Research shows that growth for your hearing healthcare practice springs from new leads, but where do you find these leads, how do you capture them for your practice, and how do you hold onto them? An extensive study on “Hearing Healthcare Marketing Practices” revealed that most new leads for audiology come through referrals from existing patients. Therefore, it stands to reason that giving exceptional care to existing patients and marketing to them are the magic seeds to grow your practice.
“Worldwide, successful practices are making small shifts now to optimize their referral programs,” states Bruce Brown, Global Marketing VP at Unitron (the firm that commissioned this study). He adds that hearing care professionals are growing their practices by “encouraging advocacy from existing patients, and striking the right balance between traditional and digital marketing.”
3 areas where practices can focus their marketing to reap rewards:
- Getting referrals from existing patients
- Having a varied marketing mix – keep some traditional marketing
- Including more digital marketing
Take a Multi-layered Approach to Grow Your Practice
Using a variety of methods may help boost business. That’s exactly what audiologist Gyl Kasewurm did, and it paid off for her practice—PHS in Saint Joseph, Michigan. She says it increased her business by about 16% in the first quarter after she started using it. Dr Kasewurm describes this approach in a recent webinar, courtesy of CareCredit. Her approach consists of:
- External Marketing – marketing to mass audience
- Internal Marketing – increasing amount of business from current patients
- Patient Referral Program
External. Many practices focus only on the “external” aspect – using different forms of mass media such as TV, social media, radio and direct mail to attract new leads. Dr Kasewurm says that she uses direct mail as only one part of an external marketing campaign.
She finds that traditional marketing forms such as newspapers and direct mail are trending downward. Yet, these still have their place in the marketing mix. However, patient prospects are becoming more Web savvy, and for this reason marketing online is effective, and also cost-efficient. Kasewurm notes that 84% of Baby Boomers and 50% to 70% of seniors use online searches to gather information.
Internal & Referral. Internal marketing includes consistently following up with existing patients after appointments and throughout the year with information and marketing messages. “I’m amazed that more than 40% of practices and hearing healthcare professionals don’t schedule any kind of follow-up with their patients at all,” comments Dr Kasewurm. She claims that the bulk her new business comes from the “internal marketing” and “patient referral” channels of her overall marketing program. Here are some tactics she uses in these marketing channels:
- Sends email and print newsletters.
- Does an “upgrade” program 4 times per year – sends a letter with a handwritten note (eg, “We have great new technology. Please attend our upcoming event. Make an appointment to see a demo.”)
- Mails a letter to invite patients to be in a focus group or to incentivize them to try something new.
The goal is to build relationships with your patient.
“Patients can be your best advocates,” says Dr Kasewurm. “You should have a big group of people telling others how happy they are with you and your staff.” She says it’s almost like having an extended family, and one way to make patients feel like family is to send them cards and notices with helpful information or to note significant accomplishments.
Dr Kasewurm says she now gets 70% of her business from her patient referral program. Here is what works for her:
- Put 5 referral cards in your pocket each day. Be sure they have an expiration date, so when you hand them to people they don’t leave them in their pockets or purses for months.
- When handing these referral cards to patients, suggest: “Please take two cards and hand them out to your friends and family this week.”
- Most people wait before they make an appointment (average wait is 97.7 days of considering before making an appointment, per studies by CareCredit). By putting a date on the referral cards, it creates a sense of urgency.
- Offer “rewards,” such as free hearing screenings, to people who refer others.
A patient referral program costs only a fraction of what traditional advertising would cost, and studies show that those referred to the practice actually spend more than someone who comes in through mass advertising.
Develop Marketing Efforts to Align with a New Era
Hearing health professionals who keep up with marketing trends are experiencing success, according to research. This entails consideration not only of the media used, but also the types of messages sent out—both of which continue to evolve in the Digital Era.
For example, by ignoring digital media you will likely do so at the risk of attracting new leads. And by not attending to your existing customers adequately, they may go elsewhere. This means you’ll need to be actively engaged with your existing patients.
Use online, budget-conscious techniques. Make sure you have a good website that is responsive–meaning it comes up easily on an Internet search, and works well with any computer, notepad, or smartphone. Other online (and budget-wise) methods include using Facebook for your messaging. Studies of patient behavior show that 70% of Baby Boomers and 60% of seniors use Facebook.
Email marketing is going strong. Email is a great way to reach out to existing patients and new leads in a short amount of time. This is easier on your budget than direct mail.
Never forget that your existing patients are consumers in the marketplace, and they are well-informed and connected to new products and competitors. That’s why it’s vital to reach out consistently to your clients, to retain them in the long-term, and prevent them from going elsewhere. “You want to keep your patients connected to you for a long period of time,” says Dr Kasewurm. “You really want to keep their business because it’s a great way of getting future business.”
Market to Physicians to Capture More Patients
Be sure that your practice stays top-of-mind with all potential referral sources in your community’s doctors’ offices. ENTs and general practice providers have been shown to be great sources for new patient leads to help grow your practice. Make it easy for physicians to refer your practice to their own patients. According to a CareCredit webinar on “A Front Office to Back Office Marketing Approach for Physician and Patient Referrals,” here are some effective ways to market to physicians:
- Provide physicians’ offices with information for their waiting rooms – This may include brochures, flyers, and small giveaways (i.e., notepads with your website that includes a link to information on hearing loss).
- Give physicians at-a-glance fact sheets or easy reference materials – These are easy-to-scan “fast facts”/ helpful resources about hearing loss that occurs with other diseases they may see in their practices.
Reach out to doctors in your area. Bill Lavinder, senior business development manager at AHAA, suggests ways to prepare for this:
- Step 1: Begin with very positive attitude and carve out time to make these calls.
- Step 2: Identify key PCPs in group practices within a 10-mile radius of your practice. (Start with the Doctors who have patients you have in common – because you can get their names from your patients.)
- Step 3: Figure out which doctors are on the same insurance provider panels as you.
- Step 4: Concentrate on these 2 groups of doctors before reaching out to others.
- Step 5: Be sure you have a clear, concise message – doctors have very little time.
“In planning your message, one key point will be to create an awareness of the pervasiveness of hearing loss in our society,” says Lavinder. After a consistent and ongoing effort – you may find that you can also refer patients to these doctors when you discover co-occurring medical problems you cannot address in your practice. In this way, patient referrals can become a two-way street with you helping local doctors grow their practices, while you grow yours.
Image credits: CareCredit; © Syda Productions | Dreamstime.com