Finding the Right Marketing Strategy
By Sheri Billing, AuD
This is an exciting— and confusing— time for audiologists to decide on marketing and public relations tactics. The media are in flux; more people are seeking free news on the Internet, resulting in declining newspaper subscriptions and television ratings. Social media sites, meanwhile, like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are gaining momentum. My personal and experience in promotional and marketing tactics may help you decide what is right for your practice.
Look for a website designer who will listen to you and understand your needs, practice, and brand. Have a budget in mind and stick to it. Ask about content management systems and if you can be trained to make updates. Some designers use systems only they can update and may charge you if you do it yourself. Remember, your website may be the first glimpse into your practice, so make sure you are projecting the right image.
I use direct mail frequently, but it has not been successful in the past couple years. The return on investment, even if a manufacturer is contributing, is poor. I recommend focusing promotional and marketing dollars elsewhere.
Is Facebook a good fit for your practice? Social media is here to stay, so it is no longer a choice. Your competition probably has a Facebook page, so if a lack of knowledge is holding you back, hire someone to set it up for you. More importantly, make sure it will be updated regularly. Once it is up and running, add specific applications like an RSS feed to other social media outlets to automatically add content to your page. The American Academy of Audiology is one that I use.
Facebook is permission-based marketing, which is a major difference between social media and traditional marketing. People voluntarily “like” your page, granting you permission to send information about your practice. This is the opposite of other advertising forms in which the consumer has no direct involvement in receiving your information.
Facebook also allows you to run cost per click advertising programs to increase your fan base, promote a product or service, or highlight a promotion. These ads only incur charges when someone clicks on it. Ads can be set up by geographic area, demographic factors such as gender or age, and personal and professional interests.
Community newspapers are still well-read and provide a great opportunity for local audiologists who are interested in writing articles. Articles are not promotion oriented, but a byline with contact information can be beneficial. Keep the articles easy to understand, providing hearing-related information.
Newspapers are more likely to deal with potential new advertisers because of a decline in circulation. Sometimes newpapers will provide extra benefits for regular advertisers, but you will need a long-standing commitment and deep pockets to see positive results. Repetition is the key to success. I do not see much revenue from advertising, but it may be due a saturated market and where my ad is placed. Long-term advertising may be more affordable for those who live in smaller communities.
It is hard to put a price tag on volunteering, serving on club committees, or donating goods and services to a worthy cause. If you are like me, you do this out of love for your community and as a commitment to public service. Volunteering and serving your community will bring business benefits severalfold down the road. Being a member of my town’s local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, and fund-raising committees get noticed and enhances my word of mouth. Additionally many chambers offer specials to new members such as ribbon cutting, eblasts, and other promotional and marketing benefits.
Networking will be a natural result from your community service efforts. Whether you start your own small business networking group or you join a service club like Rotary or the Lions Club, you can easily combine community service and networking. Be open to nonservice club events, too. Your local Chamber of Commerce most likely has regular events.
Your patients may be your best marketing strategy. Word-of-mouth referrals are my most effective marketing strategy. I started putting the power of my satisfied patients to work once I realized this. In 2011 at my practice, The Hearing Doctors, I started an ambassadors program to honor and recognize referrals from patients. A wall plaque displays the names of my best patient referrals. I throw a wine and cheese reception at the end of the year, announcing their names and thanking my ambassadors for their support.
The sooner you realize that everything revolves around marketing, the better you will be at it. The way your office looks and how your receptionist greets patients is marketing. Many of us do not like marketing and are not trained in it but once you realize how closely it is tied to your success and reputation, you will jump in with both feet!
Dr. Billing is an audiologist at her solo practice, The Hearing Doctors, located in Wheaton, IL.