Online Marketing Strategy for Audiologists

Author: Geoff Cooling

There are quite divergent views on social media as a marketing tactic for the hearing healthcare profession. Many are dismissive of this and other digital channels in our profession. Many providers don’t believe that our demographic target audience is online, and that therefore online marketing is a waste of time and money. Those sentiments are wrong—and over the next few pages, I would like to explain my arguments for engaging in non-traditional online marketing channels. I will set out the basis and strategy behind social media leverage. I’ll also discuss the multiple channels available, the content type on each channel and the measurement of results.

Your Motivation
Our world is changing and changing at an ever faster rate. A new descriptive term has been coined for our times; we now live in the “age of disruptive technology”. Our attitudes and habits as a society are changing, and this is particularly obvious when you consider the channels of communication that we use. Communication technologies have exploded in type and diversity. This situation is a direct result in the rapid development of internet technology, both software and hardware.

More and more communication is undertaken across the Internet. Social web channels, in particular, have rapidly become an accepted part of our daily lives. We build online communities that increase our social connections beyond family and friends, to friends of friends and even strangers. I believe that the explosion of this type of engagement is rooted in a combination of our need to relate to our friend and family members who are removed from us by distance, and also a reaction to the lost sense of community that appears to prevail in our society. 

Who Uses Social Networking Sites: Percent of Internet users in each group who use social networking sites.

Source: Pew Internet Civic Engagement Tracking Survey, July 16-August 07, 2012. N=2,253: adults ages 18+. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish and on landline and cell phones. Margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.
*Statistically significant difference compared with others in the same grouping.

The World Wide Web, as a search and communication tool, has become the go-to place. While initially this phenomenon was driven by tech people and the young, it has become accepted throughout society in every demographic. As I grew up, if I wanted to search for a business that provided a particular service, I picked up the Yellow Pages. This is an action that admittedly some of our patients seem to do. However, I cannot remember the last time that I looked at the Yellow Pages and my children do not even know what it is.

As we know, some of our demographic audience still uses the Yellow Pages but those numbers appear to be dwindling in many areas. More and more of our patients are turning to the web and the ubiquitous Google to supply their needed information. Not only are they using search engines but many of them are using social networks to communicate and become involved in communities with shared interests. This fact is borne out by research results from around the world.

Above, with thanks to Pew Research Centre, are the survey stats of Internet users in the United States. I would like to point your attention to the age demographics results. As we would expect, 91% of individuals between 30 and 49 are active on the Internet. This demographic should really be viewed as the children of your prospective patients.

These people are actively using the Internet every day for several reasons. They are constantly interacting online, booking flights, talking to friends, searching for information. These people accept that the Internet is a handy, stable and trustworthy research tool.

Seventy-seven percent of adults aged between 50 and 64 are online. I believe that these people should be viewed as long term prospects for our profession. In fact some of this demographic are your current prospective patients. Our patients are getting younger because better education and increased lifestyle expectations is causing them to seek treatment for their hearing loss earlier and at a much younger age. I believe that modern technology within hearing instruments, and future connectivity and association with external devices and technology, will drive lower age adoption. These people are actively using the Internet every day for several reasons.

Fifty-three percent of those over 65 years of age use the Internet. These are your prospects and indeed some of your existing patients. Theoretically, you have the opportunity to reach 53% of your prime target market via the Internet right now. That number is only increasing; this demographic is the fastest-growing Internet adoption demographic. Although that is mainly because penetration in the past has been low, our desired demographic audience is in fact online, and online in substantial numbers.

Pew Research has also released some recent statistics in relation to demographic use of social networks. The research is as of August 2012 and it is an important factor for your healthcare marketing strategy.

The research shows that social network adoption in our primary demographic has risen yet again in the past twelve months. In the 65+ demographic, usage has risen to 38%. It also shows a rise to 57% of the 50 to 64 year old demographic.

Finally, in the 30 to 49 year old demographic we are at 73% usage. This demographic represents the sons and daughters of our primary target audience. This demographic may well be undertaking searches for information online for their parents and grandparents, and in particular will be searching for information related to health and health care.

This audience acts as the research assistants for our desired target audience. We already know that the purchase decision around hearing instruments tends to be a joint one. There may be many people directly or indirectly involved in that decision. We also know that the purchase of hearing instruments is a weighty decision that involves much research. Most, if not all, of that research is undertaken online by members of the three demographics we have discussed.

