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Here’s How to Use Social Media to Go Local

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In 2015, 95 million Americans shopped Small Business Saturday,  a 14 percent increase over the previous year’s event. Millennials spend $600 billion a year on local goods and services with no signs of slowing down, so establishing yourself as the local eyecare and eyewear provider of choice is essential. 

According to Forbes magazine, up to 30 percent of potential buyers won’t shop at a small business if it isn’t on social media. So how do you establish yourself as a small business worth supporting in your local community? Here’s how to utilize social media to go local: 

Brand yourself. Social media is the place to broadcast that you are a part of the local community. Make personal graphics for your business that say “shop local” or “shop small” and thank your followers for supporting your local business. You can use free graphic creation apps like Phonto to overlay “Shop Local” text over photos of your optical or office. 

Collaborate with other local businesses. Reach out to businesses you have a connection with to collaborate on a social media campaign. 

Use the right hashtag. Tagging your post with #shopsmall and #shoplocal are great ways to join the national movement, but even better is tagging your local community. For example, if your practice is located in Atlanta, tag #shoplocalAtlanta in your posts. 

Participate in local events … And tell the world about it.  Sponsoring a local youth soccer team, holding community eye screenings, and speaking at local civic clubs or school meetings are all tried and true traditional marketing methods, but how much are you advertising this on your social media? Post frequently about your community involvement and tag the event in your posts so that its followers are more likely to find you. 

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Founded by two millennial ODs and social media entrepreneurs, Defocus Media (defocusmedia.com) manages social media networks for independent optical practices. Dr. Darryl Glover is founder of Eye See Euphoria (eyeseeeuphoria.com) and Dr. Jennifer Lyerly is founder of Eyedolatry (eyedolatryblog.com). For more information contact [email protected]

 

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Cameron Martel

Bad Reviews Don’t Have to Be Bad News

Here’s how to handle them to turn detractors into advocates and potentially earn new business too!

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GOOGLE, FACEBOOK, YELP!, Amazon, and seemingly every other online platform in existence have all made user reviews a focus of their strategy. This isn’t news to you.

Being on the receiving end of a bad review can sting, however you can leverage them to your benefit. Let’s look at how you can handle negative reviews and turn criticism into opportunity.

How Google Views Reviews

Google is on a mission to deliver a best-in-class experience to its users on all platforms.

Looking at search specifically, a great experience for a user involves having their questions answered in an intuitive and pleasant way. In this way, reviews mix with “traditional” SEO, as both SEO and reviews serve to help Google better understand the experience a business provides.

Contrary to popular belief, Google doesn’t immediately tank website rankings when they receive a bad review. If a sprinkle of bad reviews become a deluge, then you should be concerned about your SEO. But if that is the case, then I’d posit that your business has more pressing concerns…

What Bad Reviews Are (& Aren’t)

Focusing on how reviews mix with content, let’s clarify how Google treats bad reviews.

1. Bad reviews are natural and often unavoidable. Google is made up of people, and those people understand that you can’t please everyone.In fact, Google’s Quality Raters — people who review search results and provide Google feedback — are told that even the best sites/businesses get bad reviews.

2. Bad reviews are representative of a single experience, not your business in general. Considering that most people are rational and nuanced, it stands to reason that most people that come across a bad review or two take it into consideration but don’t place toto much emphasis on it. In fact, there is growing evidence that neutral and negative reviews with proper responses actually increase consumer trust.

3. Bad reviews are an opportunity to build trust. I am immediately distrusting of a business that has nothing but glowing four and five-star reviews. Nothing is perfect, and when I see an organization that is apparently flawless, my Spidey-senses start to flare up.

How to Respond

The only thing that customers value more than fair pricing and quality products is when a business treats its customers well. This doesn’t always mean a flawless first experience; it can also be how a business responds to a challenging situation.

There are a lot of ways to respond to a poor review. Before you do, consider leveraging these best practices:

1. Avoid generic or canned responses. Not only will your audience see right through it, but the best outcome you can expect is apathy. Nobody wants platitudes.

2. If appropriate, admit the mistake and provide next-steps. We all make mistakes, so don’t be afraid to own them. Humility is endearing and users will resonate with you for admitting fault. The key is to then provide the next step — “This is what we did wrong, here is how we will fix it.”

3. Be empathetic, not defensive. Getting defensive in your response is a surefire way to alienate the reviewer as well as show other users that your ego is more important than their satisfaction. Bad reviews can sting … it’s best to let the sting roll off your shoulders and to respond with empathy. In a situation where you weren’t at fault, don’t place blame on the customer (or anywhere else for that matter). Acknowledge the problem and focus on solving it; deciding who is at fault doesn’t matter to the denizens of the internet.

4. Drill into specifics. If the review doesn’t go into detail, in your reply ask the customer to reach out to you directly and provide them personally so that you can work with them. Not only does this give the original reviewer a direct line to get their problem solved, but it tells anyone reading the review that you care and want to make things right.

Reviews Are People!

And people respond best when engaged with respect and courtesy. Following the above tips, you’ll turn detractors into advocates (and win new business!).

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John Marvin

How Much is Your Practice Really Worth?

