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Be a Game Changer and Make Your Competition Irrelevant

Facing competition in your market? Make yourself into something completely new.

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“BUSINESS STRATEGY” is one of the most common phrases in the business world but its meaning is rarely properly understood.

Business strategy is the concept of planning for the further success of an organization. Optometry businesses often fail because they misidentify growth as a strategy, when it is in fact an objective. A saturated industry, with established players, will require a different business strategy than a relatively new one. An optometric business can thrive with the right motivation, mindset and perseverance even with increased competition from other opticals and online retailers. Be the game changer in your market. Why compete in an already highly competitive low-margin marketplace? Develop your own unique strategy that innovates the industry.

Strategies that lead to the successful optometry businesses are: 

A Growth Mindset

This refers to an optometry business’ ability to market well and gain more patients due to a growing reputation. An average practice should grow 2 to 3 percent a year. Evaluate your key performance indicators to scale your practice. Understanding how your practice compares to others is a good benchmark for evaluating the metrics of your practice. Having a growth mindset will help you see opportunities that others won’t. Use failure as a motivation to learn and continue to work hard to push forward. Your growth mindset will create innovative ways to approach challenges, identify what is lacking, and remove pain points for your customers.

The Competitive Upper Hand

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The business that is constantly being worked on flourishes. Blockbuster was Number 1 at once and didn’t see Netflix as a competitor. They even had a chance to buy them but declined. Always respect your competitors. They might have more income or resources but having the drive, motivation, and perseverance to continually pursue what you want is the ultimate competitive upper hand. Optometry offices can find a competitive edge with 3D printing eyewear, new technologies, value-based services, personal branding or a unique localized social media strategy. Social media alone is very powerful. Small businesses can now conquer a local market by creating fans instead of customers. Determine what specific niche you want to be known for and continue to pursue it, even when you are at the top.

Gain Higher Profits

The more patients an optometry business has the higher its profits. You get more customers by creating “fans” and providing niche value. Be unique instead of the best. A lot of companies try to be the best. They strive for the best product or the best marketing. They believe that’s what’s necessary to gain the largest market share. But, it’s the opposite. In an industry where several companies provide the same product or service, customers find it difficult to choose, so they decide based on lowest price. One way to overtake the competition is by investing in being unique. Offer a feature that other businesses don’t, or offer greater efficiency, to distinguish your business. That is a fundemental of a competitive advantage; a feature that sets you apart from your competitors. After that, increasing net profits can be achieved by negotiating vendor discounts, group pricing, cross training staff, medical model technology and seeing more patients per hour.

Blue Ocean Strategy

Blue Ocean Strategy is about identifying new untested waters. Warby Parker leveraged the industry to create its own competitive advantage. They broke out of the traditional model and created their own market space that has become a billion-dollar industry. They created an innovative value system offering online products that were unique and low cost. They differentiated themselves on value, price and image. Companies are shaping the industry with creative thinking. You could consider taking a different approach to social media where everyone is battling for Facebook/Instagram attention; try LinkedIn or Snapchat to find success. Create an innovative approach where it’s easier to be profitable with less competition. 

Dr. Maria Sampalis is the owner of Sampalis Eyecare in Warwick R.I. A practice management consultant, the founder of Corporate Optometry on Facebook and of corporate-optometry–careers.com and corporate-optometry.com. Email her at msampalis@hotmail.com.

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Dr. Maria Sampalis is the owner of Sampalis Eyecare in Warwick, RI. A practice management consultant, the founder of Corporate Optometry on Facebook and of corporateoptometrycareers.com and corporateoptometry.com. Email her at msampalis@hotmail.com.

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3 Major Marketing Trends for 2020

They aren’t the only game in town, but they are currently among the most overlooked from small businesses.

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AS WE ENTER 2020, many businesses are looking at their budgets. Marketing is always an important consideration but it can be difficult to determine where to focus.

