Marketing | March 2014 Hearing Review

By Kevin St Clergy and Charlie Cook St Clergy author box

In the past few years, the audiology and hearing aid dispensing market has seen a number of big changes, putting a lot of practices under greater pressure. And we’ve been getting a ton of questions about it from practice owners.

We’ve been hearing a lot of disturbing reports about the threats from:

  • Insurance companies making direct-to-consumer sales;
  • Discounters including the Big Box retailers;
  • Manufacturers who are quietly buying up practices and are now in competition with you; and
  • Online direct-to-consumer sales.

What’s this all add up to for your practice? Dispensing practices are encountering different types of competition from different sources. It’s enough to give any practice owner nightmares. The question is how can private practice owners survive and prosper given the huge shifts taking place in the hearing industry?

We decided to pick up the phone and use our industry connections to get top-level executives on the line to reveal the truth about what is taking place in the hearing care marketplace, how it affects you, and what to do about it. These interviews can be accessed at: www.educatedpatients.com/insider

So what’s the solution? How can you use this shift in the hearing aid marketplace as a way to grow your practice? How can you avoid being crushed and thrive in the face of this attack by these corporations?

Use Your Strengths

Think David and Goliath. Use your size and the strong relationships you have with your patients to win!

The simple answer is not to try to compete with the big gorilla players. If you try, I guarantee your practice will be history all too soon. The insurance companies, the discounters, and online retailers’ business model is to target people looking for the lowest price. To do this, they buy in bulk—giving up on quality and service.

Which is where you come in.

Before you get caught up in the doom-and-gloom scenario, think for a minute about what makes your practice unique. Think about what people hate about Big Box stores and buying hearing aids online, and then think about your practice. Use these issues to target the people looking for quality and service.

Now I don’t know about you, but here are a few of the things we dislike about Big Box outlets that can be used to your advantage:

  • They’re BIG. If I want to pick up some hearing aid batteries, I need to allocate at least 20 minutes to wander the acres and acres of floor space—and use my Google maps app to return to the cashier.
  • They’re impersonal. While many of these types of Big Box stores have “greeters” at the front to welcome you, these people know you about as well as the clerk at the DMV. The only difference is they were trained to smile more.
  • They’re not particularly helpful or engaging. They minimize overhead, including labor costs, which means getting good expert help is often difficult at best.
  • In many cases their discount pricing is a myth. They use loss leaders to draw people in, but then the other items on the shelf with more features cost much more.

And we could come up with a similar list for online sales.

Sure, if a patient wants a low-cost hearing aid, one that provides the lowest quality sound reproduction, a discounter or online retailer may be for them. However, if they want something better or something that will last, your practice is the best alternative.

Simply by focusing on your strengths, you can attract ideal patients and see your practice grow.

Simply by focusing on your unique strengths, you can attract ideal patients and see your practice grow.

Original citation for this article: St. Clergy K, Cook C. Is your practice prepared for the changes in the hearing industry? Hearing Review. 2014;21(3): 42-48.