When someone wants to buy your practice make sure to take into account all of the intangibles.

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ANYONE PAYING ATTENTION over the last five years knows there is a significant amount of consolidation happening. An estimated 20 or more companies with funding from private equity firms are actively purchasing private optometry practices. The idea is that this will ultimately lead to a second round of acquisitions with potentially huge valuations.

This consolidation has produced a windfall for companies that professionally, and supposedly objectively, determine the value of a practice. I often get calls from doctors who want to retire and sell their practice to a young associate or entrepreneurial optometrist. I direct them to a handful of professionals I trust.

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Historically, there are three valuations for a practice: the value the buyer determines, the value the banker or lender determines, and the value the seller believes is correct. They all have competing interests. What’s happened in the past five to seven years is the addition of a fourth valuation: whatever a private equity funded company will pay for the practice. I have often heard that the value of anything is what someone is willing to pay.

Many are jumping at the chance to cash in, which usually requires the selling doctor to sign a three to five-year employment agreement.

There are essential aspects to a practice’s value that traditional calculations do not take into account. For people who have been successful in building a large optometry practice, some things are as important as money. For these entrepreneurs, there are other aspects to consider when determining the value of their practice.

Freedom

This might seem esoteric, but there is actual value to having the freedom to practice as you wish. Once you have sold the practice you no longer have the freedom to make equipment purchases you consider essential. You no longer have the freedom to take a vacation with your family on your terms. You no longer have the freedom to determine what products and services you will offer patients.

Connection to Community

When you own a practice, you are grateful for the people in your community who put their trust in you. You show gratitude by becoming involved in your community. You donate to fundraisers. You join civic organizations. You enjoy living in a community that expresses its appreciation for you, your staff, and the health and welfare you contribute. There is a value to your community connection. If you no longer own the practice this changes. It’s now the responsibility of the new owner to connect with their community. Your practice is one of many purchased by them, and they do not have the connection to the community you valued.

Relationships

When you own a practice, you have both independence and responsibility to form relationships. This includes relationships with your staff — and their families — and with your patients. You have staff members who have been with you for years and are invested in you and your commitment to providing care. Those relationships took time and energy and aren’t something an accountant can place a value on. When you no longer own your practice, the building of these relationships is out of your hands.

I could go on … and I bet you can too now that you’re thinking. When someone wants to buy your practice and attempts to determine how much it’s worth, make sure to take into account all of the intangibles. I would encourage you to place some value on things other than just EBITDA.

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Columns

Forget the Buzzwords and BS

A little cynicism could ensure you aren’t just parroting nonsense.

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SCOTT ADAMS, AUTHOR of the popular Dilbert comics, uses the term “buzzwords” in his book The Joy Of Work to describe the corporate use of large words that have no real substantive meaning to obfuscate a lack of knowledge. The idea being that perception trumps substance, or as one of my old bosses would say, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

For example, there is a trend of selling mid-index digitally surfaced lenses with compensated prescriptions and anti-reflective coatings as HD lenses. I have heard opticians explain to patients that “This will improve your vision beyond your natural eye’s ability to see.” Any lens you put in front of the human eye is going to diminish the “definition” versus the eye’s natural image. But hey, never let science get in the way of good marketing. And remember, they aren’t informed patients, they’re marks waiting to be had by the carnies… I mean opticians.

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Many of us have learned our craft via apprenticeship, taking information that is supplied to us anecdotally or by co-workers and reps. Unfortunately, most of us just accept what we’re fed. This leads us to a culture of “appeal to authority” and misinformed opticians who fight to the death to support the inaccurate information they have come to rely upon as sales tools. To illustrate this I will offer an anecdote…

I was at a meeting for a product roll out at a private practice. Two reps were to educate us on their product, which happened to be sunglasses, from a vendor that shall not be named. These two nice men extolled the virtues of their product and the research that went into developing their lenses. They said their company had spent $20 million on developing a new lens coating that created destructive interference. When light hits the lens, it bounces the light back out in an opposing wave to neutralize glare and reflection.

It sounded very impressive.

At the end of the presentation I raised my hand and asked why their company had spent so much to invent a product that already existed. The two salespeople were deeply confused, as were the CEO and practice owner. They asked me to explain. Mildly annoyed, I asked more directly, “Why did your company spend $20 million dollars to invent an anti-reflective coating?”

Silence.

The CEO had no idea what I was talking about. The owner, an OD, had no idea what I was talking about. The reps were clueless. The other opticians in the room gasped, feeling like they’d been had. Guess what line didn’t sell in any of our offices?

We rely on our vendors to inform us about their product, and most give us reliable information, but a healthy dose of cynicism could go a long way towards ensuring you aren’t just parroting off nonsense like a good little sales lemming.

As to the earlier stated “Dazzle them with brilliance…” quote, I would suggest this edit for my fellow opticians and our vendors:

Dazzle them with brilliance: Know your product.

Dazzle them with honesty. The phrase “I don’t know, let me find out for you” is more impressive than you think.

Never, ever, baffle someone with bullshit or buzzwords. You can only abuse someone’s trust once, and once it’s broken there is no repairing it.

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