Online marketing strategy for audiologists

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An article I undertook pertaining to on line marketing strategy for audiology practices. The article appeared in Audiology Practices, the official publication of The Academy of Doctors of Audiology
  • 1. 20 AUDIOLOGY PRACTICES n VOL. 5, NO. 2By Geoff CoolingOnlineMarketingStrategy forAudiologists
  • 2. There are quite divergent views on social media as a marketing tactic for the hearing healthcare profession. Many aredismissive of this and other digital channels in our profession. Many providers don’t believe that our demographic targetaudience is online, and that therefore online marketing is a waste of time and money. Those sentiments are wrong—and over the next few pages, I would like to explain my arguments for engaging in non-traditional online marketingchannels. I will set out the basis and strategy behind social media leverage. I’ll also discuss the multiple channels avail-able, the content type on each channel and the measurement of results.Your MotivationOur world is changing and changing at an ever faster rate. A new descriptive term has been coined for our times; wenow live in the “age of disruptive technology”. Our attitudes and habits as a society are changing, and this is particularlyobvious when you consider the channels of communication that we use. Communication technologies have explodedin type and diversity. This situation is a direct result in the rapid development of internet technology, both software andhardware.More and more communication is undertaken across the Internet. Social web channels, in particular, have rapidlybecome an accepted part of our daily lives. We build online communities that increase our social connections beyondfamily and friends, to friends of friends and even strangers. I believe that the explosion of this type of engagement isrooted in a combination of our need to relate to our friend and family members who are removed from us by distance,and also a reaction to the lost sense of community that appears to prevail in our society. The World Wide Web, as a search and communica-tion tool, has become the go-to place. While initiallythis phenomenon was driven by tech people and theyoung, it has become accepted throughout society inevery demographic.As I grew up, if I wanted to searchfor a business that provided a particular service,I picked up the Yellow Pages. This is an action thatadmittedly some of our patients seem to do. However,I cannot remember the last time that I looked at theYellow Pages and my children do not even know whatit is.As we know, some of our demographic audience stilluses the Yellow Pages but those numbers appear tobe dwindling in many areas. More and more of ourpatients are turning to the web and the ubiquitousGoogle to supply their needed information. Not onlyare they using search engines but many of them areusing social networks to communicate and becomeinvolved in communities with shared interests. Thisfact is borne out by research results from around theworld.To the left, with thanks to Pew Research Centre, arethe survey stats of Internet users in the United States.I would like to point your attention to the age demo-graphics results. As we would expect, 91% of indi-viduals between 30 and 49 are active on the Internet.All Internet Users (n=1,873) 69%Men (n=886) 63Women (n=987) 75*Age18-29 (n=351) 92***30-49 (n=524) 73**50-64 (n=404) 57*65+ (n=886) 38Race/EthnicityWhite, Non-Hispanic (n=1,355) 68Black, Non-Hispanic (n=217) 68Hispanic (n=188) 72Annual Household IncomeLess than $30,000/yr (n=469) 73*$30,000-$49,999 (n=356) 66$50,000-$74,999 (n=285) 66$75,000+ (n=501) 74***Education LevelNo High School diploma (n=129) 65High School grad (n=535) 65Some college (n=513) 73*College + (n=692) 72*Who Uses Social Networking SitesPercent of Internet users in each group who use social networking sites.Source: Pew Internet Civic Engagement Tracking Survey, July 16-August 07, 2012.N=2,253: adults ages 18+. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanishand on landline and cell phones. Margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.*Statistically significant difference compared with others in the same grouping.AUDIOLOGY PRACTICES n VOL. 5, NO. 2   21
