Honesty In Online Communication

We learned in kindergarten that honesty is the best policy but how many of us actually apply this advice on a daily basis?  In a culture that’s increasingly driven by countless forms of communication resulting in 24-hour access with fewer and fewer chances to be ‘off the grid,’ has it become easier to stretch the truth, feign ignorance or simply lie? According to Jeffrey Hancock, associate professor of communication and information science at Cornell University, being perceived as deceptive can seriously harm reputations and relationships, regardless of the medium.  His studies have also shown [surprisingly] that we tend to lie less online than in person or over the telephone; perhaps it’s because our online, documented posts, comments, status updates, and pictures will be around for a long time.  As a business owner, the type of communication you put in front of your audience adds up – and honesty is a big part of tipping the scales in your favor.

Enter social media. 

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Honest and open communication is the cornerstone of social messaging.

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for business or Pinterest, Instgram or YouTube for pleasure, have you thought about how you are representing yourself online?  The first thing to do is learn how to engage online responsibly and assume you are speaking in public at all times.  We’ll say it again: the internet is not forgiving; posts, comments, status updates, and pictures will live on for the foreseeable future.  Make sure your professional social presence is one you are proud of now and will be in years to come.

Also, be yourself – honest and open communication is the cornerstone of social messaging.  Customers, or potential customers, will respect genuine communication that matters to them.  For instance, use the 4-1-1 rule; post 4 interesting, funny or informational ideas, 1 promotional post and 1 re-post [share with a friend, answer a question, hit the ‘like’ button, etc.], all of which need to be relevant to your audience.  Regardless of whether you post a few times daily or a few times per month, follow the rule above for a targeted strategy that will resonate with your audience.  And as a general rule, before posting on any social medium, ask yourself if the information is honest and relevant.

The review sites.

Here’s where honesty may be most beneficial.  What happens when online reviews about your business begin popping up via Yelp and Google?   If they are positive, great!  But what about the other side of that coin?  We’d all like to think that we give 100% all day every day, but the reality is that sometimes we fall short.  It’s inevitable that you’ll see a less than stellar business review at some point.  When confronted with this ‘bad’ review, it’s how you handle this perceived setback that can set you apart.

Be courageous in the face of bad news, honorably standing tall despite conflict [even if you suspect the negative review is the handiwork of your competitor down the street].  If tempted to avoid the issue, or to make an excuse, think of how you’d feel if a comment you made went unaddressed or simply ignored.  Not pleased, right?  Human beings are deeply attracted to courageous honesty, but sometimes when we are on the other side of the complaint it’s difficult not to be defensive.  It’s best to apologize and do everything we can to make things right — right away.  A February 2014 study by the Social Media Marketing University found that 52% of US marketers respond to negative online comments within 24 hours.  That means responding diplomatically to the comment online, calling the customer [if you can] and remedying the situation ASAP!  The Retail Consumer Report found that of consumers who received a reply in response to their negative review, 33% posted a positive review and 34% deleted their original negative review.  That means by handling the issue, you might even get that nasty, negative comment retracted!

It will work. Honest.

If you believe in what you are doing and are passionate about why you get up every day, this honesty task will be a piece of cake.  Communicating with a broader audience is easier today than ever before, but remember, your message needs to be relevant, timely and genuine.

Boost Your Brand with Social Media

Once you have finally immersed yourself in the digital world with a strong web presence, the next step is to develop a strategy that will drive traffic to your website. Your website represents your practice online and the goal is to get customers from the web to your door.  As with every marketing strategy – traditional or otherwise – in order to be successful, you will need to implement various tactics that will engage your target audience online.

In the past few years, the scope of social media and its evolution of tactics have grown tremendously, revolutionizing the digital landscape through the ability to connect people via online communities. If done strategically and on a frequent basis, any business – including those in the hearing healthcare arena – can take advantage of social media to increase their online presence and foster customer interaction.

Here are some tips on how to move the digital needle in the right direction.

Identify Feasible Platforms

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Focus on two social media platforms at one time, determining which ones are best for your business.

