By Lisa Wells
President, Get Social Consulting
[This article originally ran on 1/26/15 in Medtrade Monday.]
In our line of work, one of the most heartbreaking moments we face is when we meet a customer who feels powerless because of their condition.
It hurts our hearts to talk with those customers who feel like they can’t live the life they want because of physical limitations. You hear it in the voice of parents who would give or do anything to heal their child or help them walk. Or now-adult children who are faced with the hard fact that their parents need daily help at what is quickly becoming the end stage of life. Or patients who struggle to simply breathe, manage their blood sugar or heart rate, or control their pain.
Thankfully, one of the most rewarding moments in our line of work comes when we give those people a spark of hope, a moment of relief, a path to independence or a plan to keep them healthy and safe.
You may not consciously realize it, but when you connect your customers with the medical supplies or equipment they need, you also give them back the individual power and security that so many feel they have lost.
As an HME provider, you don’t just sell products. You help people feel better. You help people feel whole. You help people feel self-reliant and self-confident again.
Knowing that on a personal level is the very thing that keeps many of us fighting to stay in this game — no matter what the government or private insurances throw at us next.
Our Power as an Industry Strengthens Through Our Customers’ Connections
You may not realize either that the literal key to our survival as an industry lies in finding more ways to give our customers the power to:
- Voice their thoughts on the importance and value of their healthcare, without fear of repercussion for demanding better quality or access to care.
- Actively seek and find more ways to stay connected with other people who understand their needs and conditions, and to be able to educate those who don’t.
- Pursue lifestyle options and activities that improve and extend their individual lives.
When we connect our customers with these avenues for self-reliance and support, we are also simultaneously creating:
- An educated, empowered customer base demanding better healthcare policy and programs.
- A network of like-minded people who depend on HME and gladly tell others about us.
- A longer lifespan for people who use our services.
Become Their Connection Point for More than Just Products
So many industry conversations about the woes and mishaps of competitive bidding generally boil down to one central complaint – “the government cannot deliver quality care through spreadsheet/line item analysis alone.” (Agreed!)
Knowing that we all do so much more for our community then solely selling products, let’s take a minute to look at the picture we project as an industry to the outside world looking in. Where is the first place the outside world will go to learn more about HME?
The Google, that’s where.
And “the Google” will take them to your website.
What’s the first thing people see when they land on your site? Products? Are you asking people to buy something? Yes, of course you are. You should be – that’s your business.
Beyond that, what else is there in plain view on your home page?
- Are you giving people instant connections online to more than just products?
- Are you sharing the tangible contributions you make to your community?
(I’m not talking about money here.)
- Are you passing along personal stories of people who are living successful lives in spite of their conditions because of your support and help?
If you’re not, then you can’t blame them when the uninformed masses come away with the impression that all you do as an HME provider is sell widgets for a profit at their expense. Their opinion is based on something we all struggle to convey — perceived value.
REMEMBER THIS: If they’re perceiving less, it’s because the message you’re projecting isn’t more.
Raise Your Value by Raising the [Navigational] Bar
You can improve your perceived value as a care provider by expanding your message online through the empowering connections you provide to customers.
- Give your customers an avenue to voice their thoughts on the importance and value of their healthcare, without fear of repercussion for demanding better quality or access to care.
The easiest way to do this is to provide links on your website to organizations that advocate for your customers on Capitol Hill. Share the links to the advocacy resources from non-profits that represent your customers’ conditions.
Introduce your customers to groups that fight for better Medicare reform by sharing www.SaveMyMedicalSupplies.org and People for Quality Care. And don’t just share the link – explain WHY your customer needs to connect on this level to advocate for their own health.
- Help your customers actively seek and find more ways to stay connected with other people who understand their needs and conditions, and to be able to educate those who don’t.
What are the social communities online that provide peer support or information for your customers’ conditions? Many of these are likely managed by the abovementioned non-profits. If there is a gap in this area, consider filling it. Create your own online support group or partner with an existing one.
Some examples of well-received, highly-engaged online support communities created by industry players include:
- Quantum Rehab Owner’s Club [ www.facebook.com/QuantumRehab ]
- Ottobock US C-Leg and Prosthetic Legs on Facebook [ www.facebook.com/ottobockus ]
- Life After Spinal Cord Injury by UroMed/Edgepark [ www.facebook.com/LASCIonline ]
- Encourage your customers to pursue lifestyle options and activities that improve and extend their individual lives.
It is common for HME specialty providers to create a link page on their website, listing the URLs of non-profit associations that support the conditions their customers have. Don’t stop there. Also provide the links for lifestyle magazines published by these associations to instantly connect your customers with the point that the non-profit intersects in their daily lives.
For example, don’t just list a link to the National Spinal Cord Injury Association. Also include a link to New Mobility, their lifestyle publication, as well as other leading magazines in the space like SPORTS ‘N SPOKES [wheelchair sports] and PN Online – both published by Paralyzed Veterans of America.
When you take your customers directly to the crossroads of lifestyle activities and sports geared around their condition, you are re-introducing them to outlets for socialization, physical recreation and ongoing opportunities to get out of the house and back into life.
The Most Powerful Message You Can Give
When you provide your customers with instant connection points like those above, you are conveying that you care more about them as a person than just what they buy. You’re also showing you care about how well they live.
That’s the true heart of our industry, and it’s the powerful message we ALL need to share – instantly, online, every day — with as many people as possible.
Learn more about digital marketing best practices at Medtrade Spring! Plan to attend Matching HME Growth Opportunities with Successful Marketing Strategies that Incorporate Traditional & Digital Skills presented by Lisa Wells of Get Social Consulting, Justin Racine of Geriatric Medical and Rick Glass of Steven Richards & Associates. These three industry experts have combined their respective financial analysis and marketing talents to create a roadmap for HME success in 2015! www.medtrade.com
About Lisa Wells
Lisa Wells is a veteran of online marketing and e-commerce, with more than 20 years of experience in public relations, marketing communications and web-based product management at medical device, medical supply and health technology companies. As a consultant, she has advised on the development of numerous online marketing programs and strategic marketing plans for HME providers and medical device companies worldwide. Visit her consulting website at www.getsocialconsulting.com.