Medtrade preview: Embrace robust online and social media presence

Friday, October 23, 2015

ATLANTA – As the HME industry shifts from being primarily government contractors to private sector business establishments, HME companies need to use every tool necessary to reach consumers.

Presenters at Medtrade 2015 understand the need for HME providers to get linked into consumers and are offering sessions to help the industry become more tech savvy. Among the programs this week are “Why Your HME Website Delivers No Orders,” “Is Your Dealership ROBO and Mobile Ready?” and a “User Experience Panel,” which explains why consumers give negative reviews about business experiences.

“Overall, providers are not embracing their websites as an extension of their stores in the way that they need to be,” said Jeremy Kauten, CIO & senior vice president of information technology at Waterloo, Iowa-based The VGM Group. “Thirty-five percent of HME providers do not have a website at all.”

Kauten recommends that providers “spend the money to do it right, and once it is done, this is their starting point.”

From there, maintaining and customizing the website is crucial, he says, because “too many providers are using templates or boxed solutions that are a ‘one size fits all’ approach and are not what you need in this industry to be successful.”

Despite their lackluster reputation on the technology front, not all HME companies are Luddites when it comes to maximizing their websites and social media, says Beth Cox Hollingsworth, content manager for The VGM Group.

“Some providers do a good job with their websites, while many others struggle with sites that are inadequate or are outdated,” she said. “Maintaining a high-quality online presence, both in terms of websites and social media, is a difficult task because of how quickly consumer expectations change.”

HME companies need to upgrade their websites from being merely an online brochure providing basic information to an educational tool that offers regularly updated content and a multi-pronged strategy for driving people to the site, Hollingsworth says. Key business drivers to doing that are social media, search engines and e-mail ad campaigns. 

“I still quote the ‘3 Es’ of social media: entertain, educate and engage,” said Kauten. “Do not use it as your new media to push products, which is what your website and brochures are for. If you get a decent following on your social media platforms, do not destroy the momentum by trying to push products and hard sell to your following.”