  • 3. This demographic should really be viewed as the chil-dren of your prospective patients.These people are actively using the Internet every dayfor several reasons. They are constantly interactingonline, booking flights, talking to friends, searching forinformation. These people accept that the Internet is ahandy, stable and trustworthy research tool.Seventy-seven percent of adults aged between 50 and64 are online. I believe that these people should beviewed as long term prospects for our profession. In factsome of this demographic are your current prospectivepatients. Our patients are getting younger because bet-ter education and increased lifestyle expectations iscausing them to seek treatment for their hearing lossearlier and at a much younger age. I believe that mod-ern technology within hearing instruments, and futureconnectivity and association with external devices andtechnology, will drive lower age adoption. These peopleare actively using the Internet every day for severalreasons.Fifty-three percent of those over 65 years of age usethe Internet.These are your prospects and indeed someof your existing patients. Theoretically, you have theopportunity to reach 53% of your prime target marketvia the Internet right now. That number is only increas-ing; this demographic is the fastest-growing Internetadoption demographic. Although that is mainly becausepenetration in the past has been low, our desired demo-graphic audience is in fact online, and online in sub-stantial numbers.Pew Research has also released some recent statisticsin relation to demographic use of social networks. Theresearch is as of August 2012 and it is an important fac-tor for your healthcare marketing strategy.The research shows that social network adoption in ourprimary demographic has risen yet again in the pasttwelve months. In the 65+ demographic, usage hasrisen to 38%. It also shows a rise to 57% of the 50 to 64year old demographic.Finally, in the 30 to 49 year old demographic we areat 73% usage. This demographic represents the sonsand daughters of our primary target audience. Thisdemographic may well be undertaking searches for infor-mation online for their parents and grandparents, and inparticular will be searching for information related tohealth and health care.This audience acts as the research assistants for ourdesired target audience. We already know that the pur-chase decision around hearing instruments tends tobe a joint one. There may be many people directly orindirectly involved in that decision. We also know thatthe purchase of hearing instruments is a weighty deci-sion that involves much research. Most, if not all, of thatresearch is undertaken online by members of the threedemographics we have discussed.Consider some important figures:•• 53% of your patient demographic is online•• 77% of your long term prospect demographic isonline•• 91% of the children of your patient demographicare online•• 38% of your patient demographic has a social net-work profile •• 57% of your long term prospect demographic hasa social network profile •• 73% of the children of your patient demographichave a social network profile•• There are 17,500,000 profile owners on Facebookbetween the UK and the US of people over 65years of age •• 5, 533,680 of people over 65 years of age peopleuse mobile devices to access Facebook •• 2,331,180 of people over 65 years of age useAndroid OS devices to access Facebook •• 3,555,160 of people over 65 years of age useApple products to access FacebookSocial media is not the magic bullet, it is not the answerto our current commercial challenges. However, itshould be used to support your overall online healthcaremarketing strategy. 22   AUDIOLOGY PRACTICES n VOL. 5, NO. 2
  • 4. The Strategy I think it is clear that marketing to our demographic isno longer just about newspapers, magazines and directmail. Nor though is it solely about online marketingchannels.A good hearing healthcare marketing strategyis about an intelligent blend of both. We as a professionmust become smarter and more adept about targetedmarketing across all channels. A combined approach is needed, using the best mediafor your business, both traditional and new. A strategysuch as this will increase your exposure and engage-ment. It will also assist to supply a constant flow ofbusiness to your practice. In effect, it can reduce costper lead over time, allowing you to better cope with thepressure on margins that are to the forefront of every-body’s mind at present. The question is, how and whatis the strategy?The people that sneer at social media for our professionare in fact partly right. That is, if you are using socialmedia in the traditional sense. Social media is used inother industries to engage, empower and directly affectpurchase decisions. Social media use or sophisticationlevels in our demographic makes this strategy unwork-able. However, that does not mean that social mediachannels and activities do not have great value for us.Your online strategy needs to be based around yourwebsite; your website is your single most importantonline channel. Your website should be fully supportedby the deployment of good multimedia content either ona news section or a blog attached to that website. Thecontent should be based on what information peopleare searching for most frequently. This strategy bringspeople to your content and therefore your site. This iscalled content or inbound marketing.Your content will only draw those searchers if you areidentified in the search results