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Audiology Marketing 2.0: Using Technology to Attract Older Patients

Audiology Marketing 2.0: Using Technology to Attract Older Patients
Matt Perry
February 2, 2012
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This article is sponsored by ReSound.
Editor's Note: This is a transcript of the live seminar presented on November 14, 2011 as part of the ReSound symposium, Advances in Amplification: Meeting the Needs of Aging Adults. To view the course recording, register here.

Introduction

My name is Matt Perry and I am an audiologist with a private practice in Maryland. I host a show called Audiology Marketing Now, which is a web TV show at audiologymarketingnow.com where I teach different marketing strategies, specifically for audiologists. We have three clinicians now and I spend three days a week seeing patients and two days a week working on marketing.

In 2000, my wife became pregnant, and even though it was planned, anyone who has been in that situation knows that your life changes when you find out. I was going to school at the time to be a speech language pathologist and I started worrying about how I would support my family and thinking about ways to make a little bit of extra money. So I created a website called jittermonkey.com and it was a great website that you would visit to see popular websites. For example, Amazon was new at the time, so there was a link to Amazon and Amazon would pay me a couple of pennies for every person I would send to them. It was pretty cool except that it failed miserably. I think I made 6 cents and that was from my Mom. Thank you, Mom. I created another site called Nicklewise. That failed. I created another one called AuctionEyes. That was a great site. It showed all the crazy stuff that people were selling on eBay. In fact Jay Leno has a segment about this. Finally, I created a site called MyCreditMatch.com, which was just like a dating website; it would match you up to your perfect credit card companion. Some people do not care about interest rates because they pay their credit cards off every month. It was a great site and very complex, but unfortunately it failed as well. Here is the lesson I learned. It does not matter how "________" it is - you could fill in the blank with "attractive", "well-designed", "impressive", "helpful", "useful", "superior" or any other adjective - if people don't know that it exists or why they should care that it exists. That's a plain old business lesson that applies to websites and it obviously applies to our practices as well.

The title of ReSound's symposium this week is Meeting the Needs of Aging Adults and there has been a lot of great information presented throughout the week. But, we cannot meet the needs of aging adults very well if we cannot get them through our practice's front door. And that is why marking is so important. Something snapped inside me at the time that I was creating these websites and I became a passionate, some would say obsessed or crazy, student of marketing. I started studying all the top marketers, such as Guy Kowasaki, Dan Kennedy, Bill Glazer, and others. I started diving in to all the marketing content I could get and started attending conferences and buying training courses and studying how to become an Internet marketer. I learned a whole lot about marketing in general along the way. I have remained passionate about this subject. If you saw my nightstand right now you'd see that I have got probably seven or eight marketing books stacked up. Eventually, after studying marketing I started to make a little money online - not a lot, but a little, mostly from building databases and websites for other people. I became pretty popular with public school teacher associations. The state organizations would hire me to build and manage their websites and that was great. I had this pathway of becoming a successful Internet marketer but unfortunately that was not my only pathway, as I was also becoming an audiologist at the same time. I was enrolled in the Master's program at the University of Utah, and I dropped out at the last minute because I would have been the last surviving Master's level audiologist by the time I retired. Against the wishes of my adviser, I dropped out and became a full time speech technician for a year and then went to Towson for my Au.D. By the time I was done following these two pathways I was an Internet marketer and an audiologist, and pretty good at both of them although and I felt split. In 2008, I opened a private practice and everything changed, since I was finally able to use the marketing skills that I had spent so much time and passion developing and apply it to my audiology practice. It worked from day one, and today we are going to take about some of the things that you can do from a marketing standpoint for your practice.

You may be the world's greatest audiologist but it is impossible to help someone if you cannot get them through your practice's front door. I know there may be exceptions to that, but for the most part it is true. A very, very important part of being a private practitioner is getting people through your front door. I did not have a whole lot of education about that in my Au.D. program. There was one business course where I learned about writing strategic marking plans for hospital organizations but I did not learn much at all that I could apply to a private practice. Today, we are going to cover a lot of ground, but I caution you to not try and do everything. Rather than focus on one technique, I've decided to provide you with an overview and give you some take home items, or things that you can do right away. But in fact, even experienced Internet marketers do not try to do it all. Instead, you want to find something that you think might give you a good return on investment, something that you feel you have the resources and technical know-how to implement, as well as something that sounds like you may have fun doing it. The whole point is to take you from wherever you now with marketing your practice online, and bring you to the next level. For some people that next step may be developing a well-optimized AdWords campaign, which is pretty technical. For other people, the next step may be adding a blog to their website, or posting their first video to YouTube. Whatever that next step is for you, is okay, but do not try to do everything all at once.

