This month we tap readers into what marketing professionals and practitioners/dispensers are saying about marketing programs they offer or use. Our roundup represents the views of participants and is not intended to be a scientific survey.

Marketing professionals were asked:

  • How can your company’s services help audiologists and dispensers expand their patient base, particularly in a down economy?
  • Why should audiologists spend marketing dollars in a difficult economy?

Roy Bain

ROY BAIN

CEO
AudioCare, San Diego

In the past, we have always felt that our profession was recession free. Seniors don’t have jobs to lose; they live on set incomes. This time is different. No one knows for sure how deep or how long this recession will last, so they are reluctant to spend money, especially if they believe a product is not totally necessary. Unfortunately, the nonwearer fits in this category. We recommend programs that are weighted toward the patient base; those who know their hearing aids are necessary and understand the benefits of wearing them.

Unlike newsprint, television, and radio, direct response mail demographically targets prospective patients who need our services. When your advertisement is received by people over 60, who are often competitive hearing aid users, your return is better than when you broadcast your message to the masses of all ages. When advertising to the hearing impaired, it’s better to shoot a rifle rather than a shotgun.

In good times, you should advertise. In bad times, you must advertise. Obviously, in good times your return on investment will generally be better than in bad times; however, if you do nothing, you will get nothing. When the economy is down, you cannot afford to miss an opportunity. Every prospective patient must be properly motivated to become a patient. It’s time to sharpen your skills; you’re never so good at what you do that you can’t get better..


JOEL ELLIS

President
Practice Builders, Orange, Calif

We are a marketing services company that specializes only in health care, which we have done for about 30 years. There is a medical channel and a retail channel. One of the best ways we can help audiologists is allow them to play on the medical side (the big circle) as well as the retail side (the smaller circle). Historically, audiologists have been opposed to playing on that small side (retail), but now as younger students come out, they are seeing that they can play at both and maintain high ethical and high medical standards.

First of all, we seek to brand audiologists and create a strategic plan in a way that allows them to operate on the retail side, while still maintaining a high level of medical professionalism. This is the same thing we do for MDs, because some of them are heavily dependent on professional referrals as well, just like an audiologist. We can ultimately help audiologists drive a higher level of collections and hearing aid fittings.

Many agencies that align with an audiologist can create various “stuff,” but can they really sit down and consult with an audiologist based on 30 years of working with audiologists and others in the hearing health care field? Do they have the ability to coach and develop over the years to come? That is the differentiating factor that we bring. We get to know the practice, and the goals and objectives, and we work personally with them.


George and Cerise Escobedo

GEORGE AND CERISE ESCOBEDO

Founders
Chicago Advertising & Marketing Inc (CAM), Yorkville, Ill

We started our company in 1995, and we are still a mom and pop organization that does almost 500 promotions a month. We did 20 million pieces of mail last year.

Our experience, list, pricing, and customer service set us apart. We advertise to a unique type of person. We target people in a certain age group—usually 64 and older. We also send our clients monthly flyers in the mail, advertising new mail pieces with special sign-up offers. These offers are also on our Web site and sent weekly as e-mail blasts to make sure everyone is able to get in on these great promotions.

With direct mail, you can pinpoint and target people who are close to your location. We mail to zip codes that are within your location, but we go a little further. If there are two individuals who live at the same address and are 64 and older, we are going to mail only one per household. With direct mail, you are able to pinpoint the demographic and the area, and that is important to get the most bang for your buck. We will be at the International Hearing Society meeting in San Diego this October.


Practitioners/dispensers were asked:

  • What marketing have you done recently, and how has it worked out?

MARVIN COHEN

Franchisee
Miracle Ear, Milwaukee

We decided to do a mailing to current customers (as opposed to prospective customers). These were people we had already dispensed hearing instruments to. We were educating them about the new technology, and letting them know that it had been a while since they had been fit with their current hearing instruments. We let them know that it would be a good time for a visit, to get a new hearing evaluation and find out what is available in today’s market with the new technology.

It’s more cost-effective to work with customers you already have than put the investment into prospects and convert them into customers. We did two offices in 1 week, 3 days each, and we have a large customer base so that helps. We sent a letter to all of the users for each respective office who received instruments from 1996 to 2006, and we offered the updated hearing evaluation, new technology, and a trade-up discount on their old aids. Good service and good care go a long way. If you take care of your patients and customers on a regular basis, they are going to come back to you rather than the competition.

We had a very good response, and the conversion rate was high. Over the 6-day period, we had a total between the two offices of 53 new instruments that were dispensed. Also between the two offices, we had approximately 1,700 letters go out. Out of the 1,700, some of the people on that list had died or moved, so not everybody we mailed to received the letter.


Cynde Parker, AuD

CYNDE PARKER, AUD

President/owner
Seaford Audiology, Seaford, Del; Coastal Audiology, Millsborough, Del

About 3 years ago, Practice Builders put together a marketing packet for us, and we are still using it. It’s a folder, and there are several pages on one side. One area covers diagnostics, and one area covers hearing aid technology. They are little educational flyers that talk about what we do in several different areas. On the other side, there is a bio of me, and a comment card that people can fill out and send back that tells how their experience was. It is all very complete, professional looking, and classy.

The brochures go out to clients with a letter that says when their appointment is. Anyone who comes in with a hearing problem, or has a family member who does, we give them a packet—and anyone who stops in and asks questions. Clients now even take packets to their friends.

The packets are nice educational tools, and that is pretty much the kind of marketing we do. So far we are hanging in there.


Greg Thompson is a contributing writer for Hearing Review Products. For more information, contact [email protected]