Vin: Welcome to the Marketing Stir Podcast by Stirista. Probably the most entertaining marketing podcast you’re going to put in your ears. I’m Vin, the associate producer here at Stirista. The goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders and get their take on the current challenges of the market. And we’ll have a little fun along the way. In today’s episode, Vincent and Ajay chat with Nataly Huff, VP of marketing at Miracle Ear. She talks about the importance of understanding the emotional state of an audience to help better marketing strategies. Vincent’s sports a new set of orange headphones and Ajay enjoys warm weather. Give it a listen.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of Stirista’s The Marketing Stir. I am in a good mood today. I’m always in a good mood, but you can probably hear it in my voice. If you’re watching us on YouTube, you can see it in my face. I am happy. Why? I don’t really have her specific reason as far as work wise, but I have a very good reason because of our guest. You will see. I’m very excited about this guest, very excited about this brand as well, iconic, that’s it for now. And then I’m going to get in to that in a moment, but that’s a little teaser as they call it in the business. I think, I don’t know. I’m not a professional, but I’m here with you. The Marketing Stir. I of course am your host Vincent Pietrafesa, the vice president of B2B products and partnerships and still interim general manager of Stirista. Ajay hasn’t taken that title away from me yet, but I’m sure January is coming up, that title’s going to be gone. But until then, I am that at Stirista. Who is Stirista? Stirista is a technology company. We own our own business to business data, our own business to consumer data. We help companies access that data, send to that data in order to get new customers for their product or services. We also own our own DSP to execute media, display, OTT, connected TV. A lot of people, business executives at home, a lot of people at home watching TV, connected TV has been great and emerging. So, email me firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s the only talk about Stirista. Just that 32nd elevator pitch. The only other thing I want to add about Stirista is my co- host. You know him, ladies and gentlemen. He is my CEO. I met this man 11 years ago. We’ve been working together for three. Put your hands together, virtual hands, I guess, for Mr. Ajay Gupta. What’s going on?
Ajay Gupta: Hey, Vincent. I thought you were happy because of your orange headphones. It’s a nice look.
Vincent Pietrafesa: It is a new look. I feel like ground control bringing this in. It says my other headphones were not working. People couldn’t hear me. I was like,” What do you mean? I’m always talking. Why can’t people hear me?” But yeah, the new headphones, if you’re watching us on YouTube, orange Stirista colors, comment, let me know how I look. Be nice. Because sometimes you guys get mean. Anyway, what’s good with you, Ajay?
Ajay Gupta: Oh, things are going pretty good. Luckily, we’re still in a kind of, I would say summer/ we don’t really have a fall. So, I guess we’re still in the nice summer days here in Texas.
Vincent Pietrafesa: San Antonio. I know I’ll be there. I have been there in December, but probably by the time this comes out, right? And that’s the only time I love coming out there because it’s cold here in New York city. And then I get to go to San Antonio in December. We talk about the year. We talk about next year. We have some fun. We’re having our summit that I am hosting. I understand it’s now open to the public. That’s pretty cool. I didn’t realize that. More pressure on me to deliver, but that’s awesome. Looking forward to seeing everyone.
Ajay Gupta: Yeah, it should be a pretty good time. We have a couple of surprises in terms of some of the whiskey collection we have added to in the office. So, some top shelf stuff coming out.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Love it. I love it. That before you just had bottles that said whiskey and I was like,” What is this?” This is just-
Ajay Gupta: Canadian whiskey.
Vincent Pietrafesa: This is like the bargain basement stuff from Texas. So good. Maybe it was a good year. We have some good whiskey. That’s amazing. Not a good year, ladies in general. Let’s talk about a great year for us here in the podcast. So many amazing guests, including this next one. I am so excited for this next guest here. I already had a chance to talk to her. She is from a company called Miracle Ear. Heard of that? No pun intended, but it’s a great, iconic brand. I can’t even name another company that deals with hearing aids. I bet you can’t either. Maybe the people who are at those other companies are listening and saying,” Hey,” but hey, you’re not on the podcast. Natalie is. Ladies and gentlemen, please a warm welcome to the vice president of marketing at Miracle Ear under Amplifon, Nataly Huff. What’s going on, Nataly?
