Ron Bain:, president of AudioCare, discusses his companys position in the retail hearing aid market.
Recently, Hearing Products Report (HPR:) had an opportunity to speak with Ron Bain:, president of AudioCare, a family-owned and operated retail hearing aid marketing firm headquartered in San Diego.
HPR: Tell us about AudioCare.
Ron Bain: AudioCare is a family- owned retail hearing aid marketing firm which was started in February 1994. The three family members, Roy, Ron, and Jon Bain, along with AudioCares marketing consultants Brad Barfield, David Brammer, and Lisa Kissee have a combined total of 130 years experience in the hearing aid profession. Each member of the AudioCare team understands that their success is directly commensurate with the services they provide for the hearing aid dispenser.
HPR: Why did you start AudioCare?
Ron Bain: Success in business comes as a result of finding a need and providing a solution to that need. A hearing aid is a product no one wants being sold to people who wont admit they have a problem. A person experiencing hearing loss is reluctant to raise their hand and ask for help. Hearing aids are not purchased, they must be sold. And before the dispenser can provide his or her services, the prospective patient must be found. Advertising must be professional and at the same time provide the motivation necessary to cause the hearing impaired to respond. AudioCares Patient Finder programs are designed to fulfill these needs.
HPR: Do you have a customer profile?
Ron Bain: No, the need for the dispenser to generate new patients is universal. Happy new patients are the lifeblood of a successful practice. Without the influx of new patients, being the worlds best, most professional hearing aid fitter will go unnoticed. Simply put, if you sell and fit hearing aids, you need marketing. I should add that when I refer to dispenser I am including the dispensing audiologist.
HPR: What should the dispenser or dispensing audiologist expect when they become an AudioCare client?
Ron Bain: The number one goal of an AudioCare Patient Finder program is that no patient leaves unhappy. In this profession, we live and die by our reputation. No matter how proficient you may be at selling, if you leave an unhappy patient, you wont be invited back.
Our second goal is to generate revenue and a substantial profit for the dispenser. Like the successful dispenser, our business has been built on referrals. The dispenser or dispensing audiologist can expect and will receive high-quality effort backed by integrity from every member of the AudioCare team.
HPR: Do you use manufacturers as referral sources? How?
Ron Bain: Absolutely, when their dispensers sell and fit more hearing aids, the manufacturer loves it. Most manufacturers support AudioCares Patient Finder program by offering a co-op to their dispensers. AudioCare does in no way compete with the manufacturer. We do not sell hearing aids to the dispenser; our marketing programs sell hearing aids for the dispenser. Manufacturers are impressed by the fact that the product return rate of hearing aids sold as a result of our programs is usually the same as the dispensers normal business.
HPR: Exactly who is an AudioCare client?
Ron Bain: Our clients cannot easily be described. We provide our services to large multi-office dispensers and small one-office owners alike. The background of the clientele differs; some are traditional dispensers, and a rapidly growing number are dispensing audiologists. A characteristic of the dispensers who market their practice on a regular basis is that they dominate their marketplace and are, more often than not, financially successful.
HPR: What services do you offer your clients?
Ron Bain: Our Patient Finder programs differ depending on the customers needs. We use a multimedia approach to marketing. We design direct response mail and newspaper ads, and recommend others who make prospective patient courtesy calls. The dispenser always remains in control. We do not attempt to change the dispenser methodology to match our marketing programs. We tailor our marketing to match the marketing philosophy of the dispenser, and they differ greatly. Once the needs of the dispenser have been analyzed, we create a turnkey program.
HPR: Broadly speaking, what problems do your Patient Finder programs solve for your client?
Ron Bain: By using an upgraded open house format, we generate new patients at a profit. Where else can a dispenser invest $5,000 and generate $50,000 in retail revenue in just 3 days? The preponderance of the new patients generated as a result of our programs are first-time hearing aid users.
HPR: Are your marketing programs the same for a customer in San Diego as for a New York City-based customer?
Ron Bain: Well, yes and no. We have found that advertising copy works well irrespective of market area; however, media costs differ greatly and therefore programs differ. Other elements that must be considered include weather conditions, timing, and senior population movement. Many areas, such as Florida, experience a senior population season that must be considered.
HPR: How does AudioCares program stand out from other hearing aid marketing plans?
Ron Bain: Patient finding is both an art and a science. Experience is important, and the principals at AudioCare have been conducting marketing programs in the hearing aid profession for more than 40 years.
I personally know most of our competitors who provide similar services to the profession, many have been previous employees or customers of ours, and quite frankly, I believe most do a professional job servicing their customers. Unfortunately, the only airplanes we hear about are the ones that crash and that is also true of retail hearing aid promotions. The 99% that are successful tend to go unnoticed. The best way to investigate the worth of a company is to talk to their customers.
HPR: How important is your service to your customers?
Ron Bain: The majority of our customers have been with us for years. We consider our relationship to be a partnership in progress. Without marketing, nothing happens. Once we have established a working relationship with the dispenser, we become part of their team. We must continually read the marketplace to ensure that we do not return to the well too often, thus causing the cost of advertising to increase as a percentage of revenue. We try to keep the cost of advertising under 15%, hopefully close to 10% of the revenue generated. We become important to the dispenser, and of course, we could not succeed without them.
HPR: What plans are in the future for AudioCare? Where do you see yourselves in 10 years?
Ron Bain: AudioCare has enjoyed a steady growth during the past 10 years, and we believe growth will continue. We must, however, grow at a controllable rate. We are not looking for dispensers interested in a one-time promotion. Our interests are in developing long-term relationships.
I have found that if we add too many new customers too quickly, we risk quality. Our plans are to grow slowly, and we will not sacrifice quality for quantity.
Kim Born is a contributing writer for Hearing Products Report.