Let's start with a quick poll. Does your practice have a website? I can see from the responses that most people here have websites, which is good and pretty much what we expect to see today. Just a few years ago, there were still a lot of audiology practices without websites, and we still see that sometimes. In fact, there are a few businesses in my area without websites. For the most part, however, people recognize that you should at least have a website online. Now I could ask you another question that I want you to think about but I am not going to poll you: Are you proud of that website? When I ask that question at audiology conferences, I often hear people say that they have a website but do not look at it. Or, they have not updated it in 3 years. That is an issue.

The next question to consider is this: Is your practice using the Internet in other ways besides just having a website? There are a lot of other ways to use the Internet and we'll go over those today. Now, there are a lot of reasons that people give for are not spending much time marketing their practice online, such as, it is too expensive, or not enough of our clientele are online. Some of these are good reasons and some of them are not. For example, compared to almost any other marketing method out there the Internet is cheap, so "it is too expensive" is not a good reason. Another myth is that not enough of our clientele are online. Let's address this concern. As audiologists, potentially people of all ages - from birth to death - are our clientele. But, in a private practice there are three primary generations that we market to: the GI Generation (born 1900 - 1924); the Silent Generation (born 1925 - 1945) and the Baby Boomers (born 1946 - 1964). According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2008), there are now only about 10 million people in the GI Generation, 30 million in the Silent Generation, and 77 million Baby Boomers. There are many more Baby Boomers than there are of GI and Silent Generations combined. That is why a lot of people are talking about the shift in the market that's occurring as these Baby Boomers age. As the Baby Boomers age, all the services that are designed for older people will see a boom, including audiology services. I just read an article yesterday that said there are now 80 million millennials in the U.S., which is the youngest generation. There are more millennials than Baby Boomers and they represent a quarter of the population. So we will have another boom coming in the future, but we are not going to focus on that today as we'll be retired by the time they become our primary market.

MarkeTrak VII (Kochkin, 2005) projected the hearing loss population through the year 2050. The projections were based on the incidence of hearing loss by age group, applied to U.S. Bureau of Census age population projections. So, in 2025, according to MarkeTrak VII, there will be 41 million people with hearing loss in the U.S. That's quite a bit more than today.

How are older people spending their time online? There is not a whole lot of research out there to answer that, but there is one really good study entitled Generations 2010 from the Pew Research Center (Pew, 2010). They did a lot of telephone surveys to find out how different age groups are spending their time online. This is study is free and available online from www.pewinternet.org.

One of the things that this study found, is that if you look at Internet usage by age over time (for the years 2000 - 2010), a greater percentage of each age group is using the Internet over time. Now, if you look at adults age 65 years and older, they are not using the Internet as much as the other age groups; however, by 2010 42% of this age group is using the Internet. It would not surprise me if we were closer to 50% today.

Another interesting question that this study looked at, is where do adults get their news on a typical day? And it looked at the answers to this question by generations. I am one that gets his news online; I actually get it on my phone. I very rarely watch the news or read the newspaper, but I check my phone daily for news and sometimes check a few times a day. According to Pew, 83% of Millennials (ages 18 - 33 years) get their news primarily from the Internet on a daily basis. As age goes up, the percentage of people who get their news online goes down. By the time we get to the GI Generation, only 14% get their news online but a whopping 90% watch their local TV news, and 70% of them read their local paper. The Millennials are not watching their local news or reading their local paper nearly as much (66% and 39%, respectively). This is the reason why we are not having the same conversations as other industries, who say that newspaper advertising such as inserts, are dead from a marketing standpoint. This is not true for our industry. I bring this point up to show you that even though I am talking about online marketing we cannot forget the other forms of marketing that have been working as well, at least not yet, considering our clientele.