Nataly Huff: Hi. Thank you so much for having me. I just want to make a quick comment. We talked about the orange headphones, but we did not talk about Ajay’s blue headphones that perfectly match his shirt. That’s color coordination right there. Nice job, Ajay.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I know that’s such an accident. He denied, but that is-
Ajay Gupta: No, no. You know me, Vincent. I plan these things out.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Fashionista, we’ve got Nataly calling in. We’ve got her cat on the line as well. I saw her or him rolling in. We’re in good company today. I love it. Nataly, thank you so much for being here. I enjoyed our conversations already and I was so excited that you agreed to do the podcast. Talk to the people out there. First Amplifon, right? Can you talk a little bit about Amplifon? I take it that’s the parent company of Miracle Ear. So just talk about that a little bit. I’d love to learn about your role as well within Miracle Ear.
Nataly Huff: Absolutely. Amplifon is the world global leader for premier hearing solutions around the world that helps people really rediscover all of the emotions of sound and bring back all of those really important elements of life that comes with one of your five senses. Amplifon is as I mentioned around the world, but within the United States and kind of Northern America, there’s multiple business units that they own. One of those and the one that I believe to be most important is Miracle Ear. And Miracle Ear is really focused on providing hearing aid solutions through 1500 franchise and corporate owned retail centers all over the United States. That’s 1, 500 locations all over the country. And for over 75 years, it’s been the number one choice for people with hearing loss to get the latest hearing solutions and dedicated support for their needs. Now, I’ve been with Mary clear for about five years and my job right now is really to make sure that we are there to support the customers as they go through the long and emotional journey of accepting their hearing loss and deciding to take some sort of action towards it. And when they are ready to take that action to make sure that we’re there and ready to help. This includes brand marketing and really creating brand equity throughout that customer journey. This includes all of your traditional online and offline channels. This includes the experience that we’re delivering to our customers in the store online and through the contact center. All of those are part of marketing. And I think some of you guys might have heard me say that I’m lucky to be in an organization that really believes that marketing is an end-to-end solution. It is not a job of marketing to just bring in leads. It is not the job we’re going to just bring in traffic. It is the job of marketing to find customers that need help and make sure they get the help they need.
Vincent Pietrafesa: And Nataly, I wanted to share with you that my mother- in- law, Diane, just went in and got her hearing tested and everything at a local Miracle Ear. I made sure of it, so good. Maybe now she could hear all the bad things I say about her on this podcast a little better. True story. Thank goodness she doesn’t listen to it, but I wanted to ask you, we always ask this question because there’s a lot of people listening who are in marketing, how you got into marketing in the first place. Talk to us about that journey.
Nataly Huff: By accident really. Ever since I was little, I knew I was going to be in some sort of business type role. My dad owned his own business. So, when all my friends were playing house or pretending to be the three Musketeers, I was pretending to play business. I would sit at a desk, I would write on pieces of paper. I would move them from one side of the desk to the other, really planning for my future where all of my work is really around emails. When I finally got to school, my parents convinced me that pharmacy was going to be the more lucrative and rewarding career. I agreed and I tried and after two semesters of bio-chem, that was it. That was enough. I knew that was going to be a life I would not enjoy. So, I switched to something that sounded broad enough to be useful, communications. And then it just so happened that my first job out school was at an advertising agency and I was hooked. It all took off from there. If you think of how life events converged to put you on a path that makes you happiest, that was absolutely it.
Ajay Gupta: Nataly, you joined the company on the digital marketing side. And generally, when we think about hearing loss, we’re thinking of somebody a little bit older. Not always true, of course, but how do you engage them on digital and what does digital marketing mean for you guys?