One constant: marketing is ever-changing. Knowing that most of us have finite marketing dollars, let’s break down a few trends that are likely to perform well in 2020:

Local Influencer Marketing

If 2018 and 2019 were the pinnacle of national and international influencer marketing, 2020 will be the year of the local influencer. Local influencers — high-visibility people and organizations that reside near your location — are extremely effective if their local reach is strong.

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These influencers often do not have the six or seven-figure follower counts that their national/international colleagues do, but that is a strength in the context of local marketing. A local Instagram influencer with 25,000 followers likely has higher engagement, and when it comes to getting people in your back yard to take notice, engagement is key. And those smaller local influencers almost certainly cost less than their national counterparts.

How to Get the Most Out of Influencer Marketing
  • Have a well-defined measurement of success (link clicks to a website, sales of an item, etc.)
  • Implement as much tracking as possible (tracking URLs, call tracking #s, etc.)
  • Engagement is more than just “likes;” look for shares and commenting activity.
  • Offer an incentive if the influencer hits certain performance thresholds.

Digital PR

Public relations, in its traditional sense, involves trying to get your brand mentioned on the radio, TV, newspaper, etc. The same is true for digital PR, but replace those more traditional media outlets with their digital equivalents. This ties in with search engine optimization and is likely to get more intertwined with SEO over time.

PR is a time-involved and challenging process. However, when it works, it works extremely well. This is not only due to the brand exposure that your business receives, but the SEO benefits.

How to Get the Most Out of PR
  • Focus on stories that have broad appeal, such as how parents can address eye teaming problems in infants versus something generic and overplayed (“Did you know kids need an eye exam?”)
  • Don’t pitch your services or your business; being mentioned is enough to accomplish the SEO/branding benefits you’re looking for.
  • Build relationships with local bloggers and journalists, as they may come to you in the future asking for your opinion.

Engagement in Local Social Media Communities

Younger audiences are rejecting traditional media and favoring social communities. Millennials, born 1980-2000, are the driving force behind this trend.

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Websites such as Reddit and Facebook allow people to create their own hyper-focused communities, and the broader trend is creating communities that are hyper-localized. Reddit, traditionally a content curation/aggregation site, has a community for just about every major city and state, and I’m sure we’re all familiar with the popularity of FB groups.

Look for ways to engage these communities. Often, the administrators will allow you to advertise if you follow certain rules or pay for the privilege. The hoops you jump through are worthwhile.

How to Get the Most Out of Social Engagement
  • Reddit hates when businesses hock their services/wares. Instead of selling yourself, look for ways to add value to the conversation — people will come to you on their own.
  • Avoid generic messages (“It’s back to school time!”) and focus on information that is more regionally relevant (“Dry eye is pervasive in Las Vegas, here’s why…”)
  • When linking back to your website, link to a helpful blog post versus your homepage or service pages. People hate being sold but love to go shopping — let them find your sales channels on their own.

The above trends aren’t the only game in town, but they are currently among the most overlooked from small businesses. Actioning them now with smart strategies will give you a leg up over your peers.

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Remember This Uplifting Fact About the Eyecare Business Next Time You’re Dealing with a Tough Customer

Sometimes the biggest impacts we make are the ones we don’t notice.

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IT’S A POWERFUL thing. I am an optician and a writer. As a writer most people think that my goal is to make a fortune by having a best-seller and getting some studio to pick it up and turn it into a movie. While I will be the first to tell you that is a thing we all dream about, my motivation is different.

I want to make an impact. I want my words to carry meaning over the years to come. I want what I have to say to make a difference in people’s lives. Hopefully in a positive way. I would wager that most of us have similar motivations. What does that have to do with opticianry, you ask? As it turns out, quite a lot.

It was a busy day in my office. There were at least four people waiting for me to help them. We’ve all been there. A patient that I help on a regular basis popped in for an adjustment and made idle chitchat with the other patients waiting for me. The patients were patient that day.

It was a nice change of pace.

