Why Did You Choose Our Office?

One of the costly line items in your budget every month is your advertising and marketing expense.  That being said, are you really doing everything you can to make sure you know exactly how your patients are choosing your office?

Why Choose?

Notice I said choose instead of asking them who referred you to them.

There is a difference.  Over the course of years while your patient is aware they have a problem hearing (but ignoring the problem) they will be influenced consciously and sub-consciously long before they are actually ready to do something about their hearing loss.

The more often your practice is involved in the “influencing” the more likely it is that a patient will choose your office.

High Involvement Decision Making

Hearing aids fall into the high involvement decision-making process.  When a consumer buys more expensive less frequently purchased products in an unfamiliar category, purchase decisions are more about problem solving. This type of purchase is what is known as a High Involvement purchase.

The Consumer Buying Process

When purchasing any product, a consumer goes through a decision process. This process can consist of up to five stages and also often referred to as the product adoption process.  Product adoption is concerned with the way new consumers learn about new product and decide to purchase. There are mainly five steps in the product adoption process. They are:

Product Awareness

The first step of the product adoption is to be aware of product. Consumers become aware of product introduction in the market via various means of communication, both online and offline.

Product Interest

If interest in the product is piqued, the consumer will start to collect the information related to the product.

Product Evaluation

The consumer will now evaluate the information collected. Consumers will attempt to assess the quality, benefits and price of the product.

Product Trial

It is at this point in the process that a purchase is made.

Product Adoption

Finally, after the trial of the product if the consumer is satisfied he/she will decide to adopt the product and use the product regularly.

The length of this decision process will vary depending upon the nature of the product being purchased. A consumer may not act in isolation in the purchase, but rather may be influenced by any of several people in various roles. The number of influences involved in the buying decision increases with the cost of the item.

Other people are often involved in a consumer’s purchase decision. In the case of a hearing aid purchase it is most often the significant other followed by close friends and family and often other healthcare professionals.  Marketing strategies should also be aimed at these people.

It might be time to take a step back and assess your referral tracking process.

The Art of Networking

Face it some of us were born to schmooze.  Some of us were born to live in a castle surrounded by a moat.  Unfortunately for the latter when you own a business you need to learn a few rules that come naturally to the schmoozers.

The 10 Rules of Networking

1       What are you trying to accomplish?

Not all networking events are created equally. Are you trying to cultivate additional referral sources or scouting for potential patients? Different venues will provide different opportunities.  Decide what you’re trying to accomplish before heading out.

2       Go it alone.

We all feel more comfortable attending any function social or work-related with someone else. However when you go alone you’re forced to talk to people, it’s easier to insert yourself into conversations, and you’re less intimidating if someone wants to approach you to start a conversation.

3       Work the room.

Consider the law of averages — the more people you meet the more likely you are to make a connection.  Converse for a few minutes and then move on.

4       Show interest

Show an interest in your new contact, without overdoing it. When you get people to talk about themselves and you listen intently and actively, you will be remembered as a fascinating conversationalist, even if you say very little.

5       Don’t use the word networking. 

The use of the word (not the activity) has taken on a negative connotation. Social media is a form of networking that has a better “image”.  Think of yourself as making connections, building relationships and seeking advice.

6       Don’t be pushy and aggressive.

If a conversation is going nowhere then move on.  You may have just ended a conversation with the head of the largest primary care physician group in your area, but understanding when a connection isn’t being made is as important as knowing when one is.

7       Remember that networking is a two-way street.

You aren’t the only person in your geographic area who is out networking.  The idea of reciprocity is perhaps the most important aspect of networking. Offer your help to your contacts and supply needed information whenever possible.

8       Take notes.

It’s impossible to remember specifics on every person you meet at any event, so don’t be afraid to take notes. In this day and age use your Smartphone to jot down notes as soon as possible after the conversation has ended.

9       Watch what you drink.

This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway.  Alcohol makes it easier for all of us to meet new people. Good news, bad news, one drink won’t cause you to have regrets in the morning, but end it there.

10    Follow up.

You’ve made a connection (hopefully several) now follow-up.  If it’s a professional who may potentially refer a patient make sure they get your referral kit.  Any potential patients should get a coupon in mail (or any similar enticement).

And while we’re on that subject, too often in our profession, we think the only people we should be networking are other professionals.  Wrong.  A large network is an excellent way to garner new patients.  Everyone you meet, and I’m willing to bet that “everyone” you meet knows someone who has a hearing problem.  If everyone you meet knows who you are and what you do, then everyone you meet has just become a potential referral source, and that’s a good thing.