So, we know that the age of the U.S. population is going up and we also know the hearing loss population is increasing. The percentage of people using the Internet is also going up. When we take all these things combined the importance of marketing your practice online is increasing. Like it or not, it is becoming more and more important to spend some time, energy and focus marketing your practice online. If you neglect to do that, your practice will suffer. For the practices out there with no Internet presence, even if they start right now and put up a website, the Internet cares about longevity. Now is the time to be taking your claim online. It will pay off immediately and continue to pay off in the future.

Marketing Fundamentals

The Results Triangle

I want to go over three marketing fundamentals. These are things you may be familiar with, since marketing online is just like marketing anywhere else. This is called the results triangle, according to Dan Kennedy (2006). There are three components to every marketing campaign: the message, the media and the market. It is important that you have the right message, the right media and the right market. If you make a mistake on one of these components, your marketing is not going to work. For example, if you have the right message and the right media but the wrong market it is not going to work. Let's say you are selling wine glasses, and you have a special two for one deal. You are marketing wine glasses using inserts in the newspaper and trying to target 5 year old kids. Obviously that is an extreme example for the sake of discussion, but clearly that would not work and you would not sell very many wine glasses. If you tried to target adults that would make sense as it is the right market. Buy one get one free wine glasses may be the right message. But, let's say you use television commercials in between cartoon shows. That's not the right media. So it is important that all three of the components - market, message and media - are appropriate. If they aren't, then the marketing campaign is going to fail and there are a lot of ways this might happen as there is only one way to get it right. When I hear someone say, "Yeah I tried postcards and it did not work", I say that you cannot blame a failed marketing campaign on postcards because I know a lot of people who use postcards regularly and it works great for them. So maybe it was the message that was wrong not the media, or maybe the mailing list was not good and so it was the wrong market. That is important to consider. When you try something new make sure that you do not write off the media right away without testing other messages or markets.
Unique Selling Proposition

USP stands for Unique Selling Proposition. This is really important in our industry because we are in a competitive market. A lot of people that come to our practice are aware that there are other practices that they could go to in the area. If they look in the Yellow Pages they see all the competition there. If they search for hearing aids online they see a lot of competition there. So it is important as you market that you have something that is unique about your practice. Give them a reason to come and see you instead of somebody else. It is also important that whatever your USP is, that it is something that you can advertise and market. A lot of people will say, you know, we have great customer service. That's good, but it's not really marketable. A lot of practices would argue they have just as good customer service as you do. You'll also hear someone suggest as their USP, I am a really skilled clinician. That is not really a USP. You have to come up with something that you can promote as being special about your practice.

We are highly, highly technical in our practice. We say that we practice the future of hearing healthcare. In the room where we program hearing aids, we have three different 42 inch flat panels side by side and we can drag information back and forth between them. We have real-ear measurements on one screen, programming software on the middle screen and surround sound on the third. It is an experience to demonstrate a hearing aid. People are shocked when they walk into the room. They remember that experience and they might just mention that to their friends as they go out to dinner that night or something like that. Let's say a person is not ready to take action and purchase hearing aids, and returns to the ENT office. They may be seen by the audiologist in a room that the ENT graciously provided the audiologist that was the size of a closet. That person is going to have a hard time thinking that it is their best decision to purchase hearing aids there because of the experience that they had in our practice. We've had that happen many, many times, where a person says that they went to three other practices and then returned to us, and that is because of our USP. Our USP is something that we can promote.

Features v. Benefits

The third fundamental I want to go over is features versus benefits. This is something I think we have a lot of room to improve on in our industry. Say you are promoting a new hearing aid that has directional microphones as a feature. Consumers do not think in terms of features. Even if we understand the feature we have to translate it into a benefit for consumers, as it will make our marketing much more effective. For directional microphones, the benefit is that you can follow a conversation better in a noisy restaurant. Digital feedback suppression is another feature. The benefit is never to having worry about your hearing aid making an embarrassing squealing sound. With hearing aids in general, the benefit is more meaningful conversations, stronger relationships with grandkids, or remaining active in leadership positions. There are a lot of benefits for every feature that we come up with and it is important that we talk to our prospects in terms of benefits so that they do not have to translate what we are saying. If we talk about digital feedback suppression, most people will not have a clue what we are talking about. But if we talk about how they would feel if their hearing aid was squealing in church then they can relate to that. The benefit of digital feedback suppression is not to having worry about that.