given to them. This isthe key–if you are not in the search results, your con-tent is useless. Getting into the search results involvessome hard work. It is based around differing key word,key phrase and search engine optimization strategies.There is a voluminous amount of information to be readabout these elements, and ironically it’s all available onthe Internet! These are not the only important factors,Google, for example, also takes social factors intoaccount. These social factors include your social mediaprofiles, how much your content is shared and the depthof your online presence.Your social media profiles at this stage are solely thereto support your main online marketing channel. They doso by being used to share links to the content on thatchannel and links to the channel itself. In this way, youcan support that channel, bringing it to a wider audienceand make it more relevant to Google. Google will repayyou by placing you on the first page of the search resultsfor the key words and phrases that you have targeted, ifyou do it properly.Social Media ChannelsThere are four main channels that are being used byother industries and indeed some members of our ownprofession. They are Facebook, Twitter, Google+ andblogs.  Each channel is a slightly different animal, andthe goals and usage profile tend to be different. How-ever, I again caution you, the single most importantonline channel for an audiology practice is its website.Social media channels are purely used to support andboost your website search ranking.Facebook: The management of a FacebookPage tends to be a mix of content curation,finding and posting links to information thatyou judge may be of interest to your target audience,and content manufacture. Attention must be dedicatedto the creation of good content that will be of interest toyour audience and will show your professionalism andexpertise. Facebook is also a place where you may buildrelationships with people. Facebook users actually tendto spend quite a bit of time on the site.Twitter: Twitter is much more about contentcuration and some sharing of links to yourown content. Not many of our target demo-graphic use Twitter. However you probably will build upa community of sorts.The following that you build up onTwitter will expect more engagement and will probablyengage with you more.A Blog: A blog is where you and your busi-ness can shine. A blog is all about contentAUDIOLOGY PRACTICES n VOL. 5, NO. 2   23
  • 5. 24 AUDIOLOGY PRACTICES n VOL. 5, NO. 2manufacture, its where you supply content that shows your professionalism, knowledge of your subject and dedica-tion to your patients.A blog is where you should provide good quality articles on audiologic care, giving clear advice anddiscussing the latest developments. These articles will drive people to your site, and should be looked at as the engineof your online marketing strategy.Google+: Somewhat of a cross between Twitter and Facebook, this is an important channel because of theSEO advantages of having a presence and sharing on the site. It is also a mix of curation of content and post-ing links to your own. A profile here also allows you claim authorship of your content with a practice knownas rel author.This is becoming more and more important; I think in 2013 it will become another key indicator for Google.Another recent social media network addition is Pinterest, which is becoming quite popular. It is a visual site where youpost visual content as opposed to worthy prose.Before you move forward with social media, it is imperative that you sit down and outline your strategy. The strategyshould cover all the elements of your online media channels and the content that you will provide. You should alsoresearch and think carefully about the following questions:•• What are your key areas of expertise? Are they different in any way than others? •• What can you tell your customers that others can’t? What is your unique selling point? •• Can you better inform customers about hearing loss? If so, How?•• Where will you draw information from for your content? Other users, Traditional media? Manufacturers? •• How will you manage your social media channels? What technology will you use to make it easier?•• Who exactly in your organization will manage it?•• When a disgruntled customer posts a comment that is nightmarish for your brand, how are you going to dealwith it?