Nataly Huff: Absolutely. Well, let’s first address the fact that age related hearing loss starts making itself evident at roughly 55 years of age. And then yes, it takes several years for a person to actually notice and to come to terms with and take some sort of action. So, the age of the customer and the conversion stage is closer to 65. But then again, think of that demographic. This is a customer that has digital as a part of their life, right? They have smartphones, they have emails. They probably had some sort of digital experiences in the workforce. Their familial interactions also have digital experiences. So, Facebook and search engines are a common basic use for this target demographic. And it’s very, very effective. Now, how they interact with those digital channels is going to be a little bit different. They need slightly different user experience that will help them understand what the next step is. So, the kind of minimalist user experience that we would all love to do as marketers don’t necessarily apply, because they need a little bit more guidance. When you create content, you need to think about things like close captioning and the ability to have everything be readable with e- readers. These are things that become an absolute necessity for a digital marketer. Their search patterns are a little bit different. The search terms are a little bit different. So, if you think of the long tail search terms and the semantic terms, they’re going to be different from somebody who grew up with Google their entire life. But they’re very, very much online. When we first launched our online booking appointment, the average age of our customer was 61 years old. Now that’s shifting a little bit because there’s existing customers that are also using this channel, which is great. But now, digital is either number one or number two acquisition channel, which means it’s only going to grow from there.
Ajay Gupta: Nataly, what are some of the things that are important in your marketing hearing aids that is obviously laws about HIPAA and other considerations where you have to do so? Is there some difference in terms of how others market versus being in an industry that’s more regulated?
Nataly Huff: I mean, HIPAA obviously is a big concern. And you have to be a little bit more careful at how creepy you sound when you re- target, right? It’s a lot easier for something with e- commerce to follow a person around on the internet and say,” Hey, you forgot this in the shopping cart.” We can’t really do that. But what’s really most important when marketing hearing aids is understanding the emotional journey that the customer has been on. So, if you think about it for the most part, age related hearing loss is slow, right? It’s not sudden onset. So, people, their minds will adjust to adapt to how they live with hearing that is weaker and weaker over time. And it’s usually their loved ones that might understand that something is happening long before the actual prospective customer would. So, when they actually realize that things happening, it’s usually a negative experience. They might have been in a group of people and missed the joke and everybody laughed. Somebody might have asked them a question, they might have misunderstood. Or in this particular story, I’ve heard a couple of times and it’s completely heartbreaking, they had their grandkids run into the house and climb on their lap and want to tell them a secret and whisper something in their ear. And they can’t hear what is being said. So, it’s in a very negative emotion that usually gets them to understand that this is happening. You have to be respectful of that journey. You have to acknowledge that journey. You have to. This is not the time to introduce humor. This is not the time to introduce puns. This is not the time to get witty with it because people are very vulnerable. So, seeing how you can maybe take away some of that negativity, bring in something uplifting, bring in something reassuring and make it a more positive experience becomes very, very important as you’re taking the customer along on that journey.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Nataly, talk to me about the advantages, but also the challenges of marketing for such a legacy brand.
Nataly Huff: Well, it’s easier to build on a legacy brand than to build from scratch. It’s very comforting to be able to say that,” Hey, we have over 70 years of superior care,” right? It’s great to say that we have something that some of the most well known and most trusted expertise in the market and then build on top of that. The challenge really comes to make sure that we’re not relying on it, that it’s not a crutch. That it’s not something that is our only differentiator because everybody can get there at some point. And I think the other challenge that you have to face is the fact that being out there for so long, there’s also a bit of a stigma of being an old brand, especially when you have a low interest category with a product that nobody wants, then the product that is associated with aging. There’s so many people that will tell me when I say,” Hey, I work for Miracle Ear” They’re like,” Oh, I remember those ads on TV when I was at my grandparents’ house.” They assume that it’s automatically something that associated with grandparents. Well, that’s not really the case. If you think of 55 years old, that is a young person that is starting to suffer from hearing loss. And they really think that this is something they are not going to need for 30, 40 years. And that’s just simply not true. So, overcoming that association, right? There’s very close tie between legacy and heritage and all the negative connotations of that. So, overcoming all those negative connotations and seeing how you can bring innovation and bring a fresh perspective and bring an aspirational view to what hearing aids and treating hearing loss can do. It becomes very important and is a very fine line to walk.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I was joking about it when I gave the introduction where I would say I don’t even know of any others. I always know Miracle Ear, but talk to us about some of the differentiators. Why Miracle Ear, why should some choose Miracle Ear?
