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.
I returned from a great meeting with clients recently and met my assistant to go over our plans for the coming week. If I’m in one of our offices, I like to go walking around and say hello, let people know I’m still alive and, occasionally, like I observed today, I get to see a new employee or two in training.
At our departure desk today, there was a new smiling face in training and a handful of patients checking out, all under the careful guidance of two administrative employees and their supervisor. If this new employee was paying attention, and it appears she was, then she learned a powerful lesson today about what patients and spouses want when it comes to hearing appointments.
Most of these patients were coming back in 1-2 weeks for prescription changes and two were coming back in three months for a cleaning or observation appointment, I’m not sure, I was only in the area for 20 or 30 seconds. 100% of these patients said some variation of the same thing. When asked which day of the week works best for them, they all said, “The day and time that is least likely to make me wait.”
Steve Jobs has a famous quote about the customer not knowing what they want until you show it to them. This advice is cute and different. It flies in the face of consumer surveys and focus groups, but it assumes you face the same daunting task of inventing the next great technological revolution, like the iPhone.
You need not reinvent the mobile phone. Your job is not that complicated. You simply need to listen to what patients want and give it to them.
Pouring over 20,000 new patient appointment requests from last year alone for our clients and our privately-held practices; reading the transcripts from over 1,000 secret shopper tapes, the data are crystal clear: your patients and their spouses want appointment times that are convenient to them, and don’t make them wait on you.
If you ignore this and fail to provide your new patients with convenient appointment times (think 5pm, 6pm, 7pm or later) within 7-10 days, they will go somewhere else and/or, if you can get them to show up, they are 400% less-likely to start treatment. * Don’t shoot the messenger.
In a new study from researchers at MIT, the journal Marketing Science reports that consumers make much simpler decisions than most marketers assume. Our brains are really good at deploying an “index strategy” or a straightforward ranking of our options. The advantage of making only slightly better decisions wouldn’t be worth it, in most product and service categories, so we quickly rank the options we believe are available to us based on simple factors like price and quality, finalizing our decision when there is a clear winner. However, when consumers are not able to clearly index their options, they get stuck and delay the decision until there is a clear winner, if ever one appears.
As the only practice owner on the planet paying attention to this research, and as someone who fully understands its power and importance in the consumer markets of hearing aids and treatment, I acutely implore you to pay attention as well.
Stop pretending like patients and spouses care about the technology you use or the level of training you received as a specialist. They don’t. That might bother you but it doesn’t make it untrue. Start recording your new patient phone calls and checkout desk. You’ll hear the same thing all day long. “What’s your appointment time that won’t make me wait on your?”
Pay attention and give consumers what they want, or go work for someone who will.
Adam Phillips is a brilliant writer, psychologist and regular contributor to The London Review of Books. The closest I can come to the kind of people who think at this level, is that they let me subscribe to The London Review of Books. Barely.
Although I don’t agree with Phillips on a lot of issues, I take particular delight in his assessment of couples who come to him with a desire to change something about their partner. He says, “It is not unusual for each member of a couple to know exactly what is missing in their partner; and to know, by the same token, how their lives would be different, that is, so much better, if their partner would change in particular ways.”
I see this with clients and the relationship they have with their businesses. They live as if they know more about the experiences they haven’t had, than they do about the experiences they have had.
They speak in great detail and with great longing about more new patients, employees who perform better, patients and colleagues that respect their work; how life would be easier and how it would make them happier. And yet, when I ask about the existing data in the practice, they can’t provide it. Think about that for a moment.
Smart doctors sit across the table from me and pay me tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege to do so and for my assistance in helping them achieve what they want to achieve, but they are completely disconnected from the reality of the situation, while simultaneously recounting to me in vivid detail all the benefits and pleasure they will derive from something that has not yet happened and might never happen.
Make your list tonight. Where in your practice and in your personal life are you overriding something important in the present, so that you can day dream about what might happen in the future? Freud might label many of the things on your list as “repression,” or the burying in oneself of what one prefers not to know or feel.
In 2013, when I met my current business coaches, I knew I needed to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t rely on the industry insiders to grow my specialty practice. Yet, it had taken me nearly three years to come to that realization.
