Too often, there are programs focused on sales strategies, presentation skills and tools for networking with referral sources. Many of these programs I have presented myself. But these programs do not encourage us to view the world as our marketplace. Our products are not just for those on special diets, or those who are now dealing with results of a post-surgical procedure. Many of our products are not diagnosis related, nor do they require physician approval for purchase. That word “medical” in our name has not only been deceiving, but may have ultimately led us down a costly and complex path to getting paid for what we sell. While many reading this are not dedicated to the retail market, there is no doubt that more owners are exploring different options. It may be the only fun segment of the business that leaves us in some control of our operations and revenues. Retail brings with it minimum paperwork, no audits, creative marketing opportunities and, often, immediate payment. There are interesting and exciting products to sell. These often come in different colors, sizes and models. Retail though, comes with issues. Products need marketing, product awareness and a sense of enthusiasm about what one is selling. It’s not always about a customer carrying a prescription and/or a caregiver feeling depressed about making a purchase for a loved one. There are definitely products that make life easier hidden in the environment of all those other medically required devices. With that in mind let’s direct your thinking to what makes retail an interesting, valuable and often very successful component of your business:
Marketing takes on so many new opportunities when retail and expanding product lines become a part of your business. From community service organizations, senior centers, working with student athletes, social service associations and a long list of assisted living facilities—there are many places to share the word about all you offer. Open houses, educational classes and moving into the wellness and fitness business all make your business more exciting.
New Product Introductions
Keep your eyes open for the next big product. There may no longer be a need to seek a billing code or a more complete document or prescription. Look for products that say to the customers, “you’re gonna want this.” The focus of your business may need some changing. Customers often have enough money for what they really, really want. What products do you have that can make life easier? Take all staff on a quarterly tour of your store. Include everyone from the warehouse and billing department to sales. For those without a retail store, it may be time for everyone to talk to the warehouse manager regarding new product additions and accessories. The more staff knows about your products, the more likely they are to quickly meet the needs of your customers.
New Business Excitement
It is great to have “a new mobility department” but it is even better when customers grasp the value of their new-found freedom. Every employee in the company must understand not only the features but benefits of the products sold. The more every employee understands, the sooner the company will gain a sense of team spirit. There will be a new sense of business excitement when you enhance your mix of products.
The Big Picture
In spite of difficult economic times, the role we play can alter lives, bring families together, allow patients to travel and visit friends, and continually change the customers’ quality of life. Staff needs to be constantly reminded that we are talking about changing lives and not just about moving products. Retail products can make this picture come alive. When was the last time you talked about the ‘big picture” or your company mission? Do you spend much of your company meeting time talking about the impact of competitive bidding or the influx of new audits? Stop, take a deep breath and refocus. The real value of our work must never be forgotten. Products, regardless of payer source, often change lives.