The biggest challenge that many face is determining how to incorporate a social media strategy into their marketing plan. Research shows that for independent business owners it is more effective to only focus on two social media platforms at one time [e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter] in  order to build a strong online reputation. The best way to determine what platforms might work well for you is to check out what others are doing in the industry. By reviewing the competitions’ activity and monitoring relevant conversations, it is easier to determine what your audience is interested in.

Develop Strong Content

Once the platforms have been established, the next big step is developing strong content on a consistent basis that people will want to read and share with others, in order to generate viral content.  Getting your branding or other marketing messages out there to be shared within and among online communities is key.  Although there are various types of online content, the most effective are ones with a simplistic approach.  These will engage your target audience and will help you to build credibility as a knowledgeable expert in the hearing healthcare field.

Monitor Content Consistently

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Having a social media strategy is imperative: know your audience, post relevant messages frequently and monitor your social sites.

It is also important to monitor the content once it is developed and posted. It is one thing to have a presence, but it is essential to be engaged. One way to achieve this is to monitor comments on your social media sites and then follow up with responses in a timely manner.  Encouraging the audience to “like” or “share” the content is also a valid tactic, depending on which metrics you are measuring.

Promote Platforms Process

In order to promote these social media platforms, it is important to talk to your patients and encourage online sharing and reviewing. This process can be implemented into your process, where applicable, to encourage staff to ask patients after they had their appointment or made a purchase to submit an online review about their [positive] experience. Developing a handout with instructions on how to review via Yelp or Google+ to remind customers to go online is one idea to boost participation.  Reviews help establish business credibility online.

Interested in learning about social media and other digital marketing tactics?  Contact marketing at marketing@consultyhn.com.

List Generation: Buying vs. Building

With any marketing strategy, it’s imperative to make sure you are targeting the right audience.  Development of target names and addresses, known as list generation, should be a priority in your planning and implementation strategy.  After all, if you don’t reach your intended audience, how will you generate sales?   But when attempting to reach this audience, is it better to buy a list or build your own?

Let’s look at the facts

When marketing, it's important to reach the right audience. Concentrate on your most qualified leads first and your target prospects second.

When marketing, it’s important to reach the correct target audience.

  • Buying a list is quick and easy.
  • Building a list takes time and resources.

So, what’s the best strategy?  The answer is: it depends.  Meaning, it depends   on who you are trying to target and what type of message you are communicating.

Buying a List

When your objective is to reach a new pool of prospects within your area, buying a list is necessary.  Whether that’s for direct mail or telemarketing, you’ll need to reach out to those prospects within the community who don’t yet know about your services.  Be sure that you are reaching the appropriate audience – in this case, the 65+ active senior and Baby Boomers.

While buying a list for the traditional outreach like direct mail and telemarketing will help feed the pipeline with new opportunities, we recommend steering clear of purchasing lists for digital marketing [i.e. email marketing].

Building a List

We all know that retaining a current customer is more cost-effective than bringing in a new customer.  That’s why developing your customer database for future marketing [out of warranty, tested not sold, etc.] is so important.  Your customer database [read more here] includes your most qualified leads – those that are not as price sensitive – and nurturing these relationships will reap continuous rewards.

Reaching out to your current database with targeted messaging across the traditional mediums – direct mail and telemarketing – will result in a higher response rate and more positive return on investment [ROI].  And as mentioned earlier, it’s best to take the time to build an email contact list by collecting email addresses from you customers – let them ‘opt in’ to receiving email communication from your practice.

What’s Next?

Once you have your targets identified [compiled from both your customer database and prospect lists], remember to develop a marketing plan to reach these consumers on a frequent and consistent basis.  Also, think about the communication strategy [i.e. “what you want to say”] in order to convey relevant messages to each segment of your list.  Your target audience will appreciate the time and effort you put into speaking to them based on their needs via the mediums they prefer and you will reap the rewards.

Questions?  Consult YHN Marketing is here to help!  Contact marketing at marketing@ConsultYHN.com

Conferences, Tradeshows and Seminars:Maximizing Your Value

Each year, across every industry, there are numerous tradeshows, conferences, seminars and meetings that can help you run your business.  When you attend an event related to your area of expertise, you get opportunities to communicate with nationally known leaders of your profession; meet colleagues you recognize by reputation, through industry articles and case studies; and often, by accessing a new environment, you feel energized, reconnected and ready to implement change.  But once you determine which events to attend, based on your goals and objectives, how do you maximize your time at each?

