Compete with Online Marketing by Relieving Customer Pain

RelieveCustomerPainBy Grant Larsen

We’ve all heard the statistics on how bad news outsells good news every day of the week. Just turn on your local TV news or look at the front page of your daily paper. Those who rushed into social media to promote their businesses quickly learned that blasting your network with happy stories or self-serving promotions got you blocked or ignored by almost everyone. Digital consumers are so good at filtering advertising that they only listen to product messages that make them happy or solve a problem.

How did online eyewear marketers establish a strong position in the marketplace? Using tools available to all of us online, they discovered what optical consumers hate about bricks-and-mortar retailers and relieved their pain.

What Pains Does Online Shopping Address?

  • Don’t like pushy sales people? How about one easy price?
  • Hate the hassle of shopping? Here’s a quick app to help you pick out frames.
  • Afraid of buying from unknown online retailers? How about getting your first pair free?
  • Not sure if you’re getting the best price? Here’s out low price guarantee.

The Bricks-and-Mortar Response

Now that all of your online competition is highlighting the reasons consumers shouldn’t buy from you, it’s time to take action. Here are some solutions to break through to your optical customers and relieve their pains. Let’s start where consumers are searching for information on what eyewear to buy.

Your Website

For years optical website design has focused on showing off the ECP’s investment and telling visitors how great their service is. Instead, online messaging and design should focus on the following:

  • Tired of searching for frames online? Come here for our real-time, expert advice.
  • Love your glasses, but want to see better? We have the best in lens designs to match designer frames.
  • Fed up buying dated knockoffs from online retailers? We have the latest in trending eyewear from top designers.
  • Worried about how your complex vision needs will be met by non-experts working phone lines from overseas? Meet with your local licensed eyecare professional for the best possible vision outcome.

These messages can convert website visitors into appointments and in-store buyers. They capitalize on your competitors’ weaknesses and emphasize the problems and difficulties of shopping the Internet for eyewear. They make your business a solution for Internet shopping pains.

Social Marketing

There’s no question that 2-for-1 offers, 50-per-cent-off deals and free eye exams are common eyewear promises and they certainly have consumer-stopping power. But keep in mind that in today’s digital information age, consumers are skeptical of exaggerated promotional offers. The fear of poorly fitting eyewear, compromised vision and poor quality are often amplified when people are buying for their children or referring friends and relatives. Identifying problems such as these and the solutions you offer to them are great topics for email and word-of-mouth campaigns. Emphasizing the risks of buying online and making your business the solution is a good recipe for social sharing.

Sample Messages

  • We Make All Our Customers See Better with Just One Visit.
  • The #1 Learning Disability is Poor Vision: Book an Appointment Today.
  • Spending Hours Online Looking for Eyeglasses? Try Our 10-Minute Fit – 15 Minutes for Kids.

These messages might not fit your store or retail focus perfectly but they should give you a starting point for a new approach, one that emphasizes the value of meeting consumer needs. Whether you’re using social media, emails, outdoor signage, websites or Internet ads, breaking through to new customers and converting them to in-store shoppers requires a different strategy in today’s competitive optical market. Identifying your different clients and relieving each of their pains will set you on a path to new business growth.

Turn Digital Consumers Into Optical Buyers

By Grant Larsen


You have a high-traffic location, brilliant merchandising, the latest in branded fashion frames and years of selling experience. Yet growing numbers of digital consumers are walking out of your dispensary without a backward glance. In many cases, the lack of pre-purchase marketing by ECPs is creating customers who simply have no intention of buying from their existing eyecare provider.

Top marketing companies and large agencies start multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns by meticulously mapping out how targeted consumers buy each product. Armed with this research, they can adjust marketing tools and digital campaigns to match specific consumer groups. Online retailers and large chains know in great detail when and how to engage digital consumers and exactly what offers will entice them to buy. As an independent optical retailer or even a small multi-office practice, you don’t have the marketing dollars to hire an agency or research the consumer decision-making process. However, you can take research information, apply it to your business and turn digital shoppers into digital buyers.

The following tips will help you turn “just looking” consumers into buyers.

It’s Time for a Brand Audit

Clear off the largest table in your office and lay out your recent advertisements, business brochures, promotions, prints of your web landing pages, email templates, invoices, signage and any other materials you use for business. Over the years you may have changed some or all of these materials without realizing how confusing this can be to information-hungry potential consumers. Consumers buy from people they know, like and trust. It’s okay to have some branded supplier material, but make sure your brand is consistent across all media and materials, including digital.

