There are many companies that target potential customers by basing their reach on their current customers. While that is an effective way to know that you’re reaching prospects, you may not be reaching the customers you want and your ideal audience/customer may still be out there.
Growing a business requires serious analysis of the market and the target you want to reach. Obviously, if you specialize in pediatric audiology, you’re not going to begin to reach out to seniors, but there are targeted ways other than the traditional mechanisms (e.g., advertising, purchased e-mail lists, etc.) to grow your patient roster.
First, you’ll need to understand who in the family is most likely to make the decision to visit an audiologist and what’s the strongest driver. Is it referrals from a physician, educator, or family member? Are your patients typically brought to you by a particular family member (mother, father, daughter, grandchild)? Don’t be afraid to ask new patients how they’ve heard of you. This may help to direct your efforts, although there still may be additional untapped channels.
Audiology is like many service businesses—potential customers don’t look for you until they need you. While you may have had a booth at the community fair or given a talk at the local senior center, those contacts are not going to reach out to you until they need an audiologist and, at that time, they may have forgotten your name or how to contact you. Because of this, you have to stay vigilant and have a consistent and constant message to whatever audience you decide is your best channel to grow your customer base.
Build a Campaign
Once you’ve determined your best audience for referrals, develop a plan and build a campaign. Don’t overlook physician referrals. You should always stay connected to local physicians who see your ideal potential patient.
You may decide to speak to a community group and, weeks later, when no one has responded, you may think that it was a waste of your time. Effective campaigns build and continue. Those people who heard you speak will need to see, hear, and read additional messages from you before they begin to remember who you are. Chances are, if they attended a presentation, they came because they’re interested and they, or another family member, are in need of an audiologist.
The best way to follow up efficiently is with phone calls or e-mail. By e-mail, I don’t mean a purchased e-mail list. Sending out blasts to people who have not signed up is a good way to annoy many people. By being courteous and asking potential patients if they’d like to receive regular info on hearing health, you provide a wanted way to keep your message in front of them.
Every time you speak somewhere or meet with someone who is either an influencer or potential patient, ask if you may add them to your newsletter list. Be sure to keep the list confidential and never share it or sell it. Tell those who provide an e-mail address that you will not share it or sell it. You should have a section on your website where interested persons can sign up for regular hearing information and you should encourage all of your current patients to sign up.
Systems such as Constant Contact or Mailchimp provide templates and mechanisms for uploading e-mail lists.
It’s a lot of work but, if you’re consistent and develop great content, it will pay off. While you should create the content (you can also use content from the American Academy of Audiology), you may use an office worker or inexpensive local designer to upload and format the copy and send it out to your list. If there are young or aspiring audiologists or students in your office, it’s a great way for them to learn a lot about the profession by working on your newsletter. If there are any aspiring writers, they may want to create content for you that you can edit and they can upload.
Start small at first. A quarterly newsletter with two to three great articles may be all you’re able to create for now. Once you have a library of great content, you can repurpose articles and/or update them. Post new research or news items that affect hearing health. You can always write one or two lines above the news item to summarize your take on the article. (Make sure you follow copyright laws when using news articles and research in your newsletter.)
Photos get a lot of interest and encourage readers to read further. If you have photos that can accompany your content, even better. If you have a new piece of equipment that you’re excited about or new hearing aids you’re using, you can demo those in a short video clip. This will also get interest and may go viral. You can upload these to YouTube, pull them into your social media platforms, and link them to your newsletter.
The goal is to provide current and potential patients with information that is relevant for them and to establish you as an expert in the field.
According to the American Marketing Association, the public experiences more than 1,000 marketing messages a day. We’re all bombarded by messages, and we tune out if we’re not in the market for, or in need of, a particular service at that particular time. However, when we do need that service, we scramble online to find a service provider. We may call a neighbor, relative, or friend for a referral, or we may call on a physician.
While your plan will dictate where your primary outreach should be, you should continue to roll all of your current patient and prospects into a database so that you can continue to reach out, stay in front of them, and be able to turn them from a prospect to a patient.
You can also find several resources including a Public Relations Tool Kit, press release templates, and more on the Academy’s website.