Nataly Huff: To address your first point that most people don’t know anybody else, that is actually true. An average person can’t name more than one hearing aid company. So, it becomes really, really important that when they can name a company, it’s your company. But part of this is because there’s a lot of people who want to postpone taking any action, therefore want to postpone thinking about anything in that vicinity. And if you think of the general advertising pressure that an average consumer of that age receives in the United States, there’s no way a hearing aid company’s going to be able to compete with the amount of dollars that are being thrown at these people. But when you do have somebody that is researching it, you need to have more than just being the person that shows up when they Google,” Hearing aids near me,” right? Having some of that brand equity becomes very important, but the biggest differentiator that Miracle Ear can bring on top of the heritage and the innovation is the service. The hearing loss, unfortunately, is not something that has a cure. So once you have hearing loss, you can treat it and you can continue to treat it and you can keep it from being… From deteriorating, but this is not something that is going to magically go away. So, you start developing a relationship with your hearing care provider, the same way that you would have with your kind of general practitioner. This is somebody that knows you, that understands your hearing loss, that knows the situations that you’re in and can adjust the product to support the needs that you have. That’s probably the biggest differentiator that Miracle Ear can bring is we have 1, 500 locations. So, there’s always support regardless of where you are and when you travel. And the customer experience that you have when you come into the store is personal. It’s personalized and customized. It is specific to what you need, and it’s not something that you can get just anywhere.
Ajay Gupta: Nataly, what are some of the specific channels that you’re using in terms of kind of reaching your ideal client and what are you doing to keep them engaged once you do get them as a client?
Nataly Huff: Digital is obviously a very big channel, but if you think of the holistic customer journey, broad, broad reach media is a big part of it. Because top of mind awareness for people who are in the very early parts of that journey becomes very, very important. And for example, our TV strategy always is interesting, because you have to counterbalance between the broad reach media and the more targeted media. Yeah, so of course it’s very easy to follow gun smoke and Walker Texas Ranger around and just make sure your ads are present in that particular programming, but that’s going to narrow your target very, very significantly. So how do you make sure that you’re also reaching the influencers of those customers? How do you make sure that your overall presence is there for whenever the customer decides to take action? From there, it’s really becoming educational content. Making sure that we have a way to teach the potential customer of what is going on. How does hearing even work? How do you address hearing loss? How do hearing aids work? What are the different types? What is this journey going to look like before they even take action? What’s interesting is you would expect to say that print is dying and the direct mail is dying and all of those areas are going to go away, definitely not for this target demographic, but definitely not in general. The amount of new capabilities that we have now with access to big data and access to algorithm data modeling, and personalization. Even within that channel, that channel is going to go strong for a very long time. So, I would encourage everyone regardless of your target demographic to not discount direct mail as a very good performance channel.
Ajay Gupta: Nataly, since we are a marketing podcast, we’d love to learn a little bit more about, are there specifically about your marketing stack and if there’s certain software that you love that other marketers can benefit from.
Nataly Huff: We are an Adobe house, and we use Adobe analytics, Adobe experience manager, Adobe audience manager, Adobe launch, all of that is a big part of the integration that we have. Adobe campaign has been a big asset for us to integrate directly into the patient management system so that we can create CRM. In terms of tools, I think my biggest recommendation for marketers out there is understand your needs. Adobe is amazing and Adobe can do so much, but Adobe is not something that you can do on a small budget or with a small team. So, if you are in a smaller organization that is looking to take your marketing to the next level, but you’re trying to do that on a budget, maybe looking at the large players is not the right thing. Maybe you don’t necessarily need a rocket ship right now and you don’t need to hire an entire rocket crew to man that rocket ship. So really understanding, what are the things you’re trying to achieve in the next five years and build for that, rather than just going with the biggest name in the market.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Shout out to Adobe out there. Good. I’m glad. We always love to hear that, and people thank us on the podcast.” Oh, that was a great suggestion from so and so.” So that’s awesome. Thank you. It always gets thrown around, right? Of marketing art and science. It’s a mix of art and science, is a question and I always like to ask people as well. What’s your thought about that, Nataly? What’s the mix that you think, how true is that?
