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Here Are Our Top 10 Tips for 2018

INVISION offers practical advice for your eyecare business.




THERE’S A NO SHORTAGE of ways to rate a tip, from novelty to boldness to ingenuity to relevance … but the main yardstick would seem to be its potential to make a difference. So, with that in mind, we present our Top 10 Tipsheet items of 2018. Enjoy! And we hope they have a practical use for your business:

Shorten Your Planning Year to 3-4 Months

Consultants Brian Moran and Michael Lennington aren’t big believers in the value of a year, at least when it comes to setting goals. A year’s too big to get your head around, they argue in their book The 12-Week Year, and there’s too much unpredictability involved in planning for 10 or 11 months in the future. Besides, it’s awful for motivation: the New Year surge of enthusiasm fades rapidly, while the feeling of racing to the finish line — that extra burst psychologists call the “goal looms larger effect” — doesn’t kick in until fall. In its place, they advocate dividing your year into quarters, and to think of each 12 weeks as a stand-alone “year” — a stretch long enough to make significant progress on a few fronts, yet short enough to stay focused.

Repetition Is Your Friend

There’s a reason infomercials drag on forever: our human weakness for pattern recognition. We’re programmed to think that something we’ve heard repeatedly is more important than something we’ve heard only once. Yet, as a blog at pointed out, many business owners believe that if someone doesn’t immediately latch onto an ideas when it’s said the first time, different way needs to be found to say it. “If you have a well-honed idea and you’re simply trying to market it better, get comfortable saying the same thing multiple times,” writes Martin Zwilling. Trust, love, forever. There aren’t too many messages you should stray from when it comes to marketing bridal.

Be a Little French, Get Away

Few great ideas happen in the office. In recognition of that and the general benefits of a good work/life balance, Capitol Hill Vision, Seattle, WA, builds out-of-office time into every week. “Being out (and staying) out of the office one day in midweek – it is good for peace of mind, keeping up on the journals, and working smarter. Maybe a little something from the French!” says owner Brett D. Llewellyn, O.D.

For 2018, try a twist on your usual new year resolution: Vow to stop doing something that would actually make you a better, fuller person or boss, something worthwhile – like joining a book club, learning to cook or tracking down an out-of-touch school friend — but that, if you’re honest, you don’t have time for. “Most of us proceed as if getting everything done might be feasible,” says Guardian columnist Oliver Burkeman. It isn’t; the wiser plan is to get more strategic about what you abandon. “Not because those things are bad; because it’s the only way to do other things well,” says Burkeman.

End Photos of Repaired Frames with Text Messages.

Text messaging repair updates has a host of advantages over the humble phone call — no need for repeated calls, no fear of catching someone at an inconvenient time, it’s millennial friendly, provides a record, can be automated … and allows you to illustrate the progress with a photo. Your tech-savvy clients are likely to get a kick out of seeing their beloved frames looking like new again. And if they share or even just show the photo around the office, it’s free marketing

Search and You Shall Find

In the year 2018, more people are buying big-brand frames, ordering their eyewear online and generally exploring alternative channels to a traditional Main Street supplier. As an optician you can sullenly resist these changes or embrace them. And the first place to do that is via your website. Make adjustments to your SEO terms to ensure anyone in your market needing “adjustments,” “repairs,” “emergency services” and even upgrades for their “Ray-Bans,” “Oaklies,” or “Maui Jims” will find a warm welcome – and possibly a new ECP — at your practice.

No Open-Ended Questions

Have you ever ended a long email with “Thoughts?” If you answered yes to this question, then you are evil, says email app maker Sanebox in their very useful email guide (

Instead, be specific. Say “Do you think we should do X, Y or Z?” This saves everyone time and stops an email thread becoming unwieldy and inflated.

As Good As It Gets

It’s another case of perfect being the enemy of good: Younger doctors spend way too much time — and effort — on contact lens rechecks, says Rick Rickgauer, co-owner (is that correct??) of Vision Associates, Girard, PA. “I’m always harping on our doctors to tell them, it is the best it’s going to get. Let them order.”

Celebrate Your Successes

Working in a medical practice is draining. Financial pressures and time constraints aside, practitioners and staff are often working with people who are in discomfort, adding to the stress levels. But because the work in itself is also fundamentally good, you’re improving people’s lives every day, it’s important to set aside time to recognize and celebrate the victories when they come. And this shouldn’t be limited to patient care: “If someone figures out a way to save 20 percent on office supplies, recognize that contribution as well,” says an advice column for ECPs on the American Express’s Open Forum.

Passing the Buck

BJ Chambers of Carrera Optical in McQueeney, TX, has a neat — and cheeky — way of dealing with overly demanding customers: She keeps keep business cards of “other” optical shops on hand and gives them to problem patients and suggests they “go visit.”

