Some of your future customers may be younger than you’d expect! Statistics show that there is a younger demographic of patient leads out there—averaging about 59 years old—who need hearing aids, but are currently not using them. This population of potential patients are 10 years younger than the current national average of hearing aid users.
Does this younger patient demographic represent your practice’s opportunity for growth? It is estimated that there are 1 to 2 million people in this younger age group in the US, and a smaller subset of this group—numbered at 500,000 in the US in 2011—are actively searching for hearing care. This group has its own nickname—the “RTAs” (ready-to-act)—who will someday soon become first-time hearing aid users.
Reaching a Younger Demographic of Patients with Hearing Loss
Practices like yours could have what these younger potential patients are looking for—or you could strategize to develop the right mix of services and products they want, and market them a certain way in order to grow your practice.
At least one company in the hearing care industry is already going after this younger demographic of patients. In 2015, Sivantos acquired audibene GmbH, a highly successful German company that has served as an Internet portal for hearing care case management in Europe. Sivantos introduced audibene to the US market as Hear.com in 2015, and geared its marketing specifically to reach that younger patient demographic that makes up the first-time hearing aid user market.
Since it is unlikely that Hear.com will be able to serve all 500,000 of these patient leads in the US, it might be useful for other hearing care practice owners to consider what they offer, and what they are doing to attract these younger “RTAs” and turn them into first-time hearing aid wearers. According to Hear.com, their approach is to change the perception of the hearing care product itself. In their marketing, they describe hearing aids as “smart, high-tech devices” to make hearing aids more attractive to a younger, tech-savvy customer base. (About 80% of Hear.com customers are wearing hearing aids for the first time, so this strategy appears to be working.)
Might this strategy work for you and your practice at the local level? There is longterm potential for growth as you attract and build trust and loyalty with new, younger patients. Once they become hearing aid users, they will keep coming back for more accessories and service, and for advanced hearing aid technologies in the years to come.
Tips for Motivating the “Tech-savvy” Customer
To better understand how to reach and motivate your potential younger hearing aid users, you need to know more about their online activity. You already know they are “tech-savvy.” So now dig deeper into their online behaviors.
CareCredit recently commissioned research on patient behavior to help you understand the customers you are trying to reach. Did you know that there are 25.8 million people in the US who are not-yet-users of hearing aids, and roughly 17.3 million of them are online?
CareCredit found that among people researching healthcare online, cost and financing were highly-researched topics and key considerations on a patients’ path to purchasing hearing aids or other care. In fact, the CareCredit research study found that an almost equal percentage of patients researched cost (84%) as researched treatment or products (88%), and they sought information on cost and payment solutions throughout the decision-making process.
Based on these findings, you might consider offering patient financing, such as CareCredit’s healthcare credit card, to help your younger, tech-savvy customers access the high-tech hearing products they want. And, you can feature this financing option prominently on your website and in your other online marketing so that patients in search of hearing healthcare can see they will be able to cover the cost of hearing aids—immediately. Why is patient financing a factor? Because research findings also showed that patients considering healthcare needs such as dentistry and optical care had a shorter path to purchase. For hearing healthcare, the higher out-of-pocket cost of hearing aids influenced the time it took them to make a purchase. If patients know you offer options to help them pay for their hearing care, they might book an appointment at your practice sooner. (Download the free report on CareCredit’s research study here.)
What other strategies could you use?
- One is obvious—use online marketing to help grow your practice. Your message can also be delivered through community outreach programs.
- Use “targeted marketing” to motivate ready-to-act consumers to make the important move to become first-time hearing aid users. When they are ready to buy, they will start looking for dispensing offices or networks. Perhaps they may even use Yellow Pages. (All this is called inbound marketing: It means your target customer base is doing the searching. You just need to be found! Inbound marketing needs to capture the attention of your potential younger patients, and then draw them to your website—and ultimately, your practice!
- Keep in mind that your intended target market is looking for the product when they’re ready to buy it. And on-demand marketing delivers what your prospects truly want, when they want it (now!), and where they want it. Your potential hearing aid purchaser can search Google to pick out the brand, style, pricing, and more. She’s just a click away from buying online! Your job is to emphasize the important role of the hearing care professional, along with the products, services and financing options your practice offers to meet her needs.
- Putting the right information online (not only on your website, but also in online ads and banners) is absolutely essential.
These methods are just a start. People in this market are not only looking for dispensing locations, they also are searching for compelling hearing health information. The RTAs are looking online for information about losing their hearing, and that’s exactly when they will find you—the well-positioned hearing care professional whose website offers plenty of content on early signs of hearing loss, and more.
Some younger online consumers may not be ready for hearing aids. You can provide objective information on how they can boost their sound volume (amplification) with other hearing technology, like assistive listening devices (ALDs). The informational content on your website will more naturally attract a younger market and gently guide them through the process of addressing their hearing loss—without a “hard-sell” approach. Your content can be angled to rework the “perception” of hearing aids as smart, wearable devices. This approach can help to break down resistance to the purchase and use of hearing aids for first-timers.
More Ideas for Attracting Younger Patients
Be aware that you need to focus on the part of the market you want—and not resort to the “bullet-spray” marketing approach (spreading your message across the entire market without regard for any particular segment of the audience). Marketing to reach everyone may have the unintentional result of scaring potential patients away! The market you truly wanted to attract may see your practice’s claims up against another’s and decide that you two are “the same.” Instead, you need to have a strategy that makes your practice stand out from the pack. The big question is: How do you zero-in on the specific patients you want, and then attract them to your practice?
- Think again about the product, and changing the way people think about hearing aids. Perhaps take it a step further—and almost divorce yourself from the product…and focus on the feeling that goes with it. Create a “tech-savvy” feel about your hearing care practice and in your hearing care messages.
- Also realize that there are many patient prospects who still focus on product, not practice differentiation. So, your practice’s own “brand personality”—the thing that differentiates you from the competition—may be lost on these prospects. Yet, there are ways to tie the tech-savvy products to your practice. Keep looking at the successful competitors and keep thinking…and you will find what works for you. (For example, consider showing younger, active people—in their late 50s—in your ads)
- Last but not least, remember the all-powerful word-of-mouth referral program. Your existing older patients also may know some younger ones who are looking for reliable hearing care. Some of your existing younger patients may have friends in the same age bracket.
To sum it up, you will need targeted and efficient marketing methods to reach patients in the mid- to late-50s age bracket. Your message needs to be available online (through online and community outreach programs). Think creatively about the ideas given here to motivate younger consumers to become RTAs, and you’ll likely come away with what works best to put your practice on the path to success.
Image credits: CareCredit; © Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com