THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

Hearing Aids, Dental Implants & Ollie

Tuesday 6th October 2015

Delighted to be a guest speaker at the product of launch of a new digital hearing aid, created by Widex, recognised as the technology leader in manufacture of these amazing devices.

Some interesting background (which might explain why I am here):

  1. there are around 500 top independent audiologists in the UK

  2. the top of the range devices sell at around £4,000 a pair

  3. the arrival of retailers like Specsavers was originally seen as a threat to their existence but has actually grown the UK market overall

  4. some of the retailers have tried and failed in this market

  5. a well run independent business can gross £1m in sales and make 25% net profit

  6. some audiologists are owner-managers and some are peripatetic

  7. they struggle to recruit and train good staff

  8. they struggle to maintain their patient experience

  9. they are forming into purchasing groups

  10. their current marketing resembles what we saw in dentistry 10 years ago – web sites are poor and social engagement largely absent – there is a lot of print media around

  11. paradoxically, the biggest threat right now is internet lead generators who use Google and Facebook to advertise the same devices at £3,000 per pair – then sell the “lead’ to a local audiologist with a 10% commission deduction – the established practitioners are crying “don’t do it” and the newbies are taking the hit to build a patient base

  12. in the UK hearing aids carry a lifetime maintenance and repair guarantee free of charge – the added value is in selling the upgrade but older demographics and upgrading less frequently post-recession

  13. hearing aids are now integrating with other wearable devices and through Bluetooth with hand-held devices

  14. seeing the reaction of a patient who can hear properly for the first time is a one of the best moments in the job

  15. most of the business and marketing support is provided by the main manufacturers as part of their added value package

  16. there is a high degree of cross-referral between audiologists to individuals who have specialist knowledge and experience

  17. digital is happening – including digital scans of the patient’s inner ear, replacing manual impressions

  18. today I have watched videos of explorers crossing the Artic, mountain bikers descending from on high and sailors battling ocean storms – all wearing the latest hearing devices – advertising is product placement, marketing is storytelling

  19. the audiology community have a hunger for knowledge

  20. they are regulated by the HCPC (Health & Care Professional Council)

  21. there are 4m people in the UK over 50 who own a smartphone and suffer with a hearing loss

  22. the buzz word today was “connectivity” – devices seamlessly communicating with each other

But the greatest moment of the day was listening to one of their Territory Sales Managers, Ollie Coxon – who has suffered from a profound hearing loss since birth – he was inspired to become a musician after a blind man came to tune the family piano when he was a child. He decided he had better learn himself in spite of his disability and is now proficient at piano and guitar.

The main objective of today’s conference was a new product launch.

After all the technical presentations (most over my head), Ollie shared a video blog describing his first 4 weeks wearing the new digital hearing devices.

Playing music, driving an open top car and riding his mountain bike – describing his amazement at hearing sounds that you and I take for granted.

One Ollie Coxon is worth a thousand product advertising campaigns.

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