10 Things to Improve Your Hearing Aid Marketing

For us, the senior market is the one that matters most.  This may provoke a “duh” moment from many reading this article.  However, it’s important to understand how seniors think, what turns them off and what hearing aid marketing and advertising concepts they are drawn to. Let’s start with the term “seniors”.  After the 12th grade no one ever wants to be referred to as a senior anything again…ever.  Ultimately it could mean the difference between substantial business growth and the loss of a sizable chunk of market share.

The top ten things you can do to improve your marketing and advertising of the baby boomer and pre-boomer generations.

  1. Target women, they make the decisions.
  1. Don’t use humor about aging.  Getting old is not funny.
  1. Don’t use scare tactics.  Discouraging news about aging will not motivate your patient to respond to your ad or to purchase hearing aids.
  1. When using photos in promotions and communications remember the following.  As a group, senior citizens see themselves as seven to ten years younger than they really are.  Think of it this way 50 is the new 40 and 60 is the new 50.
  1. Use words in copy that hold out the promise of youthfulness and independence.  Both are concepts that patients will identify with.
  1. Remember your demographic (I know I’ve said that before, but it does get forgotten).  Understand that just like the auditory system, the visual system changes as we age.  Use larger fonts and brighter colors.
  1. Trust is a major issue for seniors.  Use experiences of real people to communicate with them.  Testimonials about the benefits of hearing aids can be a beneficial advertising concept.
  1. Make sure real people answer your phones as much as possible.  Don’t subject potential patients to answering system decision trees when they call.
  1. Refine the way in which you track marketing results to include demographics such as age and gender.  Who is actually responding to your ad and who is purchasing hearing aids?
  1. And lastly, do not reject the old mediums for the new.  Print advertising and word of mouth still capture considerably more patients than inbound marketing.  There is a place for both.

If I have to choose one that I think is of primary importance it would be…tracking. Why?  Marketing and advertising are regionalized, what works in New York City is most likely not what will work in Atlanta GA. One of the costliest items in the expense section of your P&L is advertising and marketing.  You should constantly refine the way in which you track marketing results to better understand your demographic and how they are responding to your marketing attempts.

Ideally you want to spend as little as possible to garner the number of patients who are candidates for hearing aids that your practice needs on a monthly basis.  Too often we run ads and inserts, or host open houses and consumer seminars, etc. with little thought as to why a prior ad or event was or wasn’t successful.

A minor change to an ad, for example, an ad run on a Monday may have a better or worse response from the public than the identical ad run on a Friday. Patterns will develop. Carefully cultivate and store information from the patients who respond to your advertising/marketing, particularly those who purchase hearing aids.  After all, they’re the ones you want to make sure keep coming in your door.

Experience may teach you how to better manage hearing aid marketing and advertising events, but tracking the results in as many ways as possible will allow you to make better decisions about where to put your marketing dollars.

How to Answer the Price Question

You know your practice will get this question at least once a week, if not once a day.  Does your staff know how to answer the question?  Do you know what they’re saying?  One of two things is currently happening.  They are either doing a good job of answering the question or they are doing a less than stellar job of answering the question.

Here are few “scripts” your staff can use to answer the question.

“Thank you for contacting our practice.  To answer your question, there are several things that influence the price of a hearing aid. This tends to be true at our practice and probably most other practices you contact.”

The first thing you need to consider is whether you want to pay a one price for the hearing aid and then pay a fitting fee or do you want the fitting fee to be included in the price.

Secondly, almost every hearing aid will need to be reprogrammed several times as your hearing loss changes. If reprogramming is not part of your original purchase price it can cost several hundred dollars each time you need a change to the programming.

Service can also be included in the price and hearing aids will need periodic maintenance and repairs and these fees can add up as well.

Finally, comprehensive programs that include things like free batteries and are also available.

Because there are so many options I would encourage you to make an appointment to meet with our audiologist/hearing aid dispenser in the office. They can talk about what level of options you would be interested in and can provide you with a realistic price that meets your expectations initially as well as over time.”

The exact wording that your staff will use is not as important as the consistency of the message they convey.  More importantly the potential customer asked a question that they expect to have answered.  Telling them that you don’t provide prices over the phone is not what they expect to hear.

The better prepared your staff is to answer the “price question”, the more likely the customer is to make an appointment.  And after all that is the point of the entire exercise.

 

10 Questions to Ask Before You Hire an Audiologist

You need to hire an audiologist. You’ve run an ad on Craigslist or Audiology Online or Monster.com.  You’ve narrowed down your selection to a few resumes.  You’re ready to wave your magic wand over the pile until the resume for the perfect person for the job rises magically to the top of the pile.  Oh, wait, that isn’t how it works.  You mean I have to interview them, no one told I’d be interviewing anyone when I got into this person.  I have no idea where to start.

We’ve all been there; interviewing someone can be akin to having a root canal.  Yes, it’s necessary, yes you know you need to do it, but who wants to?  Start with a phone interview.  It’s less time consuming and will enable you to contact a greater number of potential hires without requiring the same time commitment as a face-to -face interview.

