From special events to advertising, we give you 40 tips to turbocharge your marketing, plus 10 bonus steps to boost your bottom line.
BY BY JULIE FANSELOW AND DAVID SQUIRES
Published in the March/April 2014 issue
YOUR EYECARE AND EYEWEAR BUSINESS offers advantages no big-box retailer or online competitor can match. A warm welcome at the reception desk. Attentive customer service from a smiling stylist. A doctor who wants to be sure patients get exactly what they need for the best-possible vision, and technicians who make certain that eyewear fits right. Your business delivers all this — every day! — with personality, selection and fair pricing. You need to tell the world what you’re doing well — and find ways to do it even better. Get ready to be inspired.
Master these things first, and you’ll have the essentials for success.
HAVE A PLAN. Identifying and marketing to your best possible customers is a sure way to boost your bottom line, but too many ECPs leave this to fate. Your first step to improving your marketing is to figure out what kind of practice you want and the type of patients you desire to serve. Take a weekend (alone, someplace quiet and beautiful) to consider this essential question. Can’t spare that kind of time? OK, then start smaller. Says John Marvin of Practice Principles: “Take one hour. Shut off the computer and phone. Close the door. Focus on deciding what you want.”
SET THE STAGE. Trying to attract high-end eyewear buyers? “It’s all about the experience,” says Louis J L Fullagar of Luxury Eyewear Forum. “When luxury customers shop, they expect the best. Not only does your service delivery have to be exemplary; you have to stand out from the competition. Maybe your presentation begins with gourmet coffee and chocolates or you offer private consultations ... whatever your point of difference is, it must be so captivating that there is no question that you are the only place to shop. Look at your inventory, staff, decor, website and social media and begin taking the steps to maximize your offering in each area.”
MAKE THE PITCH. Forget the elevator pitch. What you need is a stadium pitch — the core story of your business that you’d be ready tell to a stadium-full of potential customers if the opportunity ever presented itself. Kevin Count of Corner Optical in Glenview, IL, orients his stadium pitch at upper-middle-income people who haven’t been happy with past eyewear purchases. For extra drama, imagine getting a standing ovation when your pitch ends.
MAKE A CONNECTION. “Treating each client like an individual and not like a robot is what I stand behind. It’s the personal touch that matters. Those little details,” says Duane Littles of Brooklyn, NY, who sells repurposed vintage eyewear online and in a new retail location. Achieve connections through your database, too: In addition to customers’ contact information, insurance details and Rx, add whatever else you can learn: hobbies, pets’ names, golf handicap and especially their taste in eyewear and sunwear — what they like and don’t like. That way, next time they come in, you can say something like, “I remember you didn’t like round frames, but that you were a big fan of some of the Garrett Leight frames we had. Would you like to see his latest designs? By the way, how’s your pet cat, Muffin?”
Once you’ve established a strong foundation, try these steps to turbocharge your marketing plan.
KEEP SCORE. Big dreams have their place, but many little steps get you there, says John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing. Jantsch suggests you create a scorecard with 10 marketing-related actions and rate each one for importance: say 10 points for speaking to a community group, five for taking a reporter out for coffee and a talk about what indie eyecare providers do, three for writing on your blog. Set a weekly target of 20 points.
CRUNCH THE NUMBERS. Metro Eye of Milwaukee, WI, uses Compulink Advantage to benchmark performance. “We can print a report on pretty much anything, including how each one of our optical stylists is performing,” says marketing director Crystal Behrendt. Monthly meetings are held to compare numbers to the previous month, previous year “and where we are to-date. These meetings are mandatory for all employees, including the doctors and technicians.”
MIX IT UP.“Eyecare businesses can reinvigorate their practices, reveal new talents and boost sales volume by letting team members try new roles, learn something new or swap jobs,” says Shelia Chappell, ODProfit manager for of EyeCarePro. Cross-trained employees are better able to serve clients and your practice, and their “new eyes” may spot possible business-boosting innovations that veterans in a position have overlooked.
DON’T SABOTAGE YOURSELF. In his column for this issue (page 52), Robert Bell of The Visionaries Group suggests that smart ECPs never bring up insurance before patients do. Why deter private-pay clients or those for whom money simply isn’t an issue? “Are you an insurance agent or an optician?”
STORE EVENTS AND HOLIDAYS
Special events and special occasions drive traffic. Be bold, be creative — and plant the notion that holidays, birthdays and anniversaries are all fine times to give the gift of eyewear.
