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6 ECPs Who See the Power of Cooperating With Local Businesses

Being an independent operator doesn’t mean you have to cede economy of scale entirely to the big guys.




Whether it’s two stores promoting each other to existing clients, or an intricate, integrated media co-branding effort, teaming up on marketing can turbocharge your creativity, online visibility, and leads, while maximizing your spend. With the right partner, it adds a dimension to your brand. We’d all like to believe working together comes naturally on Main St., but a survey by Small Biz Survival found a lack of cooperation was among the main concerns of businesses in small towns and rural areas. Being an independent operator doesn’t mean you have to cede economy of scale entirely to the big guys. Here are some of the most interesting ways optical retailers are pooling resources and leveraging shared local connections to market their wares.

Invision Optometry
San Diego, CA

Some local tie-ups just go better together than others, sort of like the smell of coffee and the early morning hours. One of the ways Invision Optometry in San Diego, CA, supports small businesses and nonprofits in its community is by using its coffee bar to highlight local roasters. “Our patients and customers are then introduced to nearby brands with every cappuccino and latte we serve,” says owner Michael Kling, OD. New roasters are featured every few months and their products are highlighted through Invision’s social media channels.

Goodrich Optical
Lansing, MI

A while ago, Goodrich Optical was approached by a local bridal dress shop about joining a wedding planner event. Dave Goodrich pounced. “The bride wants a perfect wedding. But she’ll wear a pair of old glasses with green nose pad cheese and scratched lenses rather than spend the money.” To blushing brides about to stumble down the aisle he says: “You’ll spend hundreds on shoes that will be covered by your dress. Your glasses will be immortalized in pictures. Which do you spend the money on?” Put it that way, “the glasses sell themselves. And don’t forget the anti-reflection coating…”

Springfield Family Vision
Springfield, MO 

Turntables, tacos and a trunk show: You can’t go wrong! The common element at Springfield Family Vision’s June promotional event was independence: “Independent frame lines, lenses from our independent lab, and local food and music,” says co-owner Katie McElvaine, OD. A local radio station broadcast from the site as customers munched on free Mexican from local restaurant the Taco Co. and checked out eyewear by Von Arkel Switzerland, Vinyl Factory and Red Bull SPECT. “The locals love food, so we thought we’d celebrate our trunk show with some food that would also have a draw. It worked! We had free tacos while everyone shopped to the music.”

Precision Vision
Edmond, OK

Tagging, friending, re-tweeting: basically, social media is a referral system. As a business owner, it’s not just about scoring “Likes” … the act of liking itself has currency, one that gains value the more targeted it is. Precision Vision owner Selina McGee, OD, knows the value of having well-chosen local businesses as online friends. “We try to support our neighbors. Mostly it’s through social media. We have flowers delivered and use them to highlight our frames on social media. We tag the florist. We serve wine with savings cards that tell where it came from.” For McGee it’s part good business, part community spirit. “We hire a face painter for the kiddos, we support her and vice versa. And we partner with local charities, donating a portion of frame proceeds to UR Special, which provides kids with back-to-school clothing.”

Vision Trends
Dover, OH 

When Scott Keating, OD, opened his new optometry office six years ago, he stocked it with unique frames from all over the world. But who was going to buy them? He followed a hunch: “A friend owned a unique day spa/beauty salon. He had an established customer base I hoped to tap into. We agreed to run cross promotions. At Christmas, I set up a display with Tiffany sunglasses on his welcome desk. We held a drawing to win them and a massage. You had to like my Facebook page to enter and he blasted his large Fcebook following with info about Vision Trends.” The move was a turning point for Keating’s business. “I went from 90 followers to about 850 followers in one week.” Keating wasn’t done. He put the top salesman at a men’s store across town in dressy but unique styles for free, in exchange for referrals. “To this day, he is still a walking model for me.”

Mill Creek Optical
Dansville, NY

For proof that local chambers are still relevant to commerce today, head to Dansville, NY, where the marketing committee, under Mill Creek Optical owner Jennifer Leuzzi, is a joint-promotion factory. First Friday events are popular, and not just with humans. For Oktoberfest, “We served local mustards and I brought in my goats.” On Farm Day, farmers came on tractors and a Dairy Princess brought cheese. “Recently, we created a fairy door trail, placing 10 fairy doors at local businesses: You had to match the door to the business on a map.” Leuzzi’s efforts have brought many new faces through her own door. “It brings in people who’ve never stopped in before.”

After years covering some of the farther flung corners of the world of business journalism, Heath has more recently focused on covering the efforts of independent eyecare professionals to negotiate a fast-changing industry landscape. Contact him at [email protected]




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