Just DOOH It: How a Digital Reception Area Can Enhance Your Practice

Author: Brad Dodson

D’oh is the catch phrase of one Homer Simpson. Add another “O” and you have DOOH, one of the hottest marketing tactics to hit audiology clinics in years. Some audiologists may have come across the term DOOH, Digital-Out-Of-Home marketing, also known as Place-Based Media or Digital Signage. DOOH has become a very popular educational and advertising delivery vehicle for public and private venues such as retail stores, doctor’s offices and corporate buildings. Recently, DOOH has become available to audiology practices. The purpose of this article is to introduce audiologists to DOOH marketing tactics and how they can be used to improve the overall productivity of a practice.

As tech savvy consumers, we often find ourselves gravitating toward a digital era, as most of us now receive the majority of our information through electronic media, such as the Internet and social media. In the digital era, the success of marketers and advertisers in reaching their core audience relies heavily on using a combination of traditional and non-traditional delivery methods. Offering your audience a unique experience, expanding the way you reach them and changing the modus operandi, or “cookie-cutter approach” to how you do business is a great recipe for differentiating your practice from the competition. Sam Walton, the Founder of Wal-Mart, once said, “Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everybody else is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going in exactly the opposite direction”. Now is the time for audiologists to embrace some of these non-traditional digital advertising methods and find a niche by bucking the prevailing conventional marketing wisdom of the hearing aid industry.

Recent surveys indicate that DOOH is a useful tool for driving office traffic and consumer buying decisions. InfoTrends, the leading worldwide market research and strategic consulting firm for the digital imaging and document solutions industry, conducted a digital signage study comparing DOOH to more traditional forms of out of home marketing. Results of this survey showed that “digital signage displays have a 47.7% effectiveness on brand awareness, increased the average purchase amount by 29.5%, created a 31.8% upswing in overall sales volumes and generated a 32.8% growth in repeat buyers.”1 For marketers and business owners, these are certainly impressive numbers worth exploring further.

What is DOOH?
Before going into more details on Digital Out of Home (DOOH) marketing, it is important to understand how it compares to Traditional Out of Home (TOOH) marketing. Highway billboards, banners on the sides of buses and signs posted on the outfield walls of your favorite ballparks are some of the more common types of TOOH you are likely to encounter every day. Because TOOH relies almost exclusively on visual appeal, it is easy for consumers to ignore. Just think how many times you have driven by the same static billboard on your way to work. After seeing the unchanging image a few times, most people completely tune it out.

On the other hand, DOOH combines audio and video to generate a dynamic and ultimately, more emotionally appealing message. It’s this emotional appeal that attracts attention and enables customers to take action. As the price of digital advertising becomes less expensive, DOOH becomes more widely used by businesses trying to attract more customers. Figures 1 and 2 show how DOOH is quickly supplanting TOOH as a more popular choice relative to TOOH. For the audiologist-manager this suggests that DOOH is becoming the preferred method for out of home advertising.

The core to DOOH marketing is the use of digital signage, which is displayed in the reception area on a flat screen television. The content of the digital signage displayed on the flat screen television is usually controlled using basic personal computers, by way of proprietary software programs. This keeps the costs of DOOH manageable by avoiding any large capital outlays for the controller equipment. Most systems automatically update themselves using a high speed Internet connection, which reduces clinic staff involvement and keeps fresh content in front of your patients. The audiologist or clinic manager simply has to inform the DOOH service of changes and updates in content that is displayed on the flat screen TV.

DOOH communicates consistently with patients
Until now, the hearing health care industry, unlike other healthcare specialties, has been slow to adopt this new educational tool to interact with their patients. In January 2011, a new DOOH subscription service called the Hearing News Network (HNN), dedicated to the hearing care industry, launched in North America to bridge this gap and offer Hearing Professionals a new and dynamic education delivery vehicle that speaks to their patients.

Figure 1. Money spent in the US from 2005 to predicted amounts spent 2011-2013 by firms on DOOH advertising.

HNN is a customizable digital waiting room billboard designed to captivate your patients as they wait for their exam or consultation. When DOOH is properly implemented in compliments and supports the human element of staff interaction. In a perfect world, all of your staff would be able to:
  • Introduce your company and services perfectly every time
  • Bring the company’s vision and mission statement to life in every conversation
  • Educate patients about all the newest technology available
  • Teach proper care for the patients new hearing instrument(s)
Realistically though, time and human error is often a factor. In even the most successful audiology practices, your staff cannot always be at the top of their game. This is a common challenge most business owners face because it directly effects the amount of revenue your generate and the quality of care your clinic delivers to patients. DOOH delivers consistency and the assurance that the “perfect world” scenario is carried out every day in your office.

Figure 2. Forecasted total spend in the US for traditional and digital OOH for 2013.

Information silos and a general lack of detail about progress on a day-to-day basis make it difficult for staff to know whether their behavior is aligned with critical initiatives such as increasing efficiencies, improving the quality of patient care, and removing the bureaucracy that increases the cost of operations. That is why having an effective communication strategy directly with your patients is vital and why many healthcare organizations today are turning to digital signage as one way to help them overcome some of these challenges. According to a new consumer survey by the Nielsen research firm on “Awareness and Effectiveness of Digital Displays”, DOOH media increases sales at the point of sale (POS). Four out of five product brands, used in the survey, experienced significant increases of up to 33 percent in additional sales through the use of DOOH media.1

DOOH media also has a unique ability to target specific audiences in relevant and meaningful consumer environments. By combining a visual medium in your waiting room such as digital signage with an effective information delivery system, you can leverage existing assets to reduce operating costs and increase efficiency and the quality of service provided. The best analogy for where digital signage fits in your overall strategy is to picture DOOH as being part of the ensemble cast in an epic movie. It’s infrequently the lead character in a campaign, but provides a great supporting role when it is part of the overall strategy, thus providing tremendous reach and frequency at numbers that can be far more efficient than mainstream media.

