Partnerships Around a Store Opening

Posted on: December 1st, 2017 by Maria Markusen


One of my first business role models was Cindy Musikantow.  Cindy was the VP of Operations for the Western half of the country for Sunrise Senior Living.  A big job.  But she was a master connector and partner builder. Despite being responsible for 100s of properties we talked to Cindy weekly and saw her quarterly.  Cindy is a former social worker, turned nursing home administrator, turned assisted living operations leader.  As a master connector, she always said, “Don’t hire employees, hire partners.”  She often talked about her dinner rule.  If two candidates are equal on the fundamentals, skills, and background then hire the one you’d like to have dinner with.  Not just the fun one. But the person who, after a long, hard day you could count on for dinner, support, solutions and a partnership.  Cindy never thanked people for hard work.  She always thanked us for “our partnership.”

I was reminded of Cindy’s partnership rules lately on a big VGM Retail project.  Last week, we opened a store in partnership with a VGM member in Kettering, Ohio outside of Dayton. The store called Get Active Health & Wellness is a 6,000 square foot store.  The store is a cash-only store with some traditional DME retail products.  In Get Active, our goal is to change the retail DME store dynamic.  Our products serve not only the sick and recovering but those focused on health and performance too.

This location is very unique. There are 54 windows in the space and the store sits on one of the busiest corners of the city.  You can’t miss it.  The retail space has sat empty for at least eight years.  Due to its long-term vacancy, we saw an added benefit of community buzz and excitement upon the store open date. Despite the vacancy and initial hype for a new store, it took a while for us to get a lease signed for the space.  From previous experience, we’ve learned that timing is crucial and there are certain times not to open a retail store; before Thanksgiving works, but after Thanksgiving doesn’t.

Once the lease was signed, we realized we had a short window to open prior to Thanksgiving.  Or we’d have to wait until spring.  So we compressed a 90+ day project into six weeks.  It’s times like these where partnership matters.  Matt Peterson and Les Donahue, the store owners are the perfect partners.  Everyone pitched in the moment we said go.  Yes, we had challenges.  Product was delayed.  The floor didn’t turn out the way we wanted.  The signage at opening was temporary.  But what really made the project work was partnerships.  Whether it was Matt and Les’ community connections, our vendor partner connections or just everyone on the team chipping in no matter the work, we made it work because of our partnerships.

While we can’t thank everyone, here are a few examples of how partnerships mattered to us in this project.  Susan Donahue the store’s marketing director constantly threw us ideas, researched local marketing opportunities and just found solutions when the original plan didn’t work.  Gerry Finazzo from Lake Court managed to get product for us at the last minute.  Scott Farquhar from the VGM team visited on the day of our store opening. Mike Thueson our VGM photographer provided more than pictures during his visit.  Finally, Matt and Les who took a great chance to open a store with our help in a really short time frame.  Thank you for your business and your partnership.

We encourage you, our readers to give our latest partnership a little love and a big welcome to the VGM Family by following their Facebook and Twitter page.    





When Hiring Staff Who Serve, Steer Clear of ‘Types’ B, C, D, E & F!

Posted on: November 20th, 2017 by Rob Baumhover


This article is provided by John Lees, 2nd Gap Manager for Vionic Group:

I enjoy meeting different kinds of people…even though certain ‘types’ cause me to sleep with my eyes open. It’s the same when customers meet associates in retail outlets…in that just a few prove valuable while many perform a less helpful role. There are 6 ‘types’ that consumers meet… starting with the rare kind of server they prefer to encounter…

“A type”: Advantageous. This describes someone who is seen to be very helpful and beneficial from the start to the end of their store visit. They assume control from the outset in a way that is acceptable and welcome to people, just as they would expect a doctor to behave. They use a tell & sell way of doing things, meaning that they tell consumers what they are going to do…and then explain (sell) why their proposed action will help them. The tell & sell service manner involves bringing out products not requested, but possibly needed…and includes recommending what the staff member feels would be best. And when the consumer makes a decision, they will briefly show and explain (tell & sell) items that are complementary to the purchase.

