In today’s show, Chris Cox Au.D., and Riley Bass Au.D., sit down with special guest Nathan Miller of Audigy Group to discuss marketing your audiology practice.
Did you miss our series on Transitioning from Student to Provider? Catch up on what you missed by visiting our special series page.
Listen to the Episode Below
Read the transcript:
CHRIS COX: OK, welcome everybody. We’re excited to have you here today, listening in. We’ve got an awesome topic, and even better, here on our 8th episode, we have our first guest on with us today.
RILEY BASS: Yeah, everybody welcome Nathan Miller. He is the Director of Creative Services here at Audigy Group. And he is going to talk a little bit about marketing and how you can influence your practice by, you know, contributing to the marketing strategies.
CHRIS COX: Hi Nathan.
NATHAN MILLER: Hello everybody.
CHRIS COX: Glad you could be on with us today.
NATHAN MILLER: It’s nice to be here.
CHRIS COX: So you’re Creative Director. It’s from my understanding, right?
NATHAN MILLER: Your understanding is correct. I am the Creative Director.
CHRIS COX: That sounds amazing. So you get to have– tell us a little bit about what you do here.
NATHAN MILLER: Sure. So the role of the Creative Director is essentially working with the graphic design team, copywriting team and the rest of the marketing team in generating advertising campaigns for our members’ practices and for their corporate entities, as well.
CHRIS COX: Oh, cool. Do you guys do billboards?
NATHAN MILLER: We have done plenty of billboards in the past, yeah.
CHRIS COX: How About those bench billboards, the ones that are at the bus stop?
NATHAN MILLER: Bench– I don’t know how many benches we’ve done. We’ve done bus wraps. We’ve redesigned the interior of members’ practices,
CHRIS COX: Oh, that sounds kind of cool.
NATHAN MILLER: As far as I recall, no benches, no blimps.
CHRIS COX: Oh, man. Blimps would be amazing.
RILEY BASS: Well, I feel like Goodyear kind of has a corner on the blimp market.
CHRIS COX: Yeah, but there’s plenty of air in the space,
NATHAN MILLER: Plenty of air in the space?[LAUGHTER]
CHRIS COX: I feel like space–
NATHAN MILLER: Either that’s out of order, or there’s like something wrong with that joke.
RILEY BASS: I felt like that was a dad joke. I was just letting it go.
NATHAN MILLER: Fun fact about blimps, there are only, I think, maybe– there’s a small handful of blimps, actually functioning blimps in the world.
CHRIS COX: Can you hold a blimp in your hand?[DRAMATIC MUSIC PLAYING]
NATHAN MILLER: What is that? What are we doing?
CHRIS COX: You said there’s a small handful of blimps. Anyway–
RILEY BASS: You should hold all of them in your hand.
CHRIS COX: Anyway, so what– there’s a small handful of blimps.
NATHAN MILLER: I could keep going on blimps, if you want. I’ve actually ridden on a blimp before.
CHRIS COX: (LAUGHING) Have you really?
NATHAN MILLER: Yeah.
CHRIS COX: That’s pretty awesome. OK, but let’s bring it back down to marketing, because we could really get way out here, with this.
NATHAN MILLER: Just trying to promote blimps, but–[LAUGHTER]
CHRIS COX: It’s OK. Maybe we’ll do a special podcast just on blimps and bring you back in as an expert.
NATHAN MILLER: Sounds good. I’d be willing to do that.
CHRIS COX: OK, so what do you know about marketing, Riley?
RILEY BASS: Well, I know that there’s a lot I don’t know about marketing.
CHRIS COX: Hey, me too. I have no idea why we even do marketing for the most part. Actually, I’m just kidding. But that’s a reason why we have our special guest today with us, Nathan, since he knows all about it.
NATHAN MILLER: All about it is maybe an overreach, but I know some about it. It’s constantly changing every day. So it’s a constant learning and growth experience, I think, for everybody who’s interested in marketing and who participates in the marketing team for Audigy.
CHRIS COX: All right. Well, let me ask you a quick question, here. What do you think– in your opinion, here, what do you think is the most challenging part about marketing in today’s world?