According to Edelman2, business success is largely predicated on your ability to increase your “touch-points” with customers. Audiologist-managers understand that success in a practice is much more then just “selling” product features and services. Rather, long term business success is related to how many times you interact with your patient on their journey toward improved communication. The ability to synchronize your external and internal marketing campaigns to the patient’s journey can dramatically increase your long term success. By simply bringing your content rich websites to life in the waiting room with DOOH a practice can dramatically increase their touch points with patients.

For years, audiology managers have invested in direct mail, yellow pages and print ads, Internet, radio and TV to drive patient acquisition. Although each of these tactics have anecdotal success, unless conversion rates are measured a practice must guess that their overall effectiveness. With many DOOH systems, the clinic owner or manager now has a customizable education tool that interacts and captivates the patient. This approach dramatically improves the patient experience, which is now just as important in the practice as customer service. DOOH will provide an immediate return on investment by increasing closure rates and revenue from improving binaural, battery, accessory, ALD and extended warranty sales. DOOH is a strategic addition to any audiology clinic, satellite office or external source of referral. Simply put, DOOH brings any stagnant waiting room environment into the digital age with real time news, weather and contextually relevant content on hearing health care and community events.

Getting Started With DOOH
  1. Obtain a large flat screen television and wall mount for your reception area
  2. Connect the television to a high speed Internet connection. Although a wireless connection is sufficient, a high speed wired Internet connection works best
  3. Subscribe to a DOOH service (e.g., HNN)
  4. Identify and/or create the content you want to run on your 10 to 20 minute loop. This should include a video introducing you and your staff as well as services you offer. Public service videos can also be included.
  5. The video content is broadcast in the theater portion of the screen, which comprises about 85% of the area of the flat screen
  6. Local weather is broadcast on the right margin of the TV screen and national news on the bottom ticker
DOOH assists with community outreach
A common and openly admitted shortfall of the practices is a lack of community outreach and referral source building initiatives, often due to time constraints in a busy or growing practice. This can be the difference between a struggling group and one thriving with new patients. DOOH offers practice owners and managers the opportunity to reach out to their local physician, home health agency or senior facility and offer gratis airtime to reinforce a reciprocal relationship.

Figure 3. Three screenshots from a HNN clinic feed. Source: www.hearingnewsnetwork.com.

Using DOOH as a tool to both get closer to the patient and build stronger relationship with professional referral sources has been successfully executed by the Hearing News Network (HNN) The model has been designed to also allow HNN subscribers the opportunity to offer advertising to local companies in the community who are interested in marketing their products and services to the affluent audience viewing the HNN digital venue. This not only strengthens community relationships but also generates additional revenue to offset the subscription costs.

Contextually relevant information is delivered directly to patients, by way of high speed Internet, to a strategically positioned flat screen monitor located within the waiting room. HNN is rich in archived data specifically designed to precondition the patients prior to testing or dispensing, so that redundant questions are answered in advance. HNN also gives the clinic owner the power to create their own content, introduce the clinic staff and services and offer hearing health care tips to add that personal touch.

This dynamic, rich media platform consists of a main theatre panel, side bar and scrolling informational ticker. The theatre panel displays video, flash, PowerPoint, YouTube, Media RSS feeds and a host of other formats, enabling the subscriber to show product videos, educational information, “Baby Boomer” content, or clinic-specific information. The side bar features local news and weather, medical news or custom content you create to educate your patients. The ticker runs fresh Real Simple Syndication (RSS) from a variety of popular sources including CNN or Google News providing up to the minute detail on current events.

Figure 4. Results of a 2008 Pew Internet survey. Note that relatively low numbers of people over the age of 55 that are non-users of the Internet.

DOOH vs. websites
It’s also worthwhile noting that the average age of hearing instrument wearers continue to hover around 70. A considerable amount of time and resources is being invested in new interactive, content rich and robust websites. Is this patient demographic looking for your website? Are they fully utilizing the educational material your website has to offer? According to survey data, only 4% of consumers aged 73 + are using the internet and this number only rises to 7% for the population aged between 64 and 72.3 (See Figure 4 for details). Understandably, a certain percentage of care givers are the ones searching for hearing loss solutions, and not necessarily the user, however it’s still important to add another dimension to your website by bringing this rich content to life in the waiting room to further educate the actual wearer. Along with having a website to interact with patients and their influencer, DOOH is needed to more effectively communicate with patients over the age of 55. In the digital age, DOOH is fast becoming an essential tool interacting with patients once they make it into your clinic.

Scientific research has shown that first impressions actually contribute to a consumer’s willingness to form a lasting relationship with a service professional. 4 DOOH is a highly effective method of making a memorable first impression during the initial stages of a patient’s experience in your clinic. Just as the telecommunications industry has evolved from analog to digital telephone lines, the traditional reception area experience must evolve into more than your patient reading outdated magazines during their 15 minute wait. Disclosure: The AP editor’s employer (Unitron) and HNN have a business relationship.
Cotterill, A. (2011). In-store TV works: so say we all! Daily DOOH.com (Downloaded 5/1/2011).

Edelman, D. (2010). Branding in the Digital Age: You’re Spending Your Money in All the Wrong Places. Harvard Business Review. December

2008 Pew Internet Survey. www.pewinternet.org. (downloaded 5/2/2011)

Hill, D. About Face: The Secret of Emotionally Effective Advertising. Kogan Page Press, 2010.

Brad Dodson is the Director of Business Development and Training for the Hearing News Network. Brad can be reached at brad@hearingnewsnetwork.com.