KeraVision Direct Mail Drive Touts Eye Inserts

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The creator of a new vision-correction procedure has enlisted the aid of an established chain of eye centers to recruit doctors for help with its upcoming direct mail campaign.

KeraVision, Fremont, CA, will begin widespread efforts to market its new Intacs eye inserts in September. The company teamed with NovaMed Eyecare Inc., Chicago, in July to help spread the word about the device, which is used to correct nearsightedness.

KeraVision plans to test its campaign in Kansas City, MO, home of Hunkeler Eye Centers, NovaMed's largest facility. NovaMed eye doctors in the Kansas City area will soon begin sending letters to their patients recommending they consider the Intacs procedure to correct their vision, said Mike Jensen, marketing director at NovaMed.

The company wants to reach people with nearsightedness who are qualified to use the inserts, Jensen said. Only people with mild nearsightedness, which affects an estimated 20 million Americans, can use Intacs, and KeraVision will depend on NovaMed's doctors to connect the company with the right patients.

In addition to a letter, the doctors will send a brochure outlining what Intacs are and how the procedure is done, Jensen said. Some 80 percent of the people eligible for Intacs surgery receive primary eye care from an optometrist rather than a surgeon, according to KeraVision.

People take their doctor's opinion seriously, Jensen said. Plus, the personal-care doctors know exactly who might be interested in Intacs and can best direct the marketing efforts.

"We've found in our direct mail efforts that the most successful ones are from doctors to patients," Jensen said. "They're not going to just toss that. They're going to open it up."

NovaMed planned to meet with its doctors this month in an effort to bring them onboard for the campaign, Jensen said. Until it knows how many doctors agree to participate and how many patients they have access to, NovaMed won't know how many direct mailers it will send.

The company owns 12 eye surgery and laser centers in Chicago; Louisville, KY; St. Louis; Richmond, VA; Atlanta; Chattanooga, TN; and Kansas City. If successful in Kansas City, the mail campaign will spread to the other metropolitan areas, Jensen said.

The alliance with NovaMed will give KeraVision access to more than 100 optometrists in NovaMed's six markets.

The planned direct mail campaign is part of a larger marketing blitz that will also include broadcast advertising. In May, the company hired digital solutions provider Razorfish Inc. to design a Web site to promote Intacs to consumers.

KeraVision will be paying for the campaign. It plans to spend about $500,000 on advertising and direct mail.

The company is testing a variety of media to determine the best way to market its new product, said Angela DiBartolo, spokeswoman at KeraVision. NovaMed was chosen because it has a big enough network of doctors to help KeraVision get consumer interest in Intacs at the level it needs.

"You need to have doctors support the product," DiBartolo said. "They're the ones actually performing the procedure."

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