Will the customer take action? If the perceived benefit of your service outweighs the perceived cost they'll always take action. So there are costs associated with proceeding with hearing aids. One is financial. Another may be the social stigma. Another is the feeling of a foreign object in your ear or the hassle of maintenance. There are a lot of costs associated and the perceived benefits need to outweigh those perceived costs. So that is why it is important that we relay those benefits in any marketing message and in our counseling session as well. We need to motivate that person to finally take action and live life to the fullest.

How to Attract Patients with Technology

Search

Search is the number one way our customers will find us. There are a bunch of search engines online, Google is by far the Number 1 search engine; the Number 2 and Number 3 search engines officially are Yahoo! and Bing. It is important to focus on all three of them; however, the vast majority of your focus should be on Google because the vast majority of people use it. Do not worry about other search engines out there as their usage is so low compared to these three that it is not worth your efforts. If you do what you need to do to show up well on Google, Yahoo and Bing, it will translate to the other search engines. The name of the game is SEO, search engine optimization. If you have a website, your website needs to be relevant and it needs to be creditable. It needs to be both of those things in the eyes of the search engine. So how do you do that? Well, your website in order to be relevant to the consumer needs to contain key words. If someone types in "audiologists San Francisco", you need to have the word "audiologists" and other audiology-related key words on your website as well as some local key words in order for Google to be able to tell that your website is relevant to that search. Google needs to be able to tell that you are in San Francisco. Google cannot see pictures. Search engines do not know what are in pictures. They also cannot see fancy flash animation on websites either. All they can do is read text for relevance, so it is important that you use keywords. In order to find out what keywords you should be using in your website, consider this. On your website it might say, "We dispense all of the major hearing device manufacturers." Although that's a fine sentence to a human being, to a search engine "hearing device" are not a great keywords. You want to use "hearing aid" because that is more typical of what someone would be typing in their search. You can tell what keywords people are searching for using a tool on Google AdWords. You can go to adwords.google.com or just type "AdWords keyword tool", to find it. You can type in some keywords and it will tell you how many people in your country are searching for that keyword or did a search for it in the past month. In our industry by far the most popular keyword is "hearing aids" with 368,000 searches per month (per data accessed from Google AdWords Keyword Tool on 11/10/11). If you are using the term hearing devices in your office in order to try and eliminate some of the stigma with the words "hearing aids", that is fine for face-to-face discussions. I know a lot of people do that. But when you are online that backfires because Google is not going to know that you deal with hearing aids if every time you mention them you refer to hearing devices. I do not know how many people are searching for "hearing devices" but it is going to be quite a bit lower than those searching for "hearing aids." Another interesting thing here is tinnitus is the second most popular keyword search term for our profession. 301,000 searches are done on a monthly basis in the U.S. for the term "tinnitus". The take home here is, does your website have a page or any content dedicated to tinnitus? If not, you are missing out on some traffic. Even the term "hearing test", while small in comparison to "hearing aids", still has 33,1000 monthly searches. So you may want to consider maybe a page dedicated to one of these written hearing tests but because people are searching for "hearing test".

Up until this point we've been talking about relevance. Credibility is the other important consideration. If you design a website that talks all about tinnitus, Google will recognize that it is relevant. But it does not know if what you talk about on that website is true or that anybody else cares about it. It could be completely full of lies and Google does not want to take its traffic and send them to a website full of lies. So it uses back links to measure credibility. A back link is another website linking to your website. If that website is credible and relevant, then their vote for your website counts more than other websites. You want to get everybody talking about your website and your services and get links to your website. If you do something spectacular that happens organically, but unfortunately in our industry we are not doing things that are flashy and big news. so we need to make an effort to get back links.

SEO Action Items

With regard to relevance and credibility, there are some concrete actions you can take.

Add keyword rich content to your website.
As we discussed, to be relevant, you need to include audiology keywords and local keywords in your content on your website. You might also want to consider blogging. If you have a blog within your website it is very easy to post updated content. We frequently post a blog post when a new hearing aid comes out. When a new hearing aid comes out we have an entire page, although there is not a lot of content on it. It is a whole page because it is part of a blog dedicated to that hearing aid. What that means is when people search for that hearing aid, we are one of the only sites that have an entire page dedicated to it and therefore we get a lot of traffic. We get traffic from all over the country that does not help us, but we also get the local traffic. It is very easy to create good content with a blog if it is embedded within your website. There are advantages to having an external blog on a different website but it will not help your SEO.

