My business needed to find its legs.

Crawl...walk...LEAP

I'm one to make the best out of whatever I have. And all I had with my first independent practice was 250-square feet of office space and a portable audiometer that my parents gave me as a graduation gift.

My success balanced on two factors. First, would I be able to provide the level of care that my patients needed despite my modest (to say the least) resources? This was no problem. Sure, my space and equipment were limited, but so what...my enthusiasm made up for that. My patients would get the best care, no matter what.

The second factor, however, felt a bit more out of my hands. Let's face it...when you start out as small as I did, there's only so much you can do to get people to walk through your door. I wondered...would I get the chance to give them the best care?

Advertising seemed to be a logical next step, and I had previous experience which I put to use. An ad in a magazine here, something in a newspaper there, but nothing consistent. These can certainly work (and at times did), but for the most part, running with advertising alone wasn't worth the time or resources it was costing me.

It became clear that to build any kind of solid foundation for myself, my patients, and my staff, a fully established marketing plan would be necessary. Did I think by doing this that I'd have all the time, budget and medical resources to make all my dreams and aspirations come true?

Of course not. But it proved to be a wind at my back that I very much needed to get where I am today.

Gambling on a hope

There were two things most of all that made me nervous about going all in with a marketing plan. The first, no surprise, was budget. The second concerned me just as much. Maybe more.

I was being told by others in the industry that it wouldn't work. That I shouldn't do it. That I should find other ways to promote my business.

I have no doubt that their intentions were good, but their advice made things even more complicated. Implementing a marketing plan began to feel like a risk. Should I make a large investment of time and money into something that I have little experience with…and hope it works?

I knew better than to think that any level of marketing was just a good habit or something voluntary. But fearing that it would have been a gamble to throw resources into (the way I felt with my previous advertising push) was enough to send it to the backburner.

I remember feeling scared about this decision, but at the same time, I knew that something had to change or else I was going to lose my business - and that was a million times scarier.

Couldn't afford (not) to have a marketing plan

Well, I took a leap of faith and change came. And in the end, it didn't matter what I decided. I reached a point where I couldn't afford NOT to have a marketing plan. I just wasn't sure how to go about it. So I devoted a thin slice of my budget into establishing a program. But that's not all I did.

I began to attend AHAA's Owners Meetings regularly, where I met peers that were in very similar situations as mine. I also met those that had become marketing pros that swore to me that they once shared my anxiety. (I believe them now, but didn't then!)

The advice I was receiving began to feel right. Not just because it turned from cautious to encouraging, but because it was all being backed up with shared data from other practice owners.

Learning concepts, seeing examples, and hearing various methods in how to market and advertise were all extremely helpful, but what really impacted me was realizing the broad influence a marketing program would have on my business. The opportunities it gave to my peers would also be mine.

I remember feeling like I was striding up to a starting line (despite having years of industry experience), waiting for the starter's pistol. But I'll admit that during the first three months of running my first marketing plan, I was still questioning whether or not it was a good idea. Just because it was working for others didn't mean it was going to work for me.

But slow and steady wins the race, and by the fourth or fifth month, it kicked in. And I mean kicked in.

I like my chances of winning

Stress changed to excitement as both sides of the spectrum clicked into place. While my business grew stronger, my patient care got better. It wasn't long until I was enjoying 37% annual growth.

Today, my weekly schedule is consistently full, open houses are always well attended, and we focus on third party attendance, getting out-of-warranty patients back in the door, and consistently ask for patient referrals. Each effort supports my growth and the filling of the schedule. One domino hits the next, and each leads to opening doors and new opportunities.

I consider my marketing program to be my silent "partner" that works for me every day of every week. The resources I put into it are nothing compared to what it makes possible for me.

Some campaigns work better than others, others don't work at all. It's a never-ending learning experience. When something doesn't do well, I'll either shelve it for another time or call it a loss and learn from it. When I'm looking for new ideas, I often call the marketing staff at AHAA so we can brainstorm.

What's next for me? More leaps of faith! I feel like I have the resources and know-how to reach future patients in tremendous ways. My dream is to never finish the race I've started.

Does Janice's story sound familiar?

She had experience with advertising, but after deciding to hit the fast lane, it wasn't enough to support her business. But she soon discovered that having an established marketing program was a key component to her ability to go as far (and as fast) as she wants.

How about you? Are your dreams just out of reach, making you feel like winning a bronze in your "race" is all that is possible? Let me show you how great the other side of your door can be.

Tina Soika   |   800-984-3272 x306   |   TSoika@ahaanet.com

American Hearing Aid Associates
800-984-3272 | www.ahaanet.com