•• If somebody complains on one of your channels, how will you deal with that? The use of social media as part of your online marketing strategy is something that you need to carefully consider. Youshould outline a clear strategy for its use and for any possible eventualities. Having said that all of that, I believe that itis worth the effort. It does help you to engage with your customers and potential customers. Even better, it does so forfree! Running the social media channels for my company has been an interesting experience.The experiment so far has been a success; the very fact that I am writing this article is testament to that. I have engagedwith people worldwide, and I have introduced new customers to our brand. Several people around the world now arecustomers of my company because of their engagement with us on the web. I have faced most of the questions I men-tioned earlier, but I had not thought of them before they occurred. So when they happened, I had to think very quicklyand on the hoof. This is not something I would recommend to you.  Think very carefully about every angle before you set off on your journey. To ensure search engine optimization, youneed active social media channels. These channels will assist you to drive and leverage your website in the organicsearch rankings. Social media involvement is about supporting your core online marketing channel your website. nGeoff Cooling is Sales Manager for Widex in Scotland and Ireland and authors the Just Audiology Stuff blog. He may be contacted 24   AUDIOLOGY PRACTICES n VOL. 5, NO. 2
  • 6. AUDIOLOGY PRACTICES n VOL. 5, NO. 2 25The Harmonious CORUS of a Modern Marketing StrategyBrian Taylor, Au.D.Editor, Audiology PracticesGeoff Cooling provides a splendid overview of whysocial media needs to be an integral part of your mar-keting plan. Whether you own a private practice, chair auniversity clinic or run the audiology division of an ENTclinic or hospital, all of us need to ensure that our mar-keting plans are in-tune with the mission and vision ofthe organization.Social media is one component to what I call the CORUSmarketing strategy. The main objective of the CORUSmarketing strategy is to create and maintain an on-going dialogue with patients, prospects and those thatinfluence them. Creating and sustaining a conversationwith patients throughout their journey is now possiblewith social media, the Internet and old fashioned publicrelation skills. In addition to more traditional marketingtactics, like newspaper advertising and direct mail, theCORUS strategy requires businesses to tap into the corecharacteristics of customer loyalty, which are consider-ation, evaluation, purchase, enjoyment and advocacy, asshown in Figure 1. By using the following components ofa CORUS marketing strategy you can be involved in anon-going dialogue every step of the way.Figure 1. The essential steps of the customer decisionjourney.• Captivating Website. The simple definition ofa captivating website is one that features video.When a prospect visits your website a short, emo-tional video about the patient benefits of your ser-vices, not the devices you fit or the equipment youuse are front and center.• On-line Reputation Manager. Another great wayto use video is recording and posting patient tes-timonials on your website. On the right margin ofyour website, you can post short patient vignettesabout how much they love your practice.• Relationship & Medical Marketing. There areseveral medical conditions, such as Type II diabetes,dementia and cardiovascular disease that are asso-ciated with a higher rate of hearing loss in patientsthat have these conditions. A medical marketingprogram leverages this concept through the educa-tion of family practice physicians, endocrinologistsand pulmonologists, using peer-reviewed literatureto raise awareness, Through proper education phy-sicians are more likely to refer patients with theseconditions to your practice for a hearing evaluation.• Upstanding Member of Your Community. Oth-erwise known as public relations, the objective ofthis tactic is for you to become recognized (andrewarded with referrals) within your area as anexpert or opinion leader on a specific topic relatedto hearing loss or balance. For example, hearingloops, which are very effective in large rooms andauditoriums, can be the focal point for a PR cam-paign that your practice orchestrates within yourcommunity.• Social Media. Perhaps the voice with the mostpromise, social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) hasthe potential to take your ordinary pile of patientcharts and bring them to life. The beauty of socialmedia is that you can push information to individu-als and they, in turn, can push information and com-ments back to you.Although there is no evidence ofits effectiveness, because of the interactive natureof social media, it intuitively has a place within amodern marketing portfolio.Of course, all of these marketing tactics have a costassociated with them, and unlike traditional forms ofadvertising the return on investment is difficult to cal-culate. The bottom line is that customers are moreinformed and better educated than ever before, andin order to engage them throughout their journey toimproved communication, you must invest in CORUS, sothat your practice hits a crescendo.AUDIOLOGY PRACTICES n VOL. 5, NO. 2   25
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