Word of Mouth Multiplied: Readers’ ‘Best of’ Votes Speak Volumes By Catherine Wolinski Monday, September 23, 2013 12:00 AM After searching coast to coast for the second lineup of Vision Monday’s ‘Best of Optical Shops,’ a truth has emerged: Readers’ vote contests are here to stay and are continuing to serve as useful tools for independent optical shops throughout North America. With common results including increased patient engagement, uptick in “self-referrals” and more motivated staff, the public-sourced survey is being described by optical retail owners the continent over as important, and even integral, to their business’ success. VM has highlighted another round of the “best” sources for eyewear and eyecare, as chosen by each region’s readers. ■ email@example.com SONOMA EYEWORKS Santa Rosa, Calif. Best of the North Bay – Best Optical Best of Sonoma County - Best Place to Buy Eyeglasses Left: Sonoma Eyeworks has used award logos in both print and digital marketing materials. Right: Sonoma Eyeworks owners Cindy Harmon and Michael Harmon, OD. Claim to Fame: California’s Northern Bay community, consisting of Marin, Sonoma and Napa, is steadfast in their decision of where to find the best eyecare in town. Sonoma Eyeworks has been voted Best Optical in the North Bay Bohemian weekly newspaper for 13 years running and Best Place to Buy Eyeglasses since the Santa Rosa Press Democrat’s contest inception in 2012. Word of Mouth: This one-stop-shop is repeatedly rewarded for its service to patients, but that doesn’t stop owners Cindy Harmon and Michael Harmon, OD from finding new ways to grow their practice. The team has constantly reshaped its advertising efforts, whether targeting specific pages in the region’s periodicals or ditching print listings for demographically targeted online ads and e-mail subscriptions, always looking for ways to better reach their audience. A driving force throughout has been the insight that voter surveys provide. Why it Works: “It’s very important to have feedback from the local community, and readers’ polls allow us to see how we are doing and how we stack up to our competitors,” said Cindy Harmon. The contest wins have attracted new patients, enhanced the practice’s reputation with vendors and suppliers and added to the business’ prestige. “Plus, they are fun!