NATHAN MILLER: The most challenging part? I think it’s getting in front of the right people to get the right message, so they understand what it is that you’re actually trying to offer them. We live in a very– in terms of the media landscape– it’s very fractured these days. And it wasn’t even that long ago that there was a very specific set of mediums that you could advertise to people through. You know, you had broadcast television. There was radio.
CHRIS COX: Yellow Pages.
NATHAN MILLER: –newspaper, print advertising, Yellow Pages. And the landscape is decidedly different these days. And I think that we’re still going through a period of understanding, especially in this industry, how it is that we engage with patients at a certain point in either the buying cycle or just how to talk to them appropriately through these particular mediums, even to begin with.
RILEY BASS: That and there’s a severe shortage of blimps on which to advertise.
NATHAN MILLER: The blimp problem is something that does need to be addressed. I don’t know that we’ll be able to solve that problem with this particular episode, but it’s something that I’m committed to.
RILEY BASS: Why do you think it’s important for a practice or small business to market themselves?
NATHAN MILLER: Well, I think that there are multiple answers to that question. I mean, when we’re talking about private practice audiology, marketing is incredibly important, because you just want to create awareness that you even exist in the first place.
Another reason is to just drive patients to the practice. You want to drive patient flow, so that the practice can then work with that patient to understand what their needs are and potentially prescribe a fit, a certain device, depending on what their needs are. But the most general, basic answer to that question is just to create awareness.
RILEY BASS: I think, in the grand scheme of things in our industry, that a lot of times we sort of go under-looked or fly under the radar. And people don’t even think about hearing and hearing loss and hearing technology until it’s directly impacting them.
So I think starting that awareness, you know, before there’s a need for any type of intervention or anything like that makes it easier whenever people do get to that point where they need to see an audiologist, that they already know that that’s around, and they know that your practice is there and established.
NATHAN MILLER: Yeah, I think that’s a good point. I mean, one of the things that we strive to do in the advertising campaigns that we create and the marketing we do for our members is that attempt to normalize hearing loss. I mean, it’s no secret to either of you that hearing loss is considered to be something that afflicts only old people or that even wearing hearing technology is something that makes you old.
And we know that to be entirely untrue when you look at the statistics. So the job that we have is sort of a tough one in that sense in that people don’t want to be patients. And one of the jobs, one of the aspects of what it is that we do in working in audiology practice is that we’re selling something that people don’t want for an affliction, I guess, for lack of a better term, that they don’t want to admit– that they don’t want to admit that they have.
So there are many layers that we need to work through in order to get the right message in front of the right people beyond just that immediate sort of roadblock that we face as marketers.
CHRIS COX: It’s true. Most of our patients don’t want to have anything to do with coming in and getting their ears checked. It’s an interesting thing, because we kind of already start off in the hole or in the negative with the patients, because it is that thing that they don’t want to deal with. And if we have issues with other things, like eyesight, for instance, or any other ailment, we tend to go to the doctor and have them check it out and make sure that it’s taken care of.
But for some reason, in our society, hearing loss isn’t one of those things where people just want to go get it checked out. They feel like it’s a sign of being old or a sign of falling apart. And it doesn’t seem as urgent of a thing to have to get taken care of.
So your challenge as a marketer then, is to try to communicate to those people and get them to make that move to either call in to a business or come in and get that checked out and get that looked at. And that seems like it’s kind of an uphill battle for you.
NATHAN MILLER: You know, we live in an era where people are monitoring their health in a way that they never really had the opportunity to do so before. They’re very highly engaged in that. And so I feel like there is this sort of avenue that’s opening up for folks like us to actually help remove the stigmas of hearing loss and normalize what it is to wear hearing technology, especially as that hearing technology becomes more integrated with things like smartphones, and just technology that people are very comfortable with using it, that they use actively on a day to day basis.
The more that those things are integrated, the more comfortable people are going to become. I don’t know that that’s going to make our jobs easier, necessarily, but it will certainly change the conversation, and it will change people’s comfort level in even having the conversation to begin with.
