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):
- there are around 500 top independent audiologists in the UK
- the top of the range devices sell at around £4,000 a pair
- the arrival of retailers like Specsavers was originally seen as a threat to their existence but has actually grown the UK market overall
- some of the retailers have tried and failed in this market
- a well run independent business can gross £1m in sales and make 25% net profit
- some audiologists are owner-managers and some are peripatetic
- they struggle to recruit and train good staff
- they struggle to maintain their patient experience
- they are forming into purchasing groups
- 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
- 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
- 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
- hearing aids are now integrating with other wearable devices and through Bluetooth with hand-held devices
- seeing the reaction of a patient who can hear properly for the first time is a one of the best moments in the job
- most of the business and marketing support is provided by the main manufacturers as part of their added value package
- there is a high degree of cross-referral between audiologists to individuals who have specialist knowledge and experience
- digital is happening – including digital scans of the patient’s inner ear, replacing manual impressions
- 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
- the audiology community have a hunger for knowledge
- they are regulated by the HCPC (Health & Care Professional Council)
- there are 4m people in the UK over 50 who own a smartphone and suffer with a hearing loss
- 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.