Write articles and submit them for syndication.
Writing articles for syndication is one way you can get links to your website. When Lyric hearing aids came out I wrote an article about them and submitted it to websites that syndicate articles. The most popular one is EzineArticles.com. They take any article that is written from an author and put it up so that lazy webmasters who do not want to create content can take it and use it on their website. What happens is that your article ends up all over the Internet on different websites - some are decent, and some are lousy spammy websites that will not generate a lot of traffic. But every time that your article is posted on a website, it gives you some more credibility because you are going to have an author section at the bottom of that article and include a link to your website. You write an article, and you literally forget about it and it gets spread out all over the Internet resulting in links back to your website, giving you credibility. There is huge potential here because very few people in our industry are doing it, and it works. It works with one or two articles, but if you write an article every week or every month, you would end up with many, many links all over the Internet pointing back to your site, which gives you more credibility.

Comment on blogs and forums.
If you find a blog or forum related to the hearing industry, make a comment. If your comments are relevant, then nobody will complain or remove them. In your comments, make sure you include a link to your practice. You can include it in the signature of your post. When you post a comment on a blog, it usually gives you a way to tie-in your link as well. I know audiologists are not taking advantage of this because I have a few blogs and I have a hard time getting my viewers to comment. If you watch my online show, be sure to comment because you are going to get a link to your website, which gives you some value. You can also use anchor text. This is a little more advanced. In the signature form, instead of your practice name you could use a hyperlink. For example, instead of putting your website, "www.yourpractice.com" use the words "Hearing Aids in San Francisco" and hyperlink to your website. That tells Google not only are you relevant for this general topic but you are also relevant for hearing aids in San Francisco, and that's pretty powerful.

Pay Per Click

PPC stands for pay per click. With pay per click campaigns, you only pay if someone clicks on your ad, so there is opportunity here. This is a little bit more advanced and I am not going to go into details today as we have a lot to cover. If you are interested in pursuing PPC, read through the handout as there are some details and you can e mail me with questions. It can work if done right. If done wrong, it can cost you a lot of money so beware.

YouTube

YouTube is something that everybody should be taking advantage of. YouTube is unofficially the second largest search engine in the world. It is not really a search engine but people are going to YouTube and looking up what they want to learn about. It actually gets more searches than Yahoo! or Bing. You should have a presence on YouTube for a few reasons. First, Google loves YouTube so much that it bought them many years ago and YouTube is now part of Google. Let's say that you have a video about how to clean a CIC hearing aid. If somebody is searching for how to clean a CIC hearing aid on Google, there is a chance that your video is going to show up in the search results. This can work really well for local keywords. If someone is searching for an audiologist in San Francisco and they type in "San Francisco audiologist" then they see all the search results and they see a video how to find one in San Francisco. We also know that human beings like video more than text. They are more likely to click on a video in the search results. That is another reason you should be on YouTube.

Getting Started with Video

Here are some things that you can do right way. Start recording some short videos. The videos do not have to be very high quality - you can use an iPhone®, a flip camera or a webcam. As far as content, there are many things that come to mind. You could review a specific hearing aid, provide a video on how to clean a hearing aid, how to insert a CIC, introduce yourself, introduce your staff, or include a patient testimonial. You can come up with many, many different ideas of videos that would be appropriate. These videos do not need to be long; they could be 30 seconds. You could do one this afternoon and it would not take much time. Just talk in the camera and you have a video that you can upload to YouTube. It's very easy to do. Include keywords in your title and tags and include a link to your practice at the very top of the description. Make sure you use "http" before the link, otherwise, YouTube does not recognize it as a link. You also want to include your practice name, address and phone number in the description of each video. That's called a citation. We'll talk about that in a minute.

A word of caution, right now, regarding the older generations. According to the Pew study I referenced earlier, only 20% of the GI Generation have broadband Internet. That is a problem for video. I do not know if you remember what dial up was like but you cannot view a video on a dial-up connection. So you are not going to be able to reach a lot of the older generation with videos but that will change over time, and in the meantime you can reach the younger generation as well as Baby Boomers.