As I finished up the sale I was working on, I heard the man say something that caught me off guard. “I’ll bet Will has no idea how many lives he’s touched in here.” I looked up, trying to hide my shock at the comment. He was 100 percent correct. It’s something that I had never thought about.

Everyday, we help people see. Some of us have been at this for decades… how many people have you impacted? How many have they impacted? The thought hit me hard.

Every interaction makes an impression. We tend to focus on the “customer satisfaction” end of things to a fault. Once they are out of our offices we forget what we did for them. Frankly, for the most part we don’t care as long as they don’t come back complaining. But the thing is, we are literally a part of their every waking moment. They wear our work on their faces, and in a small way their contributions to the world are ours too.

That pilot you fit for glasses flies people all over the world because you helped him see. That engineer that just designed the newer, better, longer-lasting lightbulb did so because you helped her see. That local business owner can sign payroll because you fit them flawlessly in their first progressive lens. We as a community make the world as we know it work.

As far as my writing is concerned, you are reading it right now. Who knows, maybe my words will carry some meaning to you. Maybe you’re struggling to remember why you get up every morning and drag yourself in to the office to get yelled at by angry impatient people. Maybe, just maybe, you needed to read this to get your head back in the game. Comically, that’s exactly why I needed to write it; to remind myself why I do what I do.

No matter how small you think the difference you make in this world is, it could be everything to someone else. Sometimes the biggest impacts we make are the ones we don’t notice. Once in a while, like at the start of a new year, it’s important to stop and reflect.

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John Marvin

A Different Approach for Achieving Your Goals This Year

Only 3 percent of people will take the time and discipline to do this, but they’ll make more than 10 times the 97 percent who didn’t.

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MY FATHER TURNED 90 years old this past August. My relationship with him has changed over the years, but the older I’ve become, the more I appreciate learning from him. He is a voracious reader, and I enjoy hearing about the books he is reading. This past fall, he suggested I read a book he’d just finished and now I’d like to suggest that you do too. It’s called Goals by Brian Tracy.

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Everyone is familiar with the importance of setting goals. This time of year, we are inundated with resolutions and fresh starts. But based on studies, 25 percent of people who make New Year Resolutions don’t even keep them a full seven days. Sixty percent abandon them within six months. Why do we have such difficulty achieving goals?

I’d like to suggest a different approach for reaching your goals this year.

Decide on three things you want to achieve. You can choose one or two if you like, but no more than three. There is power and focus that comes from keeping the list small; it doesn’t allow for distractions. Take time to decide what it is you want. Pretend you have three wishes and be careful how you use them. Deciding what you want is the most challenging part of achieving your goals.

Write Them Down

Write a paragraph, describe it in detail and in the present tense; not “I’m going to …” but “I have” or “I am.” Take time to think through the impact of achieving the goal, be specific and detailed in your description. Writing down what you want to achieve is, in itself, powerful in its ability to help you focus. If you contemplate what the goal will do for you, your family or business, you may decide that it’s not a goal you have a burning desire to achieve. Knowing what you don’t want can be as important as knowing what you do. This only happens when you write down your goals in detail.

Make It Measurable

Describe what you want in terms that are measurable. Stating that you want to make more money is not measurable.

How much more? If you’re going to grow your business revenue, then set an exact percentage. Don’t compare it to the industry; set the amount you want to achieve. Determine whether you wish to increase your gross or your collections. Once completed, there will be no question as to whether or not you achieved your goal.

Set a Date

Setting a date is critical as it drives motivation and helps keep the focus on working daily to achieve your goal. Not only should a date be set for when you will reach your goal, but it should be broken down into months, weeks and days. Every big goal is achieved by reaching a series of daily goals. This gives you a plan. Record in your calendar your daily goal and the result. This daily exercise will keep you focused and provide a visual you can use for motivation.

Sounds simple, right? It is, but studies show that only 3 percent of the people who read this will take the time and discipline to put these simple steps into action. Studies also show that the 3 percent who do will make more than 10 times the money of the 97 percent who didn’t. What you experience in this new year is entirely up to you.

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