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Tip Sheet

Earn Some Low-Tech Loyalty and More Tips for March

Like an inexpensive way to tell your customers about what’s new.

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merchandisingSign Language

When you go to a trade show, your vendors immediately tell you what’s new, right? Of course they do. You can do the same. Merchandising consultant Larry B. Johnson says the best way to draw interest from regular customers is to put a whiteboard on an easel (total cost: $79) just inside your door with all of your new products written on it.

Teen Sees Color for the First Time — Watch Her Reaction
Videos

Teen Sees Color for the First Time — Watch Her Reaction

Video Shows Just How Fabulous Eyeglasses Were in the ’50s — Take a Look
Videos

Video Shows Just How Fabulous Eyeglasses Were in the ’50s — Take a Look

He Recorded a Song with His Optometry Equipment — and Absolutely Killed It
Videos

He Recorded a Song with His Optometry Equipment — and Absolutely Killed It

planningBuy-In Gets Results

The staff at Midwest Eye in Downers Grove, IL, were intimately involved in planning its renovation. The result was an office full of individual character, that is functionally attuned to staff needs, and, according to practice manager Pam Peters “a space we all love to work in.” Natalie Taylor, one of our 2018 America’s Finest judges, concurs: “The office’s flow is great — a separate desk for check-in and check-out, wall-mounted TV, and optical kiosks all show the collaboration of staff in designing the space.”

managementDon’t Beat Around the Bush

When you’re delivering good and bad news to employees, always give the bad news first, says Daniel Pink, bestselling author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. He acknowledges this often feels counterintuitive, as many hope to cushion the bad stuff to come. “But that is wrong,” he recently told The Washington Post. “The research tells us this very, very clearly. If you ask people what they prefer, four out of five prefer getting bad news first. Given the choice, human beings prefer endings that elevate.”

techGo Gray

Worried your relationship with your phone is less than healthy? Switch your display from color to grayscale, recommends Catherine Price in her book How to Break Up With Your Phone. (This is so threatening to phone makers’ addiction business model, it’s hidden five levels deep on the iPhone: Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters.)

managementOn a Roll? Take a Break

According to a Columbia University study, the key to taking effective breaks is to stop even when you don’t feel like it. “Participants who didn’t step away from a task at regular intervals were more likely to write ‘new’ ideas that were very similar to the last one,” the authors explained in Harvard Business Review. So, “if you’re hesitant to break away because you feel that you’re on a roll, be mindful that it might be a false impression.”

marketingLow-Tech Loyalty

Consumers spend more at retailers with loyalty programs. But if creating one seems like a chore, borrow New Jersey pet store Maxwell & Molly’s Closet’s idea: Spend $200 and earn 5 percent off on all purchases for life. Keep it simple.

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Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 21 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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Ask INVISION

What the Law Says About Retailers Who Say They’re Selling at ‘Wholesale’ Prices and More Questions for March

Unless it’s true, it might be a criminal offense in your state.

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How can I improve the open rates on my email marketing bulletins?

A few years ago, MailChimp.com did a survey of some 40 million promotional emails and found that those with the highest open rates (from 67 to an amazing 80 percent) were the ones that were — surprise, surprise — the least promotional. Typically, they had subject lines that told the recipient what was inside (they didn’t confuse e-bulletins with promotions or vice versa), they used the company’s name in the subject line, and had straightforward subject lines — they weren’t too “salesy” or pushy (this also helps you avoid spam trigger words). Most email providers will allow you to write subject lines of up to 60 characters but you should try to keep it short and to the point, between 30 and 40 characters and no more than five to eight words.

Teen Sees Color for the First Time — Watch Her Reaction
Videos

Teen Sees Color for the First Time — Watch Her Reaction

Video Shows Just How Fabulous Eyeglasses Were in the ’50s — Take a Look
Videos

Video Shows Just How Fabulous Eyeglasses Were in the ’50s — Take a Look

He Recorded a Song with His Optometry Equipment — and Absolutely Killed It
Videos

He Recorded a Song with His Optometry Equipment — and Absolutely Killed It

Constant Contact, another service provider, recommends you state a clear benefit to opening the email. Email messages that have an “exclusive” offer in the subject line, such as “Private event” or “For select customers only,” can generate an additional 24 percent open rate, according to its studies. Of course, you don’t want to be too dry. Your content should be as friendly as possible. Open with the recipient’s name, use a tone that reflects your personality and end with your signature line. Most important, give them something they want. If they’ve opted in and you are responding to their interests, you too might be able to get super-high open rates.