Before you arrive, make sure you prepare yourself to get the most value from your experience:

One: Read the agenda and select the sessions that will be most likely to improve your skills and help you “stretch” beyond your comfort zone by dabbling in topics you have not yet mastered.

Two: Seek out a professional colleague to become your event buddy; so you can share and discuss what you’ve learned. Collaboration brings special benefits when you talk about presentations that only one of you attended.

Three: Stay for the entire event. You never know what good information you might miss by   arriving late or leaving early.

Four: Stay at the event’s designated hotel. You need to be where you can network most effectively and where you can use your time wisely; i.e. don’t spend a half hour in a cab or shuttle every morning and evening and miss portions of the event.

Five: Become an active participant, asking questions and making comments. The more you put into any event, the more you will get out of it.

BONUS: Seek out and meet those who served on the event planning committee. They deserve your feedback – positive or negative. And when you thank them, you will definitely stand out as one of the few who did.

Also: The trade-show portion of any conference provides extraordinary value.  Not only is it an excellent opportunity to save money on “Show Specials,” but visiting the booths and vendors is also invaluable.  Prepare for this part of any event by checking with your staff and bringing their questions with you.  Have the vendors address everything on your list and find out what’s new/what can benefit your business.  Remember, your vendors want to work with you to succeed.

Plan ahead for next year and consider registering for Consult YHN’s Convention, February 19-22, 2014 in Dallas, TX.  Register now and be entered to win prizes in our early registration program.  Click here to register today!

Consult YHN Associates at Convention in Las Vegas

Consult YHN Associates at Convention in Las Vegas

Integrated, Organized and Educated Marketing

Every marketing plan should start with an overarching, ‘big picture’ strategy to ensure the correct audience is being targeted, the budget is being used wisely across mediums that produce opportunities and everyone within your business is privy to and educated on how to capitalize on the marketing efforts.

Integrated Marketing

When approaching your marketing plan, it’s imperative to take an integrated approach when choosing the strategy.  By ‘integrated,’ we mean incorporating the initiatives that drive traffic to your business while targeting both your current and future target markets.

Why is this type of strategy important now?  We’ve been saying for a few years that direct response marketing to your current customer [the 65+] should be your focus.  Your marketing strategy still needs to rely heavily on this goal, but you also need to plan for your future target [the Boomer] via multiple marketing mediums.

The Marketing Pyramid

No doubt you’ve heard us talk about the strategic importance of the ‘pyramid’ approach.  That’s because it’s the best use of your time and marketing dollars, plus it produces the most opportunities.

The crux is this: focus 80% of your efforts on your current patient database, physician referrals and patient referrals.  These are your most qualified leads and will produce opportunities with the least amount of effort.

The other 20% of your focus and budget will be prospect marketing [i.e. direct mail, newspaper, telemarketing, etc.] to continuously feed the pipeline with new customers.

Using this combined strategy will leave no stone unturned and produce a constant flow of opportunities 

Marketing is a Collaborative Effort

In order for your marketing initiatives to be as effective as possible, your entire staff needs to be on board.  Successful marketing is a collaborative effort between all facets of your organization, from the front office through the audiologist/dispenser and everyone in between.

For example, make sure the front office personnel are generating patient referrals, identifying out of warranty opportunities and rescheduling cancelled appointments.  Plus, ensure that they understand the all current marketing initiatives [direct mail, newspaper, etc.] to handle incoming calls and set appointments.

Apply these same principles to all positions – practice development representative, telemarketer, and audiologists/dispensers – so the entire office is ‘on the same page.’

Many strategies and tactics need to work together for optimum marketing performance.

Many strategies and tactics need to work together for optimum marketing performance.

Ready to Get Started?

Beginning with these ‘big picture’ strategies will keep you organized and focused while working towards a path of positive return on investment when it comes to marketing for your business.  Reaching the appropriate target audience, capturing opportunities from both your current customers and new ones will keep the pipeline full and creating an environment where all employees are working toward the same goal will collectively help your  marketing dollars go farther and produce better results!