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Growing opportunities

Kasewurm, Gyl A.

doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000390824.48113.97

I recently had the good fortune to work with a group of colleagues who were searching for ways to grow their businesses. While they differed in many ways, one thing was clear: Every practice was rich with opportunity for growth.

Money may not be a motivator for everyone, but most business owners agree that it would be nice to make more without having to work more. A small change in the average practice can easily increase gross revenue by more than $100,000.

If you are ready to take advantage of the opportunities for growth in your practice, start with the following steps:

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(1) Persuade more patients to take your advice

A recent survey of practitioners reported in this journal by Brian Taylor indicted that only about 40% of prospects who are motivated to get hearing aids actually decide to buy at the time of their consultation.1 While you may insist that your “help rate” is much higher than Taylor found, you don't really know unless you track the numbers. During the next week, count every prospect who has an aidable loss and every current patient who could benefit from new technology and track how many you convince to purchase hearing aids. The results may surprise you!

The first step to growth is to set a goal to convince more patients to take your advice, track the results, and then take steps to improve when you don't meet your goal.

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(2) Market to your current patients

Sergei Kochkin's MarkeTrak studies indicate that over half of all patients who wear hearing aids choose to change providers when they are ready to repurchase. Patients may go elsewhere because they think your competition has something you don't have. Make it a practice to communicate with patients at least four times a year. Keep them aware of the latest advances in technology. When you haven't seen a patient in 6 months or when they need an annual hearing test, call them to schedule an appointment. Remind your patients that you want them to come back to you for all of their hearing needs.

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(3) Charge appropriate prices for products and services

There are many pricing strategies, but the bottom line is you need to charge a fair price for the services you offer and the products you sell. Just because a competitor has a “two for one” sale doesn't mean you have to follow suit.

According to David Kirkwood's latest dispenser survey, the average price for a hearing aid sold in 2009 was $1942.2 If you are charging much less than that, you may be underestimating the value of better hearing to patients. Adjusting your average selling price can have a huge impact on profitability. While you may be afraid to increase prices, MarkeTrak data indicate that market penetration has not increased in decades despite the availability of lower cost hearing aids.

Patients value good hearing care, and the value of what we do is not in the instruments we sell but rather in recommending the most appropriate technology, making certain the technology is fitted appropriately, and then delivering exceptional care and service after the fitting.

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(4) Market to prospects every month

Millions of people with hearing loss don't wear hearing aids. But they won't know about you and your business unless you or your patients tell them. While the job of marketing can be intimidating, you don't have to be a creative genius to develop a plan that will grow your business.

Marketing analysts generally suggest that prospective patients need to be exposed to your practice or organization 5 to 15 times before they are likely to think of you when the need arises. Therefore, your message must be consistent and constant if potential patients are going to remember you when that need arises. No “silver bullet” works in every market, so mix the mix. Try direct mail, print, TV, radio, Internet–and find out what works by tracking the results. Then reach out to your target market every month.

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(5) If you have a staff, hold them accountable

Each of your employees should have a detailed job description that includes expectations and specific performance goals. For instance, you should give each one a “help rate” goal and then review the results each month. When the goal isn't met, a specific action plan should be developed to help the person reach the goal the next month. Goals that aren't set won't be met and goals help drive a business.

Making a few, simple changes can dramatically increase your revenue and, if managed properly, your bottom line. Set some goals to grow, develop an action plan, and take the necessary steps to make it happen.

Want to know more about this topic? Attend the Learning Lab that Brian Taylor and I (and surprise guests) are giving on Wednesday, April 6, at AudiologyNOW! 2011 in Chicago.

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1. Taylor B: Survey of current business practices reveals opportunities for improvement. Hear J 2009;62(9):24–31.
2. Kirkwood DH: Survey probes dispensers' views on key issues raised by Consumer Reports. Hear J 2010;63(5):17–26
© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.