I follow a number of online (and offline) blogs, columns, Facebook, Linkedin, and other professional forums, just like many of you. Recently in one of the forums whose members profess to be mostly very high-end retailers of optical products, a conversation thread was posted about whether to build a website themselves or hire a professional. Now, as a web professional, I was of course shocked anyone would ever even seriously ask that question. The replies made in all seriousness to answer that question made me both laugh and cry for days.
I have worked with high-end retailers for more years than I wish to count. Let’s just say, I remember computer punch cards from college programming courses. I am often taken aback by retailers who on the one hand expect their customers to appreciate the nuances of the designs, materials, craftsmanship, and hard work that go into making a pair Barton Perreira, Leisure Society, Maybach, Gold & Wood, Morgenthal Frederics, Alain Mikli, or any of the dozens of other high-end frame lines they choose to sell while ignoring the quality of design, materials, craftsmanship, and hard work that go into other parts of their businesses.
Can you build a website for less than a professional designer would charge? Of course, you can. Can I buy a pair of eyeglasses for less than what you sell? I’m betting I can do so within a half-mile of any of your stores. The conversations in this particular forum involved such suggestions as hiring design students from local colleges to asking employees if they have kids or relatives who might trade for some cool glasses to build a site.
Let me pose this question to you. Would you allow a college senior majoring in accounting to reorganize your books? Would you let the son or daughter of one of your employees who has decided to become an attorney review your new lease? I’ll bet they both have screwdrivers and pliers at home. Why not let them change the brakes on your car before your family road trip this summer?
You generally pay people based on their experience. Someone who has a long successful history of selling high-end eyewear is worth tens of thousands of dollars more a year in salary than someone who has never sold anything more than a 10¢ glass of lemonade on the corner as a child. By the same token, an experienced accounting professional is worth more than someone who happened to have a calculator on their phone.
An experienced web developer, especially one who has worked within the optical business is worth far more than a kid who happens to know HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language, even if they can code with their eyes shut. A nail tech has tremendous experience working with filing and painting small items to exacting standards. Would you hire her (or him) to run your lens lab?
More specifically to the point of the conversation in question, no matter your budget, your website is your yellow pages, your brochure, your ambassador to your practice; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Is your website every bit as good as the products your sell inside your store? If not, then you are hurting your business, plain and simple.
Over 80% of consumers will research a business online before ever walking into their doors. Do you really want to trust your business to someone who knows very little about your business or business in general? Is it really worth jeopardizing the future of your business over a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars? If the answer is yes, then might I offer a few other money-saving tips.
How about offering your customers/patients Kleenex or paper towels to clean their lenses instead of microfiber cloths? Perhaps instead of putting their new eyeglasses in protective cases, you could offer them Baggies. When you send them on their way, why not put their new eyeglasses or contact lenses into recycled plastic grocery bags from wherever you and your staff shop each week?
You expect your customers and patients to trust your experience and expertise in guiding them to fashionable well-made designer eyeglasses and sunglasses and high-quality optical lenses made specifically for them. Those products cost significantly more than what someone can buy online or in discount optical shops in every corner of every city. Why is what I do, or the people who provide other professional services to you worth any less consideration?
Daniel Feldman, is a co-founder to the Visionaries Group visionariesgroup.com (on Facebook) and CEO of dba Communications dbadesigns.com, (on Facebook) a web design and social media firm specializing in helping eye care practices achieve success.