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The Optometrist Manifesto: Ask Questions, Listen, and Earn a Patient for Life

Patients just want to be heard.




I KNOW WHAT I look for in a general practitioner. I want to be heard. I want to know that I have the attention of my doctor and feel comfortable that my treatment plan isn’t based on generalities and assumptions. I want to be able to ask questions and get honest answers. I like when doctors dig into my concerns — ask pointed questions and make connections. I like when a doctor can speak directly and with confidence but still understand that decisions I make about my healthcare are mine to make. Guilt trips break trust. “I told you so” rarely works.

I know a lot of this sounds trivial but I feel that as optometrists we tend to get into a routine and think we have the answers even before doing the exam. I’d argue we need the entire length of the exam to gather data and win the  patient’s trust. They may decide to wait until the end to tell you something or not feel comfortable until then or not find relevance in something quite important because they were not asked. They have to trust us and we them. That can only happen with candid conversation, relatable experiences, and genuine interest.

Talk. It’s not rocket science. Ask your patients questions — not just for the sake of coming to a diagnosis or selling glasses. Really ask them what they do, what they want and what they may struggle with. Be inquisitive. Be interested. Make eye contact. Don’t type and listen at the same time. Ask follow up questions. Show empathy when you can. Be relatable. Identify your own weaknesses and passions. Be human. Are there challenges they face that they don’t want to do anything about? They should feel comfortable talking with you about them and knowing that you hear them and can put those concerns on a shelf until they’re ready to address them. Let them know that everything discussed is a decision you will make together. Make sure they’re comfortable knowing you will always make your educated recommendations but are open to other treatment strategies depending on what works for them.  Really convince them that you are on their side and you are not interested in just making a buck. They need to feel safe. Then, they will ultimately know that what you suggest is genuine, informed and relevant because you took the time to talk to them. That is all they want. They want to feel that during their time with you, the only thing on your mind was their situation and concerns.

Ask questions like you would of a friend or a family member. Be their advocate. Revel in their successes. Join them in their setbacks. What they are telling you usually has to do with more than just their eyes.  Talk and listen. In the end, you’ll have a patient for life.

Dr. Shimul Y. Shah graduated from the University of Michigan in 1994 and The Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1999. Currently settled in Columbus, OH, she has owned Marysville Family Vision in Marysville, OH, for the last five years. Follow the practice on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (@MFamilyVis) to get an inside look at the optical and Quincy the hedgehog.




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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.




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.


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.


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.




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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John Marvin

A Different Approach for Achieving Your Goals This Year

Only 3 percent of people will take the time and discipline to do this, but they’ll make more than 10 times the 97 percent who didn’t.




MY FATHER TURNED 90 years old this past August. My relationship with him has changed over the years, but the older I’ve become, the more I appreciate learning from him. He is a voracious reader, and I enjoy hearing about the books he is reading. This past fall, he suggested I read a book he’d just finished and now I’d like to suggest that you do too. It’s called Goals by Brian Tracy.

Podcast: Is Eyecare in Canada Really More Like the US Than We Think?

Podcast: Is Eyecare in Canada Really More Like the US Than We Think?

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Podcast: What Exactly Does it Take to Become America’s Finest Optical Retailer?

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Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

Everyone is familiar with the importance of setting goals. This time of year, we are inundated with resolutions and fresh starts. But based on studies, 25 percent of people who make New Year Resolutions don’t even keep them a full seven days. Sixty percent abandon them within six months. Why do we have such difficulty achieving goals?

I’d like to suggest a different approach for reaching your goals this year.

Decide on three things you want to achieve. You can choose one or two if you like, but no more than three. There is power and focus that comes from keeping the list small; it doesn’t allow for distractions. Take time to decide what it is you want. Pretend you have three wishes and be careful how you use them. Deciding what you want is the most challenging part of achieving your goals.

Write Them Down

Write a paragraph, describe it in detail and in the present tense; not “I’m going to …” but “I have” or “I am.” Take time to think through the impact of achieving the goal, be specific and detailed in your description. Writing down what you want to achieve is, in itself, powerful in its ability to help you focus. If you contemplate what the goal will do for you, your family or business, you may decide that it’s not a goal you have a burning desire to achieve. Knowing what you don’t want can be as important as knowing what you do. This only happens when you write down your goals in detail.

Make It Measurable

Describe what you want in terms that are measurable. Stating that you want to make more money is not measurable.

How much more? If you’re going to grow your business revenue, then set an exact percentage. Don’t compare it to the industry; set the amount you want to achieve. Determine whether you wish to increase your gross or your collections. Once completed, there will be no question as to whether or not you achieved your goal.

Set a Date

Setting a date is critical as it drives motivation and helps keep the focus on working daily to achieve your goal. Not only should a date be set for when you will reach your goal, but it should be broken down into months, weeks and days. Every big goal is achieved by reaching a series of daily goals. This gives you a plan. Record in your calendar your daily goal and the result. This daily exercise will keep you focused and provide a visual you can use for motivation.

Sounds simple, right? It is, but studies show that only 3 percent of the people who read this will take the time and discipline to put these simple steps into action. Studies also show that the 3 percent who do will make more than 10 times the money of the 97 percent who didn’t. What you experience in this new year is entirely up to you.

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