Cash sales opportunities represent an increasingly attractive important revenue option for providers who need to bring more cash into their businesses. As the 9.5 percent funding cut made to delay competitive bidding and CMS’s moves to start re-bidding round one continue to lower the ceiling on providers’ profit margins, retail products offer to ensure a steady cash flow coming into a provider’s coffers. Moreover, with retail sales, providers don’t have to wait on reimbursement, and don’t have to expend the time and staff energy needed simply to ensure billing goes through, either.
The question is which cash sales categories provide the easier point of entry for providers that are new to the retail game? One cash sales category that just about any HME provider can add to its lineup with little specialized expertise is aids to daily living. Most ADLs are relatively simple devices that don’t require the same level of expertise as some of the more complex types of DME. Also, they are the sort of items that can solve real problems for just about any kind of patient, which increases their retail appeal all the more. If ever there was an easy entry point into cash sales, ADLs are it. So how should a provider get started?
It pays to advertise. You must implement a consistent and regular advertising strategy. Since ADLs appeal to such a broad spectrum of patients, advertising will bring in much larger numbers than word of mouth ever could. Key parts of your advertising campaign should be listings in yellow pages, mailers, door hangers, inserts or ads in local newspapers, and even coupons. Offering 10 percent off on a bath rail could unlock the door to increased volumes of patients coming in the door looking for not only ADLs, but other solutions.
Target your advertising. Reach out to special communities. For instance if you have a nearby retirement community, investigate whether or not that community publishes a circular of some kind or provides advertising bulletin boards, and see if they offer space you can rent for advertising. Centers of worship also provide excellent opportunities for attracting patients and their families, especially if a church specializes in ministry to seniors, for instance.
Have a consistent message. Maintain a consistent message across all your advertisements, and don’t just list features — list benefits. Patients want to know what your ADLs can do for them. Moreover, nest your advertising in your branding of your business. Essentially, your brand should convey a promise to serve patient needs, and your advertising must reflect that.
Speak at events. In the same you might target advertising to specific patient groups, consider speaking at local gatherings of those patients. Present yourself as an expert who can offer them some innovative solutions to common daily living challenges they might be facing. Also, start hosting events sponsored by your business and invite local healthcare, diet and other experts to speak. You will provide a valuable service that patients will associate with your business.
Network. Another way to attract new patients to your ADL services is to meet with local, like-minded professionals. Contact the referral partners and physicians you work with and find out if they belong to any local healthcare provider networking groups that include HME providers. This is an excellent way to let them know about your expanded product range on a face-to-face basis.
Prepare for the Baby Boom. The Baby Boom generation, which counts as many as 76 million people to its ranks, is already having to care for older parents, and represents a marvelous market opportunity for providers. Baby Boomers have the cash to get their parents what they need, especially when it comes to ADLs. Better yet, as those Boomers enter retirement, they will keep in mind the providers they worked with to help their parents when the time comes for them to acquire those very same ADLs for themselves. If they have already been patronizing your store to help their parents, it stands to reason they will come to you when they need their own medical equipment.
Plan your retail space. Providing cash sales products means devoting some floor space to them. Determine if you can make adequate room to let patients try out products. If you simply don’t have the room, you might need to consider expanding. You have to get the product in front of clients so that they can touch it and hopefully try it out. Moreover, have the items well organized and attractively showcased on the floor. Presentation is key in retailing and you need to make sure that clients are compelled to go check out what you have on display. If your wares are just stacked on a shelf, you’re losing valuable businesses.
Likewise, place your goods in places that make sense for the items. Sometimes this means a particular item might be well suited to more than just one location on the show floor. And don’t forget that these are cash sales items, which means that you should try and capitalize on “impulse buy” placement near the cash registers. If the pricing and size is right for an item, a patient that might not have otherwise considered it will grab it on their way to check out. That’s when you know you’ve hit your retail stride.
Points to take away:
- Aids to daily living provide an easy entry point into retail sales.
- If you want to succeed, you must engage in regular advertising that combines both broad and targeted campaigns.
- A key segment to target are Baby Boomers. They are willing to buy cash items for their parents, and could likely become future clients.
- Ensure your advertising messages are consistent, sell the benefits of your products, and reinforce your store’s branding.
- Develop a retail floor space strategy that ensures optimal placement and presents your ADLs in such a way that patients are compelled to inspect them.
The Small Business Administration provides an excellent online compendium of marketing resources that would benefit any small business, including HME providers. They include advice on pricing, developing marketing plans, marketing basics, target marketing and competitive analysis. Make sure to visit their marketing resources web page at: http://www.sba.gov/smallbusinessplanner/manage/marketandprice.