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Designing With Miss Danielle

A Pennsylvania optician holds an annual contest for her pediatric customers to design a cleaning cloth image—leading to enormous return from word-of-mouth marketing and customer bonding

From the beginning of her optics education, Danielle Crull was invested in the profession and wanted to bring more care to children’s optics. After becoming a master optician, Crull felt that there was a lack of service to pediatric eye care patients, as well as a lack of education for that specialty. “I felt like… there was not a lot of teaching for opticians about kids,” says Crull. “I try to share things and help people fit kids.” In an effort to further this mission and help the profession grow, Crull took to ODs on Facebook in early May and wrote a post about an annual tradition that has been wildly successful for her shop. Crull says she shared the post to encourage others to think outside the box.

“My post was about trying to engage with your customers in a new way,” she says. “I think your most powerful form of advertisement is going to come from your customers and patients. The nice thing about social media is it gives your patients an opportunity to let them know you’re thinking about them,” she pauses before a laugh, “In turn they will think about you, as well.”

Since 2016, A Child’s Eye in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, has held a contest for its patients to draw and design a cleaning cloth. “I always try to engage with the families I help,” says Crull, known as “Miss Danielle” to her young audience. “I have to buy cleaning cloths anyway, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if the kids made cleaning clothes and we gave them out?’” She says, “It turned out to be excellent marketing.”

DESIGNERS, MAKE IT WORK

The winners of the annual May contest—taking place during the anniversary of the shop’s opening—win a prize and are able to purchase an extra number of their custom cloths to give out to friends, family and teachers. From there, the patients do the advertising. “When they win, they’re super excited. We promote [the winning cloth] in our office and on social media. It helps us get enough of a response,” she says. “Through word of mouth and getting people talking about the contest, it really gets around like that.

A collection of this year’s cloths

Crull feels that she has hit the sweet spot with this tradition. “Honestly, it’s not a huge investment for me,” she says of the finances. “I buy the cloths once a year; I plan for it, and it saves me money in the long run.”

Year after year, she has found the payoff to be far greater than any money spent. Crull serves and therefore retains her patient base, all while she gains new patients from the popular event.

TRUFFLES AND TRADITION

Crull with Truffles the cat, who helps makes her youngest visitors feel more comfortable

Crull’s shop is unique in more ways than one. While she is among a select few opticals providing service exclusively to kids, she serves a rural area—well, she and Truffles, the office cat. Crull spares no effort at creating life-long relationships with the people who walk into her store. “The most rewarding thing is being able to hold a unique position in a young person’s life,” she says. “It starts with [them] being able to see better, and then you become a part of their life in a way that surprises you.”

“Everybody is made differently. Kids’ eyeglasses need to fit differently,” she says. “When you’re working with an 18-month-old, the frames have to fit well because you’re never going to get past their discomfort otherwise.” In fact, Crull compares fitting eyeglasses for kids to sleuthing.

“You have to be more like a detective,” she says on, noting she has to figure out the issue with patients who may not be able to articulate their discomfort or issues. She also spends much of her time trying to educate the parents of her customer base.

THE PRIVILEGE IS HERS

From the cloth design contest and spending time making sure parents can properly advocate for their child’s eye sight to cultivating lasting relationships, it’s safe to say Danielle Crull is passionate about her work.

“It’s all a reminder what a big impact you have on your customers and patients, especially when they’re young,” she says. “It’s a privilege.”

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