One of the questions I always get, and hate, is “Do you have to charge sales tax?” How should I answer this?

Here’s a simple way to defuse this sneaky discount ploy. Look at the customer directly, smile, and say, “Actually, I don’t charge sales tax. I collect it.” They’ll get the point. And while everybody wants the best deal possible, they’ll probably trust you more for it. Because if you’d cheat on your taxes, why should a customer or patient trust you to take care of their vision?

My store seems like a reality TV show: unnecessary drama. Addressing it only seems to add fuel to the fire. Is there a way to bring it under control?

You’re not alone. After profitability concerns, this is the No. 1 headache of business owners, says business coach Lauren Owen. Drama and discord create stress and hurt productivity. There is no quick fix but there are a number of things you can do, starting with regular meetings. “Scheduled, well-run meetings are essential to clear communication and team building and addressing potential conflicts,” says Owen, adding that such meetings are conspicuously absent at stores with drama issues.

Other steps include confronting your drama queens, addressing your underperformers (there is often a hidden cost in the resentment they cause), performing a cost-benefit analysis on your high performance/maintenance employees (sometimes they just suck all the energy out of a store), and finally taking a good look at yourself. “Some people actually like drama, despite what they say,” Owen says. “If you were really honest with yourself you might understand that the drama is satisfying some need of yours. Attention? Power? Control? Do you avoid all conflict, even healthy conflict, at all costs?” And are you giving your staff a clear sense of purpose — that eyewear is about something much bigger than business?

My practice has never grown the way I had hoped … or hired for. To keep going, I feel we need to downsize. How can I do it without destroying staff morale?

Layoffs are tough. You can’t have high productivity without good morale, and you can’t have good morale unless people have confidence that the company has a future and that the business is going to treat them fairly if things get worse. Employees need to know that you respect and value their contributions and don’t just view them as a resource.

Sometimes, however, you have no choice but to order layoffs. In that case, remember three rules.

1. Do them all at once. Dragging things out will destroy morale.
2. It’s better to cut too much than to cut too little.
3. Make sure all remaining employees understand that what you’re doing is saving their jobs.

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Tip Sheet

Stop Expecting So Much and More Tips for February

But always bring donuts if you’re running late.

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staffMore Donuts

Want to add some fun to your store? Take a tip from Sherrie’s Jewelry Box in Tigard, OR, where “you’re never late to work if you bring donuts,” owner Sherrie Devaney told INVISION’s sister publication INSTORE magazine.

TRADE SHOWSGood Expo Days

Headed to Vision Expo East? Follow the advice of marketing consultant Andrea Hill and take along a collapsible instant hot water carafe “because coffee is the beginning of a good day” and those Starbuck’s lines can get brutal.

hiringValue Added

Anand Sanwal, the CEO and co-founder of fast-growing tech company CB Insights, has an interesting take on the best question to ask a job candidate — “Tell me how you prepared for this interview.” Not only does the reply likely reveal a lot about how the person’s commitment to the position — do they care? — but it hints at their work ethic and analytical capabilities, he says. In the case of good candidates who have done their homework, they may even have fresh ideas about the way the company functions. “All of a sudden it goes from an interview to a conversation and that is a really encouraging sign if someone is adding value at that stage,” he told The Twenty Minute VC podcast.

psychologyKeep It Real

The problem with high expectations is they often result in future disappointment. Meanwhile, low ones tend to make you glum since there’s not much to look forward to. The answer? Stop expecting, says Jason Fried, who has written several books on work. “I used to set up expectations in my head all day long. But constantly measuring reality against an imagined reality is taxing and tiring.” Expectations also keep you mentally living in the future and deflated when events don’t measure up — even if what happens is pretty good. So, in 2019, don’t expect so much.

planningUse Will-Do Lists

When making your daily to-do list, don’t pick 20 things you hope to do that you think add up to one day’s work: you’ll overestimate your capacities. Instead, pick the three or four most important things, and really commit to doing them, even if you think they’ll take you only a couple of hours, suggests Luciano Passuello at litemind.com.