Consider some important figures:
  • 53% of your patient demographic is online
  • 77% of your long term prospect demographic is online
  • 91% of the children of your patient demographic are online
  • 38% of your patient demographic has a social network profile 
  • 57% of your long term prospect demographic has a social network profile 
  • 73% of the children of your patient demographic have a social network profile
  • There are 17,500,000 profile owners on Facebook between the UK and the US of people over 65 years of age 
  • 5, 533,680 of people over 65 years of age people use mobile devices to access Facebook 
  • 2,331,180 of people over 65 years of age use Android OS devices to access Facebook 
  • 3,555,160 of people over 65 years of age use Apple products to access Facebook
Social media is not the magic bullet, it is not the answer to our current commercial challenges. However, it should be used to support your overall online healthcare marketing strategy.

The Strategy
  I think it is clear that marketing to our demographic is no longer just about newspapers, magazines and direct mail. Nor though is it solely about online marketing channels. A good hearing healthcare marketing strategy is about an intelligent blend of both. We as a profession must become smarter and more adept about targeted marketing across all channels. 

A combined approach is needed, using the best media for your business, both traditional and new. A strategy such as this will increase your exposure and engagement. It will also assist to supply a constant flow of business to your practice. In effect, it can reduce cost per lead over time, allowing you to better cope with the pressure on margins that are to the forefront of everybody’s mind at present. The question is, how and what is the strategy?

The people that sneer at social media for our profession are in fact partly right. That is, if you are using social media in the traditional sense. Social media is used in other industries to engage, empower and directly affect purchase decisions. Social media use or sophistication levels in our demographic makes this strategy unworkable. However, that does not mean that social media channels and activities do not have great value for us.

Your online strategy needs to be based around your website; your website is your single most important online channel. Your website should be fully supported by the deployment of good multimedia content either on a news section or a blog attached to that website. The content should be based on what information people are searching for most frequently. This strategy brings people to your content and therefore your site. This is called content or inbound marketing.

Your content will only draw those searchers if you are identified in the search results given to them. This is the key–if you are not in the search results, your content is useless. Getting into the search results involves some hard work. It is based around differing key word, key phrase and search engine optimization strategies. There is a voluminous amount of information to be read about these elements, and ironically it’s all available on the Internet! These are not the only important factors, Google, for example, also takes social factors into account. These social factors include your social media profiles, how much your content is shared and the depth of your online presence.

Your social media profiles at this stage are solely there to support your main online marketing channel. They do so by being used to share links to the content on that channel and links to the channel itself. In this way, you can support that channel, bringing it to a wider audience and make it more relevant to Google. Google will repay you by placing you on the first page of the search results for the key words and phrases that you have targeted, if you do it properly.

Social Media Channels
There are four main channels that are being used by other industries and indeed some members of our own profession. They are Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and blogs.  Each channel is a slightly different animal, and the goals and usage profile tend to be different. However, I again caution you, the single most important online channel for an audiology practice is its website. Social media channels are purely used to support and boost your website search ranking.

Facebook: The management of a Facebook Page tends to be a mix of content curation, finding and posting links to information that you judge may be of interest to your target audience, and content manufacture. Attention must be dedicated to the creation of good content that will be of interest to your audience and will show your professionalism and expertise. Facebook is also a place where you may build relationships with people. Facebook users actually tend to spend quite a bit of time on the site.

Twitter: Twitter is much more about content curation and some sharing of links to your own content. Not many of our target demographic use Twitter. However you probably will build up a community of sorts. The following that you build up on Twitter will expect more engagement and will probably engage with you more.

A Blog: A blog is where you and your business can shine. A blog is all about content manufacture, it's where you supply content that shows your professionalism, knowledge of your subject and dedication to your patients. A blog is where you should provide good quality articles on audiologic care, giving clear advice and discussing the latest developments. These articles will drive people to your site, and should be looked at as the engine of your online marketing strategy.

Google+: Somewhat of a cross between Twitter and Facebook, this is an important channel because of the SEO advantages of having a presence and sharing on the site. It is also a mix of curation of content and posting links to your own. A profile here also allows you claim authorship of your content with a practice known as rel author. This is becoming more and more important; I think in 2013 it will become another key indicator for Google.

Another recent social media network addition is Pinterest, which is becoming quite popular. It is a visual site where you post visual content as opposed to worthy prose.