CHRIS COX: Yeah, for sure. If you just think about all the Fitbits that are out there and the fitness trackers that exist. You’ve got the watches, you’ve got the Google Glass, you’ve got all the VR stuff. Technology really seems to be converging now, and I’m excited to see that even within the hearing industry, it’s also getting the manufacturers tossing their hat into the ring to bring their hearing technology, which they’ve been developing over decades, into this wearables and hearables realm.
And I think is going to be great for us to be able to connect on a different level with our patients, maybe before they even have hearing loss that they’re having to deal with. So when we think about this– and this is a podcast for students and new graduates– so as a student or new graduate, what are the things that I can do as I’m finishing up school or going to my externship year that can help contribute to the practice or the place that I’m working at, as far as marketing goes?
NATHAN MILLER: That’s a good question. And I think that there are, again, multiple answers to it, one of which is just understanding what the purpose of marketing is in the practice. And it’s not just to sell hearing aids, specifically, it’s to create that brand awareness of what it is that that particular practice represents.
It’s understanding that to really market or brand well that each practice should have a distinct personality, and that you need to engage with and understand what that practice’s personality is in order to support that at the highest level.
CHRIS COX: How does a practice have a personality? Can you explain that to me a little bit?
NATHAN MILLER: Sure. It’s the way– well, let me back up a little bit. I mean, if we’re talking about a practice’s brand, it is something that goes well beyond their logo, what their colors are, font, all that sort of stuff. It’s the way that they’re choosing to engage with their community. It’s the way that someone answers the phone in the practice. It’s the feel of the waiting room. It’s basically every possible patient touchpoint. That is kind of what creates the essence of a practice’s brand.
So we want to make sure that we’re consistently communicating those values, whatever that essence might be, in every single activity that is getting in front of patients. It’s the website. It’s the tone of the copy. It’s the way that photographs are produced. It’s all those little details adding up to this one tangible thing that people feel and either engage with or are repelled by.
And of course, it’s our job to make sure that we’re monitoring those things and doing them in a consistent way that people do feel, at some point, this emotional attachment to it, so they feel comfortable with it, and they want to engage with that brand, continue seeing that practice, become an advocate for that practice, tell their friends and family about it, et cetera.
RILEY BASS: And you can relate to this, maybe not necessarily as a hearing patient, but as just a consumer in general and somebody that goes to doctors’ offices and businesses of all different types. Some of them are aesthetically pleasing. They look nice. They’re clean. The staff is pleasant and friendly.
And some aren’t so much. And you definitely form a connection more with the one that is more of a pleasant environment to be in. And I think creating that is step one in branding that practice, that unique branding in the field that you’re bringing to it. It has a lot to do with how other people view you. And you may think it’s not a big deal, but you know, creating that and setting that tone is definitely something that will impact the business as a whole.
NATHAN MILLER: Right.
CHRIS COX: Now, I think that if you’re already working there, you’ve likely already experienced some of that culture, just through the interview process and getting to meet everybody on the team. You have gotten to sit-in and talk to whoever the boss is going to be. You’ve gotten to talk to, hopefully, some of the support staff there, as well. So you should get an idea of what that brand and what that culture looks like before you even started working there.
So that from those three different aspects– from the patient aspect, from your own personal viewpoint, and also as an employee, you ought to be able to get a pretty good feel for what personality, so to speak, that that place that you’re working offers to the community.
RILEY BASS: And if you’re in your externship, you probably interviewed several places, and you’ve probably met several different people. And I’m guessing that the one that you are working at is probably the one that stood out to you as the place where the culture was good, where you felt the most comfortable and at home. So there’s definitely a little bit of that coming from every aspect, not just from patients walking into your office. But it’s something that is consistent in all of our daily lives.
CHRIS COX: So Nathan, if I were an extern or new grad just coming into this practice, how would I effect this personality that you’re talking about?
NATHAN MILLER: So the most immediate thing that comes to my mind is being able to help that practice cultivate a strong social media presence, if they don’t already have one.
CHRIS COX: Hm, OK.
NATHAN MILLER: I think that that’s something that is still a little mysterious for a lot of audiology practices is how to create a strong social media presence. And I think that this generation of students and externs has sort of just– they’ve grown up in that world, and they know how to engage in that world and build communities in an inherent way that just many of the practice owners and people, just by way of generation, don’t have that skill.
