If your marketing doesn’t work as well as it used to, it’s time to try the new media

Duff Reiter

By Duff Reiter

Where is the first place your customers and prospects are looking to find out about hearing loss and hearing aids? Are they contacting the American Academy of Audiologists (AAA)? Are they viewing your ad in the Yellow Pages? Do you think they’re checking the classified ads in the daily newspaper? By the way, how many people did your last direct-mail piece pull in?

As most of you know by now, direct mail’s heyday is long past. A 0.5% response is actually pretty good when measured against industry standards, but it’s not a number you want to build your marketing plan around. I can also tell you that today’s typical hearing aid prospect has probably never heard of AAA or any of the other professional associations in hearing care.

Some people may still check the Yellow Pages, but that medium becomes less important every day. And what about daily newspapers? Unfortunately, in most markets they are going out of business. The display ads in the news section that used to so effective just don’t work anymore. And the classified section has been swept away almost entirely. It’s now a place to look for lost pets, and not much else.

 

BUT WAIT, THERE’S HOPE

But before you throw your hands up in despair, be aware that there are a few bright spots. Classified ads haven’t disappeared entirely; they have been replaced by online services such as Craig’s List, and rating services like Yelp and Angie’s List, to name a few.

Online rating services are among the most effective and least utilized ways to get your message out. Ignore them at your peril. Like it or not, your customers are visiting them and gathering advice from them on where to go for hearing products and services. This puts you on the spot for your entire customer experience–from initial contact with the receptionist to the hearing aid fitting process to the aural rehab program you offer.

Your status with local rating services is, perhaps, the most important element of managing your professional reputation. If a few customers went online with less than satisfied reviews of your service, you had better find out why and correct it…fast. It doesn’t matter whether the customer is right or wrong about you. (Remember the old adage “the customer is always right”?) Accept the criticism and do what you can to make amends.

Several of these services offer you an opportunity to respond to postings about bad experiences with you. Use this service, but use it wisely. Be factual not defensive.

You may have a stellar reputation with your peers and with the professional associations to which you belong. Your customers may or may not find this information, depending on how you are disseminating it.

However, your first and only concern here should be how you stack up on what has become the greatest assembler of information ever created in the history of mankind: Google.

 

REGAIN CONTROL OF YOUR MARKETING

Apart from their friends at the local coffee shop, the first place that your customers and prospects go to find out about you is Google. This isn’t just about search engine optimization; it’s about making sure the quality and depth of information about you is what it should be.

It is within your power to regain control of the marketing process. Below are five things you can do, right now, to reignite your marketing plan.

  • Start a blog. More than likely, you already have a number of things that can be re-purposed and used as material for your blog. Testimonials from satisfied customers, news items like the Dr. Oz bit that has been floating around, or the Matt Lauer report for the Today Show are good examples of existing content that you can use. You might also look for quotes from The Hearing Review, Audiology Online, or this blog, Hearinghealthmatters.org. There is also some excellent academic work being done now that explores the causative links between hearing loss and the early onset of Alzheimer’s. The key is not just to post these things but to offer commentary on them as well. Show off your expertise.
  • Videotape your most satisfied patients. This is a gold mine of material. I mean it. Set up a camera in your office and ask for testimonials on the spot. Video testimonials are ten times more powerful than written ones.
  • Add your own comments and commentary to practically anything about hearing. Tinnitus is a very popular subject for discussion. There are also a lot of misconceptions about the “dangers” of using Bluetooth devices. This can be a blog entry. “10 Ways to Save Money When Buying Hearing Aids” and similar lists are also good material that never goes out of fashion.
  • Remember, content counts. Keep your blog entries and Facebook comments short and informational in nature–not promotional. Remember, a blog is a conversation, not an extra-long sales pitch. Worry less about gathering people who “like” your Facebook page and more about getting the content right. Once the content is right, your customers will begin talking with you, both on your blog and on Facebook. Solicit their advice. One or more of them may already be blogging or talking about issues around hearing. Engage them. Once they become part of your content through video testimonials and the like, they will tell other people about it. This is how you enlarge and captivate your audience.
  • Use this material everywhere. To maximize the value of your content, include it on your website, blog, Facebook page, press releases, newsletter, and every form of advertising that you employ, as well as inside your office. Each place where you are actively engaged in discussions about hearing issues will reinforce the other places, making each medium more powerful and “stickier.”

There is hope, but you need to get busy, especially with new media. Good luck!

 

Duff Reiter is a marketing consultant who specializes in marketing products and services to the 50+ consumer. He often writes and presents talks on the subjects of practice management, marketing, and social media in the hearing industry. He and his colleague, Mark Goldstein, are conducting a training seminar in January for audiologists in Unitron’s Unite! Program. Click here for details.