photo from sales management.com
The patient’s journey to a purchase has changed significantly in the past 10 years…ignore that fact and your business will suffer the consequences.
Every day, people form impressions of brands from touch points such as:
- Advertisements (both offline ex. print newspaper and online ex. PPC, paid social ads)
- Marketing (blogs are a good online example)
- Conversations with family and friends both online (social media) and offline
- Product Experiences (hearing aid trials).
Unless consumers are actively shopping, much of that exposure appears wasted. But what happens when something triggers the impulse to buy?
Those accumulated impressions then become crucial because they shape the initial-consideration set: the small number of choices consumers regard at the outset as potential purchasing options.
What Are You Selling?
Speaking in generic terms, the sale of a hearing aid falls into the following categories:
- The product is high value based. – Sold primarily by small business with a high average cost per sale (ASP).
- The product has a long research or sales cycle. – A sales cycle is the series of predictable phases required to sell a product or a service.
- It is a knowledge-based product. – The product requires the customer to understand a significant amount of new information prior to the purchase of the product.
In other words you are not selling a pizza (low value based, short sales cycle, little knowledge required).
When you think of it in those terms you’ll begin to understand why your advertising and marketing efforts need to ensure that your business is in the patient or significant others mind long before they’re ready to pick up the phone and call for an appointment.
How Patients Make Decisions
Consumers/Patients no longer take a linear approach when making a purchasing decision. In the pre-digital age decisions followed a typical continuum –
Awareness, Familiarity, Consideration, Purchase, Loyalty… Repeat
The decision-making process is now more of a circular journey, battlegrounds where marketers can win or lose:
- Problem/Need Recognition – This is often identified as the first and most important step in the customer’s decision process. A purchase cannot take place without the recognition of the need. In the case of a hearing impaired this step is often initiated by a significant other.
- Initial Consideration – Brands based on touch-points (contact between a buyer and a seller) such as an advertisement, previous experience or personal recommendation. This is pretty much a set of products and/or business that are already on the patient’s radar.
- Active Evaluation – The process of researching potential purchases and gathering information. This is the buyer’s effort to broaden their knowledge base and add to brands from the “initial consideration”. The potential patient will search to identify and evaluate information sources related to the central buying decision.
- Closure – when patients buy what you’re selling (the appointment). The final purchase decision may be ‘disrupted’ by two factors: negative feedback from other customers/patients and the level of motivation to continue the process.
- Post Purchase – When consumers experience the product. Patients will compare products with their previous expectations and will be either satisfied or dissatisfied. These stages are critical in retaining customers. This can greatly affect the decision process for similar purchases from the same company in the future. If your customer is satisfied, this will result in brand loyalty. On the basis of being either satisfied or dissatisfied, it is common for customers to distribute their positive or negative feedback about the product. This may be through reviews on website, social media networks or word of mouth. Companies should be very careful to create positive post-purchase communication, in order to engage customers and make the process as efficient as possible.
How the consumer chooses one provider over another is a much more complicated process than ever before. To have continued success in your practice it’s imperative that you understand the buying behaviors of your demographic and how much those behaviors have changed over the past decade.