Thursday, March 25, 2010

LAS VEGAS - Tapping into new sales opportunities is critical to the survival of HME providers in today's climate, but it takes a little elbow grease to navigate potential legal landmines.

That's the message industry presenters will bring to Medtrade Spring this year in various educational sessions that focus on creating opportunities out of obstacles.

"You need to find hungry fish and sell to hungry fish by creating irresistible bait," said Jon Goldman, president of the marketing firm Brand Launcher and a Medtrade Spring presenter.

Goldman will offer tips and advice on how providers can familiarize themselves with patients and referral sources (the fish) and how they can make themselves stand out (the bait). In business, as in fishing, Goldman said persistence is the key to seeing results out of new opportunities.

"Eighty-one percent of sales occur after the fifth contact," Goldman said. "But 83% of companies give up after the first contact."

The makings of new opportunities may be right under a provider's nose, said HME marketing expert Colette Weil, but it's up to him to find creative--and legal--ways to take advantage of them.

"They don't really work their existing customer base," said Weil, managing director of Summit Marketing and a Medtrade Spring presenter. "They're more familiar with serving that patient then going on to the next."

Weil pointed out that providers are allowed to follow up with new Medicare sales opportunities within 15 months after first delivery. They should consider using that follow-up contact to invite the patient to an upcoming speaker or--best of all--direct them to cash products.

"Those providers who have learned to work their database have found that patients want to learn about other products," she said. "They want to hear about what has worked for somebody else."

The first place Weil recommends that providers go to seek new market opportunities: vendors. They can help with Web content, ads, marketing materials, drop-ship programs and other services.

And don't let the legal complexity of marketing to Medicare beneficiaries stop you from trying creative approaches, said Jeff Baird, a healthcare attorney with Brown & Fortunato and a Medtrade Spring presenter. Baird will discuss how providers can purchase Internet leads without violating anti-kickback or anti-solicitation statutes, and explain the legal dos-and-don'ts to joint ventures. In all cases, said Baird, "the devil is in the details."