Facebook

What keyword is searched the most in the US? FaceBook. This is last month. In October, Experian Hitwise reported the most searched-for key phrases, and FaceBook had 3.63% of all search clicks. That is huge. YouTube was second. "FaceBook log in" was the third most popular keyword used, "FaceBook.com" was fifth, and "www.facebook.com" with eight. People are typing the entire URL in Google and Yahoo! and Bing to get to FaceBook. It would be great if "hearing loss" or health issues or health were one of the top search terms but they are not. This should tell you that FaceBook is important right now and it does not look like it is going away any time really soon. Whether we like it or not, we need to have a presence on FaceBook and the sooner we start using it the better. The fastest growing demographic on FaceBook is women over the age of 50. Who makes a lot of the healthcare decisions in the household? You know the answer to that - women over 50.

Facebook Action Items

We could talk for hours about what you can do on FaceBook because it is really cool platform. Here are some things to consider. Create a fan page for your practice if you do not already have one. It is easy to do; just go to FaceBook.com and follow the links and you can create a fan page for your practice. Actually they are just called pages now not fan pages. You want to get 25 people to "like" your page as soon as possible. FaceBook requires you to have 25 fans before you are allowed to pick the name of your URL (although they have been relaxing that requirement lately). When you first start out you are going to have a URL that is picked by Facebook; it will be www.FaceBook.com/ followed by a string of random characters. But as soon as you have 25 fans you can pick your own URL and you want to do that as quickly as possible especially if you do not have a unique practice name. In every state, for example, it seems there is a practice named "Audiology Associates". In the past couple of weeks in certain areas of the country people have been able to claim their URL without having the fans so you may want to even try claiming it before you get that many fans. Next, you want to update your FaceBook page regularly with posts, photos, videos, and links to article. Update often enough to engage your audience but you do not want to annoy them. That's important. If you update too frequently, and someone only logs in once per week and they do not get many updates, they will see your long list of your updates and may "unlike" your page. At the bottom of FaceBook.com there is a link to advertise. You can use pay per click advertising on FaceBook. You can have your ad show up only for people of a certain age in a certain area, and that's very valuable. You may not get a whole lot of clicks or a whole lot of traffic from those ads but it will not cost you much. The first time I tried this I got a new patient within a month, and I was shocked by it. I do not get a patient every month through FaceBook pay per click, but I got a patient within the first month. He bought two high end hearing aids and my bill from FaceBook that month was like $1.80. You can have tremendous return on investment with FaceBook.

Your Practice Website

Your practice website is going to work for you. It will either work for you or against you but it will work. Some websites are lousy; if you have a website that is just horrible and you are embarrassed by it take it down. It is probably turning people off and steering them to your competition. You need to have a website that is at least of high enough quality not to turn people off. Your website should represent the quality of your services. It should establish your authority and show your personality. Video is great because one of the hesitancies that we have when we make an appointment with a practice is we do not know what that person looks like. We do not know how they talk. We do not know whether they are really mean. If you can show your personality in your website then you can overcome that barrier before someone even makes an appointment. On your website, teach and inform. If you do not teach the visitor on your website they'll go to other websites and learn. Be very "un-confusing". If your website is very cluttered and the prospective customer does not know what to do when they get there, they are going to click the back button within seconds. That is very common, so it is very important to have an "un-confusing" website, whatever that may mean to you. Your website should differentiate your practice and promote your USP. Make sure you provide your contact information clearly. Ideally, your contact information, or at least your telephone number, should be right at the top so people do not miss it. Putting your phone number and address at the bottom of every page in very small print is good but you also want to have your phone number very, very prominent. People browsing the Web will hit the back button and move on if they do not find the information they are looking for easily. You also want your website to be search engine friendly as we talked about. Use good SEO. You want to capture leads. This is something that a lot of the organizations who design websites are incorporating now. Capturing the lead allows you to get the contact information so that you can follow up with that person. Offer something of value to capture that lead. Ask for contact information. You want to ask for as little information as possible. I like to ask for at least the zip code with the person's name and e mail address so that I do not spend time marketing to people who are clearly outside my area. After you capture a lead, follow up to build and nurture that relationship. There are tools to help you do this, such as iContact or sendpepper.com that I've included in your handout. These things cost anywhere from usually $10 to $30 or so a month and they allow you to capture leads and follow up with them very, very easily. There is also something called an auto responder. Say you offer a free guide about the dangers of purchasing a hearing aid online or some other interesting content. In order for a consumer to obtain that content you ask for their e mail address so you can e mail it to them. Here is an example of how that service will work. The consumer gets an e mail right away asking them to confirm so you do not end up in their spam box. Then the consumer immediately receives an e mail or link with the attachment containing the content. A few days later they receive an email from you where you introduce yourself and ask if they have any questions. This is all done beforehand. You have a canned e mail that is already written out that says something like I notice you downloaded our free guide. I want to introduce myself. Do you have any questions? You can prepare other follow-up emails ahead of time and then forget about it. Every time someone downloads your free guide, they can get put into this auto responder sequence that is designed to motivate them to make an appointment with you. All of the services listed in your handout will allow you to do this very easily. You can even use "if-then" auto responders. These are more expensive but depending on the action they take with your previous e mail you can take that prospect and put them in a different auto responder sequence. For example, say you have a survey and the consumer indicates that one of their primary issues is tinnitus. Take them off the regular old hearing loss auto responder sequence and put them on one focused on tinnitus and they are more likely to respond.

