The latest online shopping craze has a unique twist. Instead of sitting in front of a web browser or flipping through items on a smartphone, millions of Chinese consumers are obsessed with live-stream shopping.
ShopShops employs real people to go into real stores, like a T.J. Maxx in New York City, and stream their visit to as many as 10,000 people live watching from China. These shopping trips are some what of a cross between live home shopping network and game show, where buyers race to get great deals on items that are unavailable in China or often counterfeit.
Buyers can interact with the hosts, asking them questions or making requests to hold up items or model them at a “selfie” distance to see what they might look like in person. The company streams about 220 live shows each month, with an average of $6,000 in sales per session.
ShopShops has employees in multiple cities throughout the U.S., Dubai and London. Easily generating $1.2 to $1.5 million per month, this is a brilliant example of selling it differently.
Skin cream, perfume, popular items and vintage products all sell quickly and buyers often stay for the entire duration of the live streams, unable to resist the fear of missing out.
What might the live-streaming shopper or her assistants find next?
One jewelry store owner in Manhattan paid attention to this interesting trend when a live-stream shopper came into his store. Now he opens early one Saturday and one Sunday per month, so he can live-stream at 9pm local-time in China. In three hours, the jewelry store does more than 10% of their sales for the entire month.
There’s nothing new under the sun, but combining popular elements from existing media channels or techniques can often produce tremendous results.
Wrap your SUV and take a tent to every live event in your town. If you don’t schedule an extra 50 patients this year from those efforts, I’ll eat my shorts.
Find a local high-quality restaurant or jewelry store that will do an endorsed mailing to their house list, promoting your office and a special offer to their customers if you’ll do the same for them. Often you only need to place a small coupon or offer in your new patient welcome bag.
There’s nothing new about live-streaming, personal shoppers or exclusivity and scarcity, but a very smart company has combined them and is quietly churning $15-20 million per year in online sales. They aren’t even selling their own products. They are simply selling them differently.
In the 1980s, Ross and Lepper published the seminal work on the perseverance of beliefs. This is the tendency for people to continue to believe something is true even when it is revealed to be false or disproved.
In one study, students took an aptitude test and were told they scored poorly. Later, when they learned the exam was miss-scored, most participants were unable to erase the experience. They continued to persevere in their beliefs.
What faulty beliefs do you have about your practice and what faulty beliefs does the marketplace have about you and the profession of hearing health care? These are million-dollar questions that you must answer.
If I had a dollar for each time an audiologist or specialist told me direct mail doesn’t work in their market or that they are doing a good job answering their phones, I’d be a lot richer than I already am.
Somewhere in the course of their career, most doctors have convinced themselves about something and they continue to believe it, even when it is proven to be false.
It’s OK, I don’t coach and consult for my health. I do it to feed my Sound of Life Foundation. I make my money in my clinics, and in real estate. So, I’ve stopped taking irrational disbelief from audiologists and practice owners as a personal insult. I’ve started calling it willful ignorance.
Listen. If you’re honest with yourself, this isn’t a question about how often we commit this sin of perseverance of belief, but rather why is this tendency so prevalent?
Sometimes we make false correlations between events or we stay the course due to sunk costs. For example, our collections and production are up right after hiring a new treatment coordinator, so we assume a potentially false correlation between the new hire and our success in the treatment room.
Even if I show you proof that your TC is screwing up the new patient process, you’re likely to drag your feet on replacing or moving this employee to a different position due to false correlation and sunk cost bias.
Finally, consider the power of your beliefs and past experiences and their ability to limit your problem-solving skills. Most small business owners go to battle with important problems and challenges in the marketplace with little more than their own limited experience and false beliefs. This is dangerous and if you run a business where your past strategy is the only thing you have to deploy against new challenges, you put everyone around you at risk as well.
In my book I list critical core competencies I see missing in most audiology and hearing health care practices, not based on my own past experience and belief but on the secret shopper data from over 1,000 new patients.