It Starts with the Inventory

At the heart of any practice is its vision care. But it’s more often the optical that pays the bills. That’s a financial lesson Larah Alami, owner of Hudson River Eye Care, in Tarrytown and White Plains, NY, admits she was slow to learn. “We just implemented a serious inventory and pricing strategy which proved wildly successful in just two weeks. We should have started our practice with an inventory plan from the start and no doubt we would have made more money, experienced greater efficiency, and made our patients and staff happier.”

Embrace the Pain

Bad online reviews hurt, and most business owners would prefer they just disappear into the nether pages of Google. But if you’re willing to try to learn from them, they can also be a valuable source of feedback. That’s the approach at Bakersfield Eye Care Optometric Center in Bakersfield, CA. “We have had our share of 1-star reviews that hurt our pride. Instead of brushing it off, we discuss the review as a team and decide how we are going to learn and grow from the ‘terrible thing’ someone said about OUR practice, says co-owner Son Nguyen. That approach helps explain why the practice Is the highest rated practice in its area on social media.

Ending on a Positive

Upon delivery of a new set of frames, never say “Come back if you have any problems,” advises Mickey Bradley, the owner of Patrick Optical in Fort Worth, TX. It’s far better, he says, to end with a positive last line, like “let us know how many compliments you receive on your new look.”

Install an Emergency Button

This is a feature that should be mandatory on all ECP’s websites: An emergency eyecare link. On the home page of Invision Optometry’s website such a button is one of the first things a visitor will notice. It links to a hotline at the San Diego, CA practice as well as featuring a large red button with the universal symbol for first aid that can connect distressed patients to the practice with one click on their mobile phone.

Let a Decent Light Shine

Edward Dean Butler travels the world as a consultant to the optical trade and just about everywhere he goes, he runs into a pet peeve – badly lit eyewear retailers.

“Many, many optical stores are so badly lit that business actually suffers,” says Butler, who founded the Lenscrafters chain. Good lighting requires expertise, he wrote on a wrote in a commentary on But here are three things to look out for:

1. Never light frames from the back. They look washed out and you cannot see the real colors. Instead, light them from the front using a tungsten filament color.

2. Use professional lighting colors, certainly not high kelvin/blue-white. So-called warm white is not horrible, but professional lighting colors (salmon pink, believe it or not) is far better. “Go to the mall and look at the lighting colors in national chains,” he recommends.

3. Never use bright lights. “Surface imperfections and dust show up and turn off customers,” he says.

Prime Property

Some of the best local businesspeople to do a little mutual backscratching with are real estate agents. They know what parts of the community are seeing growth, can facilitate introductions to potential new customers moving into your neighborhood (think welcome packages), and can give you the lowdown on the local property market. With such thoughts mind, the innovative ECPs at Roadrunner Eyecare in Albuquerque, NM— did an interview for the website of local realtor that made both look good.

Highlight Local Links

Keeping it local. That’s the theme at Family Vision Care in Alma, GA, where patients are rewarded for their loyalty with gift cards to local coffee shops or boutiques, and baskets of locally crafted scented soaps. “We’re a local business and we thrive on our local patients,” says Dr. Blake Hutto. “Patients appreciate the special gesture and we almost always have another patient referred in from something so simple as a kind gift,” says Hutto, who runs the practice with Dr. Jim McQuaig.

Dump the Demo Lens

Before you show your next pair of demonstration frames to a customer, whip out the lenses, advises Kevin Kretch, owner of Eyes on Chagrin in Woodmere, OH. “Ninety-nine percent of our Rx glasses have anti-glare coating and most demo lenses do not. Therefore cosmetically, the frames look nicer with no lenses at all than the demos on the shelf,” he says

Say Thanks for the Roof-Erral

Thanking people for referrals is a big part of the vision business. It’s why Charlie Blankenship of The Spectacle Shoppe in St. Paul, MN, keeps dog biscuits on hand for those not infrequent times that a customer comes in with a mangled pair of frames thanks to the affectionate attention of the house hound. “It adds a bit of humor to the situation but I also believe it gives it that kind of personal touch that stays with the guest … and helps drive your word of mouth advertising,” he writes on the Daily Optician.

Bigger Than Texas

Dr. Texas Smith of of Dr. Texas L. Smith & Assoc. calls it a “trip” when he finds himself “giving a patient their first progressive add lens when I gave them their first Rx in kindergarten.” To help him ensure his message is getting across in the schoolrooms of his local community in Citrus Heights, CA, he gives every teacher who comes in for an exam a 10-foot high eye chart that has his name and phone number on the bottom. “But most important, I give that teacher one for all the other teachers in the school,’ he says of the marketing tactic.

Shop the Competition

Part of any planning for the New Year should include scoping out the competitive landscape. A lot of business owners will quietly drop by a rival’s store to see how they do things, what they stock and how much they charge. It’s good practice, but when was the last time you actually bought something from a competitor? If not, you may be overlooking what makes your competitor tick.

And of course, we wouldn’t be living by our own advice if you didn’t give you a little more than you expected, so here’s a bonus tip:

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].



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