The Patient Finder Program (PFP) is possibly the most successful method of retail hearing aid marketing. Why? Because the Patient Finder Program brings together hearing impaired prospective patients with a team of hearing health professionals. The PFP is a format which generates many happy, new patients and high volume revenue that are important to a growing practice.
In the complex and very competitive retail hearing aid marketplace of today, you will find it difficult to survive as a 'one ball juggler'.
If your advertising consists of a one-media approach, you may be inviting problems you don’t need. Suppose you are using one successful newspaper ad and most of your new patients are generated because of that one approach. What is the downside? It is this. If that well runs dry, so goes the practice.
The Patient Finder Program is a multi-media approach to retail hearing aid marketing. Unlike most retail advertising promotions, the PFP utilizes all media at one time. Each advertisement operates synergistically with all others, and brings about maximum results in a short period of time.
First, let’s analyze the reasons why this successful marketing approach is not used by all hearing health professionals.
Here are some of the objections I have heard from hearing health professionals:
Retail Hearing Aid Sales Promotions:
- are unprofessional,
- are too expensive,
- have too many returns,
- create too many problems,
- and they won’t work in my area.
There are good reasons why some hearing health professionals may have developed a negative attitude about the retail hearing aid sales promotion
Maybe they have conducted a hearing aid sales promotion and it didn’t produce the expected results. Perhaps they heard a story about a sales promotion that didn’t have a positive outcome and were hesitant to try.
Generally, when a promotion fails to develop happy, new patients and high volume revenue, it was not conducted properly.
Retail hearing aid sales promotions are not professional. Retail hearing aid sales promotions are also not unprofessional. It is people that are or that are not professional.
Professional people will conduct a Patient Finder Program in a professional manner. You must stay in charge of any promotion that takes place in your office. You control the level of professionalism. Your PFP will be as professional as you make it.
The costs necessary to generate a flow of prospective patients should be under fifteen percent of revenue generated. More often than not, it is closer to ten percent. During the past ten years at AudioCare, the average gross revenue generated per PFP was over $50,000.00. When you consider a thirty percent cost of goods and a twenty-five percent cost of sale, you end up with thirty to thirty-five percent before general and administrative costs.
Metaphorically, there is only so much ripe fruit in the orchard at any given time. If you fill your basket to the overflowing, it won’t leave much for your non-advertising competitor.
In a properly conducted PFP, your return rate should be as usual.
If you sell a higher percentage of non users, you may expect a slightly higher rate of return. A high return rate happens when the PFP is poorly conducted and poor decisions are made. Among those poor decisions, we find:
- The hearing aids sold won’t solve the patients hearing problem.
- The patient was promised too much.
- The sale was inappropriately made.
- The delivery and after-delivery service was poorly handled.
If you stay in charge, you or your resident hearing health professional will decide which product will be sold. And because you are the last person to speak with the patient, make sure the sale is solid and that expectations are not overstated. If you are in charge, your return rate will remain as usual.
Patient Finder Programs Create Problems
If you are selling and fitting hearing aids to senior citizens, you will have problems. How well you solve those problems will define your success. If you sell as many hearing aids in a week as you usually do in a month, you will have to solve a months worth of problems generated in a week. The answer is simple. Spread out the deliveries so you can give each new patient the attention necessary to insure a successful fitting.
The baby boomers are graying. However, some markets have a greater concentration of seniors than do others. People who live in rural markets tend to respond to invitation advertising more so than those living in metropolitan markets. History has proven over and over that the PFP will succeed anywhere there are people who experience hearing loss.
The time-tested techniques, used in a properly conducted Patient Finder Program, have worked successfully for dispensers and audiologists throughout the nation. It may work well for you.
Direct Response Mail
The direct response mail package is a cornerstone of a successful promotion. Direct response mail hits the target at which you aim and, therefore, the mailing list you use is very important. Direct response mail is numbers driven. The more mail you send out, the more prospective patients you will have respond to your offer. The most successful promotions utilize 10,000 pieces of mail sent to an expertly filtered prospect list. We also recommend mailing your patient base. You will never over-mail your patient base. Research has shown that, at best, two percent will respond. That two percent may be experiencing a problem with their hearing aids and may be ready to purchase a new and improved instrument. If your patients receive more mail from your competitor than they do from you, you run the risk of losing potential patients.
Placing a large ad just prior to the dates of your Patient Finder Program will help fill your appointment calendar. People trust what they read in the newspaper. Your newspaper advertisement will add credibility to your program.
Having a good telemarketing company call prospective patients often reaps great rewards. Keep in mind that not all appointments will show up when set by courtesy calling. An appointment confirmation call will increase the show-up rate and give you an opportunity to insure spousal attendance.
Professional Help Is Available
If you would like more information on conducting a Patient Finder Program, call AudioCare at 1-800-974-4100.
Many patients who routinely visit your office for service or batteries should be encouraged to make an appointment for a new test during your Patient Finder Program. A special offer for batteries, or a discount on repair costs, may bring them back.
Prior to your Patient Finder Program is a good time to get your house in order. Give your office a special cleaning. Serve special refreshments, such as finger sandwiches, cookies, an assortment of cold drinks and hot fresh coffee. Have a good selection of reading material available. Waiting is never as long if you have goodies to eat and something hot off the press to read. Hearing aid pamphlets are not very exciting. At least three rooms are needed, and four are better. If your office is too small, consider borrowing a room from a neighboring office. If you use the services of a visiting hearing aid specialist (V-HAS), he or she will need the fourth office.
Having the help of a visiting hearing aid dispenser will improve your Patient Finder Program. Obviously, selecting the right V-HAS is very important. The V-HAS will be a key component to your professional team-selling approach. The V-HAS’s main function is to motivate the prospective patients to take action.