CHRIS COX: Are you talking about millennials?[LAUGHTER] [PARTY HORN SOUNDING]
NATHAN MILLER: I didn’t want to say the word, but you guys, I am talking about millennials, right now.
RILEY BASS: No way.
CHRIS COX: Well, we’ve definitely gotten to touch on that a little bit, as well, in some of the past podcasts that we’ve done– is even at that initial participation that you can have with the practice is just to offer taking over the reins for their social media. I mean, that’s great.
I think the challenge there, though, is how do you go from taking pictures of your lunch and posting them on Instagram to making them something that’s professional and something that is going to be attractive to an audience that’s not your own?
NATHAN MILLER: Well, I think that it does start with kind of understanding of what the practice’s culture is. So to know that perhaps this is a practice where you do want to capture their lunch– it probably isn’t– but you don’t necessarily have to fit into this very specific sort of box to put yourself out there to the world. You know, an audiology practice isn’t just this one thing. It can be many things.
And the more unique of a thing that it is, the more special it becomes and the more interested people ultimately could be in it. But it starts even further back with engaging those folks in the office, understanding their level of satisfaction with the service that they’ve been provided, and being able to build that community there.
And knowing even if those folks have Facebook profiles, where it is that you can even connect with them, you don’t have to engage with them on every single social media platform there is. And odds are you are not going to be able to. It’s more understanding where are these patients actually engage in from a social media perspective and really trying to cultivate that community there first, before you try to do other platforms.
CHRIS COX: Do you have any insight into what platforms our patients are mostly on?
RILEY BASS: MySpace.
NATHAN MILLER: So there’s Friendster.[LAUGHTER]
CHRIS COX: AOL Instant Messenger, still?
NATHAN MILLER: There’s FarmersOnly.[LAUGHTER]
RILEY BASS: Depending on what community you’re in.
NATHAN MILLER: True. Yeah, the more urban communities.[LAUGHTER]
And then surprisingly, where you’ll find a lot of people is on Facebook.
RILEY BASS: What?
CHRIS COX: Facebook, the old FB?
NATHAN MILLER: Yup, good old FB.
RILEY BASS: I remember when you had to have a university email to get a Facebook profile.
NATHAN MILLER: Not anymore, Riley.
RILEY BASS: I know, my–
CHRIS COX: Pepperidge Farm remembers.
RILEY BASS: My grandma has one.[LAUGHTER]
NATHAN MILLER: Pepperidge Farm remembers– what?
RILEY BASS: Again, with the dad jokes.[LAUGHTER]
CHRIS COX: Oh yeah. Anyway, little joke.
NATHAN MILLER: So yeah. I mean Facebook is probably the most obvious place to start creating that community for a practice. It is where this particular demographic– if we’re talking about 60, 65 plus. It’s where they’re most highly engaged. And I think that probably they’re keeping in touch with their kids, with their grandkids. And you know, even parts of their own communities.
RILEY BASS: They’re busy spending all day embarrassing their grandkids.
NATHAN MILLER: That sounds as though it comes from a personal experience.
RILEY BASS: Uh, not from mine, grandma– sorry.[LAUGHTER]
NATHAN MILLER: Are you talking to your grandmother, right now, on your phone?
RILEY BASS: I was talking to her through this podcast, but I don’t think she knows what podcasts are, so– although I told her we’re doing one, and she doesn’t quite understand the concept of it, but–
NATHAN MILLER: You just got a “that’s nice, honey,” sort of?
RILEY BASS: Right.
CHRIS COX: Just tell her it’s like the old fashioned radio shows that she used to tune into that were her stories.
RILEY BASS: Right.
NATHAN MILLER: It’s just like The Shadow.
RILEY BASS: But you can listen to it anytime you want.
CHRIS COX: OK, so social media seems like the obvious one, right. Like if I’m a millennial, and I’m starting out somewhere, I can offer my social media expertise to someone who may want it. If they don’t want it, then fine. But what are some other things that I can do as an extern or new provider that would be beyond the digital realm?