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merchandisingProtect Your View

Yes, the job market is tight and you may be short staffed, but hang those Help Wanted flyers on a local bulletin board or near your counter, not as some retailers do, in your front window. “Your front window is your customers’ first impression of your store,” says merchandising expert Tom Crossman. “Don’t make it a messy one.”

TIME OFFShort and Sweet

There seems to be a belief that a “proper” vacation requires at least a week. But as psychologist Thomas Gilovich told the Boston Globe, “If you have to sacrifice how long your vacation is versus how intense it is, you want shorter and more intense.” That’s because we remember and judge our experiences not in their entirety but according to how they felt at their emotional peak, and at the end. Yes, time feels scarce in the modern world. But you have no excuse for not having a memorable holiday this year. Start planning now!

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Ask INVISION

Finding the Best Tax Professional for You and More Questions for February

Getting a head start on what could be a volatile year, and more advice for February.

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2019 seems like it’s going to be a volatile year. What should we do to get ready?

Eight years of economic growth and cheap credit allowed many business owners to gaze far into the future and craft successful, long-term strategies, but it does seem those times are coming to an end as trade wars, rising interest rates, political turmoil, spooked financial markets and ongoing technological change cast a shadow over what otherwise is still a strong economy. In such a shifting, unstable environment where visibility is low, Donald Sull, a London Business School professor, recommends “active waiting.” Contemplate alternative techniques, explore likely scenarios and focus on general readiness. This is a time of threat but also opportunity. “Keep your vision fuzzy and your priorities clear,” Sull says. “Maintain a war chest and battle-ready troops. Know when to wait — and when to strike. When you grab an opportunity or move to crush a threat, amass all your resources behind the effort.” At the same time, continue making routine operational improvements such as cutting costs, strengthening distribution, and improving products and services. “Though mundane, these initiatives foster efficiency, which can position you to snatch a golden opportunity from rivals’ jaws,” Sull says. It all sounds rather dramatic, but then high drama surely awaits.

Podcast: More Ways to Motivate Your Own Eyecare Business Team
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: More Ways to Motivate Your Own Eyecare Business Team

Podcast: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Podcast: Try Not to Blink Talks About the Business of Cannabis, and Its Role in Modern Healthcare
Try Not to Blink

Podcast: Try Not to Blink Talks About the Business of Cannabis, and Its Role in Modern Healthcare

The sales experts you quote often recommend role-playing exercises. But my sales staff always slinks away when I suggest them. How can I get them to play along?

That may be because the focus is negative, says sales trainer Dave Richardson. Make the role-playing positive and fun. First, play the role of the salesperson and let your salespeople critique you. Then, when it’s your turn to play the customer, instead of saying, “Here’s what you did wrong,” start off by telling the person what you felt they did well and what you would change if you had the opportunity. Always finish on a positive, encouraging note, Richardson says.

Our marketing team’s images were recently lifted and used by the vendor for their advertising without crediting us. When I contacted them, they said, “We’re sorry; it was the intern’s fault.” How should I handle this?

If it was “the intern’s fault,” who approved the final vendor layouts? But regardless of whose fault it is, you should get some compensation for the use of your images, says business management consultant Kate Peterson. The vendor would have paid for the images had they used any other marketing professional to create them, so they should have no issue with paying your in-house team. “I would suggest that the retailer assign a fair price (what she typically pays her team per image) and send an invoice directly to the head of the company with pics of their ads and an explanation. If applicable, tell them you will apply the amount of the invoice against an outstanding balance,” says Peterson. “The key here is to remain positive and confident, as opposed to challenging. Assume they are expecting to compensate, and communicate in a tone that expresses confidence in their interest in doing the right thing.”

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My business is only four years old and up until now I’ve done my own taxes but now I’d like to find a tax pro. Where do I find a good one?

Online directories such as CPAdirectory.com, Accountant-Finder.com and AccountantsWorld.com are a good place to start. Most will allow you to search by name, location and industry focus. The National Association of Tax Professionals also offers an online database of tax preparers, and the American Institute of CPAs has one for CPA firms. If you do contemplate hiring a tax preparer you found online, request referrals to past clients so you can ask about the quality of the service they received. A possibly better strategy is to ask people in the industry. This is because your ideal target should have some experience doing returns for vision-related businesses as every industry has its own rules and deduction options.

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