Tricks of the trade

Thursday, August 31, 2006

MIMS, Fla. - Ken Emerick recently left his job as the head of marketing at Mobility Products Unlimited, the nation's second largest provider of power wheelchairs. Now he's selling the tricks of the trade he developed and put to great effect at MPU to smaller rehab providers who are anxious to compete with deep-pocketed senior mobility suppliers. Here's how he's doing it:
HME News: As a marketing resource for small rehab providers, what are the nationals doing--the Scooter Stores, the Mobility Products--that the little guys aren't?
Ken Emerick: The national power mobility suppliers you mentioned primarily built their empires using direct mail marketing techniques--mail pieces, targeted with address lists--to cover the areas they operated in. Their success was largely due to the sheer volume of mail that they delivered on a monthly basis. This very costly approach required considerable internal resources to manage. Their ability to capture the response that their marketing produced set them apart from an ordinary HME supplier's capability, allowing them to quickly grow and dominate the power HME industry from a units sold perspective.
HME: What tools can you deliver that will give small providers the ability to compete?
Emerick: Marketing material development; population analysis; material delivery; response processing; documentation production; data collection, analysis and reporting; and corrective action tracking.
HME: What is the single most important marketing gesture that leads to success in senior mobility?
Emerick: It's understanding the needs of the respondent and striving to provide products and services to meet those needs. Independent HME suppliers must ensure that they provide a wide enough range of products and services to meet the needs of the population they are marketing to and that their system accurately identifies a respondent's needs and subsequent qualification to established guidelines.
HME: Is direct mail the most important?
Emerick: Direct mail is one technique that provides excellent delivery control with easily measured results. Some of the other techniques are more difficult to control. But any marketing technique that an independent HME supplier may use--direct mail, TV commercials, local print advertising, etc.--must be properly documented with its results properly processed, quantified and reported so effective adjustments can be implemented based on actual performance data and tracked to determine the improvement's effectiveness.
HME: Is there a pie-chart appreciation of how much you ought to be doing direct mail, how much TV, how much print advertising, etc.?
Emerick: There is no generic marketing solution that could be represented in a pie chart because each dealer will have to establish his own mix of marketing techniques that best suits his needs.
HME: What do you do that most providers don't?
Emerick: IMC is a small company where employees are hired based on the technical capabilities that they bring to the table. For example, our system development team is comprised of individuals that have a minimum of 15 years of experience in system development with strong backgrounds in the HME industry. We focus our attention on developing technical solutions for HME industry challenges designed for independent HME suppliers, understanding that they have limited resources from both a technical and monetary standpoint.
HME: What makes you qualified?
Emerick: Our team has over 50 years of experience in the HME industry--from starting up a successful independent HME supplier to the vice president in charge of sales and marketing of a national HME mobility supplier. When our solutions require additional expertise, we partner with companies that have long-term industry experience that complements the IMC culture.
HME: What are the markers of IMC's success?
Emerick: Our success will be measured by the effectiveness of our solutions in addressing challenges that face the independent HME suppliers using them. We will be constantly measuring our customer satisfaction levels, making adjustments as required, to provide the highest levels of satisfaction. If, for some reason, a dealer cannot use a solution that they have purchased, we will provide them with their money back.
HME: How expensive are your services? Can a mom-and-pop afford you?
Emerick: All of our products and services are designed to be affordable for an independent HME supplier. For example, our MAES will cost around $200 for the basic system. Specific marketing costs for direct mail will depend on each independent HME supplier's situation but [direct mail partner] will offer competitive pricing at the same time providing interactive access that nobody provides at this time.