Nataly Huff: So, for me, marketing is more of a science than an art partially because I come from a digital background and digital has a whole lot more data and therefore inaudible to be more scientific. But in the end, marketing’s all about the customer or at the very least it should be. If it’s not, we end up talking to ourselves about ourselves and these things never really go our way. But if we focus on what the customer needs, what the customer sees, what the customer thinks, what the customer feels, what the customer wants, this becomes the basis of the actions that we need to take. And understanding all of those elements requires data, both the creepy digital data and the more qualitative data that we can collect in many other ways. Voice of a customer and consumer insights cannot be overlooked even outside of all of the kind of algorithmic data that we usually talk about. That’s where the science come from. The art is the interpretation, right? You have that data. What do you do with it? How do you address it? They’re not going to tell you exactly what to say or how to say it or where to say it, or when. You need to translate what you learn into the actions you’re going to take. So, I don’t think it’s always been this way. I think the more data we get, the more scientific it becomes, but the art of it cannot really go away because translation of that data into action is definitely something that requires a significant intuition and creative side. Now, once things go live, we still need to measure them. And the more we measure them, then we need to take it back to the insights that we learn and then again, translate that into further action. So, it’s always kind of a rotation between taking in that artistic side and the scientific side.
Vincent Pietrafesa: No, I’ve never heard it broken down that way. So, we appreciate that. Nataly, talk to us about the digital aspect of Miracle Ear. You touched upon it, but how prominent was that before you got there and what changes did you make? What was kind of the initiative to continue going in the digital manner?
Nataly Huff: I got lucky when I… You’ve probably heard me say this a couple times now, but I’ve been very lucky in my career. And one of the most amazing things is when I joined Miracle Ear, the concept that digital’s going to be important was already sold, right? All of the executives had done the hard work to secure the budget, to secure the buy- in and all they needed is somebody to do it. So, I came in, they handed me the keys and said go, which has been amazing. And the number one thing that I focused on at that point in time was obviously a very large team supporting us both through the global side and the local side, but it is the customer journey. And how do we actually support the customer journey in its totality in a digital sense? So, for us, it really was understanding that we need to be more than just the location that comes up when somebody searches,” Hearing aids near me.” We needed to support that entire journey and give people points of engagement that are helpful and that are less commitment focused, and then build an ecosystem around bringing people to those different points of engagement. The digital transformation, this totality was long, right? We did several phases, but when it finally went live and its current state was September 2019. That summer was probably the hardest anybody has ever worked from our team. Lots of sweat, lots of tears, lots of great hairs. As a result, we went live, completely new CMS, completely new UX UI, a way for franchisees to contribute content into their ecosystem without breaking down the UX and the UI. A new media agency, a new data model, a new infrastructure and a new call center all at once. It was kind of a big deal. And it went live and went very smoothly. We were very lucky and Q4 was fantastic. And then 2020. 2020 hit, we were all in for a big surprise, but because we had that infrastructure because we’d gone through that work, we have the data that we needed to be very intelligent, to be very intentional, to really focus on what it is that we need to be doing at any given point in time to minimize the downside of Q2, because everybody was hit very hard there, but also accelerate their recovery. And for us, having that digital data of our own that we can marry with externally publicly available data, such as Google retail mobility, we were able to be very precise in terms of how do we support our customers across the country, as well as where do we actually spend our money.
Ajay Gupta: So, Nataly, one of the things we have is lot of people that are listening to us are younger professionals. And as somebody who’s been, as you described yourself, lucky in the marketing profession, what are some of the skill sets that you advise people to get? There’s obviously now undergraduate degree in marketing, which wasn’t always the case in smaller colleges. So, we’d love to get your feedback for some of our younger audience members.
Nataly Huff: I think if we talk about the science and the art, I think everybody should have some sort of understanding of the technical skills. Know the tools, know the platforms of the… At least at the very basic level of how they’re supposed to function. Then from the art side, have some sort of experience with copywriting, with general creative direction and understanding how visuals and content drive consumer insights and consumer intent. And then the third part is basic analytics. Marketing is becoming more and more measurable, and marketers are being held more and more accountable to the investments that they make. Because we tend to be the biggest cost centers for the most part in organizations. And we are very good at spending that money. So being accountable for how that money is spent and what we’re actually delivering on, it becomes very, very important. So, if you think of the technology, if you think of the basic creative areas and if you think of analytics, having some sort of basic skills, I think, is going to be very important for every single marketer, regardless what direction you go into.
