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The Six Most Profitable Strategies Learned From My Optical Business Coach, Part 2

By Ted Frangos

Release Date: October 2008

Expiration Date: April 6, 2014

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this program, the participant should be able to:

  1. Learn how traditional business coaching applies to optical.
  2. Develop a mission, vision and value statement.
  3. Understand how to measure business effectiveness and a unique selling proposition.

Faculty/Editorial Board:

Ted FrangosAs president of Victory Business Coaching Ted Frangos advises small to medium size business owners by assessment and evaluation, exploration of strategies specializing in growth for the ophthalmic office. Frangos has had a long history of management and consulting experience in the wholesale and retail sectors.






Credit Statement:

This course is approved for one (1) hour of CE credit by theAmerican Board of Opticianry (ABO). Course STWJMI108-2


Six Profitable Strategies from My Optical Business Coach

1. A Mission, Vision & Value Statement — It’s vital. 2. Your Business’ Effectiveness — How good are we really? 3. Your Unique Selling Proposition — A few words can change everything. 4. Laser Accurate Target Marketing — Are You Talkin’ to Me? 5. Increasing Conversion — Converting just looking into buyers and customers. 6. Communication Skills — How Charlie, Lucy, Snoopy & Linus can help increase profits.

Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how well you can service your patients, or how impressive your inventory is or what a great pair of glasses you can produce if you don’t have someone to sell them to. The bottom line for all businesses is profits and profits won’t exist without sales and sales won’t happen without marketing.

In part 1, we described how to develop the business mission, ways to measure you and how to develop a unique business proposition. In part 2, we’ll learn the importance of marketing and communication to achieve the strategies that will grow our businesses.

4. LASER ACCURATE TARGET MARKETING — ARE YOU TALKIN’ TO ME?

It’s important here to distinguish between marketing and advertising. Although all advertising can be considered marketing, all marketing is not advertising. For the purposes of this section, we are going to consider marketing as the strategies you will be developing to decide the content (message) and the outlet (medium) of your advertising. This is critical to being effective and efficient with your advertising budget.

In his best selling book, “Book Yourself Solid,” Michael Port talks about six points of contact during the marketing cycle that I have found to be the most powerful teaching on the subject target marketing. I highly recommend B.Y.S. as Michael calls it. More importantly, these principles are always effective in growing a business’ market share. I believe before you even think about spending a nickel on your advertising, you must first know…

Who is your target market?
What is it they want from you?
When do they think of you or your services?
Where do they look for you?
Why should they do business with you?
How do you want them to contact you?

Who?

Write a short paragraph describing who you want to be your customers (target market).

I don’t mean just age and gender and their geographical location.

Write down a full description of exactly who you want to come to your practice to do business with you. It should include, but not be limited to, the neighborhood(s) they live in, the vehicle (price range) they drive, the number of children and the school the children attend. Also include where they shop, is it Kmart, Neiman Marcus... or both? Do they eat out and how often? Where? McDonalds… Ruth Chris? Lastly, are they professionals, business owners, blue collar, retired, college students?

Take the above criteria and write a long sentence describing the patient who your practice is targeted at serving. You probably can do more than one, but only one should be the overwhelming primary target market patient. It may look something like…

My ideal patient is female, married, two children in xyz private school. She drives a late model SUV that cost above 40K new; he drives an import sedan that cost over 50K when new. They live in the gated community, xyz country club, have memberships at the golf club and fitness spa… they both work, eat out two to three times per week, shop at the mall consistently, and vacation for at least one week in the summer and ski at least one week in the winter in Vail…

You get the idea. Obviously these are upscale patients for an upscale optical. They may be who you are looking for or your optical may be more family and budget oriented. The point is, if you take just a couple of minutes to do this exercise, you will be able to see where you should and shouldn’t be spending advertising dollars. One more thing—the change to the economy may have also changed this patient—be aware of their status now.

What?

Notice I did not ask, what do they buy from you. I asked what they want from you… big difference. What they buy from you is eyeglasses, contact lenses, services, etc.

I want you to think about what they want. Do they want an inexpensive or fast solution to their vision problem? Or could it be that their vision issue is really pretty low on their list of wants? Maybe they’ve come to you because they are looking for the fashion side of what our wonderful industry can provide. Or maybe, they just feel like YOU are the one they want serving their needs and/or the needs of their children and family.

