Although our world is increasingly dependent on online information, apps, and Web sites, it’s curious that hearing care practices still appear to be struggling to find effective online marketing tactics. The survey published in this edition of HRP confirms this. Just over half (52%) of practice owners using “Website Development Initiatives”—which was deemed the best online-related marketing tactic in Table 12— felt that this tactic was “very” or “somewhat effective.” Judging by the same criterion, other Web-related tactics’ “effectiveness ratings” were 48% for search engine optimization, 43% for pay-for-click programs, 41% for social media campaigns, and 26% for email campaigns. By comparison, the more conventional marketing tactics dwarf these ratings: 67% for newspaper ads, 68% for newsletters, 72-74% for education seminars and open houses, and 75-79% for patient and physician referral programs.

So, for all we read about the “power of online marketing,” where is the ROI that supposedly comes with it? Markus Hilbert, AuD, in his article in this issue looks at some of these questions and offers several excellent suggestions. Overall strategy for amplifying your practice’s (and our industry’s) message doubtlessly has a lot to do with how these tactics succeed or fail. From personal experience, I have several friends who own local businesses and who have aggressively taken the “online marketing route,” only to scale back quickly to a strategy that includes a much more traditional marketing mix—at least until more effective local solutions emerge. Our industry’s unique demographic can also make online marketing tenuous. Although we all know that seniors are one of the fastest growing online audiences, we also all have older family members who still look at a VCR like it’s the console of the lunar landing module. The bottom line is online marketing will continue to be important for growing your practice—today and in the future. However, a successful strategy in employing online marketing takes a lot more thought, planning, time, and dedication.