Something for Nothing

I’ll let you in on two little secrets that have forever shaped my life. They were taught to me by my parents, which were taught to them by their parents. I’ve been teaching them to my kids ever since I met their mother and they were old enough to listen and pay attention:

You are of no good to yourself, let alone to anyone else, if you are not prosperous. You are prosperous to the degree you are experiencing peace, health, happiness and plenty in your world.

I meet with hearing care professionals all over the world who have big dreams to grow their practices and to finally establish peace, prosperity and happiness in their financial, physical and spiritual lives. They know what they want, yet too many of these doctors want something for nothing. If I could scream one lesson for the entire audiology world to understand, it would be this: “You cannot get something for nothing.” You must give full measure for the results you wish to achieve.

Doctors tell me they don’t have a marketing budget or that right now is not a good time to invest in marketing. “There’s just not enough cash flow to do marketing right now,” they lament. “So you want something for nothing,” I state with a grin.

I hear excuses for why doctors don’t have enough new patients in the practice or why they still haven’t taken action to better serve the patient with extended hours, flexible financing or a satisfaction guarantee. They are crippled by indecision and their own aversion to the laws of prosperous thinking. “I’ll do something when things are better,” they think.

Hogwash. You can always do something. I had it printed on a large poster that hangs in the break room. “Today there is something we can do.”

Remembering patients’ names. Genuinely caring about their life stories. Sending a word of encouragement to a colleague or spouse of one of your patients. Running on time or ahead of schedule in the office so that no one waits. Remembering your referring physicians’ birthdays and sending them a text message if nothing else, telling them you were thinking of them and that you appreciate them. Keeping the sidewalk in front of your office clean and free of debris for everyone in your town who passes by to enjoy. Taking pride in how you answer the phones, what your employee uniforms look like and how clean you keep your office. All of these are marketing strategies. None of them cost a dime more than you were already going to spend in general operating costs.

When you accept the fundamental law in life that you can’t get something for nothing, and you simultaneously decide to start doing something, you’ll find new patients, referrals, new referring colleagues, business leaders, school board members, religious leaders, coaches, and employers all over your town will start sending everyone they know to your office.

Stop expecting something for nothing, Start paying full measure. Prosperous thinking yields prosperous results.

 

Perception vs. Reality

Paco Underhill, author of several books on why consumers buy and consultant to large retailers, knows as much as any author I’ve read about where to place items on shelves, how consumers make buying decisions and specifically what drives female consumer choices. His work warrants your study and this weekly fax does not offer enough real estate to properly review the body of evidence his research has unearthed. I will, however, point you to one interesting aspect of Underhill’s research:

When Underhill observes consumers during a shopping trip to Target or Wal-Mart, and then follows them to their car to ask them questions about what just happened, he’s often amazed at the consumer’s inability to properly perceive total time spent in the store. We, as consumers, have a notorious habit of overestimating the amount of time we just spent in a store. Some guess an hour when they only spent 20 or 30 minutes shopping. When asked what they just bought, consumers have a knack for forgetting all of the impulse purchases that were thrown in the cart, but not on the shopping list.

What can we learn from Underhill’s research?

First, that perception is not reality for the consumer in many ways when the business owner or marketer is the one observing. What consumers tell you and what you actually observe are often worlds apart. In fact, perception is often not reality for the consumer as well. A consumer who does not perceive extra spending on impulse purchases cannot simply explain those purchases away to their credit card statement, they actually have to pay for them. The reality of purchase behavior and the consumer’s perception are therefore often irrelevant.

It’s why so many retailers have continued to stock the isles full with merchandise as high and wide as the eye can see, because data prove it necessary to increase sales. When Wal-Mart tried to de-clutter their stores in 2012, they lost over $1 billion in sales. JC Penney did the same thing under ex-CEO Johnson’s rule which cost him his job when sales slipped 25%. Regardless of consumer surveys that report overwhelming support of de-cluttering stores, the consumer’s purchase behavior simply doesn’t support this approach.

Where in your practice do your patients tell you one thing, either directly or in survey, but their behavior is exactly the opposite? We’ve seen it in our practices with the consumption of convenience items like our latte machines, hand lotions, chapstick, gifting and referral contest prizes. Patients will frequently report on surveys that these things are “nice but not necessary” while their behavior indicates an entirely different set of data. Try taking the coffee machine away or putting one-ply toilet paper in your patient restrooms and see what happens after your customers have come to expect a higher standard of service. What they say and how they actually feel and behave are completely different. Late hours, expanded locations, ease of use of patient services like on-line bill pay and insurance filing are other areas that deserve your investigation. What people claim as unimportant to them when choosing a healthcare provider is often the exact opposite of how they actually choose your office versus a competitor.

The consumer’s perception is not always their reality, nor yours. In God we trust, all others bring data.

An Age of Distraction

Today, Millennials spend 93.5 hours per month inside an app. Years ago, I made a bold claim that “those who are unable to control their attention will have it bought and sold by those who can.” Facebook has become one of the biggest media companies on the planet, selling billions of dollars of advertising to its user base each quarter. My prediction was correct, but it is not limited to technology companies and apps. There are new investments in old-school technology to help combat this unique time in history where no one seems to have control of their attention. Germany is spending millions to install ground-level traffic lights to help reduce the number of distracted smartphone users walking head first into oncoming traffic. I kid you not.

 

I’m fascinated by the ability to focus in a private jet terminal versus the chaos in commercial air travel. I see the difference in private clubs and high-end restaurants, versus the constant distraction found inside more popular establishments. My friends and family and amazed that I always show up on time, prepared and focused during our time together – even though I do not own a smartphone – while they run late and can’t seem to make it through dinner without texting someone. Many are not invited back for the next dinner until required by my own necessity or Catholic guilt of being a good friend or relative.

I teach clients who can’t peel themselves away from their smartphones a one-word answer when they ask me how I survive without a cellphone. “It’s easy,” I tell them, “Focus.”

The first secret to improving your focus is to start reading more. And, I actually have a book recommendation at the end of this article that will help you become a better reader. On a personal note, my richest friends read a lot. I’m not exactly poor, so you can count me in this group as well. They have the time to do it because they are focused and have eliminated distractions.

A few thoughts on reading:

I often lament the fact that the average American watches 38 hours of television per week but only reads one book per year. Alan Jacobs, professor of the humanities at Baylor University, sets out to make an interesting case that reading is alive and well with large bookstores both online and off being supported by large numbers of book clubs and readers of all ages. Because most teachers have instilled in us that reading is good for us, many see the task like eating their vegetables. It’s something they know they should do but they worry about whether they are doing it correctly and often enough. For these worriers over whether they are reading enough or reading the right things the right way Jacobs has some simple advice: “read at whim, read whatever gives you delight, and do so without shame, whether it be Stephen King or the King James Version of the Bible.”

Overall Jacobs actually pulls off a book about reading books because of his extensive knowledge and well-researched themes. I only wish more students would be taught this approach at an earlier age. In a recent weekly fax, I harpooned young college students who are now having problems finishing entire textbooks assigned by their teachers and are apparently “unable to grasp complex philosophies and problems” in the reading because they have become so accustomed to near-constant distraction throughout their days.

How distracted are YOU throughout your day?