When you have clearly determined what your patient really want from your particular practice, you have now identified one of the major strengths of your business. Something you want to exploit as you create your advertising tactics. The main objective of this exercise is to get you to stop thinking about what you offer your patients and start to focus on the benefits they receive when you serve them… because that is all they care about and therefore it should be the way you are communicating with them.

When?

This is the beautiful part about our industry. We have an incredible advantage over most retailers since we can remind our patients about their need for an annual check up… oh, by the way, are ODs the only eyecare professionals who can send out annual reminders?

However, if you are relying on just that to drive business to you, you’re leaving a lot of business on the table… or worse, allowing your competition to go after your “loyal” customers. How many customers do you have who are getting married or have children getting married or graduating from high school this year? Is it possible they may be interested in updating their eyewear for the photos? Maybe if you ask them they will. Or how about employment? Do you have any customers who are spending hundreds of dollars on a new resume and more on new business wardrobe items who maybe should get that eyewear with the paper clip holding the temple on replaced before the “big interview”?

How many opticals jumped on the Sarah Palin bonanza? I know of several around south Florida where I live, but the question is: did you? Start to think about when… when people think about optical services and you will start to see opportunities that you probably have been ignoring.

Where?

Yellow Pages? Online? Are you visible from a main street or are you in a heavily trafficked shopping center or mall? Back in the early ’80s, I considered purchasing an optical that was on the 26th floor of an office building in the Gramercy Park section of New York. Talk about needing to know where my customers would have looked for me.

How about word-of-mouth? The answer is still all of the above although the phone book is in my opinion, breathing its last breaths for this industry; which brings us to the Internet. A moment ago, as I was writing this, I Googled “eyeglasses.” I have to tell you, my optical colleagues, I don’t feel very well. In fact, I think my Google experience has made me ill. If not ill, very upset.

Almost all of the web sites Google brought up on the first page were not ECPs. They were advertisements with small pictures of frames from catalogs and big bright starbursts that read: “quality prescription eyewear for $8.” I could not find a local optical where I could go and get professional, personal, service anywhere on the Google search results page. Having a quality web site and using search engine optimization (SEO) to get potential customers to see your site is not that expensive anymore. There are customers who are ready to buy eyewear looking for YOU there everyday.

Why?

If you go back to the June 2009 issue of 20/20, you will find Part 1 of this CE. Contained therein was an exercise for creating a mission statement and a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for your business. If you completed those exercises, you have more than enough powerful and compelling reasons why your target market should be doing business with you. Use your USP in all your advertising and you will certainly see a marked increase in new and loyal customer activity.

How?

This is where you begin to take control and dictate where you want your customers and future customers to enter your sales cycle. Do you want them to call you first or do you want them to go to your web site? If you want them to go to your site, what do you want them to do next? Do you want them to enter their name and email or do you want them to call you after they have navigated a while? Maybe you want them to make an appointment right there on your web site. It’s not difficult to setup. Your web designer can do it for you quite easily. There are several directions you can give to your prospective customer at this point. The main thing is once you have gotten the attention of someone who is even remotely interested in purchasing eyewear or contacts, you must make it very easy and very simple for them to take the next step toward doing business with you. Even if they stumbled upon your ad or site at a time when they don’t need or want your service, you want to get them to at least leave their contact information so you can keep in touch with them through a drip marketing campaign so when they are ready, you are the one they think of first.

5. INCREASING CONVERSION — CONVERTING “JUST LOOKING” INTO BUYERS

Although most opticals work by appointment, it can’t hurt to utilize the same strategies that retail locations with high walk-in traffic employ. The first thing people should see when they enter your location is the product you would like to see on their noses when they are leaving. Successful retailers always have the best “pieces” immediately visible when you enter the store.

The idea is to get customers “juices” flowing from the minute they enter your practice. When it comes to making a buying decision, it’s all about emotion. Think about it, when the exterior of your home starts to look old, faded or dirty, what do you do? Paint it of course. How about when your car starts to look old, faded or dirty… not quite the same solution comes to your mind does it, especially when you see a brand new beauty drive by.

You may be able to live with your current vehicle or even clean it up a bit, but that “feeling” that comes over you as soon as you let your mind wander to thoughts like, how nice that new car would look parked in my driveway! That’s the emotional urge we want customers to have about the finest and most profitable eyewear we have in inventory.

