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The Deeper Value

From ESCO Business Solutions

Are your patients coming through your doors or going through your competitor’s doors?

by Mike Eckert Posted on February 3, 2020

Today’s hearing aid marketplace is rapidly changing. According to the Hearing Industries Association, we saw an increase in hearing aid units by 6.5% (of that the VA increased by 8.4% in units to 19.1% of the total hearing aids sold in 2019). According to the Hearing Review, Big box retailers such as Costco, are increasing their presence and are estimated to have a 14% market share. In addition, we have seen third party insurers aggressively marketing and expanding; which results in a reduction of reimbursement for the providers. Add to this the entrance of over the counter (OTC) products, ready to hit the marketplace with low-cost hearing aids. What should your practice do to protect your patient base?  The answer is clear, a solid retention marketing plan.

I consult with practices across the country. A common question I ask practices, “Are your patients loyal to your practice?” I hear similar responses, the most common answer is almost always, “My patients love me, and they all come back to me”. The next question I ask, “How do you know?” This is followed by silence. 

In my world what gets measured gets done. So how do you objectively measure patient loyalty? 

First, you need a solid database of patients. In the hearing industry, there are multiple office management databases that are highly effective if used properly. The key is finding one system that fits your practice needs than actually using it as opposed to having an expensive calendar system. Having evaluated hundreds of offices' databases, we’ve found that 10-50% of the data is either missing or entered incorrectly. How do you fix this situation? 

Step 1 Buy an industry specific database like sycle.net, Blueprint, CounselEar, or Tims. If you’re currently using one, have it evaluated for proper usage.

Step 2 Have the appropriate people learn how to use it properly and effectively. Make sure you have a backup as staff does turn over. If your current database is being underutilized or used incorrectly, put a corrective action in place to address the data gaps.

Step 3 Use it religiously making sure that all the fields are being entered into! 

Next, your practice needs a solid retention marketing program that has multiple touchpoints. There are many ideas on how to keep in touch with patients – so they stay your patients and not your competitors. Here are a few to think about. 

New patient onboarding: Your plan should start with new patient onboarding activities to make your patients feel special. Ideas include a personally written thank you card, welcome gift, plant/flower delivered to their home, a personal call from their provider and or a call from the front office staff. 

Current patient touchpoints: Next you want to include ongoing activities to keep in front of your patients. A couple of simple ideas include annual checks, birthday cards, holiday cards, warranty expiration notices, newsletters, and patient appreciation events. 

Re-engaged/Re-activated patients: Lastly, you should have a strategy to keep in touch with patients that need to be re-engaged or re-activated. These may include patients that were tested, had a hearing loss and choose not to move forward with hearing aids. The ideas in this category are similar to a current patient with annual checks, birthday cards or newsletters. You should also include some form of call to action to welcome them back to your office. 

The average patient purchases new hearing aids every 5.4 years. It’s never too early to start having ongoing touchpoints with your patients. It would be impossible to incorporate every idea into your practice, but you need to start somewhere. First, it starts with having a solid database. Next, make a plan that compliments your practice. Track your results and make adjustments where needed.

If you’d like help evaluating your current database, your current retention marketing plan or help getting started please reach out to me directly at meckert@earserv.com.

The Deeper Value

From ESCO Business Solutions

Start your year strong – align your marketing and sales message

by Patrick Miller Posted on January 2, 2020

A deep sigh of relief for the new year. A chance to glance back at the successes and whatnot, and look forward to the possibilities, all in a single thought.

A thought I share with private practices this time of year: The best way to end a year strong, is to start the year strong.

It’s now when I look back and ask, did I start last January with gusto? If so, what did I do that worked, and what didn’t work?

Did the daily habits I logged measure up to the long-term goals I envisioned? Typically, some have, and some have not. But it’s this practice that helps me realize, the habits that didn’t last just weren’t important to me. Which ultimately means they weren’t important to my goals. They were simply passing thoughts.

However, the habits I did adhere to, the ones that played out into successful projects or positive life-altering changes, provide a TON OF ENTHUSIASM for the new year.

Not only do these habits I adhered to provide fuel for some serious effort into tasks, daily habits, and goals for the coming year, but they give a huge boost of confidence, energy, and motivation. They help me discover, I can accomplish what I truly want with little effort when I know it will have a long term and lasting impact on my happiness, my focus, and my goodwill toward others.

One of my main goals this year is to provide a platform for the hearing experts of the world to bring hearing care marketing into the modern age. It’s time to align the marketing message with the sales message. And to shine a positive light on hearing loss in the marketing, especially when it comes to how it’s seen in the retail space.

How do I intend to do this? By asking you, the folks on the front line, what patients are asking you for...

Ready to be heard? pmiller@earserv.com

The Deeper Value

From ESCO Business Solutions

Are you building value in your business or just working in your business?

by Mike Eckert Posted on December 3, 2019

In today’s competitive landscape, the value of a customer to your business has never been more important. One of the most relevant key performance indicators (KPI’s) a business can measure is Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). CLV is defined as an average annual customer value/average length of customer relationship. Depending on where your business is at in its lifecycle will change where you focus needs to be from a marketing standpoint.