Does Your Website Persuade and Inform?

Consumers want to be able to find your store, products and services 24/7. Chances are you created your website more than two years ago, and don’t have video or pictures that tell a story, or interesting and engaging offers that drive consumers to want to buy from you. Monthly offers, a welcome video, top-selling fashion lists and simple explanations of technology or services are the new standards in optical retail. If you want to attract information-seeking buyers, you must deliver this content before they arrive in your store.

Connect and Share

Store, website, social media and community today’s “omni-shopper” expects to access you, your product information and promotions via multiple devices whenever it’s convenient for them. With a little communication and some help from technology, this should not be an impossible task. Social media management systems allow you to promote to several channels simultaneously with speed and ease. Suppliers have electronic promotions that are easy to post on your promotional web page. Direct shipping or selling to digital consumers are available as a free app or widget for your website. But don’t think that these tools replace your personal touch. By integrating your business with multiple channels, tools and communication sources, your connections with consumers and your community will dramatically improve your sales.

These tools and tips don’t require a significant amount of time and money. Many services are available from optical-based marketing companies for a monthly fee or a one-time payment. Regardless of the route you take, all of them will require you to be actively involved in determining your brand offering and who you want to sell to. By preparing for the changes in optical buying behaviour, you can start turning consumers who are “just looking” into buyers today.

Put Online in its Place: Own Your Digital Neighbourhood

By Grant Larsen


How consumers buy eyecare products has changed dramatically in recent years.  They are inundated with information about deals, technology and eyewear fashion from multiple channels. The reality is, if you don’t reach them with relevant information and reminders from multiple trusted sources, you’re not part of their community. Adopting and implementing a small arsenal of digital marketing tools and habits will build your reputation with those most likely to buy in your neighbourhood.

Many of the following tips are designed for small businesses with limited marketing budgets who need to build and protect their businesses in the face of competition from chains and online mega-retailers.

Tips for Winning Your Neighbourhood

Get a Little Help from Your Friends

The major fuel that drives referrals and practice growth is your digital presence and how you ask your best, most vocal customers to promote your business. Local papers, magazines, meet-ups and community bulletins are just some of the great vehicles that provide both digital and word of mouth referrals. Whether you just show up, advertise, write content, donate money or your time, participating in multiple events has a combined marketing effect that generates both immediate sales and long-term trust in your community.


Website research has shown that video content increases both consumer engagement and purchasing decisions. Improvements in video search, consumer time pressures, and smartphone technology are driving consumers to demand to see who they buy from. Being a trusted part of your community means showing up – if not in person then on multiple devices, via email or social media. A $99 camera, in the right light, has video capability that’s good enough for all these applications. Consumers don’t expect professionally produced video – in fact they prefer and trust amateur video directly from you.

Professional Partnering

No longer does being in a high-traffic plaza or medical building guarantee an implied referral from neighboring professionals. Referral networks and word of mouth communications in the digital age are not confined to physical locations. Know your customers, where they work and what they do. Search online for local professionals or businesses that attract your ideal customer profile. Prioritize them based on proximity to your store. Communities are built on reaching out and giving. A personal visit, email, phone call or meeting is all it takes for you to start a meet-up group or professional network.

Quality not Quantity

In a Pew Research 2013 tracking study, 90 per cent of adults included searching the Internet and reading email as a daily activity. Even the 50+ crowd is now approaching 80 per cent usage of search engines and email on a daily basis. Digital media is a huge opportunity to communicate with your community. If your business has an older clientele, and maintaining loyalty is a primary marketing objective, focus on these two media channels. Make sure your business has a Google+ account. For an investment of a few hundred dollars, you can position your business at or near the top of the list for eyewear searches in your neighbourhood. Shared links with local professionals, video on your website and small changes to keywords on your web landing page are all it takes to make your business front page news.

Small business marketing doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. Borrow some creative ideas from professionals who also deal with heavy competition. Dentists, physiotherapists and real estate agents are great sources for creative local marketing ideas. The best and most successful small businesses have adapted to changing consumers needs. By consistently delivering just some of these ideas and catering to those consumer needs, you can own your eyecare neighbourhood.

