Get Internet sales-ready with our handy 1-2-3 of items to cover
by Dennis Olsen
October 11, 2015

The national rollout of competitive bidding is just around the corner, and as evidenced by Rounds 1 and 2, competitive bidding will continue to negatively impact the profitability of HME/DME providers. Providers operating under competitive bidding have seen their Medicare reimbursements decrease by as much as 45 percent since the program began. While the industry is galvanizing to encourage Congressional action to ease the impact of competitive bidding, the looming January 1 date for the national rollout is right around the corner.

This begs the question: Have you taken action to combat the strain competitive bidding has or will have on your bottom line? One clear solution is to generate more cash sales, and if you have been following this monthly series, you will recall that a few months ago, I introduced to you the concept of ROBO shopping.

If you missed it, ROBO stands for Research Online, Buy Offline—and ensuring that your online presence is optimized for ROBO shoppers is absolutely key to capture more cash sales and combat competitive bidding. If you want to learn a little bit more about the basics of ROBO shopping, I invite you to hit the HomeCare online archives and read my full ROBO shopping article here.

This month, as we commence the final countdown to the national rollout, it is critical to ensure your website and other digital marketing channels are primed to help you capture more cash sales come January 1. To see how your digital marketing efforts stack up, consider the following questions.

1. Does your website prominently display your store's logo and match your in-store branding?

When customers first arrive on your website, you have 10 seconds to give them the assurance they are in the right place. If your site does not follow your branding, your dedicated, regular in-store customers may think they visited the wrong site and leave.

2. Does your website showcase every product and service you offer?

If it does not exist on your website, you might as well not offer it! Load your website with all of your options.

3. Does your website feature strong CTAs?

Calls-to-Action, or CTAs for short, should be utilized throughout your site to capture customer information on lead generation forms. The key here is that you want to give shoppers a reason to give their contact information—even if they are not quite ready to buy.

4. Does your website offer all of the tools necessary to allow your customers to communicate with you?

Your address and phone number must be placed within the header of your site on every page. Your location information needs to include driving directions.

5. Do you have a lead management process in place to handle in-bound forms?

Most businesses do not place the same priority on a customer's questions or sales leads from their website as they would if that same person walked into the store or called. Your website will generate leads, but the only way to convert these leads into sales—online or in-store—is to do a spectacular job of following up.

6. Do you have an email marketing strategy?

You have captured the email addresses of interested prospects, but are you utilizing them to their full extent? At the very least, your store should be sending a monthly newsletter—bonus points if you have implemented a more robust email strategy including promotions, reminders and other engaging invitations to come and buy from you!

7. Is it easy for customers to complete a transaction?

Your site should be optimized to make it easy for shoppers to buy from you. Most of the items you sell will be purchased inside your store, as your customers need to be educated on what product they should buy and how to use the product, but do not miss out on the opportunity to sell online via an e-commerce checkout process.

8. Is the technical search engine optimization (SEO) on your website fully optimized for search?

This is a question to direct to your website provider. From metadata to page naming conventions, there are a whole host of behind-the-scenes details that can help boost your site's performance in search. Be sure you are not missing out on opportunities to help point search engines in your direction.

9. Is your website optimized for local search traffic?

According to a recent Brightlocal.com study, consumers will travel an average of 17 minutes from their location to reach a local business. Just because your store is in close proximity to your prospective customers does not mean you automatically rank high in local search queries. You need to localize your website content to inform the search engine of your location.

10. Have you implemented a local paid search strategy?

Increase your chances of being found online by investing in Google AdWords. While you may decide to experiment with national campaigns to drive e-commerce sales, the majority of your customers likely come from within a 25-mile radius of your store. Google gives you the ability to narrow in on an exact radius, which will help to keep your ad budget manageable.

11. Is your website optimized for mobile search?

Not only does offering a mobile-optimized browsing experience reach the more than 50 percent of shoppers who browse on mobile devices—including tablets—but also offering a site that performs well on mobile will positively impact your search engine rankings. Not sure if your site is mobile-friendly? You can put it to the test at google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly.

12. Do you follow the 70-20-10 social media formula?

70 percent of your social content should be aimed at building your brand, 20 percent of your content should be shared from other sources and just 10 percent of your social content should be self-promotional.

13. Are you actually engaging on social media?

Social media is meant to be more than just a publishing engine. Engage in the conversation around local and national health topics to be seen as a local thought leader.

14. Are you blogging?

Regularly publishing content on a blog has a wide range of benefits—thought leadership, search engine optimization and opportunities for social media backlinks are just a few of the major benefits.

15. Are you monitoring your online reputation?

If you do not have a plan in place to monitor online reviews on Google and other major online review sites, it is imperative that you tune into the conversation.

16. Are your online directory listings up-to-date?

Your customers rely on local and mobile search engines and directories to find—and visit—your business. Research shows that more than 50 percent of online directory listings have errors in them.

If you answered yes to all of these questions—congratulations! You have implemented a well-oiled digital marketing machine to help you combat the effects of competitive bidding. If not, it is time to step up your game to ensure you will capture more cash sales in 2016.

This article is the tenth of a 12-part series on digital sales and marketing. Each segment focuses on online solutions and provides the insight and resources necessary to be successful in this area of business. Read all the articles in this series at homecaremag.com/digital-sales-marketing-2015.