This successful ‘type’ of server is not pushy; they engage in a professional form of service performance that people find both impressive and pleasing. They don’t take up too much time when serving; they don’t appear arrogant in the least…and they don’t use industry language. This doesn’t describe a perfect team member, it refers to a ‘prefect’ type…who looks after people very well. The A type is ambitious and a product of managers who lead by example, training and incentives.

Here are the minor league ‘types’ that customers see as being the usual…the harmless, the irritating…

“B type”: Basic. This is the type they see most of; a category of people who are very nice…but who do no more than what is asked of them. This a ‘safe’ position as they create reasonable sales with few complaints.

“C type”: Coercive. This group are disrespectful of customers and use tactless ‘sales techniques’ to create higher sales…forgetting that no matter how many words they use to ‘up-sell’, the consumer can win by using just 1 word!

“D type”: Defensive.  This involves servers ‘asking permission’ to do their work, with questions like…“Would you like me to show you some other products?”, or “Is there anything else I can do for you?” No one takes offense when faced with this ‘type’…and this bad habit occurs because the person doesn’t want to be pushy or controlling. That said, this conduct doesn’t bring customers back…and it doesn’t create high sales.

“E type”: Expansive. This type likes to talk a lot, go into much detail and cover a lot of ground…without actually getting anywhere, and their sales are average.

“F Type”: Futile. No need to elaborate here, this ‘type’ can’t serve or sell…and they have a toxic effect on colleagues.


John Lees is the ‘2nd gap’ manager for Vionic Group, offering free Skype sales training and coaching for Vionic retail partners. John has written 12 books on sales, leadership, and marketing, several of which are available free to Vionic retail customers. By way of background, John was the Australian & New Zealand marketing and sales director for a multi-national German company, and led those operations to market leadership and the most profitable subsidiary worldwide and was then appointed a global marketing consultant to the company. John conducts free Skype training on how to be an Advantageous server, courtesy of Vionic. Contact him today to arrange a session for your team soon: 916-577-3865 or [email protected].

To better understand how Vionic and John Lees can assist you, peruse the titles of John’s 12 books HERE or explore the free business ideas Vionic customers receive in their PS Club HERE.


2017 Medtrade Recap

Posted on: November 13th, 2017 by Claire Young


Last month VGM Retail had an incredible time at the semi-annual Medtrade Conference. Our team understands that we say that about nearly all conferences of this type, but wholeheartedly we feel they get more innovative, informative and exciting each time.

Why do we feel this way? Well it’s simple, the attendees. Each year the questions for us get more complex, the willingness to learn gets broader and the interest for innovation deepens. One of our most loved attributes of the HME retail industry is the feeling of being kept on our toes. Our team despises complacency and when we’re among like-minded individuals that strive to avoid this issue, it fuels our fire and our passion to continue to be thought-innovators.

With that said, we would like to say,”Thank You, Medtrade 2017.” We invite you to keep challenging us and to keep asking those colorful questions. We absolutely cannot wait to see you again in the spring and at next year’s 2018 Heartland Conference.

In case you missed all the fun or want more information about the Rise of Retail in the HME industry, please click here.

Check out our booth at Medtrade (pictured above).

Product Spotlight: OrthoSleeve FS6

Posted on: October 18th, 2017 by Rob Baumhover


Hello Friends,

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is: what are some of the new and hot products out there? Due to the frequency of this question, I have decided to write a blog series to help answer it and bring some of these new and hot sellers to the forefront. The series will entail a brief introduction of each product as well as, a little personal insight on why I think each product makes for a great product to carry in your stores. I hope you enjoy!

In today’s product blog, I’m going to introduce to you the FS6 Compression Foot Sleeve from OrthoSleeve. It’s an advanced medical device for Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, heel pain, and swelling. Easy-on fit for continuous support, day or night, with soft, moisture-wicking fabric. Wear comfortably under socks for extra support, and during walking or exercising for extra protection. It gently lifts and stretches the Plantar Fascia.