NATHAN MILLER: It all starts with– and this maybe sounds all too obvious– but it really starts with patient care. And I’ve been able to attend at least one or two student summit events. And the thing that I personally found really inspiring by attending those events is all of the students are at a place in their careers or on the verge of their careers where everyone is so incredibly excited, and everyone is so focused on just helping people.
You know, I think that, as a business owner, you become, not distracted from patient care, but you have a lot more responsibilities on your plate. So you’re thinking about payroll. You’re thinking about human resources issues. You’re thinking about those marketing spends. You’re thinking about all those other things that impact the business, whereas these folks are entirely focused on patient care.
And I think– you know, it sounds like I’m getting emotional, but I’m not, I had something in my throat. I’m not going to cry.
RILEY BASS: Tears.
CHRIS COX: It is very emotional for all of us.
NATHAN MILLER: (EXAGGERATEDLY) I said, I love Audigy University, you guys. I love the student summit. But that sense of idealism is something that’s really inspiring, because it’s something that’s tangible. It’s something that you feel, and I think the best way to really create a patient community– or just remove the word patient from that– creating a community, is being able to touch people in that way.
And if you’re able to engage with people at that level, then they will become advocates of your brand. They will want to engage with you on social media. They will want to review the level of service or the well-fit technology on platforms like Yelp.
CHRIS COX: One of the things that we hear sometimes from students, as well, is you know, I’m in an office, and I kind of don’t have– I thought I was going to get a lot more patients than I do right now. I thought I was going to be handed patients, and my schedule was going to be full, but it may not be as full as I was expecting it to be.
So in that case, especially in the private practice realm, there are some things that we can do, even as students, to help bring more patients into the practice. You were talking about that earlier, where part of what you do as marketing is to create awareness for patients, but also ultimately bring them in through the door. And that’s what we’re looking at doing, here. How do we bring more patients in through the door, as just an extern?
NATHAN MILLER: That’s a good question. I mean, there are a variety of ways in order to do that. But I think that a couple of really important ways that sometimes get overlooked are, you know, just cultivating that database. It’s not all about getting new patients.
It costs a lot more from an investment perspective in garnering those new patients versus marketing to existing patients– you know, talking about warranty upgrades, technology upgrades– maybe there are some folks that came into the practice, and they were tested, but they weren’t ultimately treated for technology, reaching out via letters, emails, newsletters, those sorts of activities, letting them know that there’s a new provider in the practice.
Who’s had the latest level of training and understands the benefits of the latest technology is something that is going to be appealing to people and is going to get them to come back into the practice. So you can ultimately, hopefully, treat them, fit them with technology.
RILEY BASS: Nathan, one of the things I thought was really interesting when I started here was learning about the expense that goes into marketing in order to see a return on your investment. Do you know about how much of an investment it is to make a patient walk in the door?
NATHAN MILLER: Well, it all depends on the tactic that we’re talking about. But just broadly speaking, it can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to get a patient to actually pick up the phone and make an appointment. So it’s important for us to all be aware of the fact that any time you’re seeing a patient, you’re making an investment in them. That’s why it can be difficult or frustrating when ultimately they choose to not go forward with being fit for technology.
But we can’t let that frustration overwhelm or cloud our vision in understanding that we need to continuously engage these folks, because they still need our help. And even after we fit them, they will continue to need our help, because as you guys already know, their hearing loss will change, their needs will change, and the technology that we’re able to provide them will also change, in turn, to hopefully continue to improve their lifestyle.
CHRIS COX: And I think it’s important to note that to get a new patient in the door, it can be hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, and going back to what you said earlier about also looking in your own database and cultivating, cultibating–[LAUGHTER]
NATHAN MILLER: Yeah. It’s private
CHRIS COX: Also–[LAUGHTER]
–by looking in your own database and cultivating that, that can also be a way of getting patients back in the door that isn’t as expensive as going after the new ones is a really good point.
RILEY BASS: And you know, guys, of course, the cheapest and most effective form of advertising is going to be in your patient referrals. If you strive to always provide that highest level of patient care, those patients are going to tell their friends and family, who are, in turn, going to come and visit you.
