By Nick Ramdass, SHOEBOX Audiometry
Hearing loss is a serious problem globally. The World Health Organization estimates that there are almost half of a billion people suffering from disabling hearing loss — a number that is expected to double by 2050.1 The National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Diseases (NIDCD) estimates that there are approximately 37.5 million Americans over the age of 18 that suffer from hearing loss.2
Identifying and providing proper interventions for those suffering from, or at risk for, hearing loss remains a challenge. The NIDCD suggests that almost thirty million Americans could benefit from using hearing aids.3 However, it is estimated that it takes an individual an average of seven years of living with hearing loss before they seek treatment.4
The bottom line is that there are plenty of hearing aid candidates out there. The goal for audiologists is to find them and convince them that their hearing health matters enough to at least do a preliminary assessment. Despite the stigma associated with needing hearing aids, the satisfaction rate of those with hearing aids is impressive (over 80%).5 So those who do seek assistance and receive treatment are generally happy that they did.
There are a number of traditional marketing channels that audiologists have used and continue to use to generate traffic for their clinics. These include online marketing, email marketing, the utility of a website, blogs, and testimonials to offer credibility and education to the consumer. Word of mouth and even snail mail campaigns are still commonplace strategies. For many clinics, these practices are sufficient to generate respectable traffic. However, many clinics want to increase the number of people coming through the door to boost revenues, especially as their business expands.
Contemporarily, digital marketing has emerged as an effective method in the new age of marketing, including techniques such as search engine marketing and optimization. Audiologists are encouraged to look into these methods to help expand their businesses. However, the limitation of these methods is that they require digital marketing expertise, and a resource to both maintain and monitor these channels when they are created. Not all audiologists have the expertise nor resources to fully utilize this approach.
Novel methodologies for marketing and lead generation have emerged onto the market that uses a technological approach — specifically hearing lead generation or screening devices that can produce a simple but accurate hearing assessment in minutes.
Unlike traditional lead generation devices, offering a simple hearing screening test using tablet-based audiometry is making lead generation more accessible. And it allows the test to be administered by those who are not hearing health professionals. Like office administrators or clinic assistants. Previously, devices required significant facilitation from the administrator or user (e.g. clicker-based screening devices). Furthermore, the results required interpretation, an activity that is better-suited for specialists who understand audiometric results and how to relay them to the patient. Now, improved workflows allow for self-testing and results that present as either pass or fail. This makes operations and results interpretation straightforward.
It should be noted that this isn’t hearing screening in the traditional sense — these technologies are not capturing threshold, and, to be fair, this isn’t about seeking a threshold. There’s a time and place where having that level of detail is important and helpful, but for most lead generation purposes, less is actually more, especially when attempting to widen the spectrum of professionals outside of the hearing space channeling leads to a hearing clinic.
Testing outside of the booth is becoming more and more prominent. Testing at events, especially noisy events, have been enabled by technologies that can accommodate varying environmental noise levels with transducers optimized for sound attenuation in less than ideal settings. Furthermore, calibrated transducers are improving the accuracy of the results, ensuring that the leads are qualified. Fun, interactive tests on a tablet serve as a draw, encouraging event patrons to participate.
Lead generation at fairs or events
I recently conducted a pilot study at a major fair in New England with a provider affiliated with one of the major manufacturers and was able to use screening technology to draw people into the booth, and into a hearing consultation workflow. The screening device was excellent as a quick, interactive tool to help fair patrons engage with the hearing booth. Many who were initially resistant to do a full hearing consultation were okay to do a one minute game on a tablet. They did the test and, in many cases, upon learning of potential hearing problems, were open to the further consultation that they had initially rejected.
An interesting thing about this fair was that the providers fitted hearing aids on-site and were able to sell tens of thousands of dollars in hearing aids. Compared to previous years where they physically shipped sound booths in, the lead generation tool allowed them to see more people, find more qualified hearing aid candidates, and ultimately sell more hearing aids (they doubled the number of hearing aids sold with the lead generation device compared to previous years).
Lead generation through independent or affiliated health clinics
Another example of screening technologies being used for lead generation is through third-party or affiliated clinics. Earlier this year, I assisted in conducting an analysis of rapid hearing testing lead generation with a large ophthalmology clinic in the Southern US. In this workflow, affiliated clinics incorporated rapid hearing testing into their ophthalmological clinical workflow to drive referrals to the hearing center. This workflow was a massive success.
Firstly, the technology made it simple for non-hearing health specialists to administer a hearing screen. In this case, ophthalmological technicians operated the screening device, obtained results, and generated the referral based on negative results. No hearing expertise was required. Secondly, the test was very fast and easy-to-use, so it didn’t interrupt the clinical workflow, which was a major factor in getting adoption in an affiliated clinic. It also added value to the patient experience as they got insight into their hearing health and had an activity to do while waiting in the pre-test room.
From a return on investment perspective, the hearing clinic was able to test over one hundred ophthalmological patients and book 23 appointments leading to multiple hearing aid units sold. The result was a 960% return on investment.
So far, I have talked about examples where the screening solution has been employed in an assisted/attended capacity. In instances where someone cannot be present, it is important that a screening device can be standalone and self-administered by an individual.
Passive lead generation through standalone devices
Last year, I helped conduct an analysis in a low-volume pharmacy where a kiosk with minimal marketing was left partially-attended (it was near the counter, so the Pharmacist could monitor the hearing test and sometimes encourage patrons to try it). Within ten days, 48 tests were started, approximately 80% of the patrons completed the test (with contact information) and 25 leads were generated. These results demonstrate that this standalone model in a semi-assisted capacity was capable of generating leads.
The best part about these strategies is that they are not difficult to implement. To get started, here’s what you need to consider:
Understand where lead generation activities can be implemented in your current practice. Can you get out and do trade shows or fairs? Do you want to implement a system in a clinic? Do you have an affiliated clinic or pharmacy that is willing to partner with you?
Understand who the key stakeholders are and get them on board. These activities only work if others involved are willing participants. Showing them how easy the lead generation devices are to operate often mitigates many of these barriers.
Get a demo of the lead generation product from the technology vendor. Folks like myself have helped quite a few providers implement these lead generation systems, so we’re happy to share best practices!
Ask to run a pilot project. Some of my most successful customers started off by piloting the lead generation devices as a proof of concept before a larger-scale deployment.
I’m confident that adding tablet-based lead generation devices will be a staple in your marketing activities given the convenience and the number of qualified leads that are generated with minimal effort.
- Kochkin, S. (2007). MarkeTrak VII: Obstacles to adult non-user adoption of hearing aids. The Hearing Journal, 60 (4), 24-5
*featured image courtesy Luis Osorio
About the author:
Nick Ramdass is a Market Development Specialist at SHOEBOX Audiometry, a Division of Clearwater Clinical, the leader in tablet-based audiometry. To learn more about SHOEBOX lead generation solutions, visit their website here.