You see, there are things you and I might believe about our practices and about our patients and their desires, but it’s hard to argue with the transcripts and video tape from a thousand new patients.
Solving problems for patients and delivering more value than everyone else in your market and in your price-tier isn’t rocket science, but it’s so powerful to get outside your own head and shed the biases, false beliefs and erroneous correlations in our industry that doing so will make you appear as smart as a rocket scientist.
It’s no secret that I am not a fan of social media and Facebook groups. Particularly for pathologic perfectionists (i.e., audiologists), this method of communication is dangerous for several reasons:
First, those who post in these forums assume they assert unique views and ideas, imagining themselves as individuals. Yet, to a great extent, the views espoused are heavily influenced by colleagues, friends in the group, childhood upbringing and society at large. If you could track the views and opinions of the average member inside these groups, as a function of time, you would see them bend towards the average, the longer the member operates and communicates within the group.
This is only one reason why you’ll never catch me dead inside a Facebook group for audiologists. It’s also why you’ll never see a user group with this type of communication created for CEOs of publicly-traded companies. One of my friends and business mentors travels to New York City at the end of next month to ring the bell on the New York Stock Exchange, as the company in which he is heavily invested is finally going public and they invited him and a small handful of leaders to be present for the big day.
At dinner this weekend, I asked him why he thought people operating at his level (i.e., above $100 million in net worth) don’t waste their time on social media, and in particular, inside private Facebook groups, as more and more doctors seem to be wasting countless hours in these potentially destructive environments. His answer was pretty shocking: “Many people look for validation in groups because they are insecure. They flock together and succumb to the pressure to fit in and blend in because they are uncertain about their self-worth.”
I nodded in agreement because I’ve seen the damage of groupthink firsthand. You might be subconsciously unaware of the grip it has on you. If you participate in Facebook groups for audiologists or dentists, ask yourself how many times in the last year you’ve intentionally entertained an idea that is the very opposite of the group or conventional wisdom in our profession. Were you able to hold onto that view, and, if so, how long?
Only through awareness of the areas in which you conform, can you start to strengthen your ability to reason on your own. Take the opposite approach to your peers. Start with the assumption that you are not as much of an individual as you think you are. Deeply examine where your thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions are impacted by everything around you. Be brutally honest with yourself.
It’s one of many reasons why doctors fly from all over the world to meet with me and ask me to fix their practices. They’re really asking me to unlock them from the chains of groupthink, confirmation bias and inaccurate opinions about our profession and its place in society and free markets. Only then can doctors truly grow.
Business school gave me an entirely different view on elective healthcare. It challenged everything I thought I knew about management, strategy, finance, and marketing for health care facilities and procedures. One of the big reasons why I think it had such a profound impact on my ability to help doctors grow their practices quickly is that I was the only audiology practice owner in my business school class. Everyone else had entirely unique perspectives on both simple and complex issues in the business world. Because my professors and classmates weren’t entrenched in audiology groupthink, they helped me see clearly what could be done in our industry. I didn’t need the validation or attention of any other audiologists in order to create massive breakthroughs for my own practices, my clients and now for the profession at-large.
If you rely on your goals, outcomes, and progress to elevate your self-image, you won’t be held hostage to the ideas, attention and approval of others either. If you want to kill the groupthink in your life, this is a great place to start.
One of the best television commercials in history only aired one time. In it, a young girl is shown in a field, picking pedals from a flower she holds in her hand. As she pulls off each pedal, she counts and then drops them to the ground. The commercial starts off warm and makes viewers smile, but just before she reaches the final count, she looks up at the camera with a suddenly worried expression.
The camera quickly zooms towards her face as a man’s voice starts counting backwards from the number ten. When he reaches the number zero, the camera has zoomed all the way into the young child’s worried eye and the scene abruptly cuts to a series of atomic bomb mushroom clouds. President Lyndon Johnson’s voice speaks over the images of nuclear catastrophe.