Email Action Items

As we discussed, singing up for a service is very easy to do. Come up with something that you can offer as an incentive to get people's contact information, then start collecting the contact information and following up. Collect email addresses whenever possible. Ask for an email address on the patient intake form. When making appointments over the telephone, you could say, "We can e mail you the new patient paperwork so you can have it filled out before you get here. What is your e mail address?" During the appointment, if a person mentions they have tinnitus you can say, "We have this great article about ways that you can compensate for tinnitus, I can e mail it to you. What is your e mail address?" Once you get that e mail address, then you have a very inexpensive connection and a way to communicate. You can do less direct mail and more e mail, which is almost free. You can use auto responders if you feel inclined to. This is another interesting statistic from the Pew Generations survey. 73% of teens use e mail but 93% of older Boomers (age 56 - 64), 90% of the Silent Generation, and 88% of the GI Generation use email. Teens actually use e mail less than the older generations. Our older patients do have e mail addresses; if they say they do not then either you are not giving them enough incentive or they are one of the 10% that do not.

Google Places

Google Places is a huge opportunity. If you did a Google search using the words "hearing aids" in the past, all you would see were national chains. That was bad for local practices as it did not help our individual businesses. Now Google recognizes the location of the person searching, so local practices will show in their search results. That is huge, because we did not have a way to compete with that keyword before. Now we may think that our clientele are typing in "hearing aids, San Francisco" or "hearing aids California" or another keyword. But as far as I can tell from statistics that I have looked at in our industry is they are not doing that. They are typing in "hearing aids" without using local keywords very often. The only way to show up prominently in the search results is to pay for it with Google AdWords or to use Google Places, which is free.

Google Places is very powerful. Here is an example. Figure 1 is a visual heat map that shows you where people focus when the search results pop up. Where do people look? You'll see most of the light in the Google Places area, which are the results that show up with the little red symbols next to them. That is where local practices show up, and that is where people look. People look to these results even more than they do at the top ranking results above them. Google Places is very easy to use. You can claim your practice listing or create one. Google actually lets you create one for each location that you have and for each clinician in each location. You can have a lot of different listings and in fact I have seen in some areas that a practice with multiple listings will bump the competition right off the listing. You are really missing out if you just have one listing on Google Places. You want to optimize your listing so that you show up at the top of those Google Places search results. To optimize your listing, you should include relevant keywords, relevant/optimized photos and videos. I actually have a whole training course on this at www.placesforaudiology.com that will take you through this and show you exactly what you need to do. You want to get five reviews as quickly as possible because some search results will have a star rating next to them. If they have a star rating people are more likely to click on it. If they do not have a star rating then they are just like every other listing on that page. As soon as you get five reviews your star rating pops up. If you have four it does not show. Ask family or friends who have received services at your practice and they'll be happy to write reviews for you. Also be sure to regularly update your listing. Getting online reviews is important and I think as time goes on over the next couple of years that is going to be one of the number one thing that we need to do to market a practice online is to solicit reviews. Google is the number one place to get reviews because of what I just mentioned with Google Places. Yahoo! is also important. Bing is less important because Bing does not let you post a review. They get their reviews from a place called Citysearch. There are other sites that post reviews, and these reviews show up in the search results of Google. Think about it - you cannot pay for a listing but yet if you have a listing with yellow stars next to it people will click on it. You get those listings simply by having reviews throughout the Internet.

