The One Thing That Every Hearing Care Clinic Needs to Do to Protect Themselves From The Incoming Threat of OTC
Written by Phil M Jones
And there’s not a lot that any of us can do to change it.
But once it hits on what is expected to be August 18, 2020 – it is going to result in a lot of unknowns and it is going to rock our industry to its core.
That’s because, following change thanks to the federal law passed in 2017 directing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), hearing aids are expected to be available over the counter (OTC).
This means that consumers will be able to buy hearings aids without visiting a professional, without any follow-up care, and without even having their hearing properly tested.
The self-fitting new devices that will be available over the counter will cost much less than traditional hearing aids, with in that can be self-adjusted without the need for a hearing professional.
Although this isn’t a big surprise, as Bose was one of the main supporters of the FDA reauthorization act of 2017 that is going to establish a new category of over-the-counter hearing aids for individuals with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.
Regardless of how you look at this, this is going to directly impact the hearing care industry and in some cases, it is likely to put clinics out of business.
The question is, what can you do to protect your clinic against the upcoming OTC approval and ensure it has zero impact on you?
Well, in this article, that’s exactly what I’m going to share with you.
Because there is a reason that Apple do not care that Acer releases $200 laptops or why Porsche do not care what Nissan is doing.
It’s because they have built value propositions that ensure that consumers make their buying decision on a different factor other than price.
That’s exactly what we as an industry need to do.
But before I share how you can do that with real life examples, let’s look at the real reasons why OTC is going to hurt us.
“We’ve Shot Ourselves In The Foot”
What’s happening with OTC is pretty much what has happened with many other industries.
When tooth whitening products became available over the counter, it negatively impacted dental clinics and when reading glasses became available, it negatively impacted the eyewear industry.
But what the dental and eyewear industries have done very well is clearly demonstrate why visiting them is far more beneficial than buying over the counter.
The problem with our industry is that our patients have always had to visit us before purchasing their hearing aids, which means that we haven’t particularly had to demonstrate why they should choose us – they’ve had no choice.
This has resulted in us being far too focused on selling the widget!
Because the way that many of us package up our offering and service is by hiding behind the hearing aid.
Which means that from a consumer point of view, they believe that we charge $5000 to $7000 for hearing aids, whereas we know that the large majority of that price is for our service, expertise, and the incredible ongoing care we deliver.
But from a consumer’s point of view, because of the way that we’ve packaged up and hidden behind the hearing aid, they believe the hearing aids themselves cost $5000 to $7000.
So when Costco can then advertise the exact same hearing aid for $2000, or when OTC approval kicks in and advertises hearing aids for $495 – what’s the consumer going to do?
They’re going to buy based on who is the cheapest.
Because unless we give them another factor to value us, then the decision will only ever come down to price.
This is what is going to choke our industry!
We need to give the consumer ANOTHER FACTOR other than price when comparing us with the likes of Costco or OTC hearing aids.
We do this by developing a value proposition.
This is where you need to determine and be able to clearly demonstrate why somebody should do business with you rather than every other option available to them (including taking no action at all).
If I was to ask you to sit down with your team and brainstorm everything that makes you guys unique in your marketplace, what would you say?
- Great service?
- Years of experience?
- You’re nice people?
- A warm & friendly welcome?
These are the most common things that hearing care clinic owners say when asked this question. The problem is that every hearing care clinic says these things.
Your aim is to find the “tip of your arrow” of what makes you truly stand out in your marketplace.
Unless we can clearly summarize and demonstrate this, then once again, the only decision of why a consumer should work with us is going to be price … and we’re never going to be able to beat the big box retailers and/or OTC
I’ll give you some examples in a moment, but one thing to keep in mind here is that it is okay not to be right for everybody.
“If you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll end up appealing to no one” – Seth Godin
Instead, I implore you to give thought to the type of patients that you want to work with. The more specific that you can be, then the easier it is to draw our line in the sand and determine that we’re right for these people but we’re not right for these people.
If you can do this, then it allows you to write your story, your marketing, and your value proposition to instantly make your chosen type of patients see you and instantly know that “these are my guys.”
So, you might be wondering how you can start to define your value proposition.
Well, there are only four value propositions that you can use.
Each have their benefits and not all of them will be right for you – but if you can choose one and double-down on it – then you give patients another reason to do business with you which doesn’t come down to price.
Let me walk you through each one with some real life examples of clinics that have adopted each of these four value propositions and done an awesome job.
Example #1– [Process] The Uber Audiologist
After owning what was called “Taylor Hearing” for 23 years, starting with a physical location – Greg Hall decided to escape the clinic and deliver a mobile service in 2016.
He fully equipped a van to include a sound booth and recently rebranded to be known as the “Uber Audiologist.”
He now provides a highly convenient process-lead service, which means that his patients can be treated from their home, office, or place of choice by simply hopping in the van for 30 minutes.
He has taken the process of investing in hearing aids and made it a slick user-focused process.
In the same way that Uber themselves took the taxi industry, added a slick user-focused process and won … and the same way that Amazon took the retail industry, added a slick user-focused process and won.
If the most important thing to a consumer is convenience, then can you see why they would naturally be attracted to Greg’s unique approach and prefer to work with him than to buy over the counter or from a clinic.
He’s mapped out a very simple process that is highly convenient for the user, and he’s in the process of clearly demonstrating how it works through his marketing materials and website.
For most hearing care clinics, process is the hardest of the four ways to develop your value proposition on.
But could your unique value proposition be built around your convenience.
- Could you offer a concierge service where you visit patients that struggle to travel to you?
- Could you be the only clinic in town that opens over the weekends and advertises directly to working professionals that struggle to visit you through the week?
- Could you develop a mobile or remote service that is highly convenient and easy for the patient?
