Last month, Best Image Optical’s founder and CEO, Mark Dolabany, presented an American Board of Opticianry (ABO) certified course at the Opticians Association of Massachusetts (OAM). In an ongoing effort to help the independent eyecare professional build their brick-and-mortar business and compete with online optical retailers, we have outlined his course today to help you start thinking about the marketing strategy of your business in 2015.
“While traveling on the road and visiting my customers, I find that our conversations turn to the internet and what can be done for a brick-and-mortar business to increase their exposure on the internet. I try to share my knowledge and experience with the independent, and relay to them the steps that my own independent business has taken.” – Mark Dolabany
The following strategies were put together to help independent market their business cost-effectively. Here we briefly touch upon strategies that will help you increase your exposure on the internet and grow your business if you are committed to taking these steps. Before we proceed, there are two terms we’d like you to get familiar with: Keywords and SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
A keyword is simply the word or phrase that is used by online searchers to find you. For example, someone looking for a local eyecare physician may enter “eye doctor in Pleasantville” “EYE DOCTOR IN PLEASANTVILLE” is the keyword. These keywords that are used by a consumer to find your profession should be used in anything you do to promote your business online. These keywords will help your SEO.
SEO refers to the actions that have been taken to increase your ranking on search engine results like those of Google, Yahoo and Bing. The online marketing strategies that we go through here today all focus on SEO. We want you to increase your exposure on the internet so that your business comes up on the first results of a consumer’s Google search in your local area.
1. Create a Website for your Eyecare Business.
You may be way ahead of us when we mention that your brick-and-mortar needs to have a website, but you would be surprised to find how many business owners still have not made this investment for their enterprise. Today, a website has replaced what your ad in the YellowPages used to be to the consumer years ago. When was the last time you looked for something in that bulky book, let alone see one around? A website is how your existing and potential customers may find you easier and quicker. It is an essential medium to attracting customers to your optical dispensary, store, or boutique.
a. Your Domain
For those of you that find the internet foreboding, there are companies that can help you with this process, from buying your domain name to providing you with a template for your website. We can personally recommend Go Daddy, Host Gator, and 1and1 for these services.
When it comes to purchasing your domain name, we recommend that you use your business name or something closely related to it. For example, ABC Optical, should try use www.abcoptical.com as their domain name as a consumer can easily relate it to you and your industry. If you’re not yet ready to create a website, at the very least, we recommend that you buy your domain name for later use because once it’s purchased you will not be able to use it for your business.
Once you purchase your domain name, you will need to choose your hosting company, the hosting site is where your website “lives” and operates. We also recommend the aforementioned companies to host your website. They will be able to provide you with a preset template, be sure to select a template that is “Responsive,” this means that your site will adjust its content to any device on which it is viewed.
Be sure to include your Name, Address, Phone number (your NAP), photos of your establishment and staff, and a description of your practice and service. Include your keywords in the description of your business. Keep in mind, your photos can also optimized for searches. Simply, rename your pictures using relevant keywords before uploading them to your site.
2. Register your Eyecare Business to Online Local Directories.
Now that you have setup your business webpage, start thinking about how you can promote this site. What are other avenues that customers use to find your local business? A great place to start is by registering your business to free online local directories. Sites, such as Manta, YellowPages, Merchant Circle, and Yelp, are high-ranking results on search engines. WARNING!!! Do not pay for any listings or upgrades! It is not necessary to pay for a listing in order to be optimized on a search.
Registering your business to multiple local directories can be taxing, so services provided by Yext or Local Directories Marketing can automatically register you to 50+ online local directories. They allow you to fill your information just once and have you listed on top-ranking sites in no time for a fee. However, this also allows you to keep your information uniform across the board, including any changes that you need to make regarding your business listing (i.e. a change in business hours).
