This month, I thought I’d share some marketing tips because I like to think that I am a marketing master. No one can tell me anything I don’t already know about marketing and sales, it’s in my blood. I’m exceptionally great at it.

But I recently hired a marketing and sales director for my retail stores and three months later sales are up 35% and are still increasing. It was quite difficult for me to be honest; someone else coming up with ideas and changing what we’d done for years. There was a little tension in the air for the first couple of months, not just with me but other team members as well. This soon evaporated as cold, hard cash started to materialise. Everyone likes more sales, especially me.

If you don’t have the budget for a marketing and sales director, what should you be doing right now to get more sales? Based on my mini-success, I’ve got three things you can do now to grow your business. If you are a small group or an individual store, I’ve put my head together with my new hero and come up with these three quick-fire marketing tips.


Digital direction

Are you selling online? You don’t need to be servicing the world with glasses, but your existing patients and their family and friends might like a place to easily reorder frames or buy similar ones. New sunglasses? Contact lenses and solutions? Wouldn’t it be brilliant if you could set up a quick and easy web shop to improve the service to your existing customers?

The mistake a lot of opticians make with online sales is that they think they are selling to the world. You just need to sell to the local population around you. An extra convenience backed up with a local presence. If you don’t have time to set up a Shopify store, pay someone to do it. It’s quite easy but it’s always going to take you longer than you think and be more complicated than you anticipate. There are people out there who will build the store for you and integrate it into your existing site. It’s not expensive, either. Once the site is live, you can run it yourself and you just pay around a 3% transaction fee to Shopify. Find someone to help you at experts.shopify.com.


Get social

Social media is the best and cheapest tool for any business but one that many opticians often fail at. For somewhere in the region of £200 a month, you could have someone manage your social accounts.

I know a company doing this for small businesses in the UK and America. They will do all channels, but I think Facebook is best because it’s more local. That said, there is an argument to have them manage your Instagram as well, but if the budget is tight, stick to Facebook. They set up a WhatsApp group with you and prompt you to send in content suggestions like ‘try on a frame today and give me a four second clip’ or ‘it’s your store’s birthday today, get me a photo of you and the team with a glass of something in their hands.’ They can post all the images from the brands you stock but the best stuff is the behind-the-scenes content, which is why they prompt you to send it to them.

Over a 12-month period, this presence keeps your store locally present and, if you also have an online shop, they can manage some digital marketing spend to target the locals. It’s easy to measure the success of this after a year, but you need to commit to at least a year because people don’t always change their glasses. Ask to speak to James at hello@babbl.co.uk.


Academic thinking

Now, I would normally have no business recommending Conor Heaney’s Optical Success Academy. He dropped my brand years ago and later had the cheek to ask me to sponsor one of his events. I took one look at his sales pitch and had my doubts. The presentation states that on average, each Specsavers practice turns over £1.3m per year, yet the average independent turns over just £200,000 per year. He wants to turn independents into £1m businesses.

The thing is, it seems to work for academy members. He has a loyal following around the world and opticians love him and what he’s done for them. It’s not cheap but when I went back and looked at the material in more depth, I was impressed. I didn’t sponsor his event this time but I probably will at some point. Visit opticalsuccessacademy.com.

So, if you are like me, sitting there congratulating yourself on your business acumen, there has never been a better time to swallow your pride and push for extra reach. Cash is king and we all love sales.