Summary

Just a reminder: Do not try to do everything. There are ways to outsource. Fiverr.com is fantastic. I talked about it on the show a few times. If you want anything done for $5, people will do it over there. I have had some pretty cool projects done for 5 bucks. 99 Designs and Hatchwise will basically set up contests to get a logo or graphic designed for you. You say I am looking for a logo and something to represent this and I am willing to pay $250 (or whatever your price) for it. Then you get people creating logos, you pick the best one, and they get paid. It is great. Check out CraigsList, Odesk, and Elance. We do not have to do everything ourselves. I know we have gone through a lot today, please feel free to send in any questions that you have.

Questions & Answers

Where would you refer a novice to get started on Web design?

That's a good question. There are a few services out there for audiology. One of them is AudiologyOnline and they have a pretty affordable package. Educatedpatients.com is also great. I recommend Odesk.com if you want something on the cheap. It is a place where a lot of foreign Web designers hang out. I recommended it to a friend recently and he ended up having a pretty nice looking website designed in a week for $300. That is another good resource.

Do you advise paying for SEO services?

I think there is some value in paying for SEO services; however, I do not recommend paying your Yellow Pages to do it. If you pay someone to do it you want to make sure that they are really doing something. Some SEO services will write little articles about your niche and post them all over online. That is a good service. It is worth paying a little bit for that service if you do not want to do it yourself. But I have heard of people with lousy websites that pay $800 a month for SEO and you do not want to do that. In our industry it is easy to rank high with just a little bit of SEO. Most of the SEO that is out there is just very, very basic stuff. If you did what I talked about today or hired somebody at one of those outsourcing places to do it, you would likely be ranking very well just from that. So I do not advise paying a whole lot for SEO services but if you really want to be hands-off then go ahead and hire somebody. Make sure that they are actually doing something and chances are you are going to get the bulk of the SEO benefit within the first couple of months. You should not be paying a lot long term for SEO services.

Is the senior population on Google+ yet?

That is a good question. In fact today I got an e mail from Google+ business side stating that they had just released their business services on Google+. Google+, for those who do not know, is kind of like Google's answer to Facebook. Facebook is huge and it is a social network. Google + is technically not a social network. I cannot remember what they call it but it integrates with a lot of other Google services. From what I can tell the senior population is not on Google+ very much. It is mainly the geeks and friends and family of geeks on Google+. I am there. I am not saying geek derogatorily. I actually signed up for Google+ early on as part of their beta and I haven't looked at their business services because literally I got that e mail an hour ago. So chances are that it will become a big deal for us because as Google learns more and more about the people who are searching, such as their locations and ages, then we are going to be able to take advantage of that, especially the age. That is why Facebook pay per click is powerful because we know their age. If Google+ catches on a little more we are going to know their age and Google ads are all over the place. I cannot say much more about whether we should spend time on it yet because I have not looked at their business services yet.

How can we maintain privacy?

That is a good question. I have looked at a lot of research online regarding HIPAA and privacy. The most important thing obviously is that you do not post personal information. Now, it is the patient's privacy and it is theirs to protect so if they want to make a comment on your FaceBook page that says hey I am a patient, then that's fine. There are some people out there that state we should be advising our patients when they post that it is obvious that they will be known as a patient if they mention they are a patient. I do not know the legalities and I am not a lawyer, obviously. From what I understand as long as you are not posting that information, you will not be held accountable if they reveal that they are a patient by posting on your page. Just simply posting on a page does not reveal anything either. But there are people who would disagree with me on that. It is probably best to seek legal counsel to address any concerns.

References

Kennedy, D. (2006). No B.S. direct marketing : the ultimate, no holds barred, kick butt, take no prisoners direct marketing for non-direct marketing businesses. Irvine, Calif: Entrepreneur Press.

Kochkin, S. (2005). MarkeTrak VII: Hearing loss population tops 31 million people. The Hearing Review, 12(7), 16-29.

Pew Research Center. (2010). Generations 2010. Washington, D.C.: Author. Available from: pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2010/PIP_Generations_and_Tech10.pdf

U.S. Census Bureau. (2008, August). 2000-2050 National population projections. Available from www.census.gov
NEW 4-part series presented in partnership with the National Acoustics Lab | October 5, 12, 19, + 26 | 5:00 pm EDT | Course Typ

Matt Perry



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