Ajay Gupta: What’s been a kind of a highlight for you personally during your time in the last five years of the company?
Nataly Huff: I think the launch of that to digital transformation was the biggest highlight. I remember we were bringing people on at the very beginning stages of this program and we were bringing in our project manager, Sarah Ford, who’s fantastic at what she does. And during the onboarding, I was explaining the project and the thing that she would be responsible for keeping on track and her face went a little numb and she looked at me and I think the comment she used,” I’m just not used to this level of risk all in one day.” As a result, it all turned out great, but it was a huge undertaking that took a very long time. We were exiting from a vendor that we were using. It was right for us at that point in time, but we really have outgrown somebody that had black box algorithm that really only was servicing the bottom of the funnel kind of experience and untangling from that vendor to create something that allowed us to actually build an ecosystem and a fairly sophisticated one was a whole lot of work and a big learning experience for everybody in the organization. And everybody got very comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Vincent Pietrafesa: And Nataly, I would imagine Miracle Ear was an essential business during the pandemic. What was that? Can you touch more on that experience there? How did marketing shift during that time? Was it more of a just,” Hey, we’re here to support, you can still get your hearing aids.” How did that marketing shift during that time? And also, how do you think people… Did people’s views about hearing and hearing loss change during that time?
Nataly Huff: Absolutely, absolutely. And it’s a little bit of both. So, we’ll start with the first part of your question. For us, it was really understanding where the consumer was depending on where they were geographically. As you might remember, different states reacted very differently to when the pandemic first hit. And for us to understand what were the conversations that the customers were having with our call center agents, with our stores, were they booking appointments? Were they showing up to their appointments? If they were showing up to their appointments, what was that experience like? All of that became very impressive in terms of the variety that we saw across the United States, but also very impactful in terms of the message that we were delivering for each individual region and area for our target demographic. And it ranged. It ranged from,” Hey, we are always here for you for all your hearing needs, whether you’re an existing customer or new.” To,” Just let us know if you have questions. We’re here to answer a phone call and happy to help. And we’ll find a way to provide services without creating any contact and anything in between.” Our entire CRM strategy changed from being a CRM strategy that drove people into the store to truly being a there for your support system. And it was a big shift and a big change and required a lot of agility, but really understanding where the consumer was specifically in that market made a big difference for how we approached them. Now, in terms of what the consumers learned, and that probably was not the case in Q2. It took a while for everybody to figure out what was going on and how it was affecting them. But one of the reasons that our industry and specifically our business recovered as well as it did into Q3 is because of masks. Masks made a huge difference. If you think of the slow onset of hearing loss and how our amazing, amazing brains adapt to the fact that something’s changing, reading lips is a very, very big socially adaptive behavior. And one of the best ways to actually indicate to someone that might have hearing loss is to do this and continue the conversation. And all of a sudden you realize that you were following the person only because you were reading lips. I do it. And I find it a lot harder to understand people, especially in a crowded room if there’s masks. So, for people that were coming into our stores, they were a lot more sold on the fact that they actually had hearing loss. They started recognizing it on their own. We didn’t have to go through as much of a process to really explain and show it to them as much as we usually would. Plus, we lock people in a house and give them really not much to do except for talk to each other and watch TV. And all of those little things that make us frustrated about each other, like turning the TV up too loud, really start coming out and really start forcing some of those conversations. And especially for anybody who was in deep isolation, maybe was only communicating with people virtually via FaceTime, that’s a whole different level of communication that is… Body language is such a big part of it. So, people really were forced to face any shortcomings that they had in their hearing capacity and realize how impactful that was on their life.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That’s so interesting to hear because you’re right. You cover your face up. I didn’t even think about that where you no longer could look at a person’s lips to, determine what they’re saying. And it’s so true about the television. Again, my mother- in- law, she would come over and we have two small kids, my wife and I, and we were… Every time the TV would go up. And then I noticed, I was like,” Why are the subtitles on? This movies in English? Why is this…” And we noticed that, and it was actually just recently. It was very recently where I kid you not, I just texted her prior to this. I said,” You got your hearing aids. Did you happen to go to Miracle Ear by any chance?” She said, yes. And I was like, “All right, great. I’m going to bring that up.” So interesting. Another question. I love to ask people, we’ve had people on, other brands where they are is a franchise, if you will, right? Your role, Nataly, are you responsible for marketing Miracle Ear as a whole, helping out the different franchise owners? Is it a franchise owner? First of all, I want to make sure it’s an individual franchise, I want to ask that question. And then are you also helping them at a local level market as well? So, is it national and local, or one or the other? Lot of questions I just threw at you there. I know. crosstalk.