No Evidence for Hearing Screenings

If you haven’t heard about it yet…here it is from the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The Update of the 1996 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation statement on hearing screenings for older adults,

“The USPSTF concluded that current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for hearing loss in asymptomatic adults aged 50 years or older.”

This recommendation applies to asymptomatic adults aged 50 years or older. It does not apply to persons seeking evaluation for perceived hearing problems or for cognitive or affective symptoms that may be related to hearing loss. These persons should be assessed for objective hearing impairment and treated when indicated.

You can view this one of two ways…glass half empty or glass half full.

Glass Half Empty

Primary care physicians, already difficult to convince to do just about anything can now point to this recommendation as an additional reason why they aren’t sending you any patients for something as easy and painless as a hearing screening.

Glass Hall Full

Lets get real. You probably have several great primary care doctors who already refer patients to you. My guess is (and this is the important part), they didn’t start sending you patients because the previous Preventative Task Force recommended that they send patients over age 50 for a hearing screening.

In all likelihood you cultivated the relationship through hard work. You made sure to visit their office every so often, that their patients were seen promptly and returned accurate and well written reports quickly.

The sky is not falling because some task force made an ill-advised choice. Take solace in the Statement by Dr. James Pacala, president of the American Geriatrics Society,

“The only detriments associated with hearing tests are “some anxiety” and the unreimbursed medical costs patients incur.” Dr. Pacala said, “He planned to continue offering them (hearing screenings) to patients. “I think we’ve oversold cancer screening, but in this case the harms are minimal to nonexistent, while the potential benefit is clear: When people are outfitted with hearing aids, they hear better.”

Find the Dr. Pacala’s in your medical community and continue to develop your referral sources just like you were doing last week and the week before. I hate be the one to tell you this, but if the USPSTF had gone the other way, your phone still wouldn’t have been ringing off the hook with a bevy of 50+ year old patients referred by their doctors.

Marketing Doctors for Referrals, It Isn’t as Difficult as You Think

Forget everything you’ve read about the best way to market doctors.

Educating doctors about audiology, hearing aids and hearing loss is a nice idea that has little basis in the reality of both you and the doctor’s busy day.

You are marketing the doctor for referrals and that’s ok.  He knows it and you know it.  Marketing should solve a problem.  If your plan is to educate the physician about hearing loss then you are assuming that the doctor lacks the information you’re providing.

We don’t suggest this approach for two reasons.

The assumption if wrong makes you look like an idiot.

The assumption if correct makes the doctor feel like an idiot.

I don’t know about you, but neither outcome works for me.

The problem that you are trying to solve is that you aren’t getting enough patients from the doctor.  (By the way, if you are getting enough patients, then drop off lunch, say thank you and leave them to enjoy their lunch).



How do you get more referrals?

By figuring out what the doctors problems are and providing a solution. (The staff’s problems count too.)

          1. The referral process should be as simple as possible.  Everything the doctor’s office and the patient needs should be located in one envelope.
          2. It’s ok to ask questions.  But they need to be the right questions
            1. Do you refer out for audiology? It’s a good idea to see what the starting point might be.
            2. What do you expect from your referral sources?  They may not have an answer so be ready with an example.  Do you prefer to have reports emailed, faxed or mailed to your office?
            3. Is there something in particular that we should never do?  If they had a hard time coming up with a response to the previous question, trust me they won’t be shy answering this one.
          3. I know I annoyed some of you by stating that educating the physician about hearing loss and hearing aids had no basis in reality.  What , I should have said was education needs to come much later in the relationship.  Once you establish that you are interested in solving problems for the doctor.  He may be open to more.  There is a time and a place for everything.  And the first few visits to any new referal source should be all about them, not you about you.

Marketing referral sources is just like developing any other relationship.  Remember these 3 things and your referral base should flourish!

      1. Someone has to make the first move and typically that’s whoever wants the relationship in the first place. (Doctors aren’t going to just start knocking on your door, you actually have to go to their office.)
      2. Both sides have to get something out of the relationship on an ongoing basis otherwise why should either side bother?  (You get referrals, they get fed.)
      3. You need to make sure the relationship is a priority.  Don’t take it for granted and stop visiting or sending reports or making sure that everything between your offices is problem free or the inevitable will occur and the relationship will end.