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Develop a Custom Visual Standards Manual to Look Better and Sell More

Such a manual details and explains how a store should look and how to keep it looking that way.

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ONE OF THE BEST ways to guarantee your employees maintain the look and feel of your store is a Custom Visual Standards Manual, or CVSM. Such a manual details and explains how a store should look and how to keep it looking that way. A good manual allows room for change and it teaches store employees how to access their creativity while staying within the boundaries of the store’s image and brand.

Visual standards include everything that can be seen as you drive or walk up to, into and through the store to the back door. It includes: lighting, signage, flooring, surface materials, fixtures, merchandising, displays, focal areas, aisles, desks, daily maintenance, safety standards, back room standards, washroom standards and back office standards. Standards must be maintained in order to maintain your image and support your brand.

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Each person has his or her own style. Some of those creative endeavors may not exactly be in keeping with your image. A standards manual clarifies your image and gives clear direction and boundaries to individual creativity and expression.

If you are looking to establish, or recreate, your image and want to re-train your employees, a manual is one of the first steps in making this transition happen consistently and successfully.

How to develop a CVSM:

  • Assign this job to one or two people with a clear understanding of your merchandising, fixtures, signage, store design and overall brand and image. If you choose two, consider one in marketing and one in operations. Or, hire someone from the outside with CVSM experience.
  • Develop an outline for the manual with a chapter for each area of your business. Describe the fixtures in each area and how to merchandise each one. Add chapters on non-selling spaces, lighting, signage, safety and holiday decorations.
  • Take a ton of photos. Before and after shots of merchandise presentation and displays make great teaching tools.
  • Determine what final format works best for your employees: binder, bound printed manual, webinar in several parts, or training movie. Consider a quiz after each section to make sure employees looked at it. Flexibility for changes is important so plan that into your format.
  • Have comprehensive staff meetings to introduce the manual and hand it out to each person. If it’s in digital format, give everyone the link and let them know when they will be quizzed on it.
  • Rather than just stating rules, explain why the rule exists and why it’s necessary. It will be remembered much longer. Pare down the information and present it as a mix of photos and copy. People today are used to reading bullet points and listening to sound bites. Less is most definitely more, and a picture is worth 1,000 words.
  • The purpose of a CVSM is to have a standard that all employees are required to live up to. If sales lag, an easily observable issue may be visual presentation. Getting everyone “on the same page” will keep the store looking great.
  • Consider a CVSM if you have more than two stores. It will keep your business attractive and welcoming. All of which will be reflected in your sales and service.

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Linda Cahan of Cahan & Company is an internationally known retail design expert specializing in visual merchandising and store design. Cahan consults, gives seminars worldwide, and has authored 10 custom visual standards manuals, three books on retail display and design, and hundreds of B2B articles. She taught visual merchandising at Parsons School of Design in NYC and now teaches part-time at The Art Institute of Portland in Oregon. Learn more at lindacahan.com.

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Editor's Note

Sometimes Bad Things Happen

It’s how you deal with them that really matters.

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EVERY ISSUE, WHEN I write this Editor’s Note it feels like I’m writing to the future you. I write it several weeks before it appears, but it needs to sound like I wrote it yesterday. And a lot can happen in a few weeks. In this case, we’ll be in a new year and a whole new decade when you read it.

Personally, the end of 2019 was difficult for me. Regardless of the specifics, I am sure I am not alone. Normally, we greet a New Year with a renewed sense of optimism, but a lot of ECPs are worried about changes in the industry. 2020 naturally has us looking to the future of optometry, so we reached out to industry experts to share what they believe to be the biggest trends we can expect this year and beyond. (Big Story, page 34). Spoiler alert: Many will be scary to independent ECPs.

Don’t worry; there are fun things to look forward to. In this issue, we’re introducing some new mini-columns — like ECPs Tell Jokes, Tough Jobs and What I Know for Sure, where ECPs share the things they know to be true. We’re also debuting three new regular contributors. First up is Autianna Wilson, you may know her as The Optical Goddess (@goddessofoptix), and her new column — DiscoverEyes by The Optical Goddess (page 28) — where she will be introducing INVISION readers to truly independent eyewear brands each month. 4ECP’s Cameron Martel (page 52) will be alternating a column with Kaia Carter on marketing and human resource topics. Lastly, eYeFacilitate’s Mark Hinton will be sharing sales wisdom in his monthly column (page 51).

When bad things happen, I like to focus on the positive … the lesson the bad thing is meant to teach me to turn it into a positive. I hope that’s how you approach the predictions our experts are sharing.

Best wishes for your business,

 

Five Smart Tips From This Issue

1. Do your docs straighten up the frame boards? They probably should occasionally. We tell you why. (Manager’s To-Do, page 18)
2. Can you wait just 10 minutes? That’s all experts say you need to increase willpower and break bad habits. (Tip Sheet, page 46)
3. New sales columnist, who dis? Say hi to Mark Hinton and his ideas on dispensary sales. (Columns, page 51)
4. Lift your business out of mediocrity by setting some standards. (Ask INVISION, page 55)
5. Wondering if you should accept Friend Requests from patients? Readers weigh in. (Do You or Don’t You?, page 60)

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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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