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Chapter 18

Internet Middle-Men

The Hard Sell Pros Get Between You And Your Dealer

The large profit in hearing aids allows marketing middle-men to build web sites that attract prospective buyers. They add no value and create bad-will among the dealers they represent

The branded chains have the advantage of large group buying power and therefore enjoy better profit margins. That extra profit allows them to pay for the expensive advertising and marketing it takes to find new customers. Small dealers with just one to three offices pay the same wholesale prices as physicians, and the resulting low profits make it difficult to afford effective marketing campaigns.

This factor has given rise to internet prospecting firms that use web sites and direct mail (internet middle-men) to capture information on consumers who are looking into hearing aids. Internet middle-men create a brand that consumers come to view as a type of dealer, when in reality they are just lead generation companies for struggling independent dealers.

Once you’ve agreed to work with them, they schedule a hearing test with an “authorized dealer” who is bound by contract to honor the middle-man’s published prices. If you buy hearing aids, the dealer pays the middle-man a large share of its profit from the sale. Therefore the dealer realizes much less than it would have if you had come to them directly. This causes the dealer to view your business as a “skinny deal” that’s barely worth the effort involved.

You can understand why dealers see their participation in middle-man hearing tests as a necessary evil. They either accept new customers under the middle-man’s heavy handed demands, or face going out of business. When you are researching on the internet and discover a site that is showing prices for specific RICs, you are almost always at middle-man site. Notice the “call now for an appointment” or “start a live chat” pop-up ads and toll free numbers.

Again, as with dealer chains, if you give these outfits your name, address or phone number, get ready to have a lot more mail in your mailbox and unwanted phone calls.

For the above reasons you should always avoid scheduling hearing tests with internet middle-men and seek out the dealers and physicians in your market area directly. This ensures that your business will be highly valued, and because the middle-man share of the profit is eliminated, the dealer can offer better pricing.