Surviving The Storm

Survival Strategy For Independent Hearing Healthcare Providers

I read an excellent article on the Hearing Journal website called “Consolidation Boom Changes Face of Hearing Health Care”. It was an fantastic article written by Karen Pallarito outlining the changing face of the Hearing Healthcare Profession in the states. It outlined the vertical consolidation of the supply chain that is taking place not just in the US but also across the world. If taken at face value this phenomenon appears to sound the death knell for Independent Hearing Health Professionals.

I do not agree with that assumption, I think that large chains have been around for some time without the doomsday scenario playing out. The further consolidation of the supply chain will not necessarily put much more pressure on Independents and in fact could be an opportunity for them to differentiate themselves from the herd. I am not saying it will be easy, but I do not think it will be any harder than running your business is right now. The key will be to work smarter as opposed to harder.

Do You Need A Survival Strategy?

I am not sure about a “Survival Strategy”, but you certainly will need to be very smart about how you run your Practice. You will need to use all the tools at your disposal and use them well in order to remain relevant. I say relevant rather than competitive for a reason. Going back to one of my posts recently “Differentiation of Your Health Practice, Porter’s Generic Strategies” which dealt with differentiation strategies. I think that it is imperative that Independent Practices differentiate themselves.

Modern chain Hearing Health Practices are pretty good at what they do, they are also getting better every day. They have quite a large amount of money to throw at marketing themselves, something which no Independent can match, so why try? Why should you try to either emulate or compete head on with a monster chain? If you let them set the terms of engagement, they will win every time, simply because they are bigger and have infinitely more resources. So do not let what others are doing set your agenda.

Design and implement your own strategies and agenda, differentiate yourself from the herd. So how do you differentiate? Through service offering, through Practice deployment, through brand realisation, through customer service beyond the norm. These are things that you can affect in your business, in fact your business as an Independent may be better placed in order to provide these things because you buy in. A worker bee in any of the chains does not truly buy in, they do so as much as is possible when they do not have a stake other than their monthly check and some pride in their work.

You however fully buy in, if you don’t win, you don’t eat! So remember that, set out a strategy of differentiation for your business, in your service offerings, in your product offerings and in your practice placement. Think about it carefully, carve out your niche and then defend it passionately. I have one customer who realised this two years ago when he set up his new practice. He wanted to differentiate himself from the competition in his city, of which there is quite a bit. So he set up a boutique practice attached to a boutique Opticians’. The practice is deployed in an excellent manner, the décor, the furnishing, the colour scheme all speaks to a sense of privilege, professionalism, success.

I sometimes think when I am there that the words “Harley Street”(a street in London famed for top medical consultants) where coined to elicit visions of this gentleman’s practice. Sometimes I can hear my wallet screaming for mercy when I visit. However this high concept boutique positioning is in fact balanced by realistic prices akin to or even in some cases lower than his competitors. This in fact drives the practice even further because the perception of value versus money spent is radically changed in the minds of his Patients. They feel that his service in the confines of his practice is worth every single penny that they spend. He is also a good man, this shines through to me at every meeting, I am sure this is also obvious to his prospective patients.

He has created a niche for himself in the few short years since he founded his practice, within three years that niche will be almost un-assailable in his city. There are ways you can differentiate yourself, in fact because you are your own brand, it is even easier for you to do. No shareholders to satisfy, no board of Directors to convince.

Carve Out Your Niche, Widen It, Make It Yours, Defend It!

 

Regards

Geoff

About Geoffrey Cooling

my name is Geoffrey Cooling and I am the author here at Just Audiology Stuff. I have been involved in the Hearing Healthcare Profession for several years now. I initially worked as a Hearing Healthcare Professional for a large national retailer in Ireland.

After several years in Practice I was approached to work for a manufacturer, where I was employed for five years. I am now the Co Founder of a business called Audiology Engine. We design websites, undertake content marketing and generally look after everything digital for audiological practices. I am also a contributor to many hearing profession periodicals and websites.

I have written two commercially available books, The Little Book of Hearing Aids which is written for hearing aid consumers and Audiology Marketing in a Digital World which is written for Audiology Practice Owners. They are both available in Paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon. I also write for consumers on the website Hearing Aid Know, which is a website with the mission of demystifying hearing aids, their types and their technology.

I have a great interest in commercial strategy as it applies to Healthcare in general and specifically to Hearing Healthcare. I also have a great interest in the psychology of sales and human interaction. I have been involved with social media for some time, both personally and professionally. I find the engagement and discourse on some social media channels fascinating.

I instituted social media strategy for the company I worked for as an experiment. That experiment soon spread throughout the company and I am proud to say that the company is probably one of the most active in the industry. I would like to point out that all views, opinions and thoughts here are mine own. Unless of course they have been planted by the pod people, you just can’t take your eyes off the pod people. Those views do not necessarily reflect upon any views or opinions held by my employer, if I ever get another one.

I think that our industry is in the middle of a time of huge change, I think that the change will be forced by both internal and external pressure. I think that private Independent Healthcare Practices will have to be smart and lithe of feet in order to meet these changes. I hope that some of my blatherings are of benefit to those Practices, Independent Hearing Healthcare Practices need to survive. I believe that if that occurs it will be of real benefit to Patients.

I hope that I, and my writings will play a small part in their continued success.

4 Comments

  1. Dear Geoff,

    “Carve Out Your Niche, Widen It, Make It Yours, Defend It!”

    That’s it what it is about! Independent hearing aid specialists have plenty of opportunities to be very successful. But most are (negatively) impressed by big chains, and/or try to copy their behavior.

    No way, it will not be a success. I am just coming back from a coaching of audiologists at a independent hearing aid specialist in The Netherlands. One of my goals is to make them professionally customer oriented.

    In a way, that most of the clients bring in new clients themselves.
    That is what all of the independent must do, but often, they have a lack of such a knowledge.

    Cheers,

    Oliver F. von Borstel
    CEO & Salesman

    Masters of Sales Europe

  2. I think emulation allows the battlefield to be drawn by somebody else, whereas innovation by an Independent or even a set of Independents changes the game entirely. Independent business owners can set the agenda, be fast to change that agenda and react quickly to changes within the market place. Large chains are inherently slower because of their make up.

  3. Hi Geoff,
    Your blogs are most enjoyable and you have a keen sense of awareness of how to survive in this field. There is still room in our world for new and excellent music, theatre, painting and audiologic practices! I bought into the concept of boutique practice quite awhile back and if nothing else I love going into my office. But it seems so do the patients and what sets me apart is just that. I do not want to be a COSTCO or Beltone and there are plenty of discerning people in South Florida that can tell the difference between quality, superior education and unmatched clinical care. I could go on but its time to head home. Keep up the insiteful and well written blogs.
    Best,
    Cori Walker

  4. I think you have been ahead of the curve with the deployment of your Practice. The psychological impact of going somewhere nice, pleasant, sophisticated, where you are treated in a special way can not be under-estimated. The simple pleasure of it can not be undermined even by having to spend money to continue to enjoy the experience.

    What in god’s good name would you want to compete with Costco for? Or indeed any of the large bland and same chains, with their uniform interior design, staff uniforms, cheap chairs and little soul? That is certainly entering a race to the bottom not carving out a niche for yourself based on your brand vision or specialist experience.

    I would also like to thank you for your flattering comments and it pleases me greatly that my blog brings you enjoyment.

    Regards

    Geoff

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