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Addressing the Difficulty of Obtaining a SBA Loan Fallacy and More of Your Questions for March

Including protecting yourself from small claims litigiousness and email vs. text marketing.

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How long does it take for mass media brand building campaigns to work?

For long cycle products and services that people don’t need very often, like those provided by an ECP, the bad news about mass media is that it will take three to six months of weekly advertising before you begin to gain any real momentum, says Roy H. Williams, author of the best-selling Wizard of Ads trilogy. “The good news is that the longer you use mass media, the better it works.” There are variables, says Williams, including:

  • Do your ads capture attention or are they easy to ignore?
  • Do your ads speak to a felt need … or are you answering a question no one was asking?
  • Are you a known, trusted, and respected seller?
  • In your category, what name will customers typically think of first and feel the best about?
  • What percentage of the public considers you to be their preferred provider?

But there is more good news. Traditional mass media (drive-time radio, billboards, print), the cornerstone of most brand-building efforts, has never been cheaper. Williams says that used properly (meaning going narrow and deep with unrelenting frequency), and with the support of good SEO, the results can be profound.

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Is text or email marketing better?

Why choose? You can use both. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. Text marketing is a great way to reach a large audience quickly. They are typically read within minutes of being sent and have a higher open rate than emails. “Unlike email marketing, where open rates hover at 16% to 20% with 3% to 6% response rates, the open rate for SMS marketing is 98% and the response rate is close to 45%,” says marketer Andrea Hill of Hill Management Group. However, texts can be intrusive, so they need to be used with care.

Meanwhile, email is cheap, can be customized to target specific demographics, and can contain more detailed information than texts. They tend to have a longer shelf life, as customers can save them. However, being “less intrusive” means they can be easily overlooked, and hence the lower open rate.

Hill says text is particularly useful when promoting new products, inviting people to events or to announce specials. “Data shows that 95% of SMS recipients read and act upon the messages they receive within three minutes. For this reason, making a digital offer or geo-fencing your broadcasts only to people within a geographical area closest to your store are the best ways to capitalize on the immediacy associated with text campaigns.”

Social media has become an essential part of our lives and that includes our businesses. While social media sometimes gets a negative connotation, it’s a great tool for customer acquisition, increasing brand awareness, and growing bookings.

With so much noise in the social media market, it can be difficult to find the ones that are actually useful and can help build your business. We’ve rounded up the top five social media tools we couldn’t live without so you can streamline and simplify your social media strategy. These tools can be applied to any business, big or small, across industries, so get ready to stop the search for your next social media tools and start downloading.

Our growth has flattened, and it seems no matter what we do with our marketing, prices or merchandising, nothing helps get us to the next level. Where are we going wrong?

There could be any number of reasons from changing demographics to the emergence of a new competitor, but something that holds many businesses back is a personal blind spot of the owner that hobbles the entire operation. These blind spots are often rooted in deeply held beliefs, such as the view that money makes the world go around (so if you just pay your employees more they will work harder, or if you discount your merchandise or services, you’ll sell more) or say a preference for conducting business verbally that has you driving sales to the phone while investment in your website lags. As the name suggests, the hard thing about blind spots is that the afflicted person can’t see them. That means an unvarnished outside perspective is required. “Ask people for feedback, and they sometimes tell you what you want to hear. Ask them about blind spots, and they’re more likely to tell you what you need to hear,” says the behavioral psychologist Adam Grant in his latest book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.

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Is it true SBA loans take a huge amount of time and effort to obtain?

There are a lot of misconceptions about Small Business Administration (SBA) loans: that they are only for start-ups, are difficult to qualify for, require collateral or a personal guarantee … none of which are true. But yes, they do require quite “a lot of work,” says Tim Moss, owner of the Bronze Optical Gallery in Milwaukee, WI, who used one to purchase his store, an existing business. “But I’d encourage any optician to put in the work, because the rewards (of ownership) have been so great,” he says.

Over the last two years I’ve seen a small business friend pay a high price as a result of what seemed like a petty lawsuit. How can I protect myself against the same thing?

There’s nothing you can do to ensure you never get sued, but there are steps you can take to limit the costs of defending a legal claim. If you’re worried about employee lawsuits, you can buy liability insurance that specifically covers such actions. Or you can institute a severance program that awards a standard payout to employees who sign a release vowing never to sue you. Small claims and local courts are increasingly pushing parties to take their cases first to a mediation program, which in many instances — but not always — should be your first option. And you can support this by including a binding arbitration clause in all your contracts. That will keep disputes on the fast track and out of the courtroom. Keep up with labor laws in your state and start the search now for a lawyer who knows the business.

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