Monday, May 23, 2011

Need vs. Want

Why do senior citizens come to your company to shop? Many providers may not understand what has driven these specific customers to their location. Two different HME providers posed this interesting question to me at Medtrade Spring.

The answer from several providers was their operation is convenient and easy to find. Others thought that people were aware their prices are very competitive. An excellent response was senior citizens know about the services they perform including many provided pro-bono.

The answers were different when I spoke with a few senior citizens asking the same question. The driving force seemed to be either a “need to buy” or a “want to buy.” Are they the same?

“Need to buy” was that their physician or therapist told them to purchase something specific. The client looked for the most convenient location.

“Want to buy” is the similar to the above. One senior speaking with another often creates the “want.” Occasionally, it is a consequence of the family caregiver wanting to keep their relative at home and comfortable. But more often than not it is because a senior citizen needs to get out and enjoys browsing. They all seek comfort items and your task is to make your location the Mecca where they will find these and “want to buy.”

One very successful provider told me that every other Wednesday in his showroom he offers a “Senior Citizen” afternoon. It started slowly and has grown steadily. He invites one or two reps to be present to show and demonstrate their “comfort wares.” This is easy to do and works.

Please share with me some of the programs you have prepared so I can share these new thoughts and ideas with other providers. Thank you!

Marketing to Seniors

Take a good look at your customer base. You will discover that senior citizens make up the largest number of customers. Both my wife and I are octogenarians. When we go to a market or take a holiday, one thing is very obvious, senior citizens are very active and spend money on themselves and their family members. They should be treated with great dignity.

The age, which was used to identify a senior citizen in 1960, was anyone older than 65 years. At that time, the average age at time of death was 70 years. Today in 2011, it looks as if life expectancy is rapidly approaching 80 years. Fifteen years longer to be your customer is fantastic and you must make your location a magnet to attract them to shop there.

Here are a few ideas I garnered from many HME providers at Medtrade Spring:

Your showroom should be brightly lit. Every item on display should have a price affixed. Sale items should have large signs showing the saving.

Your salespeople should always address senior customers as Mr. or Mrs. This is particularly true with the younger sales folks. Only personal friends should be addressed by their first name.

Every salesperson on the showroom should have their name on their jacket in large enough letters to be seen without squinting or bending over to look.

Similar items must all be in one location to make shopping easy. There should be wide aisles with no blocking displays and wheelchair accessible.

Several providers have told me they offer “senior citizen” programs once or twice a month, usually in midweek and mid-afternoon. They feature only one item. They do this with the cooperation of a preferred vendor. Hang a poster near the cash register and in the window listing the date and time for these.

Please make every effort to work with your senior clientele. They have the disposable dollars to obtain comfort items and will not hesitate to make a purchase. I know this is true!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Reshaping Medicare the Right Way

Politicians today have coined a new phrase: “reshape Medicare!” This in their zeal to show how concerned they are about the high growing costs of Medicare. All these two words are just another way of seeking votes. I am really chagrined by the fact that there appears so little concern about all the fraud & abuse draining out the funds.

Yes, reshaping Medicare should be accomplished! But “HOW?” This is a major problem. When I see reported the amount of dollars that are passing from lobbyists and major companies, it is clear that congressmen are afraid to lose them. So what do they suggest? “Reduce reimbursements!” No concern is indicated for the recipients. The lowest prices possible! Care and service will no longer be available. Care and service is why HME providers are so respected and it is given “pro bono.”

I have sent my thoughts to several members of Congress. I sent a message to Congressman Ron Paul, which has not yet been acknowledged, as well as others. All of us who are fighting just to stay solvent and continue to take care of patients must get involved. Speak to the senior citizens, family caregivers and the beneficiaries of the service who have proven to be so loyal and appreciative of what they have received from you. Ask that they get involved. They do not want to lose the products and services you provide. However, they may be forced to go elsewhere.

Send e-mails and make phone calls to all your elected officials and tell them how much money is being milked from the system! Newspapers and TV are constantly reporting more and more fraud and abuse. The HME industry is only a small segment where money is being stolen. Most providers run a professional and honest operation. But there are too many “others” in the system. Licensing and inspection will reduce fraud and abuse. When much of that is stopped, there will be sufficient money to maintain the program.

