Audiologists have different reasons for opening their practices. Perhaps one person wants to offer clients a more personalized experience than big-box retailers can, while another audiologist aims to help Spanish-speaking families. Whatever your motives, building a strong and successful audiology practice comes down to marketing strategically, developing trust with clients and providing excellent service.
1. Write a business plan
Do you have a formal business plan? If not, it’s time to write one. Ditto if you have a plan, but it has not been updated in years. By creating such a document, you identify areas such as your competitors, what they do well, what they do not, your target client base and what will set your audiology practice apart from others. You also outline the products and services you will offer as well as your marketing strategies. The plan helps answer the question, “Why would someone want to come to my practice as opposed to another?”
Revisit your plan once every year. It should be a living document, easy to update as finances, technology, trends and goals change. For instance, suppose you have not updated your plan since 2010. The marketing section might be woefully out of date and not include such strategies as having a blog to drive inbound marketing. Even a business plan that has not been looked at in two years might not account for the huge rise in digital growth. Your website must be optimized for cellphone traffic, enabling folks searching for audiologists on their cellphones to find you before they come across your rivals and even to book appointments online.
2. Promote Digital Outreach
Speaking of digital growth, many successful audiology practices these days have great digital outreach. More than that, they know what interests their target clients. As an example, suppose your practice knows that at least 20 percent of your clients exercise regularly. They spend a lot of time outdoors biking, running, climbing, hiking, swimming and so on. These activities are not exactly friendly to hearing aids and cochlear implants, but proper planning helps maximize enjoyment. Part of your outreach strategy could be a series of blog posts on gear that helps these activities go more smoothly. For example, Ear Gear helps with chafing, moisture and wind noise, and even helps prevent devices from being lost.
Digital outreach also includes giving clients multiple communication options, especially important for an audiology practice. Many clients may prefer booking appointments online or through texting rather than through phone calls. Give them that opportunity.
3. Build Trust with Clients
There are many ways to build trust with clients, and quite a few overlap with other areas such as digital outreach. For instance, when you have a blog that provides smart, fun and educational information, clients searching for audiology practices in your area could find the blog, gaining you instant credibility. The same concept applies for existing clients who follow the blog; they'll stay with you.
That said, getting to know individual clients is critical in building trust. You must understand their needs, their pain points and even their hobbies, and ask the right questions. The needs of a senior golfer are going to be different than that of a small child. By asking your customers questions, you can help solve issues that may arise. This may involve directing them to the right resources, giving them tools and skills to reduce those issues, or advising them on accessories that can assist them. For example, a product like Ear Gear can be suggested to the mother of a toddler, and you can explain how the corded product keeps their hearing instrument from falling or getting lost if the child removes them. In the same theme, a golfer may be experiencing irritation from distracting wind noise during playing. An accessory like Ear Gear reduces the noise while providing more comfort. By getting to know each customer as an individual, you foster loyalty and return visits.
Another thing to acknowledge is that some of your clients might sign; one complaint that many people in the Deaf community have is non-signing audiologists. Taking a class or two could help you develop basic proficiency that goes a long way toward building trust with a certain segment of your client base. On the other hand, perhaps none of your clients sign, but many speak Spanish, so Spanish classes could be a better avenue. The point is, clients will recognize your effort and appreciate it. By seeing you care, they are more inclined to trust you.
4. Provide Top-Notch Client Service
Depending on where your practice is (or will be), Costco and other large retailers may be among your strongest competitors. It is possible they are more affordable at first glance, but you can—and should—provide client service that brings you out ahead. In fact, this client service may end up saving folks money in the long run since they are more likely to get products and advice tailored to their unique needs.
In any case, strive for an optimal office environment, pleasant and knowledgeable staff, good “bedside” manner, and consistent communication that includes updating clients and keeping them in the loop. In your business plan, define your expectations for the waiting room decor, for each patient examination room and so on; many seemingly small details actually are important. Patients are drawn to offices that offer accessories—it’s makes the experience a one-stop shop, but also allows an audiologist to recommend and provide solutions at the same time. Batteries, phones or a product like Ear Gear, which is designed to increase comfort and prevent many issues associated with hearing instruments, are all things that let a customer know you’re taking your business seriously.
5. Drive Client Referrals
Client referrals are the number-one driver of new business for many audiology practices. Assess the ways in which you can increase the number of referrals you get. Many methods are organic; for example, providing quality products and excellent service makes it more likely that clients will enjoy working with you and refer you to people who need an audiologist. Digital outreach helps here, too. It is well-documented that the Internet has changed how people shop for products and services; even after getting referrals and recommendations, prospective clients will go online to investigate your audiology practice. Ensure that what they find is fair, engaging and professional, and you should get these new appointments.
Testimonials such as those on your website are one way that client referrals happen. For example, Ear Gear clients talk about how the product solves problems in their lives, making activities such as mowing, hiking, biking and sailing easier. Testimonials for your practice can discuss customer service, the ease of appointment booking, the location of the practice and many other things.
You can also take advantage of testimonials from other businesses. A testimonial form on the Ear Gear website gives Ear Gear clients the opportunity to send the company a testimonial and to get a free product in return. Included on the submission form is a question reading, “What service has your Hearing Professional provided you that you appreciated?” Suppose a happy client praises you on this form. When Ear Gear publishes his or her testimonial, the company gets in touch with you if possible to tell you about the mentions, and your name along with your quality service are on the Ear Gear website—more business to you!
There is no time like now to build or improve your audiology practice. It all goes back to a solid business plan, smart marketing and creative networking.