I was burying in myself the fact that I wasn’t the best at positioning, marketing, managing a business. I just wanted to be in charge. My coaches told me there was a simple solution: to get out of business and go work for someone who knew how to do the things that really mattered. Wow. That stung but he was absolutely right.
Some doctors are pissed off at the fact that their future hasn’t arrived by now, but I think they deserve everything in their lives, both good and bad. Harsh but true.
A powerful solution is to bridge the gap between what you’re looking forward to and what you’re burying in yourself that needs to be known and felt.
Get to work.
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.
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.
At lunch this weekend, my 13-year-old stepdaughter told me “at dad’s house, we keep our opinions to ourselves.” I didn’t even finish swallowing my food before I said, “I completely disagree,” quickly stopping all conversation at the table.
I asked, “When should you freely share your opinion, even if it isn’t well-received?” All three of my kids at the table had good answers. When a friend is being a little too crazy on the trampoline or if you know something that could help someone, like telling them they are going the wrong way to the airport, etc.
We quickly boiled it down to a litmus test: if your opinion can prevent unwanted harm or facilitate something good, share it and don’t be shy. People who don’t have the guts to say what they think, especially when it can help someone or prevent something bad from happening, usually live quiet lives of despair.
“You’ll never get what you deserve in life if you keep all your thoughts and opinions to yourself,” I said, “Plus the conversations are a lot more interesting and you’ll probably learn something about the other person that can help you both in the future.”
I share this story because you own a business and you have a handful or even scores of employees who are afraid to share their opinions with you. The smartest and most-successful amongst us are really good at helping our employees be tactful, yet we do not surround ourselves with sycophants. Brené Brown calls it “getting comfortable having uncomfortable conversations.”
I had private clients in a few weekends ago who are very smart and capable, growing quickly and experiencing the challenges and complexities that come with growth. One of the challenges is stepping aside and letting someone else take the reins on projects and responsibilities inside the practice.
In determining who will step up to the plate and be their team leader, the only question I had for one potential inside hire was whether or not she could be blunt and honest yet tactful with you if someone needed to be fired. Their immediate answer was, “Absolutely not.”
“So, she’s not a leader,” I said. Keep looking and make sure you put people in positions of responsibility who are comfortable having uncomfortable conversations, who are not sycophantic in their approach with you, and yet, can still be tactful with subordinates.
My parents and grandparents taught me this skill when I was a child. I’m now teaching it to my kids. Never assume your employees and team leaders had this taught to them at a young age. Odds are, they didn’t and you must insist that you are surrounded by tactful leaders willing to share their opinions.
Most small business owners have scores of reports they check each month to help them manage their money. Expenses and revenue are tracked meticulously. Budgets are set and regularly reviewed before new investments are made in technology or human capital.
Even the average business owner has some idea of their production, collections and expenses this week or this month and how they compare to the same period last year or last month. The more engaged business owner receives these reports daily or even twice a day, like I do. Yet, almost no small business owner manages their time with the same care and consistency. Time in most businesses goes largely unmanaged.
Think about the number of phone calls, text messages, emails, meetings and unscheduled interruptions throughout your day. Very few doctors have grasped the huge amount of waste they allow into their day because they have failed to set clear rules on how they govern their time.
Leaders at The Disney Institute state it very simply: if you want better results, raise your expectations. Is there a clear understanding in your business about how you and your employees are to spend their time?
Do you allow your team to squander away your scarcest resource through ineffective use of email, unproductive meetings and constant interruptions? What would your practice look like if you could spend more time with patients and less time on activities that do not produce results? What would your overhead look like if you took time management as seriously as financial management?
A recent report from researchers at Bain & Company looked at the time management of 17 of the world’s top companies. What they found should not be surprising. Companies are drowning in digital communication. Leaders deal with hundreds of emails per day and spend way too much time in meetings. There is not enough formal control and employees are awash in dysfunctional meetings. There are few consequences for wasting time, less work is getting done and these firms are not as productive as they could be.