If you do not have the name and number of your representative or senator, please contact your state DME association or me. Call, write, and get your community involved. You can win this battle and show your clientele the results and benefits of working together! They have as much at stake as you do. Together, we will “reshape Medicare.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Getting Publicity

As our industry is gyrating, waiting to see what will happen with the “competitive bid” legislation, it is not the time to sit and watch. It is time to let everyone in your community know how valuable your company is and the role it plays in healthcare. This is accomplished by good publicity.

In order to maximize the benefits that your company performs daily, good publicity is needed. Send a press release to your local media outlets. It should be brief and to the point and should offer a newsworthy story idea.

There are so many things that you can send in a press release. If you are introducing a new piece of equipment or a new product, send a press release with a picture. If you added a new employee, send their picture with a little resume. They are a part of the community. Remember a picture is worth a 1,000 words.

If you are holding an open house promote what you are featuring that day. Programs such as these will keep your name recognized and will bring new people to visit.

The press release you prepare is a valuable tool to get publicity! Now is when you must make every effort to keep your company name known. You are not just the corner HME provider. Your staff and your location will be recognized as an integral part of the community.

You are where senior citizens, family caregivers and anyone who needs medical supplies should shop. If anyone has a question or needs some information you want all to know you are available and they’re for them. This is what good publicity will accomplish!

Friday, May 6, 2011

More Advice on Helping Your Community Be Prepared

I received two calls about the post “Helping Your Community Be Prepared.” The callers requested more details about preparing an open house or a seminar.

Today there is a tremendous amount of concern throughout the country about tornados, floods and hurricanes. As an HME provider you could take a major role to establish your company as the leader to protect your customers and your community.

Normally an “open house” would be held in your showroom on a Saturday morning. This is effective when demonstrating an item. For a seminar, which is what this will be, you will need a larger venue.

In many communities, a local college will make space available. A hotel usually has an adequate facility but there may be a fee. However, if you order coffee and sweet rolls, this might be waived. Normally, you hold these from 9:00 a.m. until noon. Once the date is determined, then finding the participants is easy.

For a seminar on how to protect your home and your family during a storm, you should first invite members from the local police, fire departments and EMT squads. If there is room, please designate a space for each to put up a display. Please request that they provide a speaker and for a 15 minute presentation.

Explain to the administrator at the local hospital what you are bringing to the community and they invariably will respond by sending you an ER physician and nurse to speak. These are the professionals everyone wants to hear.

Vendors with related products should all be delighted to participate, especially when you provide them space to distribute literature and show products.

The local newspapers and radio and TV stations can all help you spread the word.

Yes, this takes time and planning, but the rewards for your community will be well worth it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Helping Your Community Be Prepared

The vast amount of destruction created by the tornados in the South last week was devastating. It is very difficult to comprehend how much damage could happen so quickly, but it did. Homes, businesses and a great deal of civilization were smashed to smithereens. The number of people who died as a result of this vicious storm is in excess of 350 and we do not know how many are in hospitals.

How many families will have to rebuild from scratch? How long will it take? Mothers, fathers and children are searching for loved ones. What can they do next?

I have great faith in the resiliency of America. The entire country is working together to reconstruct what the storm has destroyed. I was able to contact Mike Hamilton, executive director of the Alabama DME Association. He described the havoc that took place. Despite his tears, his confidence in the spirit of the DME/HME dealers and providers in all of the six states involved was heartwarming. Mike is confident that they will not only rebuild their communities and their business, but they will work to help all victims of the storm.

As HME providers, there is a great opportunity for you to provide support in your community. I called a few providers to discuss some ideas for the role your company can play.

May I suggest that you do the following: Speak to some of the emergency room physicians and nurses in the hospitals near your location. Make appointments to meet with the EMT squads and ambulance services as well as the local police and fire departments. You can prepare a special day: “What to do if we experience a tornado, hurricane or other major catastrophe?” Arrange with a local church, school or hotel where you can hold a special “training” half day for the community.

Invite personnel from all of the above to attend, speak and be available to work with the attendees. Some of your preferred vendors may assist by preparing handouts and demonstrating appropriate products. The local radio stations, newspapers and television affiliates should be eager to give this a strong publicity push. Your townspeople will all say “thank you.”

You owe this to the folks from whom you make a living. Contact me for more information at or via phone at (877) 553-5127.