there is a bit of arm wrestling involved, in most cases, it is a matter of communicating one on one with the company principals agreeing to your requests while they are there. You just need to remember to ask.
Make it a great show and a successful show this year by taking care of your marketing needs along with your inventory needs.