Connected Hearing Clinics: Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Marketing Automation

Author: Brad Dodson

Big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is of big importance for your practice and a top trend for 2021. While the importance itself is nothing new in terms of marketing trends, in 2021, we’re seeing marketing spend especially focused on taking control of customer data and analytics efforts to further automate and improve patient retention.

Data and machine learning is imperative for businesses to gain insights into who your loyal customers are. According to a 2020 article by Adastra, research estimates that it is four times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. The key isn’t just having the data, but leveraging it to better understand your customers. Deliver stronger performance results by learning about your opportunities, weaknesses, financials, and risks through the data. Target loyal customers that bring value to your company, build on those relationships, and learn what makes them stick with you.

Many new marketing trends now revolve around big data, analytics, machine learning, and AI. Connecting patient data platforms to Marketing Automation solutions is a growing category seeing widespread implementation, and investment to enhance the customer journey and utilize vast data that spans far beyond what exists in current systems.

Leverage your data by using AI and Marketing Automation. Hearing care practices, big and small, gather data from patients daily. AI and Marketing Automation helps your practice stay connected directly to the data, in turn helping you stay in front of patients and top of mind throughout their hearing care journey.

Integrating direct mail with AI and Marketing Automation allows for data-driven, triggered sends at optimal times for patients, which improves response rates. All this data can be used for marketing, targeting audiences, and improving patient retention.

Let’s dive deeper into how AI and Marketing Automation works and how it will benefit your practice.

Your Data Drives Machine Learning and Marketing Automation
In my 2020 Audiology Practices article, "The Future of Healthcare Marketing: It All Begins with Your Data", I examined how the future of health care marketing starts with your data. But what exactly is machine learning, AI, and Marketing Automation?

Machine learning and AI is software that can collect, store, and update your patient data and ultimately learn more about your patients. Investing in machine learning and AI helps you capture granular insights and target patients with more accurate messaging. You can see their buying behaviors and actions to help determine and further inform your communication.

Marketing Automation is the process of the type/form of communication sent based on a consumer’s buying behaviors or actions. Data connected from AI is directly translated so that the machine can understand what direct mail to send through the Marketing Automation process.

For example, if patient “A” buys a hearing device, the data tells the machine to send a customized mail piece with the patient’s name and address and messaging that thanks them for their recent purchase. Automatically sending out branded messaging directly to patients after they meet certain flags in the data creates a positive, timely follow-up from your brand. Knowing where your patients are in their hearing care journey directly impacts the type of campaign sent through automation.

Robust Machine Learning and Prospect Models
With on-demand access to patient data, through customer relationship management (CRM) integrations, AI can also build robust, machine learning prospect models, and improve your prospect outreach using a limited or refined budget. Once integrated with your CRM, a daily flow of up-to-date data is sent to the AI software. The AI software is constantly collecting data, learning more about your patients, and providing valuable insights into your potential market.

This evolving process provides deeper insights about your patients; where they live, their demographics and their purchasing behaviors, which influences how the model selects new prospects to which to market. With this technology, and the process of matching back to marketing files used, you can see who came in for appointments, who bought hearing devices and you can properly track the marketing piece that influenced the patient or prospect to interact with your practice. This data-informed process ensures you pick marketing pieces that perform.

What once was a one-dimensional view with your marketing and its performance (purely using call tracking data) now becomes a comprehensive view of your patient and prospect outreach with a higher level of performance reporting.
Why Use Automated Direct Mail?
The response rate for direct mail is 10 times higher than traditional paid searches, email marketing, and social media marketing. Sending your patients customized direct mail directly helps drive a higher return on investment (ROI) and improves patient retention by keeping your brand in front of them throughout their hearing care and buying journey.

By utilizing your current patient data through a CRM integration, automating your marketing and converting to a hands-off system has never been easier. All your patients’ actions are trackable and marketable through machine learning, AI, and Marketing Automation.