Your first job as the leader in your organization is to set the focus for the coming year. Steve Jobs was known for taking his top 100 leaders off-site each year to focus on the company’s 10 priorities in the coming year. After intense competition amongst the leaders to get their priorities on the board, Jobs would take a marker and cross out the bottom seven. “We can only do three,” he would announce. Jobs would not allow Apple to waste time on things he knew the company shouldn’t be doing. This allowed the firm to innovate much faster than their competitors.
Before your next meeting, ask how you can standardize the data you need in order to quickly set strategy and review performance. Do not allow new meeting time to show up on your calendar. Focus your team so they know the rhythm of the company is set and that they will be forced to operate within it, producing results and reducing wasted time. It’s possible but it takes discipline and your effort and attention in this area of your practice will produce big dividends. No amount of skill or money can buy you 25 hour days. If you want to beat the competition, start making the most of this precious resource.
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 most difficult tasks I face as a coach and consultant is helping doctors better understand what it is they want and who they want to become. It’s also the most rewarding part of my job. Erich Fromm said, “Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become who he potentially is.”
I’ve spent private coaching days with hundreds and hundreds of doctors and small business owners from all walks of life. Often, these clients walk out of the room with an entirely different mindset and clarity of thought, able to implement new strategies with renewed energy and enthusiasm. They leave with a vivid image of what they want to achieve in life. Sometimes, however, doctors struggle to “give birth” to themselves. They can’t see their own potential.
I’ve been doing this long enough to understand the difference between the doctors who quickly double or triple the size of their practice, those who expand confidently and open new locations, hire more doctors, see a bigger vision for their world and achieve goal after goal and those who are stuck. Would you like to know the secret?
The doctors and clients who are able to achieve so much more than their counterparts in much less time are all very realistic about who they are, where their strengths lie and are completely honest with themselves about what that means in terms of chasing down their goals. They understand other people and human behavior not because they are more gifted, more charismatic, better leaders or recipients of good luck, but because they have taken the time to get acquainted with themselves.
They are able to work backwards from their goals and list 50 ways their own biases, tendencies and weaknesses will get in the way. Then, they never go there. They go around.
By knowing yourself, you can do the same. Spend some time this week somewhere quiet. Go for a hike early in the morning. Sit and watch the sun come up and ask yourself these two questions. “Who am I and what do I want to do with the rest of my life.”
The smartest and most successful people on the planet have extremely clear answers to these two questions. Everyone else cannot know and understand others, cannot leverage and organize human capital to achieve big things and will never understand why because they don’t understand themselves.
The Smithsonian magazine reported recently that archaeologists uncovered an ancient Roman bathroom, decorated with suggestive mosaics, meaning dirty jokes were built right into the walls. Just like bathroom humor has been around since the dawn of time, there are many things that never change, even in today’s fast-paced, always-on, hyper-connected society.
For example, your patients will always want to know certain things from you before they buy, before they refer, before they pay in full, etc.
Each year, Jeff Bezos and Amazon ask, “What do we know about the consumer that never changes?” This is an extremely telling secret hidden in plain sight. The world’s #1 disrupter of many industries is not asking, “What’s new and always changing?” He has thousands of software engineers and towers filled with experts who can keep up with the day-to-day details of running the world’s biggest online retail firm. Instead of focusing on up-to-the-minute minutiae, Jeff Bezos wants to know what never changes. He wants his eye focused on the horizon. Yours should be too.
Complete and unrecognizable disruption will one day transition the orthodontic industry so that 100% of treatment is delivered direct to the consumer. How orthodontics is paid for and reimbursed by insurance companies will change. How consumers connect with providers and what they demand in return for their investment will change. Those who set the laws, regulating our profession will change.
Set amid all of this disruption, there will be winners and losers. The winners will have asked and provided solutions to the fundamental question, “What do we know about orthodontic consumers that never changes?”
What fascinates people. What makes them laugh. What makes them fearful, jealous, spiteful. How do they behave when they are happy, sad, excited, eager, hungry or tired. What would stimulate their desire to enhance their smile. Why they would come see you, considering all of their options, including the option of doing nothing. These are the things that never change.
Study them, and you hold the keys to human nature that can unlock a lifetime of success, so that everyone around you thrives. Ignore them, and you’re doomed to continuous struggle, inconsistent results and a lifetime of frustration.
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.