Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Starting to think about setting yourself apart...

The article in last Friday's Optician Magazine entitled "Hope in the High Street" contained a couple of paragraphs that struck a resonant chord with me:

"That push towards differentiation has been crucial in helping traditional opticians of all types fight against competition from new areas such as the internet."


"Smaller chains have also used marketing techniques, such as £10 eye tests and two-for-one offers on frames, to divert customers away from the optical giants, but Key Note suggests the future of the independent sector lies in high service levels as the bigger boys slug it out on price.

The market continues to develop adversely for independents, particularly in terms of price competition from the multiples. But, the report concluded, 'There remains scope for the trusted - some might say old-fashioned - independent retailers that offer a higher level of service to an older, often more affluent clientele'."

In a previous blog I referred to the alignment of the larger optical organisations as they marry manufacturing with retail. The effect of this is a homogenising of the market (i.e it reduces the choice available to consumers by distributing "exclusive" branded products through large chains and, dare I say it, the internet). This leads inevitably to price competition - something extremely dangerous for the independent sector.

But where do we start if we're serious about meeting the desires of those KeyNote have found that are the future of independent practice?

KeyNote suggest we focus on the "older, often more affluent clientele' - the premium end of the market:

As professionals we should already have an idea of the tastes of this demographic and it helps to analyse or audit what you offer now and imagine yourself as the patient. Do a Mary Portas on yourself!

This should be done through the array of disciplines of modern practice:

The eyecare services you provide (and the way you provide it!)
Your patient's experience from welcome to farewell
Your practice environment
Frame collections and the way you display them - are they targeted at a particular premium customer?
The array of lifestyle accessories available (and I'm sure this will feature a blog before too long!)

Now within these very general headings are myriad of elements - the important thing is to think critically about the opportunities in each discipline to enhance the experience and offer to these target patients.

Often when you're charging a premium for a product you should not look so hard at the cost - but of the premium you can charge and the margin that you therefore create in any innovation. That may be uncomfortable - until you start to experience the bottom line.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Create or Copy? Do what keeps you leading the tribe...

I love this blog from Seth Godin.

The challenge in eyewear design is just the same dynamic - and it's a challenge those clever people at JFRey and Morel (who manufacture Oga and Koali) have more than met. Having seen the next seasons introductions at SILMO this weekend has reassured me that they can do this every 6 months!

The same could be said for your practice design, the way you interact with your customers and the eyecare services you deliver. The challenge is to know what your tribe (or target tribe) will love.

Building fans of our art is what we should be about (in Seth Godon language that is)...

Accounting for taste

Taste is the ability to select, combine and create experiences that the tribe likes--before they know that they like it.

John Waters, the filmmaker many accuse of having bad taste actually has great taste--according to a small tribe of people. He establishes a look and a feel and a story that (for this group) is then emulated.

Successful chefs like Thomas Keller invent restaurants and the dishes they offer--and are then rewarded for having the good taste to make precisely what we like. But of course, the 'we' isn't everyone.

Martha Stewart, according to a larger group, also has good taste. She's not merely copying what came before (that's not nearly as difficult or as valuable)... no, she's staying half a step ahead of her tribe, establishing the standard as she goes.

Great graphic designers have good taste. They understand how to use type and imagery to create objects and advertising that resonate with people likely to buy. Copying a book cover or a business card or a mayo label isn't good taste, it's copying. The difficult work is doing a new thing in a way that people who have never seen it before will 'get it'.

The other difficult work: understanding that your standards might not be the standards of the tribe you're seeking to connect with. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's in bad taste. If the market respects the creator, takes action and then adopts the work, it's in good taste.