Using targeted campaigns with automated mail is also more practical. It helps you narrow down your audience to customers who are actively engaged with your brand and more likely to become brand ambassadors and make referrals. With variable customer data, you can target the right customers, at the right time, and promote the right products/messaging to increase conversion rates and ROI.
Set It and Forget It
Sending communications consistently can turn one-time buyers into loyal patients, maximizing the lifetime value for your practice. One way to send consistent, custom automated mail is through a “set and forget” trigger program.

Trigger-based programs allow you to set up direct mail campaigns that automatically send to your patients based on their actions or buying behaviors – visiting your website, making an appointment, buying a hearing device, moving into the neighborhood around your practice or even cancelling an appointment – to improve customer retention.

Based on the trigger that is enabled, the machines know which creative campaign needs to be printed and sent to the patient; following up on the action or behavior that was completed. Using an automated trigger program does not require any manual work from your staff, taking the stress out of your marketing.

As a practice owner, all you need to do for this patient-driven marketing is pick out and customize the creative templates you would like to send for each stage of the patient’s journey. Once you select those, the AI inputs the patient data and when triggered, the campaign will be printed and sent automatically. So, you set it up once and can forget about it as it requires no additional interaction.

Because this is an automated program, you don’t have to worry about your patient outreach falling through the cracks no matter how busy you or your staff are. The AI and Marketing Automation process takes care of the follow-up for you.
Patient Retention and Intelligent Prospect Marketing
From a marketing point of view, AI and Marketing Automation can help to lock-in on the right population to target. AI will analyze a combination of your data and the data it collected to key-in on the “Consumer DNA” of your patients. Looking at this combined data, you can find out which attributes or buying behaviors they have in common or most importantly what makes them stand out from generic two-dimensional qualifiers like age and income.

For instance, you can determine how rooted they are in their communities by looking at their length of residence or if they donate money to local or national causes as an indicator of liquidity and whether they can afford hearing aids. Once you find out the “DNA” of your ideal patients, AI creates a customer profile and scores the remaining population (not your patients) around your territory to prospect for new patients based off the similarities to your existing patients (look-a-like modeling).

Existing patients and automation: For existing patients, you want to consistently send campaigns to keep your practice top-of-mind and create positive interactions with your brand. These interactions are imperative as they can determine how likely a patient is to continue with your practice or leave for a competing one. Automation takes out the guess work and runs consistently behind the scenes on your behalf. You want to make sure to reach these patients in a timely manner as they are meeting certain milestones in their customer journey.

People who have already done business with you and trust you are the most important, most high-yield candidates for future services. Staying connected with your patients through automated marketing increases the rate of your touchpoints and likeliness that they will continue and ultimately return as a repeat customer.

Below are successful patient retention results collected across hearing care practices currently using AI and Marketing Automation.

Patient Retention Results:
Appointment Rate: 13.02%
ROI: 4,348%
Cost Per Appointment: $5
Cost Per Unit: $80
Patient trigger or automated marketing programs result in higher appointment rates and ROI. But most importantly this automated marketing reduces the amount of time your staff spend following up with patients as your patients are now calling you.

Prospecting for New Patients: With your data, you can understand the overarching makeup of your patients, the “Consumer DNA,” and use this insight to create a customer profile of what your typical patient looks like. From this profile, you can prospect for new patients who look/behave like your existing patients and convert them into return customers.

The higher quality prospects – those more likely to respond – are hit more frequently, while those who don’t exactly match your current customers’ profile are hit less frequently or perhaps with other less expensive digital tactics.

So, how does the “Consumer DNA” customer profile for prospected patients get created?
From your patient data, AI can create data models to identify top responders in the market based on current attributes (over 300) and behaviors of current patients. These curated data models allow marketers with limited budgets to focus on the prospects with the highest propensity to respond and convert. Figure 1 and Figure 2 contrast a traditional approach to identifying potential customers (Figure 1) to a more targeted, modeled approach (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Traditional selections organize your market by a few key demographic filters.