What do Online Consumers Want?

By Grant Larsen

DigitalMarketingThe eyecare industry in North America is abuzz with news of Essilor’s acquisition of online retailer Coastal Contacts. Clearly, Essilor’s new business model includes giving a growing number of Canadian consumers exactly what they’re looking for. The eyecare industry has shown almost no dollar growth in recent years, yet Internet sales are growing at a double-digit rate.

Those who have been in the business for some time or keep statistics on how many store visitors actually make purchases may have noticed that more and more people are leaving your store with the intention of buying online. In retail, they are referred to as “showroomers” and research estimates that they make up as much as 20 per cent of all consumers. They browse for frames, take pictures, get quotes on contacts lenses, browse websites on their smartphones or simply walk out the door with their Rx or fitting instructions in hand. Whether you’re an independent eyecare professional, a chain or a big box retailer, this shift in consumer buying habits impacts all bricks-and-mortar stores.

What do showrooming online shoppers want?

• Information

All consumers and especially showroomers love to compare products. Make sure you and your staff know two or three key benefits with supporting facts for each product. If you give shoppers more than this, they will become confused or simply forget. If they want more information, you can direct them to your website, attach quick links (QR codes) to products, or provide in-store marketing materials. Insist that sales representatives and suppliers provide information that meets your selling needs.

• Hands-on Experience

People are in your store to buy but if you don’t give them personal information, as well as valuable and timely facts, they will quickly turn to electronic devices or buy online. Getting consumers to try on frames, play with displays, watch videos, feel lenses, and discover technology not only improves their in-store experience, it accelerates their decision to buy in store at that moment.

• Electronic Engagement

For high-traffic locations, consider offering in-store Wi-Fi and increase the frequency of specials for smartphone shoppers. Use your website landing page to drive online shoppers to your store with promotions. Change them at least monthly, ideally every week. By stressing the urgency of the offers, you encourage showroomers to buy. Video displays and camera fitting tools such as Essilor’s m’eyeFit and Optikam Tech’s Optikam Pad may not close the deal, but they augment reality and visually deliver benefits that speak to showroomers. Many suppliers have video resources that can be easily adapted for your social media, Internet and in-store promotional needs.

• Choice

Nobody wants to be the optical industry’s online equivalent of an annoying digital popup. Showroomers and most consumers want to pick and choose how they interact with retailers and healthcare service providers. They want to choose when, where and how much product and service information they receive. Professionals can provide information regularly through emails, engage in social media, publish great monthly newsletters and have disciplined referral and recall programs. With respectful frequency, personalized information and opt-out capabilities, today’s consumer will remain loyal and the growing showroomer segment can be captured for years to come.

Most business strategists will say that consumers decide when it’s time to change your business model. I’m not suggesting that anyone close their doors and open an online business. But the message that industry-leading companies like Essilor and the growing number of Internet consumers are sending simply can’t be ignored. Consumers want to buy products in a different way, on their terms and with information and tools that most bricks-and-mortar retailers are fully capable of providing. By implementing just some of these digital tools and retail techniques, a business model can include showroomers and new consumers in the future.

The Battle for Consumers: Online Versus Eyecare Professionals

By Grant Larsen

DigitalMarketingIn the past, to have a successful optical business all you had to do was market to your neighbourhood, advertise to local traffic and wait for people to walk into your store. Pick the right location, signage, maybe even a yellow pages ad, and your business would grow for years to come. But the Internet has dramatically expanded your neighbourhood and your competition as well. Online retailers, optical chains and, more recently, manufacturers are selling directly to your consumers, including your long-time patients and/or potential clients. It is possible that you have not noticed these changes but as online retailing grows, you will compete with your suppliers and chains for the attention of consumers. The success and value of your business in the long term will depend on how you use preferred digital tools to stay in touch with clients and attract a steady flow of consumers to maintain your business.

So how do you tap into the digital engine that drives new customers, sustains business and helps you win the battle for eyecare consumers?

1. You Can Sell On-Line

Neutralize online companies by offering convenience and price on select brands, contact lenses, select frame-and-lens packages, and online appointment booking.  Options such as adding e-commerce to your existing site or re-directing customers to an e-commerce partner can be done in less than a week. For online shoppers who currently walk away with fitting instructions or eye exam results, these options can help to capture some of those otherwise-lost sales. In many cases, these same online buyers will call you or visit your store or office for other services over time.