3. Promote your Eyecare Business with Videos on YouTube.
YouTube, owned by Google, is the number one video-sharing site in the world and second or third highest ranking site overall. Adding videos to your list of marketing tools can lead to an increase of visits to your website and ultimately an increase of attention by potential customers. You would be surprised the amount of exposure you can generate from video. It’s as simple as uploading a compilation of photos and text that talk about you and your services. Anything uploaded on the site can be shared on other social media networks with a few clicks. The more videos you post the better.
We feel so strongly about YouTube as a marketing channel for your eyecare business that we offer to make our customers a complimentary video. Once you have your video uploaded there are three elements you should pay close attention to: Title, Description, and Tags.
It is very important to add keywords to the title of every video you upload to your YouTube account (you can even add your website). For example, you can use “Your Eyecare Provider in Pleasantville, ABC Optical www.abcoptical.com” as the title of your video for SEO purposes.
Begin every video description with your URL (your website address). Then, proceed to describe the video being uploaded and provide a description about your business. Make sure this section is Keyword Rich.
Tags are a list of keywords that can be added to a YouTube video for search optimization. These will not be displayed publicly but will be used to bring your video up on relevant searches.
4. Promote your Eyecare Business on Social Media.
Now, you may think that social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are strictly for your teenage daughter in high school, but you would be sadly mistaken. Social media can serve as an invaluable tool for your business. Use these platforms to build relationships with people in your local community, exchange content and create engagement.
5. Create a Blog for your Eyecare Business.
We know what you’re thinking, “Oh My Gosh, They want me to write a blog?!” Blogs are actually a valuable tool for businesses that allow the owner to engage with potential and current customers. Use this platform to share expertise, product, and services – every post is a long-term asset. By maintaining a blog, you are imparting your advice and knowledge to the community. Blogs also give the opportunity to include relevant keywords for search engines to pick up on, giving your business high SEO at a low cost. There are free platforms on which you can start a blog too. We suggest WordPress, Tumblr or Blogger.
If you choose to dip your toes in blog writing, there are plenty of sources to get ideas from. Trade magazines, like Eyecare Business and Invision, and trade blogs, like Eyecessorize and The Optical Vision Site, provide great content. Just remember: do not copy & paste, and always cite your sources.
Don’t have the time? Outsource your writing to an employee or an online service. Online companies such as Elance or Freelance can take this burden away from you at a fee. You can also buy articles online from sites that offer Private-Label Rights. These authors allow you to purchase an article and edit the content to your liking. Check out Constant-Content.com, Master-Resale-Rights.com or Fiverr.com.
6. Submit Press Releases about your Business.
Press releases, much like blog articles, are great SEO boosters and, most importantly, they can be free to submit. Using free platforms such as PRLog, Newsvine, and Free-Press-Release, you can submit an article on newsworthy events. For example, maybe you’d like to announce a trunk show, new products or services, an event attendance, or community involvement. You can even announce the hiring of a new employee. These articles can increase your exposure online and bring attention to your brick-and-mortar business.
7. Email your Customers Regularly.
Perhaps the most important aspect of all your online marketing efforts is: E-mail. Make collecting email addresses as important as obtaining your customers’ phone numbers. Add an in-store signup sheet or a call-to-action section on your website promising to give your customers updates and newsletters regarding their eye care.
Increase your email list by using incentives to encourage your customer to sign up. For example, you could conduct a raffle and offer giveaways in exchange for contact information. Always notify your customers that they will be receiving emails from your business and offer them an option to “Unsubscribe” in accordance with anti-spam laws.
Send an email once a month. This will keep your eye care services fresh, relevant and top-of-mind to those receiving your messages. Your emails should be simple, meaningful and interesting. Send them a topic that will capture their emotion. For example, talk to them about the harmful effects that UV rays can cause to their eyes or about protective eyewear their children can use during sports. Capture their heart and emotion and you will have their trust and loyalty.
Consumers are becoming more and more educated on the vendors they choose from and it is up to you to feed them the information and solutions they are looking for.
For more information on any of these topics or to find out when Mark will be conducting his next seminar, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.