LOOK, SEE, EAT, BUY. “Food trucks are big in our area, so we hire a food truck for our trunk show guests, serve wine and beer, turn up the music, and give out a promotional item to the first 100 guests,” says Dr. Sarah Jerome of Look + See Eyecare in Minneapolis, MN. “Our events are packed, our patients ask when the next event will be, and they bring their friends. We make it a party, and every event generates our new biggest sales day to date. We usually feature one or two frame vendors.”
MOTHER-DAUGHTER NIGHT. Near Mother’s Day, invite mothers and daughters to a Ladies Night Out. Bring in professional make-up artists, hair stylists and the latest fashions so customers look their absolute best before trying on eyewear. (Be sure to photograph the results to post with permission on your website — and encourage participants to share on social media, too.)
HOST A TALK. Try an “Eyewear Secrets of the Stars” talk in which you discuss the celebrities whose eyewear choices work best (especially among brands you carry). Or hold a “Better Vision For Sports” seminar to discuss nutrition, share some eye exercises, and present corrective eyewear options for various sports or outdoor pursuits.
12 BIG DAYS. Don’t plan just one big day of sales before Christmas. Have a dozen. Offer discounts on only a single item a day — and if you can tie each item into a song, give it a shot. (For example, “White Christmas,” “Blue Christmas” and “Silver and Gold” all lend themselves to color- or material-based eyewear picks.) Remind customers to use their year-end flex-dollars.
VALENTINE’S DAY. Hold a “The Moment I Saw You” contest on social media. The most romantic story of meeting each other for the very first time wins a gift certificate toward eyewear at your business.
Your name may not be Warby Parker, but you can use online tools to boost in-store sales.
BEYOND SEO: As the world’s biggest search engine keeps shifting its algorithms, marketers are left asking: What does Google want? Daniel Rostenne, CEO of EyeCarePro, writes, “The answer is — the same thing our potential patients want: they want to know they can trust your website to provide users with a great experience, relevance to what they are seeking and content of value.” Think incoming links: Say you post a special report on kids’ vision therapy on your website and ask the school PTA to link to it. “This will boost your ranking on Google, but it isn’t called SEO — it’s marketing. The key is to be consistently working on ways to market your practice and get your name out there.”
LEARN FROM THE BEST. Bookmark top optical sites including luxuryeyewearforum.com, eyestylist. com and invisionmag.com to learn how high-end eyewear professionals sell and serve.
MAKE ERRORS CORRECTLY. Sometimes people find their way to your site via old links and inactive search engine results. Make the most of those situations by having all of your latest special offers plus suggested key links on your 404 error page.
BE SOCIABLE. Eyewear e-tailer John Lusk of Rivet & Sway says, “A company’s biggest evangelists are its employees and one of the most cost-effective and easiest ways to spread the word about a company’s services and products is through its employees. ... Not to mention that social links are links into your site and will help with your SEO.” Employee evangelists can do damage online, too, so give them guidelines.
START BLOGGING. Blogs are great tools to engage your staff and feed your social media streams. Add one to your website, take turns writing about (and photographing!) cool new frames, customers’ great glasses, events and more. Cross-post everything on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or what have you.
|ACT ON IT RIGHT NOW!|
| TEN THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT THIS MINUTE TO GET MORE
PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS
| 1 Start a photo gallery of happy patients/customers. Next customer who walks through the door is your first subject.
2 Rewrite your “About Us” page so it shows your personality and passion for serving your customers.
3 Create a displaycase vignette (e.g. passport, air tickets, leather backpack with a pair of “classic travel sunglasses”) for a line of eyewear or sunwear.
| 4 Call a professional photographer to take pictures of your store/practice — and you and your staff, too.
5 Make your storefront signage more welcoming. (“Welcome” is better than “Open,” and “Come on in!” is better than both.)
6 Speaking of welcoming signage, one in your front window that says “Eye Exams: $50” will attract walk-ins who feared such tests would cost much, much more.
| 7 Print a new business card with a special offer on it. (Plus, a price for eye exams.)
8 Take a long look at the websites of hated rivals like Warby Parker. They are doing a lot of things right.
9 Walk each client to the door at the end of their visit, and say farewell with a genuine “Thanks for your business” (even if they didn’t buy anything yet).