Nataly Huff: I think I got it.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah.
Nataly Huff: It’s really truly a yes inaudible situation. We have a national marketing fund that covers all of those things that really work better when you have an aggregate budget. So, things like website management, campaign development, national television. These are things that are done on a national level. We have a lot of opt- in programs that are sort of turnkey solutions. That again, we are able to do better when we pool our resources from the national level that the franchisees can opt to. But there’s other things that really are done better from the local level and things like grassroot events, special event marketing or even newspaper. Because if you think of trying to buy a newspaper for 1500 different locations, that ends up getting very labor intensive. So, for us, it’s really kind of both levels. We do cover a lot of the larger things that we would want to do nationally, all of the brand building activities or the national responsibility, and then terms of all that acquisition. Hyper local activities due to tend to fall towards the franchisees and we support them with that as much as possible. Now, some of our franchisees are larger and very sophisticated and are able to do that very well. And they do bring a lot of best practices into the network that we help disseminate while others mean they’re smaller owner operators. They’re seeing patients all day long, so they don’t really have time to figure out how to do this, or why or where. So, for those, we provide a little bit more hands on support.
Ajay Gupta: Nataly, one of our standard questions is around LinkedIn. So, I’m sure with your job title, you get a lot of messages that come unsolicited to you. So, what’s a message that gets through the clutter and gets your attention and what’s one that’s a pet peeve that really annoys you?
Nataly Huff: I’ll start with a pet peeve, because that’s the one I actually get most frequently.” Hey, I see we have lots of people in common. I’d like to add you to your network.” And then the job title is business development manager or sales representative. Pretty much never respond to those. The ones that do get my attention is something that actually delivers value early. Something that is personalized, something that that shows that they actually understand a need that I might have and give me a tiny little sneak peek of the benefit they can bring my way. I do try to talk to at least one a month if I can, just so that I get a better sense of what is out there and if there’s something new that is worth considering that I’m always up to par. This is something that came from a team member of mine who had that as one of her practices. And I just thought it was absolutely brilliant and I brought that in, and I encourage the rest of my team to do the same, but there’s so many solicitations that come out there. Really sorting through them as finding ones that might have something interesting to say,” You have three seconds to tell me if you’re going to fit that criteria or not.” And we have lots of connections on LinkedIn is not going to hit that bar.
Ajay Gupta: So, one of the other aspects we’d like to touch on is more on kind of the personal side of things, because this is more for conversation. So, we’d love to learn a little bit more about your personal side, any hobbies, especially anything you’ve picked up over the pandemic.
Vincent Pietrafesa: inaudible bread baking, right? A lot of people are doing that now.
Nataly Huff: That sounds fantastic. I love eating and I love bread. So that would be wonderful, but no, both my husband and I have fairly demanding job. We have a four-year-old daughter who is a very easy kid, but also is very demanding in terms of attention. Sour dope was not going to be one of those things that we picked up. Pre- pandemic, live theater, good food. That was the thing that I did to get away and get out, travel. That was nice. I remember when that was a thing. Then pandemic of course hit every single one of my hobbies pretty hard. So now, I’ve picked up horseback riding, which has been amazing. Once the gyms opened up again, I’m trying to get back into a habit of getting to the gym in the morning. So that one, I can see people, but not necessarily that closely, but two, I can make sure that I am using my body as well as my brain throughout the day.