I think this is a great product for all providers to carry as the majority already carry compression stockings, and the FS6 compression foot sleeve fits perfectly into the mix. It is packaged in a colorful retail friendly box that’s informative and easy for the consumer to understand. The FS6 compression foot sleeve comes in 5 different colors and 6 different sizes ranging from XS to XXL. It can be easily merchandised either by peg hook, shelf, or POP displayer at the front counter. Check it out for yourself at or call Sabina from Orthoseleeve at 877-647-0386.

Thanks for reading and be on the lookout for my next product blog.

-Rob Baumhover


Posted on: September 8th, 2017 by Staci Langel


Your AdWords campaigns are running, some people are seeing and clicking, you’re spending money, customers are finding and buying the products they want and need (Caretailing gone virtual!), all seems great. But how does it all work? How does Google decide whether your ad gets shown first, second, third or not at all?

The algorithms and formulas Google uses are very complex, and I couldn’t even begin to explain (or even understand) all the parts to it. But with a little practice and math, the basic parts of it are easy to understand and can give you a good idea of how it works.

So pull out your calculator, open up your AdWords account and let’s get started.

It All Starts with a Search

When someone does a Google search, Google looks at the words and phrases searched, then looks at the words and phrases advertisers have bid on to see if there are connections. If there is more than one advertiser bidding on relevant keywords, Google opens what they call an auction on those keywords.

Google then takes the most relevant keywords the advertiser selected and how much they want to bid – which is set by the advertiser when creating the ads – and the auction begins.

Determining Rank

Once you’re entered into the auction, Google looks at two factors to determine your ad rank: your maximum bid and your quality score.

MAXIMUM BID is the max cost per click the advertiser specifies for the keywords.

QUALITY SCORE is a relevance score Google gives. It takes into account your ad, your landing page and several other factors.  AdWords scores how relevant the landing page is to the ad, meaning the keywords in the content and meta need to somewhat match the ad.  The landing page also should be of good quality and focused on a specific product or category of products with clear calls to action such as phone number and/or form clearly displayed.

AD RANK = MAX BID x QUALITY SCORE – the highest ad rank gets the best position on the results page.

The auction looks something like this:

Max Bid X Quality Score = Ad Rank Position
Advertiser 1 $2 10 20 1
Advertiser 2 $3 5 15 2
Advertiser 3 $4 2 8 3
Advertiser 4 $7 1 7

As you can see, even though Advertiser 1 bid the lowest, they still got the first position because their quality score is so high. Had Advertiser 4 bid over $20, they would’ve gotten the first spot. This shows that good quality and relevance will allow you to have more effective campaigns and spend less to reach more people.

Show Me the Money

Now just because Advertiser 1’s max bid is $2, doesn’t meant that’s what he pays.  You pay the minimum amount you can pay for the position you win if your ad is clicked on.


Pull out your calculators again, and let’s use the same example.

Max Bid X Quality Score = Ad Rank Position Actual Cost per Click
Advertiser 1 $2 10 20 1 15/10+.01=   $1.51
Advertiser 2 $3 5 15 2 8/5+.01=    $1.61
Advertiser 3 $4 2 8 3 7/2+.01=    $3.51
Advertiser 4 $7 1 7

Again, Advertiser 1 made out the best because of their high-quality score and ended up paying less than what they actually bid.

So there you have it, the quick and dirty on how Google AdWords works and how your ads get ranked. The lesson of the day is relevance pays!

This process can be confusing and difficult to manage for anyone that’s already juggling a lot of responsibilities. If you don’t have a dedicated marketing professional checking and managing your AdWords daily, your results could take a hit. Luckily the experts at VGM Forbin have programs and tools to do exactly that – make your online presence work for you! Contact the VGM Forbin Online Marketing Team to learn more about how they can amp up your web presence.

Marketing Cash Products

Posted on: September 1st, 2017 by Rob Baumhover

Hello Friends:

I hope you have enjoyed my recent blog series, “Introducing Cash Products to an “Insurance driven HME.” During this series, I have broken down for you why I believe cash products are important for your business, how to go about choosing the right products, the usefulness of properly training your staff, and how to correctly merchandise the new products. All these tips are very significant pieces to successfully introduce cash products to your business, and if done separately they will not be as impactful. To wrap up this series, I want to discuss a couple of the many different ways one could market/advertise these new products.

