The Era of Low Hanging Fruit is Over

Author: Brian Taylor, Au.D.

Not long ago it was possible for an audiology practice to thrive with a nominal investment in marketing. Through the late 1990s and well into the 2000s a practice could run a catchy promotional advertisement in the local newspaper, or offer a “digital” consumer seminar with a technical expert and capture a significant amount of business with relatively little effort or expense. That era of low hanging fruit is over.

Today, thanks to the Internet, websites, social media, iPads and other assorted gadgets, patients have access. They have access to more information, access to low cost alternatives to hearing aids (i.e., PSAPs) and access to the thoughts and outcomes of other patients (one example of this can be found at www.hearingmojo.com). Consequently, audiologists must be more sophisticated about how they connect with patients.

The Progression of Value
Most audiologists would agree that the way patients interact with your practice has undergone as remarkable transition over the past 3 to 5 years. Gone are the days when you could post an occasional promotional offer in your local newspaper and generate immediate sales. This issue of Audiology Practices is devoted to tools and tactics practice managers can use to generate office traffic and develop loyalty in today’s more frenetic marketplace. Everything from mining your patient data base and using social media to conducting more memorable tests and measuring patient satisfaction to generate more word-of-mouth referrals are touched upon in this issue.

It all starts with your ability to rethink how patients interact with your practice. In their landmark thesis “The Experience Economy” Joe Pine & James Gilmore introduced business managers to the concept of the progression of economic value. In essence, the more emotionally engaging and memorable the experience you provide patients, the more value you create and the more patients are willing to pay for your services. Recently, Pine & Gilmore released the 2nd edition of their influential book. The concepts outlined in the Experience Economy play directly into the wheel house of most audiologists, who are known to provide personalized care to their patients, as the book provides a wealth of enduring information about how to form a deeper relationship with patients.

The Loyalty Loop
Beyond the patient-audiologist interaction during an appointment, people connect with your practice in fundamentally new ways. This means traditional marketing strategies must be redesigned to account for how patients engage with your practice. David Edelman of McKinsey Global Digital Marketing, Inc. has created a starting point for how to plan your marketing strategy in an era when there in no longer any low hanging fruit. Called the “Loyalty Loop”, Edelman has found that customers consider many alternatives prior to making a purchase. And, once they do make a purchase, customers often enter into an extended open-ended phase with a business. The Loyalty Loop is shown above in Figure 1.

Figure 1


According to Edelman, businesses often overemphasize the “consider” and “buy” stages, allocating more resources than necessary to build awareness and encourage purchase. With the advent of Facebook, Web 2.0 and other new media, the “evaluate” and “advocate” stages become more relevant. Marketing investments that help consumers navigate the evaluation process and spread positive word-of-mouth about your practice can be as important to the productivity of a business as building awareness and driving purchases. The end result, of course, is to create an emotional bond with your patient. Using the Loyalty Loop as a roadmap ensures you are accounting for all the stages of the patient’s interaction with your practice. Your website, Facebook page, clinical protocol and office management system are simply tools designed to assist you in creating that engaging patient experience. It all begins and ends with the timeless art of connecting with people – the natural “sweet spot” for many audiologists.
References
Edelman, D.C. Branding in the digital age: you’re spending your money in all the wrong places. Harvard Business Review. December, 2010.

Pine, J. & Gilmore, J. The Experience Economy. 2nd Edition. Harvard Business School Press. Cambridge, MA, 2011.