We hear it often from the private practices, they want help driving more prospects through their doors. New businesses will naturally rely on acquisition marketing. But, once your business is generating enough revenue without new patients, then retaining those patients should be your focus. For those offices with a large patient base, oftentimes what’s overlooked is a good retention marketing plan. The influence a quality retention program can have on CLV, impacts directly to the overall value of your business.

Retention marketing, sometimes referred to as lifecycle marketing or loyalty marketing, is a strategy to keep your customers engaged, happy and coming back. All the research I’ve seen shows, it costs seven times more to attract new customers than it does to retain existing ones. It also shows, just a 5% increase in customer retention can generate up to 95% in profits. This means your business will have a up to 70% better chance of selling to an existing customer, versus a limited 5% chance of selling to a new customer. My favorite stat, over 50% of repeat customers spend more on their additional purchases.

By ignoring retention marketing and focusing solely on acquisition marketing means you’ll be creating customer churn, therefore decreasing customer loyalty and profitability. Don’t take your current customers for granted, they are the value of your business.

So, when’s the right time to start your retention marketing program? I believe it was yesterday. To quote Harvey Mackey, “Good habits are as addictive as bad habits, and a lot more rewarding”.

Successful retention marketing involves building an engaging two-way relationship with your customers. To be successful, retention marketing needs to be personalized so it shows value, creates direct engagement, and is in line with your business brand. Retention marketing is more than just sending a birthday card or talking to a patient once a year, it’s quality engagement with a purpose.

What type of retention marketing should you deliver for your business? Consider the following:

  • Onboarding of new customers: design a program so their first impression is an amazing one. Create the “wow” factor with your customer so they can’t wait to come back.
  • Current customers: create an ongoing experience with your customers. Include multiple touch points throughout the year. Part of this is knowing your customer almost better than they know themselves.  It’s the little things that make a difference; like remembering important occasions.
  • Lapsing customers: this is those customers who seem to be slipping away from your business. The sooner you get in front of them and address this group, the better.
  • Re-Engagement/Re-Activate customers: these are customers who are lost, or one’s who tried your services once, but may have never truly been an account.

All four of these types of retention are recognizable at each stage of a business development. And, all types are critical as they will directly affect your business. Especially when used at the correct business lifecycle timeline.

Running a successful business is hard work. Knowing what your Customer Life Value is an important key measure and should be looked at regularly. There’s no doubt, the best way to grow your CLV is through a solid and consistent customer retention program.

One last thought: automating the execution and delivery of your retention program will not only reduce the burden on office staff, but will reduce the overall cost, making it viable and feasible for the long-term success.

The Deeper Value

From ESCO Business Solutions

Hearing Aid Marketing is Changing. What Will You Do To Drive New Patients?

by Patrick Miller Posted on November 1, 2019

You need more hearing aid sales. Let’s imagine for a moment, there’s a huge marketing budget available. It’s not an unlimited budget, but there’s enough to allow you to develop a truly successful program. What would you do to drive new patients?

As a marketer I consider this question often. Both hypothetically, to allow my creative sessions room to breathe; and, literally with every client who begs me to challenge the mundane, the tired, and the ineffective. As much as I appreciate these folks for thinking there’s some magical solution, the truth is, marketing is never just one thing.

The best marketing meets the audience where they are at and when they are ready. It does not, cannot, and will not bring to them a flash of waking insight, a life changing moment, or an immediate urge to grab the phone and call.

With ten years of experience developing and executing marketing for audiologists in private practices, I’ve been asked this question hundreds of times. I'm confident, the best advice for any clinic in a retail setting trying to successfully market hearing services comes down to a few points, the most important of which is having a plan.

Be it a monthly, quarterly or yearly calendar of events, a new catalog of creative offerings, or a thoroughly understood patient profile; establishing a well-defined plan for delivering consistent and steady patient flow will always be the best possible solution. Bringing more new patients in a casual, methodical, and consistent flow will be much more effective than blasting the market at random. Let’s take a walk through a simple scenario together.

In a typical market the options to reach an audience are straight forward. Here’s a list with pros and cons: 

    • Direct mail - the old, tired, but reliable workhorse offering targeted solutions. There’s been an apparent diminishing of return. But, it’s still a contender for so many reasons.
    • Facebook - new, exciting, and frustrating. Delivering so many leads that are unqualified, unmotivated and difficult to convert; getting them from the virtual environment of a touchscreen or monitor, to the real-world respect and sense of responsibility of a human is difficult.
    • Pay-per-click (AdWords) - rock solid performance, quality leads, but never enough quantity to build a string of great months together.
    • Newspaper - lots of opportunities for creative expression, but expensive (ridiculously so in most markets), ineffective and unreliable. 
    • Radio - great for branding, but untargeted and ineffective unless paired with a strong lead gen solution.
    • TV (Broadcast) - very expensive, untargeted and requires the correct message (often the message that works best is not a desirable message for promotion a brand (think Wanted 21).
    • TV (Cable) - geo targeted, affordable, but again, requires the correct message. And also, ineffective unless paired with other lead gen solutions.
    • Billboards, large format signs - limited branding effectiveness, and worthless when it comes to measurable lead gen.
    • Physician referrals - excellent solution, but tireless, boots-on-the-groundwork requiring specialized and dedicated staff.

