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This is the "write stuff," baby.

The text portion of the America's Finest Optical Retailers contest entry form might stymie a lot of eyecare professionals. We hear many business owners and employees who tell us they "can't write," and we suspect that lack of confidence is at the root of the problem.

So, one word of advice in general before we move on to specifics (and this will serve you well as you fill out your entry and beyond): The vast majority of people we meet in the eyecare industry are articulate, thoughtful speakers of English, and that most likely includes you. So don't try to write. Instead, try to type what you would say in conversation with a friend. What comes out is guaranteed to be far more clear and less stilted.

For the text portion of the entry, we advise you to first write your entries in a separate application, such as Microsoft Word, and to save frequently while writing. Computers tend to crash or freeze at the worst times, and if that happens while you're typing into the online entry form, odds are you've just lost all your work. So complete your entry in Word, then copy and paste it into the online form.

Here are some "musts" to include in the first two sections of the text portion:

BUSINESS HISTORY
  • Who founded the business? Were any other notable family members, like siblings, involved?
  • What led the founder(s) to open the business? For instance, my great-grandfather was an optician in Hungary before he immigrated — that sort of thing is worth noting.
  • What's the genealogy of the ownership? You don't have to go into detail, but it's nice for us to know which hands it came down through.
  • Are you in the same location as when your business was founded? Have you moved (and if so, why)? What other locations have you opened (and when, and why)?
  • Any cool events in your store's history? Celebrity customers, industry honors, local awards.
  • Does anyone else in the family work there now? Any successors or potential successors to the current owners yet?
WHAT'S FINE ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS?
  • Don't say your employees or your clients. Please. We know — you think you're just being grateful and gracious and honest. And you are. But you're saying exactly what 99 percent of eyecare professionals say when we ask them a question like this. Sure, we'll think you are nice people — but we already thought that, and this answer won't distinguish you from the competition.
  • Do focus on specifics. The other reason "our employees and our clients" is such a boring answer is that it doesn't actually tell us anything about why they're cool. If your lens tech wears a peg leg and sings sea chanteys you can hear in the showroom — OK, then, yes, mention him.
  • Don't say "our great client service" either. Again, we want specifics, and the more unusual, the better.

More on this and the remaining text portions of the entry next time. Meanwhile, please leave questions or concerns in the comments below, or email them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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