Today, more clinics than ever are introducing or expanding retail within their practice. There are two driving factors behind this, the first of which is patient demand. Your patients are looking for solutions to help them feel better at home and maintain an active lifestyle. As their trusted provider, it's only natural for them to ask what you’ve undoubtedly heard countless times: “Could I use this at home?” Offering certain select products to your patients can add value, meet their demands, and ensure they find a trusted product on which you can confidently advise them.
The second reason is to increase revenue. With costs of operating a brick-and-mortar business going up and reimbursements going down, there is an undeniable need to diversify your revenue streams. Of course, retail profits will never be your primary revenue driver; however, retail sales can be an impactful program to help support your business when done right.
Although not impossible, many patient-centered businesses struggle with getting their retail programs off the ground. Every day I hear things like:
- “My clinicians don’t like to sell stuff.”
- “My patients don’t even like paying their co-pays, so how are we going to get them interested in our retail items?”
- “We’ve tried selling X, but it just sat on the shelf for months.”
There’s no denying that these are all legitimate concerns, but they’re also easily addressable. Let me show you how.
Start with products your team believes in and uses.
The most important factor in making your retail program successful is to encourage your team to use the products you’re selling. When used appropriately, things like soft tissue tools, topicals, bands, tape, and other typical retail offerings are an important part of the patient's care. When you use these tools with the patient, you’re delivering a powerful experience in which they learn how to properly use these products to achieve maximum results. This creates an organic demand that taps into patients’ desires to be more involved in their care without forcing your therapists to “sell” much, if at all.
So, how can you get your team fully on board with this plan? Here are a few ideas:
- Always start with the “why.” To be fully bought in, your therapists must fully understand the efficacy of each product. As such, it’s in your best interest to share research on the product or task one of your team members who loves diving into a lit review to do a little digging and share their findings.
- Choose your retail partners wisely. Retail companies that provide enhanced clinical education and offer onboarding support and continued training make your job—and the learning curve—a whole lot easier. This education will ensure your team feels confident that they can safely and appropriately use these tools on their patients. Take advantage of these resources and share them with your team.
- Stick to products that fit. This one is pretty straightforward: stick to the products you know will fit into patient care, the services your clinic provides, and your therapists’ workflows.
- Encourage your team to share their successes. Talking about a breakthrough or positive patient experience during your weekly team huddles or within internal email updates can help build excitement around a product, thus elevating the ways these tools are being implemented. And when your team members are natural evangelists for the products, they’ll be able to comfortably and confidently answer questions from their patients about purchasing a unit.
Put your patients in the driver's seat.
Now that you’ve got the initial steps down pat, it’s time to discuss how to drive organic patient demand for these products. The key? Put the tools directly into your patients’ hands to enhance their experience in a very meaningful way.
Think about it. It’s one thing for a patient to like the way a tool—like the Hypervolt—feels when it’s used on them. But it's a whole other experience for them to feel confident using it themselves. Showing them how to turn the device on and giving them some basic instructions on using it for a soft tissue massage addresses that concern is an easy way to empower them to engage more with their care, and really, their health. Similarly, placing self-service products in the waiting room, or allowing patients to try them outside of their traditional care, helps drive greater interest and stronger retail sales.
Taking this one step further, show your patients how to use these tools appropriately while at home. As their MSK care provider, you understand not just their acute need but their long-term goals, activities, and interests. Sharing with patients how they can use a foam roller or other self-myofascial release tool prior to a run or to loosen up after sitting at a desk all day can help them fully understand their value and the value of your care.
Arm non-clinical staff with the information they need.
Your patient care coordinators are, in many ways, the front lines of your retail program. They receive questions, transact the sale, and interact with your patients before and after their appointment. Therefore, educating your non-clinical staff is incredibly important and often overlooked when it comes to the ins and outs of your retail selection. Here are a few basic things you can do today to change this:
- Train them on how to use each product. Show them how to use it for their own self-care and let them take the products home for a spin. Or, if your budget allows, gift some of these products to your staff over the holidays. This step takes very little time, will equip them with important information, and give them some much-needed relief from common aches and pains.