So, what’s the best option? All the above, most of the time. In a calculated and measurable plan that is tracked, monitored and adjusted OFTEN for optimum efficiency. A closely monitored program where results either 10% positive or negative with any of these strategies and you will notice the effects on your practice. 

Ask yourself, “What will it take to drive revenue-generating patients through my door?” A good plan doesn’t take a considerable amount of money, or a lot of time to build, it just takes focused attention. Structuring any marketing program for your office that allows you to test, measure, and manage efficiencies is just a well-defined, executed, and monitored program with a few defined goals and habits.

One more key message: there must be a control piece for each media buy. It’s the piece that works a large percentage of the time. It can’t be beaten by your newest, most creative, or most exciting efforts, it just simply works and your confident it will continue to work. Using that message, you gather data and test against it, every time. If the typical message the market accepts and responds to can’t be beat, there needs to be an understanding of why before a new message can be created.

To tie it all together, let me take a moment and mention what personally drives me. When a new mailer is created, or an unexplored zip code is targeted, or a killer list of qualifying questions for Facebook helps the appointment conversion rate, that’s a powerful feeling. Especially when it all comes from nothing but experience and tireless examination of past results. That’s when you know you understand your audience and you understand the market. It’s when you can confidently make decisions and deliver effective, long term marketing results. Never too many leads, and always just enough.

I challenge you this week to take one hour and map out your marketing program using the above list. Which media buys need better tracking? Is there a control piece? Is there a plan for next year?

Need help or have questions - pmiller@earserv.com

The Deeper Value

From ESCO Business Solutions

Welcome to The Deeper Value

We get it; you don’t have a lot of time. But we have so much to say! Once a month we will deliver concise, sometimes pithy messages loaded with business advice and marketing ideas.

Within The Deeper Value, you will find interesting articles, business success stories, marketing trends, and so much more. We hope you enjoy the first edition of The Deeper Value. Look for more in the next few weeks.

As always, we welcome and encourage your feedback, Mike

Are Your Hearing Aid Patients Really Repurchasing From You?

by Mike Eckert Posted on September 18, 2019

25+ years in this industry has given me the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented and successful entrepreneurs. The creative solutions I've heard during those conversations are countless. Lately though, during these same types of conversations, I’ve noticed my advice has expanded to so many new areas of business. From 3rd party payers, digital marketing, and even the usefulness of Facebook ads. However, sometimes the best advice is the most obvious. And there’s one piece of advice which continues to remain relevant. The guidance I’m always most eager to share any chance I get: A well-planned and properly executed patient retention program is VITAL for the success of ANY practice.

Yes, the old and tired cliché remains practical in today’s marketplace. Maybe now more than ever. Any successful practice, large or small, has a detailed, brand-specific, and adequately executed patient retention plan.

At ESCO Business Solutions we still see practices continuing to rely on patient loyalty to run their retention program. It’s an approach that’s simply not working in today’s competitive market. By taking your patients’ “experiences” for granted, hoping it will nurture and develop loyalty, is not a retention program. Loyalty is no longer a guarantee. To say it in no uncertain terms: today’s patients owe you nothing in return for you just “doing your job”. A difficult comment to consider, but it’s the attitude which seems to have become the norm. Especially in the environment of low-cost prices of the retail landscape.

There’s no doubt, changes in this industry will continue. Requiring all of us to work frantically to deliver creative solutions to help adapt. I’m encouraged and eager to explore those ideas with you.

To start, I recommend it’s time to evaluate your patient retention program. Private pay patients are now so scarce, fickle, and unnerved. We hear about how their friends are urging them to buy online. Competition is more intense. Low-cost offers are no longer just from your marketplace, but coming directly from insurance companies, 3rd parties and, yes, very soon, convenience stores.

Let’s face it, expecting your patients to return to repurchase from you because you’re the easiest solution isn’t logical. You are no longer the easiest, the cheapest, or the most “relevant” solution.

Part of the service ESCO Business Solutions provides is an all-inclusive and in-depth look at any business. By examining patient data, office processes, and PnL reports, we can offer our partners a unique, realistic and comprehensive solution. Ideas that are meant for today’s world.

Remember, you have one crucially important leverage point over all the other options: you and your patient have shared a personal experience; a real human connection. Remain steadfast and continue to realize their expectations. Build on each new experience. And offer advice to help secure your place as their trusted resource. How? Define follow up care for them, keep those experiences at the top of their mind, and deliver with rock-solid execution.

Ready to provide your patients with a follow-up care flow for their hearing? A solution to help them develop a routine and comfortable pattern for their care which fits their life? Check out this powerful case study built around a successful patient retention program from a highly successful practice.