A Marine's guide to HME online success

The new normal may fell like chaos, but new times require new methods
Thursday, October 22, 2015

2009. somewhere on the Iraq/Syria border. 

Surprisingly, it was an emotional farewell. My team of 14 Marines was returning home after 12 demanding months of duty in one of the most dangerous and thankless places on earth. I was preparing to board a helicopter back to Fallujah and then finish my remaining six months in Iraq. Knowing that we had accomplished a great deal in my short time made leaving even more bittersweet. 

I arrived in Iraq as the lead planner for all Marine forces. Our task was to improve security and transition Western Iraq (Anbar Province) to Iraqi control. My mission was complicated enough; little did I know it was going to radically change and become much more personal. One day, unexpectedly, my commanding general called me in and said he had a security concern on the Syrian border, and I was to leave immediately and “fix” the issue. Less than 24 hours after losing the two senior leaders this team had been with for almost a year, this small team was meeting their new leader, me. 

I first addressed the team in the dust of a helicopter, just a stone’s throw from Syria. In the subsequent months, we quickly bonded. I had always been a very collaborative leader and I immediately engaged them in fixing the security issues, repairing the broken relationships with local Iraqi forces and tribes, and turning around our own team’s poor morale. Any one of these tasks was substantial, yet we still had to patrol the border daily, re-locate our remote camp and prepare to transition our area to two incoming Marine units. Finally, with everything going on we still were able to assist in the “removal” of the most wanted smuggler in the Euphrates River Valley. 

Today, many HME suppliers are in survival mode, facing their own daunting challenges and a changing world. They have two choices—give up and close shop, or seek the specialized skills their businesses needs to thrive. The training and experiences I received as a Marine helped me and the teams I’ve led to win in the face of adversity. The challenges are different, but our team at VGM Forbin has provided customers the specialized skills, the tools and the training necessary to survive, thrive and win in today’s online environment. 

Using lessons learned from my experiences in the Marines and our experience working with the HME industry, here are three stages HME business owners typically progress through on their way to winning online:

Stage 1 – Survive

When it comes to an online presence, many HME businesses get stuck in survival mode. Their goal is simply to be found online. Their website has the bare essentials, such as contact information and product/service offerings. Survival is a necessary, short-term goal and a required building block for the future, but this step alone doesn’t make you successful; it only allows you to exist.  

Stage 2 – Adapt

This is where you expand from a basic website to targeted landing pages that are focused on one product/service category. With a small advertising budget and social media marketing, you begin to drive qualified traffic to each landing page. The goal here is to use your resources to find the audience that is looking for the products/services you offer and deliver them to a page with exactly the information needed to convert them to a loyal customer. Combining your confidence with our specialized skills, you move beyond the basics and start realizing your potential.  

Stage 3 – Thrive

Finally, with success through targeted landing pages, a small advertising budget and social media marketing, the HME business owner discovers new ways to do business with customers online and establish deeper relationships with customers through social media. To continue this new revenue growth, you need to learn what campaigns deliver the best return on investment, expand upon those campaigns and target new projects. These new projects could be online business systems designed to streamline business processes and improve the customer experience, a new e-commerce system or larger and diversified campaigns in online advertising. Brimming with confidence and armed with a valued business partner, HME business owners are diving into new marketing channels and learning to thrive in the demanding online environment. In case you are wondering, let me assure you, there are HME owners doing well in their online businesses.

I know from personal experience the challenges of chaos and adversity. How were we able to turn around an underperforming and demoralized team in Iraq? How were we able to take a team from just surviving to thriving on the battlefield in only four months? Simply, we were a team of seasoned professionals with the specialized skills, the tools, the training and, most importantly, the leadership to overcome adversity and accomplish our mission. I also understand how the HME marketplace is in a period of upheaval and dramatic change. The new normal may feel like chaos, but new times require new methods, a new plan and new leadership.  

Rob Duryea is president of VGM Forbin, VGM Group, Inc.’s web design and marketing division. The graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy retired after a 20-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps. He has an MBA from Wake Forest University.