Similarly, if you don’t provide that high level of care, they are definitely going to tell people that, as well, and drive business away from you. But we have full confidence that you will provide a remarkable experience for every single patient, and they will tell their friends and family and drive more people to come and see you.
NATHAN MILLER: That’s right. Word of mouth– always has been and probably always will be the most important form of marketing or advertising. But that doesn’t mean that you can solely rely on word of mouth. You need to participate in all these other activities, the appropriate mix of which is dependent upon the practice. But those are the sorts of things that, when they work together cohesively, they’re able to help spur those word of mouth referrals, patient advocates.[MUSIC PLAYING]
RILEY BASS: Nathan, thank you so much for hanging out with us today and sharing some of your insight into the creative and marketing world. There’s so much we could talk about and we’ve barely scratched the surface, so we’re hoping that maybe sometime you’ll come back and talk with us again on a future podcast.
NATHAN MILLER: I would love to come back to you guys. It’s been great.
CHRIS COX: That would be great.
RILEY BASS: Awesome. In the meantime, do you have any recommendations for our listeners on some resources that would be great– books, websites, anything like that that can help them figure out the best way to approach branding, marketing, all that type of stuff that’s in your wheelhouse.
NATHAN MILLER: Sure. The one that comes to mind most immediately is a book called Youtility, Y-O-utility, written by an author named Jay Baer– B-A-E-R. And what I and the rest of the marketing team really love about this book, introduced to us by our friend Will Smith–
CHRIS COX: Oh yeah, I know Will.
NATHAN MILLER: –is that it really focuses on providing people value. It’s not about how to sell to them. It’s not this, you know, hardcore, retail-oriented sort of book. It’s about what is it that you can provide to your customer in terms of what it is, the value that you can provide to them, through whatever your product or service is.
And how can you educate them to the highest degree, so that you are creating this connection with them so that they understand when it is time for them to make any sort of purchasing decision, regardless of what it is– but in this instance, someone’s healthcare– that you own that trusted mindspace.
RILEY BASS: And by the way, guys, Will is the producer of our show. He is the one behind the computer that makes sure that these podcasts get out to you each week. So we are very thankful for him.
NATHAN MILLER: Thank you, Will.
WILL SMITH: You’re welcome.
RILEY BASS: If you are interested in reading the book Youtility, we happen to have a few spare copies around the office, here, and we would be happy to send one to you. If you reach out to us at Twitter or email us, we will definitely figure out a way to get that sent out to you as soon as possible.
CHRIS COX: You can’t take my book.
RILEY BASS: I’m going to send you Chris’ actual book, and maybe if you’re lucky, he’ll autograph it for you.
CHRIS COX: I want to erase a signature in it.
RILEY BASS: He’s going to rip all the pages out first.[LAUGHTER]
So you can reach us, of course, at Twitter. I am @rileyb659.
CHRIS COX: And I am @coxchriscox.
RILEY BASS: Thank you for spelling that out. We don’t know.
NATHAN MILLER: Whoa.
RILEY BASS: That’s @coxchriscox, if you didn’t get the spelling of that. Or you can always send me an email if you’re interested in that book. It’s email@example.com.
CHRIS COX: We also have the podcast Twitter.
RILEY BASS: So We also have a Twitter for our podcast. It’s b_podcast. So make sure you subscribe to this on iTunes, like us, give us some feedback, and make sure to tell your friends. And as always, thank you so much to Nathan Miller. If you would like to get in contact with him, what’s the best way to do that?
NATHAN MILLER: You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m on Twitter at #micropolitans.
CHRIS COX: Cool.
RILEY BASS: Thank you so much, guys. We will see you next time.
CHRIS COX: We’re going to go find a–
NATHAN MILLER: See ya.
CHRIS COX: –blimp now, and go.
RILEY BASS: We’re going to go take a blimp ride.
CHRIS COX: Do you have a blimp ride?
NATHAN MILLER: I have access to the Saturn blimp, you guys.
RILEY BASS: I hope the blimp doesn’t explode.
CHRIS COX: –that was amazing.