Before you move forward with social media, it is imperative that you sit down and outline your strategy. The strategy should cover all the elements of your online media channels and the content that you will provide. You should also research and think carefully about the following questions:
  • What are your key areas of expertise? Are they different in any way than others'? 
  • What can you tell your customers that others can’t? What is your unique selling point? 
  • Can you better inform customers about hearing loss? If so, How?
  • Where will you draw information from for your content? Other users, Traditional media? Manufacturers? 
  • How will you manage your social media channels? What technology will you use to make it easier?
  • Who exactly in your organization will manage it?
  • When a disgruntled customer posts a comment that is nightmarish for your brand, how are you going to deal with it?
  • If somebody complains on one of your channels, how will you deal with that? 
The use of social media as part of your online marketing strategy is something that you need to carefully consider. You should outline a clear strategy for its use and for any possible eventualities. Having said that all of that, I believe that it is worth the effort. It does help you to engage with your customers and potential customers. Even better, it does so for free! Running the social media channels for my company has been an interesting experience.

The experiment so far has been a success; the very fact that I am writing this article is testament to that. I have engaged with people worldwide, and I have introduced new customers to our brand. Several people around the world now are customers of my company because of their engagement with us on the web. I have faced most of the questions I mentioned earlier, but I had not thought of them before they occurred. So when they happened, I had to think very quickly and on the hoof. This is not something I would recommend to you.  

Think very carefully about every angle before you set off on your journey. To ensure search engine optimization, you need active social media channels. These channels will assist you to drive and leverage your website in the organic search rankings. Social media involvement is about supporting your core online marketing channel your website.    
Geoff Cooling is Sales Manager for Widex in Scotland and Ireland and authors the Just Audiology Stuff blog. He may be contacted at

The Harmonious CORUS of a Modern Marketing Strategy

Author: Brian Taylor, Au.D., Editor, Audiology Practices

Geoff Cooling provides a splendid overview of why social media needs to be an integral part of your marketing plan. Whether you own a private practice, chair a university clinic or run the audiology division of an ENT clinic or hospital, all of us need to ensure that our marketing plans are in-tune with the mission and vision of the organization.

Social media is one component to what I call the CORUS marketing strategy. The main objective of the CORUS marketing strategy is to create and maintain an on-going dialogue with patients, prospects and those that influence them. Creating and sustaining a conversation with patients throughout their journey is now possible with social media, the Internet and old fashioned public relation skills. In addition to more traditional marketing tactics, like newspaper advertising and direct mail, the CORUS strategy requires businesses to tap into the core characteristics of customer loyalty, which are consideration, evaluation, purchase, enjoyment and advocacy, as shown in Figure 1. By using the following components of a CORUS marketing strategy you can be involved in an on-going dialogue every step of the way.

Figure 1. The essential steps of the customer decision journey.

Captivating Website. The simple definition of a captivating website is one that features video. When a prospect visits your website a short, emotional video about the patient benefits of your services, not the devices you fit or the equipment you use are front and center. On-line Reputation Manager. Another great way to use video is recording and posting patient testimonials on your website. On the right margin of your website, you can post short patient vignettes about how much they love your practice.

Relationship & Medical Marketing. There are several medical conditions, such as Type II diabetes, dementia and cardiovascular disease that are associated with a higher rate of hearing loss in patients that have these conditions. A medical marketing program leverages this concept through the education of family practice physicians, endocrinologists and pulmonologists, using peer-reviewed literature to raise awareness, Through proper education physicians are more likely to refer patients with these conditions to your practice for a hearing evaluation.

Upstanding Member of Your Community. Otherwise known as public relations, the objective of this tactic is for you to become recognized (and rewarded with referrals) within your area as an expert or opinion leader on a specific topic related to hearing loss or balance. For example, hearing loops, which are very effective in large rooms and auditoriums, can be the focal point for a PR campaign that your practice orchestrates within your community.

Social Media. Perhaps the voice with the most promise, social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) has the potential to take your ordinary pile of patient charts and bring them to life. The beauty of social media is that you can push information to individuals and they, in turn, can push information and comments back to you. Although there is no evidence of its effectiveness, because of the interactive nature of social media, it intuitively has a place within a modern marketing portfolio.

Of course, all of these marketing tactics have a cost associated with them, and unlike traditional forms of advertising the return on investment is difficult to calculate. The bottom line is that customers are more informed and better educated than ever before, and in order to engage them throughout their journey to improved communication, you must invest in CORUS, so that your practice hits a crescendo.