At the end of the day we don’t sell someone anything that’s not appropriate for their prescription or situation. Professionalism and prescription analysis skills will always be of primary concern. At the same time, the retailing aspect of eyewear is one of its best attributes. Retailing is the science of getting customers emotionally connected. Do it well, create a wonderful experience for the customer and it will create a long term relationship.

6. COMMUNICATION SKILLS— HOW CHARLIE, LUCY, SNOOPY & LINUS CAN HELP INCREASE PROFITS.

In the fourth century BC, the Greek scholar Hippocrates identified four basic traits of human behavior. While nobody’s personality consists of only one of these observed traits, most everyone is dominant in one or two of them. Hippocrates termed these traits choleric, sanguine, melancholy and phlegmatic. We’ll dispense with the Greek and use characters that are much more familiar to us to help us understand this concept.

Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Linus are walking down the street on their way to play baseball. As they go past Lucy’s house, she appears at the door, joins them and they continue on their way. Except there’s a conflict. Lucy says she wants to play football. Football? Charlie exclaims. We have the bats, the baseball, the gloves. We aren’t going to play football Lucy, we’re playing baseball.

Football. Baseball. Football! Lucy says as she grits her teeth… Guess what they play? Football, of course. But what’s important is why they play football. And that’s because Lucy is the dominant character. It’s how she’s wired. Actually it doesn’t matter what they play as long as it’s her idea. To Snoopy; it’s “all good.” He’ll play, because it’s, well, play. Linus, will stay in the game but won’t understand why in the world anyone would want to sweat and get dirty. Sooner or later he’ll lose concentration and worry about his blanket. And Charlie; he’s a wreck. He wants to keep everyone happy. Baseball was his idea and he got everyone out in the hot sun to play. But he knows there’s no way he can stand up to dominant Lucy. So he sets out to compromise with everyone so everybody’s happy and nobody gets their feelings hurt.

So, what does all that have to do with optical sales? Everything. Because patients are like Lucy or the others. Identify them and you will have a much easier time communicating and achieving the desired outcome.

To properly deal with each type of person, don’t manipulate anyone; and try to make them comfortable by treating them according to their personality. In the long run, that will make everyone’s experience go a lot smoother. Here are some tips:

Often (but not necessarily) someone’s occupation indicates their personality profile. An accountant, engineer, computer programmer for example are likely to be much like Linus. They love detail, perfection, order and neatness. Spend a little extra time on technical details such as materials and even progressive lens design. They will enjoy the education and be more attached to their eyewear. Sales people on the other hand, (Snoopy) often are not concerned with a lot of detail.

They strive to be friendly, move forward with matters quickly. They’re main goal in life is getting things done just like everyone else, but it better be fun! Make the eyewear selection process a good time and you will have a friend… and customer for life.

Then there’s the Charlie Browns of the world: calm, serious, quiet, goes along with the crowd just to be nice and not make any waves. These people are dedicated, loyal and very even keeled. Make sure you don’t give them too many choices. If you’ve ever had a customer who just couldn’t make up his mind or make a decision, chances are good he was a Charlie Brown. You can easily steer these people to where you want them to go … and they will actually appreciate the guidance. Which brings us to Lucy. She could have run just about any company. Maybe even some mid-sized countries. These people are all about get it done, stick to the facts, don’t waste time, mine or anyone else’s. They’re not shy about telling others their opinion and often seem to be in a hurry. Be direct, brief and to the point. Tell her that anti-reflective treatments are valuable and important. She’ll take your word on it as a professional. If you start telling a Lucy about how many layers are on each side, how the light waves cancel each other, where the titanium in the frame was mined or other minute details, they’ll glaze over in a New York minute. You’ve lost them. They’re mind is back at work or on something else and quite frankly, they’ll consider you boring. Show them just a couple of excellent frame choices; explain how someone like them should be using progressives with AR, etc. Set it up to make a quick educated decision and it’s done. When you know how to treat these tough-minded demanding individuals, they are actually the easiest to get along with. One more tip; when possible, let them think everything is their idea, they love that.

Understanding people’s personality traits and adjusting the sales process to them is critical to your success at the time of purchase. It creates rapport and relationships with your customers that will last for decades.

CONCLUSION

Make purchasing easy. Decide who you want to have as customers and target them with specific marketing. Create and maintain a professional retail environment for them to visit. Know how to interact with each customer by learning about him or her. Take the time to apply these principles for a successful and profitable business.