To make it a bit more palatable I’ve compiled a list of 10 questions. The questions are designed to uncover any potential audiologist’s strengths, weaknesses, long-term plans and sales aptitude.

10 Phone Interview Questions for Audiologists

  1. Why did you get in to the field of audiology?
  1. What do you think is the most interesting aspect of audiology?
  1. What personality traits do you possess that make you feel well suited for a private practice audiology clinic?
  1. Our practice sells hearing aids. On a scale of 1 to 10 rate yourself as a sales person.
  1. Why did you give your self that rating?
  1. With regard to the profession of audiology what do you think is your weakest attribute?
  1. If you could improve one aspect of your professional skills what would you improve?
  1. How do you feel about participating in marketing activities that create awareness about hearing loss and the practice?
  1. Do you ever want to own your own practice? (If yes, what is your timeframe and where would you want the practice to be located?)
  1. Why should I consider you for the position?

The answers to these questions will allow you to decide if there’s any point in setting up a face-to-face interview.  As you go through this list, keep in mind, with any potential hire; skills can be taught; attitude rarely changes. And one more thing to remember, human resources is all about putting the right people in the right place doing the right thing…. I know, where’s a magic wand when you need one!

High End Customer Service – First Impressions

It’s time.  You’ve attracted a new patient to your office.  They actually showed up for their appointment (probably 15 minutes early or 15 minutes late depending on which is more inconvenient for you).  They are ready to be called into the back so you can begin the hearing test.  How do you provide “High End Customer Service” at this point in the visit?

We’ve gotten past the décor (it should go without saying that your back rooms should be as appealing as the waiting room).  The staff in the back should be as courteous as the staff in the front.  What’s different now is that the patient is probably meeting the healthcare professional for the first time.

According to Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Blink , your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions.  Those conclusions are important and occasionally spot on, but more importantly we all make them.  Sub-consciously, your patient has already made a series of conclusions about you before you open your mouth.

Without knowing it, this is often a make or break moment.  The first two seconds can set the tone for the entire visit.  What you are trying to accomplish is to let the patient, who is at this point feeling very vulnerable, know that they can trust you.

Here are 5 things you can do to establish trust.

  1. Do not be late.  Being on time conveys reliability and if people know you’re reliable, they are more willing to trust you.
  2. Make eye contact.  This takes practice for some people.  Too little can be just as bad as too much.
  3. Monitor how you feel.  If you’re anxious about a personal matter, your patient will pick up on the anxiety.  They have no idea why you’re anxious but they assume it relates to them.
  4. Dress appropriately – this should be a no brainer, but we ‘ll include it anyway.  A lab coat may be cliché, but if you’re fresh out of graduate school and look 18 years old, you could use all the help you can get to not look any younger than you already are.  Remember, if you are 26 years old you are decades to a half a century or more, younger than your demographic.
  5. Watch your body language.  Smile.  Smiling forces you to relax which in turn should help your patient to relax.  Do not cross your arms in front of you or hold a patient’s chart in front of you.  Everyone has nervous habits when meeting someone for the first time.  Know what yours are and learn to control them.

What is the point of all this? You are trying to sell a hearing aid.  The cliché, you never get a second chance to make a first impression is accurate.  Overcoming objections is difficult enough.  Don’t make it worse but needing to overcome both the patients reasons why they don’t need or want a hearing aid and their bad first impression of you!!!

Buying and selling a hearing aid is an emotional experience

We’re interrupting the Customer Service blogs for an important message.

Buying and selling a hearing aid is an emotional experience.

For every new patient with a hearing loss who walks through your door you’ll hear a few versions of the same story.  I can’t hear, I don’t want to admit I can’t hear. I don’t want to be here.  I’ve heard horror stories about hearing aids.  I have access to the Internet which has provided me with half-truths, innuendos and unrealistic price expectations.  Now let’s get started with this appointment so I can ruin your day, by telling you at the end of this visit that I want to “think about” buying a hearing aid!

Buying a hearing aid is an emotional experience, but so is selling one.  And many times the seller’s lack of joining in the emotion of the experience is what kills the sale.  I’m an Audiologist…and have been since 1986.  Grasping the concept that what I did for a large part of my day was selling was the hardest lesson for me to learn.  Too often we expect the results of the test and our recommendations to be enough.  It isn’t.

Your job is to uncover the emotional impact the hearing loss is having on the quality of life of your patient.  You need to connect to the patient and a piece of paper with X’s and O’s is not the way to do it.  That doesn’t mean the audiogram has no importance, it most certainly does.  It tells you, the highly trained professional that most of what will be coming out of the mouth of your patient in the few moments after you complete the test will be a glossy version of their reality.

For example, when you ask a patient with a relatively flat 50dBHL sensorineural hearing loss “Mr. Jones, where do you have the most problem hearing.”  And he answers you with the following. “I don’t really notice a problem.”  Your first response should not be to pull out a speech banana to show him what sounds he’s missing.  Your first response should be.  “Mr. Jones, I’ve been doing this for a long time, I know exactly what you can and can’t hear.”  Your next response should be. “Let me ask you a question.”

