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Since the rules around opticians advertising were relaxed the independents have been on the backfoot to the multiples.  Marketing for independent opticians is time consuming and expensive…so what do you do?

You could hire a practice builder or digital marketer but there’s no guarantee that what they say will work.  I personally feel your time & money is better spent doing this yourself & using the people that work for you to their fullest.  You and your team know your customers, area and products best to be able to figure out what will work, what is possible and how to implement it.  It might require skilling up your current staff and paying them a bit of overtime but they will be best placed to help you grow your business.

Here are 5 ideas that I would recommend to any opticians struggling with this

  1. Incentivise referral schemes – find some “connectors”
  2. Private Eye Clinics – non retail
  3. Social Media
  4. Google Ads (PPC)
  5. Google Custom Affiliated Audiences
  6. Networking & supporting local good causes

    Incentivise Referral Schemes – find yourself some connectors

    You can’t compete with multiples when it comes to advertising but still the best advertising is word of mouth.  So when you know you’ve given a customer excellent service & he/she seems like a connector then give them an incentive to tell their family and friends.  We all know people are more likely to talk about bad experiences rather than the good so your team has to work out who to offer this to.  In this context connectors are people with a personality & credibility such that others listen to their advice and connectors love giving their advice to whoever that will listen.  As independents you get to know your customers so why not leverage this knowledge.

    Private Eye Clinics

    Opticians can only keep their businesses afloat because profit from the sale of spectacles is subsidising the cost of the eye test.  So if opticians stop selling glasses then how does that business model would work?  

    A private eye clinic focuses purely on clinical appointments and is free from worrying about conversions & average order values.  This sounds really good but you’d have to put your prices up considerably and this will put people off coming into practice.

    A purely private clinical practice is not going to work everywhere but you could start by offering private clinical services alongside your current ones.  A shift in this way can help you stand out from the multiples and your front line staff will need to be on board so they can educate customers about the differences in the services.

    Social Media

    For credibility reasons your practice should be on Facebook & you should be posting once a fortnight.  You could pay someone to create social media posts and then schedule them however these posts will be generic. It’s faster and easier to take pictures of your own practice and create your own posts – it might be a bit rough but that’s fine. At least the customers will be seeing you, your practice environment, team members and products.

    Make some posts about your practice/products, some about eye related stories in the press, some about what’s happening in your local area.

    I would stay away from facebook ads because you’ll be paying for something that won’t move the needle much when it comes to attracting new customers.  When running ads think about the time it takes to set the ad campaign up and evaluate its results.  I don’t see this working as when people are scrolling through social media its unlikely they’ll be looking for an eye test – they’re more likely to use google when they need an eye test.

    Use canva.com to make more professional looking posts.  Canva is really easy to use and is free.  You can also schedule posts from Canva to both Facebook and Instagram.  You can find content creators on freelancer websites like fiverr.com however as stated before this is probably best done by existing staff.

    Google Ads

    You only pay if the customer actually clicks on them.  These customers are searching for your services in your local area.  Google Ads do take a bit of setting up but once its been done once then it’s easy to manage them therefore little ongoing time investment will be required.

    They’re simple & targeted so you’ll be able to judge whether they’re worthwhile for you quickly.  A £500 investment should be enough to test this idea out for a couple of months.  Google ad specialist can be found on freelancer websites.

    Custom Affiliated Audiences

    You can set up ad campaigns on google to target customers that have visited certain websites in a specific time period.  Again its a relatively cheap option as you only pay if they click on the ad. You could specify the URLs you want to target and then Google will do the rest. To set this up you’ll need a google ads specialist.

    Networking/Supporting Good Causes

    Networking & being part of the local community is an extremely good way to reach out to more people & do some good at the same time.  The more good causes you support the more opportunities you will have to to leave an impression & meet more connectors.  Connectors are more common in activist groups.

    Summary

    Practice builders and growth specialists are good but you’re better off upskilling your own team for this.  This task is too important to leave to others.  You and your team need to figure out what’s going to work and then implement your own strategies.  Don’t worry if things don’t always work out – you’ll have more fun playing around with this & hopefully your team will benefit from the increased opportunities to learn.  Finally remember the 80:20 rule, 80% of your business will come from 20% of your marketing activities….if you can work out what that 20% is then just focus on that.