- Give them a “cheat sheet.” Things like product pricing, warranty pricing and information, and other common questions will come up often. Creating a simple one-pager for your team ensures they have the answers to these questions at their fingertips.
- Encourage them to ask questions. Another mistake I often see clinic owners make is limiting access to vendors. Leaders who truly want to support their clinic should encourage their staff to reach out to vendors with questions, concerns, or additional support.
Remember, retail items are just as new to your patient care coordinators as they are to your therapists, and giving them the resources and support they need is essential for success.
Set up a retail display—and have fun with it!
A retail display really helps catch patients’ attention. The great thing is that they don’t need to be massive or professionally designed. Rather, they can be as simple as displaying a few products at the front desk with their prices clearly listed. There are many ways to optimize your display and my biggest suggestion is to have fun with it! Here are a few tips to help get your wheels turning:
- Embrace holidays, special events, and seasonality. Create a “Cupid Special” or “Golf Essentials Kit.” Change these themes up regularly, creating new visuals and new reasons for patients to interact with products to help drive greater engagement. Most companies will provide you with marketing flyers and handouts, so be sure to use them to your advantage or ask them for new ones to help you spur more sales.
- Place retail boxes where patients can physically touch them. Let patients feel the weight, quality, and other characteristics of the item they are considering purchasing. Placing a few items next to each treatment table or creating a mini display in the waiting room can help encourage these natural interactions. Plus, these boxes also contain a boatload of useful product information that can help further incentivize purchases.
- Run a contest. Set a retail sales goal for the month and if your clinic hits it, buy the team lunch or something similar. Additionally, you can work with your vendor to come up with a fun prize for whichever clinician, care coordinator, or clinic sells the most units over a period of time.
- Create patient incentives. Running raffles or special offers for patients who purchase items from you is another great way to drive demand. Pick one winner at the end of the month who gets a prize (e.g., a complimentary session to an adjunct service like a recovery lounge or a dry needling visit), or perhaps get their product for free.
Done right, this is less about the reward and more about giving your team something fun to work toward together, and having some well-deserved fun along the way.
Engage your community outside of the clinic.
If you send out regular newsletters, post on social media, or have a blog, integrating retail product messaging into these is a great way to amplify awareness, as well as advertise raffles and contests. A word to the wise: avoid just showing an image with a price. Instead, follow the same approach on your public-facing channels as you do in the clinic: focus on helping your audience understand the why and the how. Here are a few easy-to-execute examples that can help aid your marketing efforts.
- Introduce products to patients. Select a product to feature each week (or whatever schedule suits you) and explain why you love it, why you use it in the clinic, and how you use it on yourself or as a complement to patients’ treatment plans. The top two things patients want to know are 1) what it is and 2) what the physiological benefits are.
- Integrate products into at-home exercise programs. Show patients how they can enhance a warm-up, strengthening exercise, or other activity by using a certain product. Launch a weekly wellness tip and feature products that can complement the specific recommendation.
- Share vendor resources. This includes marketing content, company history, or any fun updates from your vendors. People invest in companies and products they love. Help them get to know your trusted brands using “plug and play” content.
There are so many creative ways you can do to better market your retail items. All you need is a new(ish) smartphone and a steady hand to film some basic, explanatory videos. This can also be a fun and creative project for team members who want to get more involved in the marketing and business side of your clinic.
When done well, clinical retail can add value to your patients, drive new revenue and give your staff growth opportunities. It can be fun without detracting from the mission of delivering exceptional care. Just remember:
- Seek out products and partners that understand the unique nature of your business and that are able to support you consistently.
- Don’t try to compete with other companies who specialize in retail; instead, play to your strengths by providing education on how these tools can be an essential part of an individual's wellness routine.
- And, most importantly, be consistent.
If you’d like to discuss this in more detail, share your ideas or anything else drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.