Figure 2. Modeled Selection: The modeled approach applies the learnings from our in-depth analysis of your computer database to identify both top responders and importantly, non-responders. This approach lets us rank everyone in your target market by their propensity to respond.

AI response models continue to learn and evolve as new data is passed daily from the practice management software (PMS) to the AI. Machine learning and improvements to your model continues behind the scenes with each transfer and sweep of your patient data. This allows you to market data-backed, highly variable, response driving direct mail campaigns to targeted prospects.
Start in the Right Place with AI and Marketing Automation
Integrations provide your practice with an opportunity to start in the right place. By integrating AI and Marketing Automation into a company’s process, you take the guess work and human interaction out of it. The benefits and results seen with these technologies are astounding. Large and small businesses alike can now get a clear picture of who their patients are, and most importantly how to access their future patients in a precise, more orderly, and efficient way. All of which is measurable through an ROI analysis by matching the marketing leads used to the response leads and attributing it back to the campaign served.

With over 20 different predetermined direct mail trigger campaigns, you can effectively communicate with your patients and prospects and get them to act. Building a consistent communication schedule with your patients is key.

Some examples of patient triggered mail that can be sent out include:

  • Appointment cancellation or no show
  • Mail after product purchase
  • Hearing evaluation but no sale was made
  • Quarterly newsletters
  • Annual hearing appointment reminder
  • Hearing device upgrade eligibility
  • Hearing device warranty expiration notice
  • Happy birthday cards
  • Hearing device clean and hearing check reminders

In addition, as patient data is passed from your PMS to the AI software, it runs through an address verification and National Change of Address cleansing process to ensure that the records are clean and available for trigger marketing and comprehensive match back/results reporting.

Not only can you target the right people and boost your engagement, but you also always know that you’re not wasting budget on bad addresses. The AI is constantly learning and combing through the data to make sure that you are sending to the right people, improving your accuracy.

Powerful Performance Reporting
The big question is: How do we measure our marketing’s performance using machine learning and AI? The AI software offers your practice intelligent results-based reporting. By having access to on-demand data from your PMS, AI can interpret data and report back on more information from more important indicators rather than just two-dimensional call tracking data.

The AI reporting provides a deeper and transparent look into how your Marketing Automation is performing by matching the real-time appointments and sales in the PMS files to the mail files used in the original marketing campaigns. The daily feeds between your PMS and AI allow you to clearly see how productive your patient and prospect marketing campaigns are.

Additionally, AI allows for higher levels of performance reporting. It’s not two-dimensional as it was before. Now with AI, who came in for appointments, who bought hearing aids, and what mail campaign was attached to each stage of their care is recorded and analyzed. This response data impacts and evolves the models used for future outreach to existing and prospective customers. Being able to prospect new patients based on these models results in a greater ROI and better patient retention.
Final Thoughts
Put your data to work. Using machine learning, AI, and Marketing Automation saves your practice time, money, and increases ROI. AI and machine learning have rapidly advanced in recent years making it cost effective, less data intensive, and consistent in performance. If you want to take your marketing seriously and see a positive ROI, then you should highly consider integrating AI and Marketing Automation into your overall marketing strategy. The results speak for themselves.
As your target market’s behaviors evolve, so must your marketing efforts. This influx of data must be at the core of your omnichannel marketing plan. This way, people see your hearing care practice’s name through multiple platforms for the highest impact. Marketing your practice is more efficient and setting up a set-and-forget program will alleviate some of the stress involved with managing your marketing.

Companies that successfully take advantage of new technologies like machine learning, AI, and Marketing Automation will consistently see higher performance and returns in their marketing and relieve themselves of the day-to-day stressors of manually managing a moving target.    

Adastra. “CMOs’ Top Strategies for 2021 Hinge on Data Quality.” 5/10/2020, Adastra Group,
Dodson, Brad. “The Future of Healthcare Marketing: It All Begins with Your Data.” 1/10/2020, Audiology Practices,
Brad Dodson is a regional account executive for BlueWing Hearing Care. He can be reached at [email protected].