Example #2 – [Purpose] Pacific Hearing Connection
Pacific is based in California and has used purpose as their key differentiator.
This makes them incredibly unique as “giving back” is one of the primary parts of their value proposition.
They are loud and proud about the fact that they care not only about their private pay patients, but they also care about the “working poor” in their local area, with an obligation to help them through a reduced fee, sliding scale basis to make hearing healthcare affordable.
They have a strong mission towards being able to do this, and they are bringing this to the very front of their story.
There is artwork on the walls from the countries where they do their mission trips. There are little plaques alongside those artworks that talk about the artists in that community that painted it.
They make it very much a joined-up part of this story.
The result of which is when other people care about the same things that Pacific Hearing care about, then it becomes a very good reason that people step in and work with them on their private pay part of their business.
They have one of the highest ASPs that I’ve come across in the entire industry.
They are highly attractive to private pay patients, and they do a remarkable job of being able to do this whole thing with grace.
They have doubled down with it to a point where the outside world can see that this is a key part of their offering and they attract patients that see the benefit of working with them, ensuring the decision will never be about price or that they can get cheaper hearing aids over the counter.
Can you see what they have done here to future-proof themselves and not be at the risk of OTC – there’s an opportunity for us all to do it.
- Could you donate a % of all hearing aid sales to a local community project or even start your own foundation where you’ll help the working poor in your area with the donated money?
- Could you use mission trips as a way to do good and make your helping nature the key messaging throughout your clinic, attracting other people that want to help?
- Could you hire hard of hearing staff to work at your clinic to show patients your dedication to helping hearing loss?
Example #3 – [Pricing] – Hear It All
With the rise of OTC, pricing is one of the most difficult value propositions to lean on, but if you can get it right – there is a large number of people at any one time that are already sold on buying hearing aids but are searching for the cheapest place to buy them.
If you can tap into this audience with the right advert, messaging, and call-to-action, then you have a very strong lead-flow of buyers.
One clinic that has done a great job with this is Hear It All based in Texas.
Their key messaging is all around being the cheapest and they do this through two ways.
Firstly, their main call-to-action throughout their website is to “Challenge Us To Beat Your Quote” – this triggers a form where a user can include their contact information as well as the direct model and quote they’ve previously received.
Do they always beat the quote? No.
But this gives them a flow of opportunities knowing that if they CAN beat the quote (they can in most cases) – then they’re a phone call away from closing a deal.
The second thing they do is that they’ve devised a smart monthly payment program which requires no finance, no hidden fees, and no balloon payments – allowing patients to buy premium technology for a simple monthly fee of $99.
This means that for those that struggle to pay up-front (which are typically people that are still in work or in their younger years) – they’re able to pay monthly, just like most people pay for their car, cell phone, and even their music subscription monthly.
Now, the lesson here is not that you should be the cheapest in the market – this probably isn’t the right thing for you – but what Hear It All have done is doubled down on their unique value proposition and built their offerings to attract the people that they want to work with.
Example #4 – [Experience] – Cornerstone Audiology
Although you can buy a new car for $10,000 – there’s a reason that millions of people buy Ferraris, Lamborghinis, BMWs, and Mercedes – it’s because they value the experience over the price.
If you look in any industry, people pay a lot more than they could because they want to be treated well and feel good.
If you can tap into this, then it gives you permission to charge premium and you often end up working with patients that love working with you.
A clinic that has took experience and put it at the forefront of their value proposition is Cornerstone Audiology in Lubbock.
If you look at their messaging, their story, and the way that their marketing is structured, it never talks about hearing aids or even what they do – it talks about how well they care for their patients.
From the little things like having cookies and coffee ready as soon as new patients walk through the door, to having patient appreciation events where they hire bands, put on food, and have a real celebration.
Patients choose Cornerstone Audiology because they want the experience, which means that things like pricing are the last thing on the patients’ list of priorities.
This is why Cornerstone will continue to thrive throughout OTC as the patients that their unique value proposition attracts are never going to cross-over with patients that are looking for the cheapest possible option.
What can you do to double-down on experience as your value proposition?
- Could your messaging just talk about your patients’ experiences and why they love you, rather than talking about yourself or hearing aids?
- Could you create VIP groups of your best patients and have special events where you give them the royal treatment?
- Can you build reputation for having warm cookies when people walk through the door, valet parking when they pull up, or a gift hamper sent to them when they become a patient?
It’s Now Your Turn
There’s four examples from within the industry that I’ve come across, and there are countless others from outside the industry that have taken one of our four value propositions and double-downed on them to be untouchable in their marketplace.
I can’t stress the importance of doing this for yourself.
The risk of not driving action is that consumers/patients will see you as a seller of hearing aids, which means that regardless of how nice you are or your experience, they will be able to buy hearing aids much cheaper from elsewhere.
And regardless of how nice you are, the difference between $2000 and $5000 becomes a no-brainer decision.
If you can give them another factor to value you on other than price, then it completely changes their buying decision and all of a sudden, you’re not selling just hearing aids – you’re selling your purpose, your process, your pricing, or your experience.
My advice to you is to sit down with your team and write down all the things that make you unique.
What you’ll find is that you hear a lot of generic stuff, but there will be one or two things that are said that fit into one of the four value propositions and make you truly unique.
If it feels right and is a strong enough reason why somebody would do business with you, then double-down on it, rewrite your messaging, and be proud of it.
Thanks for reading.
Co-Founder of Orange & Gray, Phil is a best-selling author of four books and an award-winning speaker that has been training and consulting in the hearing care industry for seven years, helping the US’ best clinics to develop powerful value propositions, build intelligent, patient-focused pricing strategies and win through content-based digital marketing.
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