Seasonal displays, promotions, and charitable giving are great ways to boost business this time of year

The holiday season is in full swing. While an optical or medical practice may not be the first place holiday shoppers think of when looking for gifts, there’s no reason you can’t get in on the retail action. Winter can be a great time to boost sales, get rid of old inventory, and encourage patients to use up their health care spending accounts before they expire. It’s also a great time of year for charitable giving.

Consider seasonal displays and promotions

Get into the holiday spirit and capture customers’ attention with eye-catching seasonal displays. It doesn’t have to be red and green or even Christmas or Hanukkah-themed. Keep it neutral with a winter-themed window display: snowflakes, snowmen, anything related to skiing, sledding, or ice skating—you get the idea. For some fun decorating ideas, search for “optical holiday displays” on Pinterest.

Special promotions for opticals might include sunglasses to encourage winter eye protection or free kids’ lenses with a frame purchase.

And who doesn’t love a bargain, especially around the holidays? Just like in the summertime, you could have a buy-one-get-one free (BOGO) sale—say, buy one pair of glasses, get a pair of sunglasses free. “The biggest eyewear challenge during the winter is getting patients to realize that sun protection for their eyes is just as important in the winter as in the summer,” wrote Stuart J. Thomas, O.D., in The Review of Optometric Business.  

Play this short video in your waiting room or post on your social media pages to remind patients of this fact:

Dr. Thomas, owner of Thomas Eye Center in Athens, Ga., said business has grown in the winter since they started running a Kids See Free promotion during the holiday season. “Parents love this. The promotion offers single-vision polycarbonate lenses for children that are no charge as long as they are in a stock range…You get the frame sale and the AR, and make a tidy profit on the children’s glasses.”

Dr. Thomas, owner of Thomas Eye Center in Athens, Ga., says business has grown in the winter since they started running a Kids See Free promotion during the holiday season. Click To Tweet

For more ways to appeal to young patients, search for “novelty glasses” on OrientalTrading.com. Any kid is sure to love a pair of reindeer sunglasses! ENTs might consider giving away these “ear chocolates.”

Encourage patients to spend FSA funds before the deadline

ENTs and other doctors should remind patients with health care flexible spending accounts (FSAs) that the date to “use it or lose it” is December 31, unless their employer offers a rollover option. Some companies offer employees either a grace period to use their FSA funds by March 15, or allow them to carry over up to $500, according to CNBC, which also notes, “Even if you have a hard deadline of Dec. 31 for spending, you often have until March 15 of the following year to submit claims. So you don’t have to press the doctor to bill you by New Year’s Eve.”

Remind patients that many flexible spending accounts require patients to “use it or lose it” by December 31.

You can share this information with your patients by posting a sign at your front desk, in an email, or on your web site or social media pages. Consider including a link to FSA eligible expenses, such as contact lens solution, eyeglass and lens accessories, hearing aid batteries, and more. Also mention that some items may require a doctor’s prescription, such as eye, ear, and nose drops, allergy medicine, topical skin treatments, etc.

The easier you make it for patients to spend their FSA funds, the more likely it is they’ll spend them at your practice.

Remember it’s the season of giving

Around the holidays, many people’s thoughts turn to those less fortunate than themselves. Doctors who give back to their communities benefit not only from the warm feeling of helping those in need, but may also attract new patients in the process.

Businesses that contribute to charity are more attractive to millennials, but check to make sure a charity is reputable before you donate.

A recent Fortune poll found that philanthropy is especially important to millennials (anyone born between 1981 and 1996), who were more likely than their elders to want to work for, buy from, and recommend businesses that contribute to charity.

One idea for medical practices is setting up an “Angel Tree” in your waiting room. The Salvation Army program provides new clothes and toys for 1 million children who usually have to go without Christmas gifts. Anonymous donors choose recipients (also anonymous) off the tree and donate gifts for them. Medical practices and other corporate donors who wish to participate in the Angel Tree program should contact the branch in their area, such as the Salvation Army of Central Maryland.

Of course, there are countless other charities and ways to get involved in holiday giving. Before you write a check or collect gifts, check Consumer Reports’ 2018 list of “Best and Worst Charities for Your Donations.”

Whether you take the route of offering great deals, educating patients, giving back to your community, or all of the above, the best practice marketing strategies are those that benefit both you and your patients.