Jonathan Gordon: Put marketing muscle behind retail

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Running retail sales as an HME provider can be a lot different from running a business based totally off referrals and reimbursements. In some ways, it's easier--you don't have to do all the billing, dealing with all the paperwork, etc. You get paid and the sale's done. But in other ways, it's harder, says Jonathan Gordon, president of Coribus Group. Everything before the actual transaction is much more challenging, more customer-intensive, he says. And the experience becomes a more personal conversation about what a customer actually needs, he says. Gordon will talk more about why HME providers should expand retail operations in his Medtrade session, "Confessions of an Internet DME Provider: A Former 'Internet Guy' Explains How to Build a Successful Cash-Pay DME Business."

HME News: Why are cash sales so important to HME providers now?

Jonathan Gordon: Bluntly, I don't think anyone imagines that insurance reimbursements are going to go up in the future. Just having a business built on insurance reimbursements is going to be more difficult than it has been in the past.

hme: What percentage of the revenue mix should be cash sales?

Gordon: Every provider's different. If you're getting better margins off your retail business and you have the ability to build a sustainable retail business, there's no reason not to grow it as much as you can.

hme: Is there a quick way for HME companies to get into retail?

Gordon: What are you providing on insurance now and are there cash-pay add-ons? Aids to daily living are a great one--they're very inexpensive. You're not going to reshape your biz by selling ADLs, but if you do it right, it's a pretty easy sell.

hme: Are there pit traps HME companies fall into?

Gordon: Just because you're doing insurance sales, you shouldn't assume that's going to translate into retail sales. There's more to it than that: You've got to put the marketing behind it, you've got to think about how you're presenting your products, your pricing.

hme: So to avoid those traps...?

Gordon: Develop both a business plan and a marketing plan. Select marketing tactics and then put a budget around them. You've got to make sure you stay within your budget and that you have a way of gauging the effectiveness of them.

hme: What do HME providers do well in the retail space?

Gordon: Caring about the patient and really having the patient's best interest in mind. That's something they can leverage, because they already have that mindset. It gets them a lot of the way down the road toward what they need to do for customer service and marketing to build a retail operation.