Problem Solvers

Devising Effective Retail Marketing

Providers eyeing cash sales opportunities need to develop a marketing strategy that addresses a number of factors.

An inadequate marketing plan can be a waste of time, money and energy for providers, so it’s essential to map out a strategy ahead of time.

When it comes to devising a successful strategy to reach out to cash sales customers, HME providers often spend a lot of time on the four P’s: product, placement, price and promotion. Deciding on the right advertising venues, the frequency of advertisements and choosing what type of marketing “hooks” are all part of promotions.

There are many things providers can do to bring in customers, the first of which is simply having the basics, or the other three P’s, in place. This means a good location, proper spacing and overall flow of the store, merchandising, customer service and sales on the floor and making customers feel welcome, according to Ty Bello, founder and president of Team@Work, which provides sales coaching, training and professional education to HME providers across the nation.

Community-Driven Marketing

“If they have all that in place, the next big thing that they’ve really got to worry about is advertising and getting the traffic there,” Bello says. “They’ve got to market to the consumer to bring them in. That’s something that we haven’t had to do because a lot of our business has been referral driven, and this isn’t referral driven.”

Retail sales are community driven, either through the medical community or through the local community. Providers should reach out to the physicians that are sending business their way, and let them know about their store’s products and services. Then find out how those products and services will complement the physician’s patient base.

“The big thing there is we have to first find out from the medical community what they desire in our store for us to carry, what they see are some of the things that they’re currently telling people go to some of the big box stores for and that we can more specialize for them,” Bello advises.

Reaching Out to Consumers

Bello recommends providers use mailers, fliers, emails and faxes if they can. The mailers and fliers are dedicated predominately for the consumer. But, the email and the faxes are predominately for the medical community.

“That’s where if we have an email address for a person inside of a physician’s office or a medical practice, and we have permission to use that email, we can send them an email,” he says. “If we have a list of fax numbers for the medical community we can let them know.”

Providers need to be sensitive to both sides: the consumer and the medical personnel. That means not bombarding them and overdoing the marketing.

“All of us as consumers have gotten too much junk mail, too many faxes, too much blasting, too many emails,” Bello says. “We have to have a real marketing plan, as to when we send these out—what day of the week, what time of the month, what specials, etc. but using those four things—mailers, fl iers, emails and faxes—the right way is going to be very, very helpful.”

Budget for Bigger Media

Advertising on the radio, television or in newspapers and magazines is a lot pricier than sending out mailers and email blasts and some providers just haven’t set aside the time and energy to budget for those types of expenses.

The best way to start is by picking the medium that’s going to reach the largest population at the right time. And say, if that turns out to be magazines or newspapers, then providers should familiarize themselves with the different publications that go out, such as senior living or senior news in the area, or in the medical section of the Sunday newspaper.

“You want to think like your consumer, their age, what do they read,” Bello says. “Well, I hate to say it, but they read the obituaries, so your ad needs to be somewhere where you know they’re going and that’s where they go.”

Once the publication has been selected, find out what the costs are, set a budget and run an ad.

“All of that said after we do it, it’s not over with yet,” Bello says. “Now we have to measure it. We’ve done it, now what did we get from it. We have to know that ad in that newspaper paid off.”

This means customers need to bring the ad with them in to the store for the code that might be on it so providers can measure how effective it was and then justify the dollars that spent.

“You have to look at these three things: How much did it cost me to run the ad? How many people came in and used that ad? How much did I sell because of that ad?” he says. “That is just a math equation that will tell you was my investment worth it or not, which will then tell you what’s your future budget going to be.”

Maximize social media

The Internet offers a whole host of social networking websites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, that can help providers connect with retail customers. Bello says the level of social media today is just scratching the surface of where it will be in five, 10 or 15 years from now, but every HME provider needs to start somewhere and now is a perfect time to start.

“Use social media as best as you possibly can today, understanding that the older population, the majority of them will not be social media savvy,” Bello says. “However, it’s a growing population. Those that are 40 one day will be 60, those that are 50 one day will be 70.

This is the time to engage the younger consumers that shop for retail HME products, such as CPAP or diabetic supplies, and get them into a social media database so that as they get older they can see all of the different products available.

But leveraging social media doesn’t stop with younger groups. Providers can also employ social media networks to market to the adult children helping to take care of their aging parents.

“Rather than give dad a tie (for Father’s Day), why don’t you give him a lift?” Bello says.

Use a dedicated rep to target different patient groups

Providers with marketing representatives or sales representatives that call on medical practices for oxygen, beds and wheelchairs can and should utilize them for more of a focused marketing strategy for some of the specialty cash sales items.

“You need to develop a plan specific to your retail products that you want them to now market to the medical community,” Bello suggests.

Offer hooks for the coupon clippers and holiday sales shoppers

Bello says providers absolutely should use coupons. Providers can use the fliers and sales ads from the big box stores as a guide as to what kind of coupons to offer.

“And we have to be sensitive to time of year when certain products might be a little more prevalent, to seasonal items as well, and we have to be obviously sensitive to holiday times,” he says.

Holidays such as Father’s Day, Christmas, Independence Day or Veteran’s Day offer the chance for special sales.

“Utilize those. Veteran’s Day would be perfect,” Bello says. “A lot of the seniors that we serve today are veterans. Why not run a Veteran’s Day special? You never know what traffic you might be able to get from that.”

This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Cindy Horbrook is the associate editor for HME Business, Mobility Management, and Respiratory & Sleep Management magazines.

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