You’ve taken a detailed medical history, now is the time to take a detailed quality of life history.  By asking questions about the patient’s real world experience you’ll begin to make an emotional connection.

“Quality of Life History”

  1. Mr. Jones, What do you do for fun?
  2. How many grandkids do you have?
  3. Where do you go on vacation?
  4. What are your favorite TV shows?
  5. What was the last movie you saw in the theater?
  6. How often do you go out to dinner?
  7. Do you have any hobbies?

The point of this is in how you respond to Mr. Jones when he answers your question.  For example, “Mr. Jones, how many grandkids do you have?”  When he says, “three”, ask another question because how many is not important…how he interacts with them is.  Keeping asking questions…”What do you do with them when you see them?” “What do you wish you could do?”  “How does it make you feel when you know you didn’t hear what your grandson said?”  You are looking for the proverbial “button to push” and everyone has one.  Mr. Jones has one and so do you.  (Please refer back to, the first paragraph and remember how you feel when a patient says, “I want to think about it.”)

You aren’t being heartless; the goal isn’t to bring the patient to tears.  The goal is to create a compelling reason for the patient to want to solve the problem.  Because if you don’t get him to do something about his problem now, he’s likely to wait a few more months or years to try again.He has a problem that’s why he’s in your office.   What he doesn’t realize is that you are interested in what that problem is.  More than likely he’s anticipating that you want to “fix” his hearing loss.

Hearing loss (AND THIS IS IMPORTANT) is not his problem.  His problem is that his favorite grandson no longer wants to be with Grandpa because Grandpa doesn’t understand what he’s saying.  Yes, I realize it’s because of his hearing loss, but the difference between, “I have a hearing loss.” and “My grandson doesn’t want to spend time with me anymore.” is huge. Recognize this, understand the problem, solve the problem and you’ll have a patient for life.

The Waiting Room, What Is Its’ Purpose?

The Waiting Room – What Is Its’ Purpose

Seems like a simple question with an equally simple answer.  If you think it’s only a place for patients to wait their turn until you call them into the back rooms, you’re only partially correct.  The waiting room should be the place where ONE, you continue to validate the patients decision to pick up the phone and call YOUR office and TWO continue the sale process.  Remember marketing your patient into your practice is part of the hearing aid sales process.  Calling your office is part of the sales process.  Checking in and sitting down to wait should also be part of the sales process.

We covered the look and the feel of everything up to your front door in “High End Customer Service, Why Bother?” In this article we’re exploring the next step in the process… the waiting room.  Your patient is at home getting ready to come to your office.  Their anxiety level is beginning to ratchet up slowly but surely.  They’re entering uncharted waters.  What’s in your waiting room will do one of two things, increase their anxiety level or ideally decrease their anxiety level.

Let’s start with the look and the feel.  We left off in the “High End Customer Service, Why Bother?” article with the importance of patients being able to see into the waiting room, before they enter the waiting room. The patient is opening your front door what will their experience be? It’s time to evaluate your waiting room.

The top ten things to evaluate in your waiting room.

  1. Replace worn or stained carpeting. If any part of your floor is tile, cover it with an area rug that does not move.
  2. Your waiting room chairs should be sturdy, coordinated and stain free. Make sure you have a sufficient number of waiting room chairs so that everyone has a seat.  Standing room only makes it appear that you are overbooked, not a good technique to ease the anxious patient.
  3. Reading material should be easily accessible and current.
  4. Provide an umbrella stand and a secure location for coats and jackets.
  5. Your “success stories” should be visible.
    1. Please remember not to violate HIPAA guidelines when displaying patient success stories.
    2. Do not date the stories.  A success from 2006, may only indicate to a current patient that it’s been an awfully long time since you had a happy patient.
  6. Display the gift basket you give for patient referrals prominently. Patients like to know that other patients refer their friends and family to you.
  7. TV/Video – It is enticing to want to bombard your patients with information. Remember your demographic. They are hearing impaired and often visually impaired.  Any information you provide via Video, should also be available in print format.  The video experience will not be the same for a healthy young adult without a hearing loss as it will be for your average patient.
  8. Beverage carts are all the rage.  They aren’t necessary.  A water cooler is a nice touch.  However, the average patient does not want to think they’ll be the waiting room long enough for a cup of coffee and possibly a small snack!
  9. Vendor posters.  Avoid displaying anything you don’t intend to sell to every patient.  Or at a minimum have one of every vendor you represent.  Prominently displaying Vendor A and selling the patient Vendor B will always cause a patient to question why?  They may not express it, it may even register subconsciously, but what it says it that you think enough of Vendor A to sacrifice valuable wall space to display their products, but you don’t think enough of me, the patient, to sell me that product.
  10. And finally, your staff, they are an integral part of the “waiting room”.  Make sure they immediately make eye contact with and greet whoever enters that room.

A pleasant waiting room experience is a crucial step in the entire process.  Selling hearing aids is already a difficult process.  There’s no need to add to the challenges you’ll face by starting off on the wrong foot with the patient before you’ve had a chance to say hello.