Vincent Pietrafesa: The thought of baking bread, first of all, where am I putting this bread maker? I live in Manhattan and I’d need another room to put this bread maker. I too have a four-year-old. So, I know I love that. Yes, mine. He’s great. But also demanding. And he tries to be a little leader and he wants to do everything by himself. I’m like, I get it, but we don’t have 42 minutes for you to figure this out, Hudson. I love the LinkedIn comment because it’s like,” Oh, we have some people in common.”” We have like two people in common. What do you mean we have people in common?” I love hearing that. But Nataly, any final thoughts as we go? That’s how quick the conversation goes when you’re flowing, this is great-
Nataly Huff: Really just fly by.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I know, right? And people say that all the time, so we do appreciate that. Any closing thoughts about Miracle Ear, about getting the… Wait, wait, wait, before I get there, let’s talk about this. Have you come to live theater again? New York city has a great little area for theater. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, it’s called Broadway. So, we need to get you out here.
Nataly Huff: No.
Vincent Pietrafesa: She’s like,” No, I’ve never heard of it.” But we need to get you back here. It’s opened up. I’m going to me for show, Come From Away. I’m going to that show coming up soon.
Nataly Huff: It’s supposed to be amazing.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, it’s supposed to be, right? I’ve heard great things about it. Did I ever share with you my play bill binder story?
Nataly Huff: No.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Well, I don’t know if Ajay knows this. Well, now our listeners are about this. I love Broadway shows. I was a theater minor in college and also communications major. And for me, living in New York city, pre- children, pre- children it was great because my wife and I, we would just go to a show on a Tuesday, and we would just see what was playing. And I love it so much, I actually bought a binder, an official play bill binder except no imitations. And I put all of my play bills in there and I’ve got like 30 of them and I show people whether they want to see them or not. But yeah, so-
Nataly Huff: I would want to see that. I think that’s a great thing to collect.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Ajay, next time you’re in New York, I’m going to show it to you when you’re over to the house. But yes, I’m so happy that live theater… I feel like New York city is back now because theater opened back up. And then the Christmas tree coming, and then… You could feel it in the streets, and you can see it. So, I share your live theater. Horseback riding, never been on a horse in my life. It’s probably a fear of mine, but the live theater, we share in that. So that is awesome. I’m sorry. I went off on a tangent there, but I hear live theater, I have to go there. Talk to me about closing thoughts. Anything you want to share with people, anything new coming out. Anything people need to know about hearing aids in general that… Some myth busters, if you will.
Nataly Huff: Well, I guess that’s one of the things which I want to talk about in terms of hearing aids is why it’s important to treat hearing loss early. So, if you think of how hearing works, right? There’s receptors in your ear that capture the vibrations and they send the translation of that vibration into your brain and your brain translates that into sound. When the receptors in your ears stop working as well as they did, it could be many reasons, but essentially its age related. They got tired and they stopped. That means that the stimulation from those receptors into your brain is also slowing down. So once you have that happening, then your brain stops using that particular part of the functioning that it usually does. So, if you don’t treat hearing loss, the brain starts losing that function as well. And if you have untreated hearing loss for a good amount of time, really putting hearing aids in just fixes the receptors. It just helps the receptors understand those vibrations a little bit better, but sending that stimulation into the brain and having the brain translate that the same way that it did before you started seeing some of that hearing loss, that’s not something that you can bring back. So, if I could have one mention for anybody out there, if you think you’re experiencing hearing loss, please go get a hearing test. There’s a million places to get free hearing tests. Miracle Ear is a great one. If you don’t want to go to Miracle Ear, go anywhere else. Make sure you actually get your hearing tested because if there is hearing loss, treating it early is going to go a very long way in terms of keeping you a longer, happier life.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That’s amazing. That is great advice. That is useful advice. Nataly, this has been an absolute pleasure having you on the Marketing Stir. Ladies and gentlemen, that is Nataly Huff, the vice president of marketing at Miracle Ear. I’m Vincent Pietrafesa, that’s Ajay Gupta. This has been another episode of The Marketing Stir. Thank you so much for listening and we’ll talk to you soon.
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