“These are the stakes,” he says, “to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must love each other, or we must die.”
An announcer’s voice then encourages the viewer to “Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.” The President’s political opponent, Barry Goldwater, led an enormous outcry after the commercial aired. For obvious reasons, Goldwater and his supporters knew the ad’s intention: to remind viewers that if elected, he would lead the country into a nuclear disaster. Yet, the spot never mentioned Goldwater.
These advertisers were brilliant. They knew in advance what people would think after watching it because they knew what they thought before they saw the commercial. The commercial simply amplified the nation’s current thoughts on Goldwater’s nuclear position.
They destroyed Goldwater’s campaign with a single ad that aired a single time without ever mentioning his name. They could have jammed fact after fact into the ad about Johnson’s position on civil rights, his accomplishments in the aftermath of JFK’s assassination and his plans for the future of this country. Instead, they demonstrated enormous self-restraint and led people to make the desired assumption: Goldwater is trigger-happy. Vote for President Johnson. It worked.
One of the most powerful marketing lessons is on display in this example: people sometimes believe what they are told, but they never doubt what they conclude.
Look around your practice marketing and advertising and you’ll likely find a ton of reasons why patients or parents should buy your products or services. Your positioning and marketing tell everyone what to believe but there are probably only a handful of practices in the world who allow parents to come to their own conclusions.
Smile Direct Club is doing it brilliantly. They don’t tell consumers what to believe. They show them the facts and let them come to their own conclusion: “orthodontists are charging you too much.”
Years ago when I decided to do something about my moderately-sized practice and average net income, I decided to craft a message that allows parents to come to their own conclusion: other offices are cheaper for a reason. It worked. Parents came to love our satisfaction guarantee, lifetime retainers and never-miss-work-or-school guarantee. We grew from a few hundred case starts per year to 1,904 very quickly.
You choose your marketing message and how you intend to deliver on the promises you make. What you can’t do is sit around trying to tell consumers what to believe or why you think they should get orthodontic treatment. That’s a recipe for failure.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters to ever play professional baseball. PBS and Major League Baseball recently aired a special documentary about Williams and his last four plate appearances at Fenway Park.
For the last six decades, every single frame of film documenting Williams and his last at bat ever, where he hit his final of 521 home runs and refused to acknowledge in any way the standing ovation by thousands of screaming Red Sox fans, has been watched in black and white.
That’s why Nick Davis, the director of the new documentary, almost fell out of his chair when a stranger named Bill Murphy called him and said he had vivid color film footage from the 1960 ballgame, where he roamed around the stadium and captured all four of Williams’ last at bats with his 8-millimeter color film camera.
Murphy was a 19-year-old art student at the time. He wasn’t a big fan of baseball but felt the last game of one of the greatest players ever was significant and that he should be there. Even the professionals documenting that game didn’t have the foresight to do it in color and every single one of them had Williams from the same angle for each plate appearance.
The fact that this young art student had the foresight to roam around the stadium, recording Williams from different angles, changes the experience entirely. The director said it changes everything. “The color, the intimacy and the visual experience is the holy grail,” Davis said.
I see this all the time in business. While the experienced professionals are busy recording in black and white from the same angle, some young, inexperienced third-party observer comes up and shows us an entirely new experience, a new way of looking at things, all by changing the perspective, by adjusting the angle.
You’ve seen it too. It’s hard to see the log in our own eyes when we’re busy pointing out the splinters in the eyes of everyone else around us.
It’s why I insist on learning more from those outside our profession. Business leaders at the Disney Institute or Ritz Carlton can instantly see what needs fixed inside my practices and throughout my marketing that 99% of hearing care specialists would never notice.
When’s the last time you had a new third-party observer come into your practice and show you a different angle? Unlike Major League Baseball, I hope it doesn’t take you 58 years to find the holy grail.
Change your perspective. Force yourself to see things through a different angle.