10 Begin a customer-service contest: first team member to receive an unsolicited letter of praise from a customer wins a prize. Start? This minute, of course
“Advertising doesn’t cost — it pays” is an age-old slogan that’s still true. Here’s how to maximize your ad dollars.
REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT. “Frequency and repetition build trust, and trust is the single most important prerequisite to opening the door and closing the sale for your products and services,” optical business expert John Marvin writes on PracticePrinciples.net. “Study after study has shown that the more often you repeat your sales message, the further up the ‘short list’ you go when patients consider eyecare services and product options because you have become familiar and trusted.” Adds Jeff Hill of Meridian Consulting, “The biggest mistake any advertiser can make is walking away from a successful campaign. Marketers often get sick of a campaign before consumers do.”
BRAND RELENTLESSLY. Branding isn’t a trend, it’s a reality. Every flier you produce, every radio spot you air, should be distinctively you. This doesn’t just mean your ads should have your corporate logo or slogan. They should also reflect your overall image consistently. When a company recognized for its quality and service suddenly tries to pass itself off as sexy or witty for a single ad, it’s just ... odd. Changing your image is fine if it’s something you really need to do, but don’t do it with a oneoff ad or event.
SPEND RIGHT. How much should you spend on advertising? Roy Williams, the “Wizard of Ads” (wizardofads.com), says it depends on your location. Williams suggests shooting for a “cost of exposure” of rent plus advertising totaling 10 to 12 percent of your annual gross sales.
MYSTERY SHOP. If you’re thinking about newspaper or TV advertising, call other businesses whose ads appear in the newspaper section or on the TV show you’re considering. You’ll get a good idea of what results you can expect, direct from the people who will know best.
AIM YOUR FIRE. Dominating a single medium, whether it’s print, radio, telemarketing or direct mail, can be much more powerful than spreading your message thinly across several different media. This is especially true if you have a very targeted consumer base. With a broader base, you may be able to spread your ad dollars around.
IN THE KNOW. Make sure your employees know what you’re advertising, says Michael Corbett, author of The 33 Ruthless Rules of Local Advertising. It’s never good when a client comes in eager for the designer frame they saw in your advertisement — and your employee scratches his or her head and says, “What frame was that?”
JUST THE FACTS. In promotional copy, don’t use fancy phrases, use fancy facts, says Jay Levinson. Here’s an example of a fancy phrase: “Our store offers the best selection of eyewear in the entire community.” And here’s a fancy fact: “Our eyewear store has more than 5,000 frames in stock and can get you any of 50,000 other frames within a week.” Which is more powerful?
For promotions that will leave your competitors saying, “I sure wish we’d thought of that,” have a go at some of these ideas.
NO MAN’S LAND. Looking for cheap advertising space? Buy something that’s never been bought before, suggests Jay Levinson. Say you notice there’s no advertising on the fences at the local Little League field. Go to the league organizers and tell them what you’ll pay for an advertisement on the outfield fence. Since it’s never been bought before, you’ll have no competition and the price should be low.
GOLDEN TICKETS. Similar idea ... offer to buy ad space on the back of local sporting or arts events tickets.
GOING MOBILE. Often you’ll find that some frames haven’t sold because of where they are placed. Changing an item’s location can turn a slow seller into a good, though probably not great, seller. Some spots are dead for some items at one time, where they might be hot for others at another time. You’ll never know unless you keep your goods flowing.
HOT STUFF. Great service for an eyecare practice, especially during the summer? Cold washcloths. People come in hot, dirty and irritated. They leave fresh, happy and with a cool memory of you.
NO MORE SQUINTING. Diners at a dimly lit high-end steakhouse forget their glasses and can’t read the menu? No problem, because your eyewear shop has a display of cool readers available for purchase near the entrance. Spur-of-the moment spec sales are a great cross-promotional tool, says Juli Ann Radmanesh of EyeCarePro.
HOUR POWER. If your competitors are all open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., keep your business open until 7 p.m. — or even later one or two nights a week. Promote your extended hours in advertising and social media. Invite people to stop in after work for an exam and a look at your eyewear.
BOTTOMS UP. If you purchase a mailing list, work from the bottom of the list instead of the top. Give Archie Anderson a break. Contact Zeke Zoolander instead.
WORD OF MOUTH
Good word of mouth happens more quickly if you ask for it. Encourage referrals whenever and however you can.
