Woman is buying OTC hearing aids

Marketing Your Practice in a Post-OTC Hearing Aids World

Long before the Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aid Act was signed into law last August, hearing professionals across America were hotly debating its consequences. The legislation drew support from both sides of the aisle and gained notable coverage by the media, raising awareness of both the need for hearing treatment and the potential for more affordable options.
The Act requires the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to create a new class of OTC hearing aids for adults aged 18 and over with mild to moderate loss. While the FDA has at least 3 years to implement this requirement, public and private pressures may very well accelerate their timeline for compliance.
As a practice owner and hearing healthcare professional, the OTC Act poses several new questions for your business. The main consideration is whether you’ll choose to offer OTC hearing aids as part of your product portfolio. Several factors should play into this decision, including a thorough analysis of your local market, your competitor’s offerings, and the overall priorities of your practice.
No matter what you choose, your marketing strategy will need to be tailored to your decision. If your product offerings expand, you’ll want to spread the news. If you decide to target those unaffected by the Act, such as minors and those with severe to profound hearing loss, you’ll need to adjust your ad content and placements. As you evaluate your options for practicing in a post-OTC Act world, consider the following tactics for maintaining a strong marketing strategy.
Be Prepared
Nobody really knows how fast OTC hearing aids will hit the market once the FDA finishes its preparations for this new class of instruments. Large hearing aid companies have already begun to seek partnerships with smaller manufacturers of newer hearing devices, such as hearables, and are aware of the demand awaiting the release of OTC models.
Hearing aid manufacturers are very familiar with the benefits of being “first to market” with any new technology, and value-oriented hearing aids are no exception. Similarly, hearing professionals who proactively position themselves for this shift in the hearing industry will gain as well.
Whether you include OTC hearing aids in your product portfolio or not, you should prepare your marketing strategy well before you need to implement it. If you’re deciding to focus your practice on non-OTC patients, you could even begin that targeting before OTC’s are released. The goal is to catch the wave of patients seeking something specific as soon as they begin to flood the market. Trying to catch up with the tide can be a disappointing struggle.
Service Oriented
Despite the appeal of more affordable and readily accessible OTC hearing aids, consumers have made it clear that they do prefer hands-on service. In fact, a recent study by Indiana University found that patients who received audiologist services along with their new hearing aid were nearly twice as likely to want to keep their hearing aids than those who simply bought preprogrammed OTC devices without any services. Having the help of a professional to reassure, readjust, and respond to questions is a valuable offering that every practice should be highlighting.
Even if you decide to include OTC hearing aids (and especially if you don’t), be sure to tailor your marketing content and website copy to reflect the personalized care you offer. Draw attention to your follow-up support and commitment to patient satisfaction. At the end of the day, OTC hearing aids will never be able to compete with hands-on, patient-centered care.
Get Your Target Right
This might seem overly obvious, but it’s worth calling out: you need to accurately target your market. In fact, your marketing will only ever be as strong as your targeting is. As you endeavor to adjust your marketing to reflect your practice with or without OTC hearing aids, your targeting should shift accordingly.
Maybe you want to just focus on higher-end instruments, thus causing you to target those who can afford them. If you plan to bring OTC hearing aids into your practice, you can cast a wider net with your ad content and placements, but eventually, you should narrow down who tend to be the most responsive to your OTC offerings and target them specifically.
Keep in mind: market targeting is rarely a quick process. For the best results, marketers test ad placements time and time again until they begin to see strong conversion rates. In order to continuously improve your targeting efforts, you need to know where inquiring patients first heard about your services. Was it a Google search? A print ad? Seeing your listing on Yelp, perhaps? Sure, you can conjure up some educated guesses of where your market is most accessible, but that will remain a guess until you can confirm it otherwise.
Reviews Matter
It’s true, we bring this topic up often (see here, here and here). But the truth is, in a post-OTC world, online reviews are more important than ever. More patients will be coming to see you because of the care you provide — not just the products you can get them. And where do people find out about the quality of your care? Yep, online reviews.
The classic approach to getting great reviews by simply giving great service will always remain true. It’s the bedrock of any review management strategy. But with online reviews, there are other important elements (and data) to consider. Did you know that 70% of people are more likely to leave you a review if you simply ask them to? Many business owners fail to take this incredibly simple step to improve their online review status.
Another key element of a successful review strategy is to make leaving you a review efficient and simple. In fact, it’s why we developed this handy tool to make leaving your practice a review a quick 2-click process — directly from your website. Delivering excellent care, asking for patients to share their experience, and then giving them the easiest route to do so is a winning combination for a steady stream of glowing reviews.
As you begin evaluating whether your practice wants to include OTC hearing aids in your offerings or not, consider how your local market would respond to a shift in your marketing approach. For deeper analysis, you could even do a soft test on how they would react to you including some more affordable options (such as PSAPs or custom earbuds) in your lineup. Your goal with any marketing campaign is to track, adjust, and repeat.
OTC hearing aids present both opportunities and challenges for hearing practices, but with the right marketing approach, you can absolutely leverage their availability to benefit your practice and the patients you serve.
 

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