2. Digital New Patient Ads

Not all marketing spending should target or be justified by a “sale”. Per-click ads on Google can be geographically and key-word targeted to focus on your ideal new customer. For less than $100 per month, you can be an Internet marketer with graphic statistics that measure engagement and direct next month’s offer. Digital ads can be a fraction of the cost of direct mail, outdoor ads or even paid online directories, and you can set limits on how much to spend. Seeing your business ads in multiple media sources builds trust, a key element in long-term consumer relationships.

3. Stay in Touch with Email

Addresses and phone numbers often change, but people keep personal email addresses forever. If you haven’t been collecting them from clients, start now. It is still the most common way to interact for most people and easy to manage and scale to your budget. Email templates are available for free online.  You can use images and content from your website, target specific patient groups and promote events, all with minimal graphics experience required. Simple functions like “invite a friend”, “send this offer”, and “enter to win” create client connections that super-charge your community referrals.

4. Reasons to See You

Offering the same brands as online retailers or standard discounts is not going to convince local buyers to rush into your store. Online shopping is intuitively cheaper and more convenient for most consumers. The latest styles, detailed frame/lens options, private rooms, medical services and your optical expertise are just some of the valuable reasons to see you in person. The online deal of the day or “Combo 4” can’t match your personal invitation. Telephone recalls, VIP events, email offers, social media, community events and websites should all drive patients and consumers back to your store.

The value of your business is not what you sell, where you sell or how you sell. The value of your business is the strength of your customer relationships. By adopting some digital skills, you can connect with more clients, communicate better information and consistently use multiple digital sources to give them what they want. In many cases these digital tools save you significant time and money, since you are targeting your ideal customers in your specific community.


Eyecare’s New Reality: We Need Professional Marketing Help

By Grant Larsen

Did you know that by the time a consumer enters your practice or store, they have already decided whether or not they are going to buy? So what do you say to a patient or consumer who wants to walk out the door without buying? Nothing – it’s too late! Your staff has been reduced to frustrated order-takers because your competition is talking to customers all the time through multiple media channels.

So how do you compete with the deep pockets and savvy marketing tactics of big chains and online retailers? How do you turn ‘just lookers’ into buyers?

• You talk to them more than once every two years.

• You invite them back through existing great clients.

• You tell friends, relatives and like professionals your “great story” every day.

And you do this for a fraction of the cost of online listings, brochures and direct mailers!

3 Social Marketing Musts

1.     Create a Great First Impression for New Patients

Think of your website landing page as a digital receptionist that overcomes new customers’ apprehension when they meet a health care provider for the first time. A welcome video, a friendly photo of your staff, lists of credentials, expertise, passions and specialties can build trust and communicate to people why you deserve their business. The decision of where they will get an eye exam or where they will be fitted for fashion frames is driven by emotion. Be local, be personal and be yourself.

2.     Formalize Your Referral Process

If you haven’t formalized your patient and professional process, you’ve missed the number one small business marketing tool. Signs, websites and the Yellow Pages don’t create traffic or produce buyers; the key to growth lies with having a network of happy patients. A recent eyecare survey shows that almost 80 per cent of patients select their eyecare professional based on referrals, with friends and family at the top of the list.

Start by telling happy client stories. Create a priority list of stories that you and your staff can share with local networking partners. Technology, personalized fittings, unique products and brands add credibility and increase a story’s repeatability to others. And finally (and most importantly) create a detailed process for inviting clients back and recalling patients for professional services.

3.     Social Media for Business

Forget what you know about social media. What started out as a pastime for kids and young adults to connect with friends has developed into an essential business tool that drives targeted networking and consumer purchase decisions. Simple set-ups for Facebook, Twitter and Google+ can be done in mere hours and managed with free resources from suppliers and industry. Eyecare content combined with your business brand and managed with Hootsuite (a social media organizer) reduces your staff time to just minutes each week or month. Listen to competitors in your area, promote your services to targeted groups, and make your business easy to find. Finally, make referrals to your business easy, so happy customers can share the word.

Not all marketing spending is linked directly to sales. Creating a great first impression will turn your walk-outs into planned buyers. Your referral process and community networking will target your best potential customers, using the most trusted source of information: friends, family and believers. And social media can allow you to connect, grow and maintain business value for years to come.