STAR POWER. Try to get your eyewear onto local news anchors and sports stars. Write personalized letters or cards inviting them to come in and check out your selection for their (free!) use. Include visuals of products you think they may find appealing. Follow up with a phone call or an email reiterating your offer — and throw in a little flattery. If this doesn’t work, reach out to the producer of the station or the team’s PR person.
LET YOUR CUSTOMERS WORK FOR YOU. Make up business cards for your best customers featuring a photo of them in their favorite frames. People will be asking where they got their glasses, so offer them an incentive to hand out the calling cards. Service people who work in the public eye — think restaurant and bar staff, taxi drivers and sales people — can be especially good candidates for this treatment, as long as their employers are OK with it.
TIME TO BRAG. If you do a lot of eyewear makeovers and custom fitting, then it’s time to create your own “brag book.” Take before-andafter pictures of your clients with their new eyewear and ask them to jot a few words about how they feel in their new frames. Post these on your website and social media (with permission) and in photo albums you keep in your waiting room and dispensary.
‘BECAUSE YOU’RE WORTH IT.’ Selling luxury eyewear? “If you are going to sell $1,000 glasses, you better be able to handle the questions that come with the dollar sign,” says eyewear doyenne Barbi Tuckerman. “‘Why is it so expensive?’ is only the beginning.” Be ready to explain why the materials and workmanship merit the premium price and to share the stories of the designers whose creations you carry. (See Smooth Seller on page 56 for more of Tuckerman’s sales philosophy.)
PARTING THOUGHT. Put a sign near your exit asking people to remember to tell their friends about you — and send a follow-up email with the same suggestion.
GOING OUT OF BUSINESS
Hopefully, you’ll never have to do this. But if you do, here are ways to say goodbye gracefully — or gain new, lifetime customers when a competitor closes.
‘CHECK THE RULES. If you’re going out of business, check state and local regulations regarding your sale. Length, size of sale, terminology used and even frequency may be regulated.
‘TRY SOMETHING SOFTER. If you want to avoid the stigma of a “Going Out of Business” sale, why not have a “Retirement Sale”? In most cases, this will be free of GOB sales rules as it does not indicate that the store will be closed after the owner retires. And instead of avoiding you, regular customers will probably even drop by to wish you good luck.
‘ WHEN A COMPETITOR FOLDS ...If it’s a friendly competitor, have the owner write a nice endorsement letter about you — or write it yourself and get his approval and signature. Print the letter on his stationery and send to his mailing list. Make the customers a very special introductory offer — a free eye exam or $100 off on their first purchase ... whatever it takes to get them in the door. (For the friendly competitor who offers you her customer list, offer a small percentage of sales you make to her customers as a courtesy.) Also, if it’s available, buy your competitor’s phone number. If he’s willing, have him record a voice message saying that his store is now closed and he recommends all his customers go to your practice because he trusts you as an eyecare professional. If a notso friendly competitor calls it quits, follow the previous steps — but expect to pay your retiring rival for the privilege, perhaps a percentage of sales you make to his customers for a year after the closing.
|10 MARKETING MUST-READS|
|Ready for cooler advertising, improved word of mouth, and more powerful promotions? Just read one of these modern marketing classics a week for the next 10 weeks and let the inspiration guide you.|
|Free Prize Inside
by Seth Godin Become a master of “edgecraft,” the concept of differentiating your business from rivals.
|The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
by Al and Laura Rie The ultimate primer to building a strong, memorable, consistent brand.
|Why We Buy
by Paco Underhill This anthropological look at the consumer experience will change the way you look at your eyewear board.
|Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide To Creating Great Ads
by Luke Sullivan Lessons from a master on the creative process of advertising. Wise and compulsively readable.
|33 Ruthless Rules of Local Advertising
by Michael Corbett Great companion book to HEY, WHIPPLE, with a business emphasis on getting value and beating local rivals.
|Made to Stick
by Chip and Dan Heath Learn the most difficult (and most essential) marketing skill: creating stories that stick in the mind of audiences.
by Jay Conrad Levinson The classic marketing guide for businesses with big dreams and tiny budgets.
|Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless, Customer Loyalty Is Priceless
by Jeffrey Gitomer Jam-packed with ideas to build a word-of-mouth-spreading army of fans for your business.
|Hug Your Customers
by Jack Mitchell A top retailer shares his tips on creating over-the-top customer experiences. And, yes: the title is a metaphor.
by Jon Spoelstra Is your image a little too stiff? Get some guidance from an expert in the art of oddball marketing.