If you’re looking for fresh ways to draw more patients to your hearing healthcare practice, start with stats! By collecting data about your practice, and analyzing statistics from CareCredit on patient behavior, you can draw conclusions that will put your practice on a path toward growth.
Successful practice owners tend to be goal-oriented and use data to set up effective marketing strategies, rather than simply wondering how they are going to attract new patients. Figure out which patient populations you want to reach, and analyze how to reach those consumers. Skipping the “data examination” step in marketing can waste time, money, and resources. Here are tips for using data to determine exactly how to get new patients in your door.
Tip: Begin with a Clear Strategy and Gather Data
The best strategy is to think specifically about what goals you want to achieve with your marketing efforts. You’ll be able to measure your results against these goals. Get started with a “crawl,” “walk,” and run” marketing approach, as advocated by American Hearing Aid Associates:
Gather data (“crawl”) from your current business activities. This will serve as a guide to what areas of the practice you need to address.
Data analysis (“walk”) by looking at selected areas of your practice—ranging from types and amounts of sales to the number of patients served in a certain timeframe. What are your areas of strength? What are your practice’s weaknesses?
Benchmarks (“run”)…having analyzed the data in those areas, you are now ready to set benchmarks for them. Your next step will be to measure future performance against those benchmarks. As your practice grows, you can move the benchmarks to a higher level. You can use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to track your goals.
Tip: Gain Insights from Studies
A patient behavior study, like the one commissioned by CareCredit, helps you uncover data on the factors involved in a patient’s journey to purchasing hearing aids and related healthcare. Use the report on CareCredit’s research study of patient behavior to gather and analyze data on your target market. For most hearing care professionals (HCPs), the target market is made up of two segments: 1) new patient leads who have never visited your practice, fall within a selected age range (likely those in their early 50s and older), and tend to do online research; and 2) patient prospects with whom you may have had initial contact and began establishing a relationship. Patient prospects are probably already in your database as “tested-not-sold,” prior referrals, or attendees of past events you have held in the community. They are informed, connected, active, engaged in their healthcare, and searching for solutions to their hearing problems, but also looking for good value.
The key study findings presented in the report are intended to help hearing care providers better understand the behavior of the patient populations they serve, and to support their marketing efforts. The following insights are from CareCredit’s “Patients’ Path to Purchase Hearing Healthcare Study” report:
- The decision to buy hearing care products is one of the longest timeframes among healthcare categories (including vision, dental care, cosmetic treatments, etc.)
- Cost and financing are key considerations. About 84% of patients researched cost. This compares to a close percentage of 88% who searched treatment or products.
- A high percentage of patients (82%) looked for information in the provider’s office. And, 40% of them bought their hearing care products at the first visit.
- A potential patient’s “path to purchase” of hearing care takes about 97 days. If care demands a high out-of-pocket cost (eg, hearing aids), patients tend to take longer to make purchase decisions (and may leave your office without making a purchase). Therefore, offering financing options that allow deferred payments of hearing aids over time may become a key part of your success strategy.
The CareCredit report on patient behavior can be downloaded for free via the form provided below.
A “Practice Benchmark Study” (PBS) helps you uncover data on how successful practices stand out from the competition. Armed with such information, you can prioritize your goals and find possible gaps in your business. For example, American Opinion Research conducted a PBS of practices from 261 locations nationwide. The questions ranged from staffing to finance. It included the impact of Big Box stores (like Costco) and referral programs. The study found that:
- HCPs are selling more hearing aids, with receiver-in-canal (RIC) instruments dominating sales.
- The total units sold increased by 50%. The researchers indicated that such increases were likely due to a high number of multi-office practices within the sample. In general, it also indicated a stronger market.
- The average age of hearing aid owners may be getting younger and more first-time buyers have entered the market. This, combined with increased adoption rates and higher overall satisfaction scores with hearing aids, all help drive more hearing aid sales.
The study concluded that independent practices should have about 60% of their total gross revenue from new patients. That’s because hearing aid sales from existing patients decreased 10% within one year.
Tip: Ask for Referrals from Physicians & Existing Patients
The American Opinion Research study mentioned earlier showed the power of physician referrals. More of your marketing budget likely needs to be put toward this important referral source. According to the study, in medical practices, 68% of new patients and 65% of total revenue come from physician referrals. HCPs in non-medical practices only had 19% of new referrals and 18% of revenue come from physician referrals.
Existing patients are also great referral source for new patients. The study found existing patient referrals made up 22% of mean total revenue—with practically no marketing budget. Patient referrals in non-medical practices made up most (26%) of the total revenue. Medical practices got 22% of their total revenue through patient referrals.
Tip: Re-examine Your Marketing Allocations
To compete effectively, you’ll need to use the right marketing approaches. Again, begin with data. Take a hard look at how you’re spending your marketing budget. Then you can measure and evaluate ad placements, campaigns, and other marketing channels for effectiveness.
Studies showed that nearly half (48%) of the marketing budget for an average practice is spent on traditional marketing (ads and direct mail). Yet, this type of marketing accounts for only 15% of new patient referrals!
Digital marketing/social media can play an important role in helping you reach your target market. Studies found that 59% of seniors go online. Social media use in the US has risen by 356% over the last decade. It is estimated that over 100 million Americans search online for health information, and looking for healthcare providers is their most prevalent search! Consider allocating more time and resources to your digital marketing and social media activities.
Tip: Leverage Your Website for Marketing Efforts
Creating a strong online presence is another key to your practice’s success. Potential new patients search online for a hearing healthcare professional in the same way they shop for a shirt, or camping equipment. They plug in their key search terms, and then click on the website links that land at the top of their search page. It’s vital to make sure you have a responsive website that you regularly update and that is easily found by the search engines. Consider investing in Pay-Per-Click advertising and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) marketing services.
Your website is the most important digital media channel for your practice. Be sure to create your website in a Content Management System (CMS) platform, such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. A CMS platform allows you to make easy updates without requiring super skills in programming. With a CMS platform, you can track the number of visitors that land on your website or your on-demand product page.
Summing Things Up
Staying competitive means making smart decisions based on your data. It’s a matter of strategizing what drives more business and then keeping track of the benchmarks you set to make sure you’re achieving your goals!
Image credits: CareCredit; © Artistashmita | Dreamstime.com