First, inform your referral sources about the new products. These are the same referral sources who currently recommend you to their patients. Because they already respect and trust you with their patients, they will appreciate being one of the first to know you have additional products to help their patients out. This is one of the cheaper and easier ways to advertise the new products, creating a pretty nice ROI (Return on Investment).

Second, use the social media platform that you have set-up and use regularly. I’m sure at this point you have already generated a pretty nice and loyal following who would be interested in knowing there are some new and exciting products to make their quality of life better. If you don’t have a social media platform set-up and activated, I’d highly recommend doing so.

Lastly, make sure there’s a place on your website where a consumer can go see and learn a little about the products you carry. Today’s consumers use their phones for everything, position yourself in front of them by making it easier for them to see what you carry.

There are many additional means of marketing and advertising that I haven’t suggested, like direct mail, the use of Google AdWords, TV, radio, newspaper, signage, bag stuffers, consumer data marketing, and personalized emails. Just because those weren’t mentioned, doesn’t mean those aren’t worthwhile tactics. I encourage you to find out what works best for you and your customers then run with it.

Thanks for reading, hopefully, you are feeling better equipped to start carrying more CASH products to diversify your business and provide your customers a chance to live a better quality of life. Please reach out if there’s anything we can do to assist you. You can contact us at 855.285.3300. In the future, we look forward to bringing you additional content regularly. If there’s a subject matter you’d like to hear from us, please email it to [email protected].

Merchandising Incremental Products

Posted on: August 23rd, 2017 by Rob Baumhover


Why Merchandise? 

So far, we have discussed how to select the right incremental products and the importance of a fully trained staff for the success of selling cash products. Now, let’s dive into the merchandising of those products and how merchandising does, in fact, help sell a product.

Many customers are focused on store experience, merchandising is one element that aids in creating a great store experience for your customers. Customers today expect to come into a clean and well-organized store, and when they don’t it really turns them off. I would be willing to put money on some of you, as customers have even walked out of a store because it didn’t meet your expectation. I know, I have. Studies show, the more comfortable someone feels in a space the more likely they will spend there, and the longer they stay in your retail store, the better the chance you have to maximize sales. Let’s maximize those sales and look at a few tips and tricks around merchandising your space, so you can better catch your customer’s attention and make them feel comfortable and welcome.


Merchandise all like products into categories (ex. all CPAP items together), this creates a “mini store” or what I like to call, “a store within a store.” By organizing your store like this, it makes it easier for your customers to identify quickly where they need to go for specific products. Next, it also gives your customer a chance to snag related products, effortlessly, in one location.

Next Steps:

Once all products are allocated together, creating a store within a store, retailers should focus on displaying their products. Here are a few tips centered strictly around visually appealing displays.

First, you will need to determine what you display your products on. Do you have the proper fixture or should it be something you invest in? Don’t use whatever fixture you have or one you picked up at a sale, make sure the products fit the fixture. It’s a complete eyesore if the product doesn’t fit the fixture it sits on and your customers will definitely notice too.

Secondly, you will need to rank the items from best to worst sellers. If you do not have any numbers to go off of due to a new product or product line, use your resources! Vendors, or us, at VGM Retail, are usually readily available to assist. The reasoning behind ranking your best and worst sellers is to give yourself a starting point for the layout of your the space. Remember, place better sellers towards the top of a display, followed by the middle sellers, and then lower sellers at the bottom.

Third, the fun part! There aren’t too many wrong ways to place a product, some people may strip the sections, others may block. Stripping the section means you’re going from top to bottom vertically while, blocking means from top to bottom horizontally. There is also what is called a tiered or waterfall effect, here you start with the smaller items at the top and as you move downward the items get bigger. I personally use all the techniques and believe it’s okay to use all throughout your store.  Just remember to obey the most important rule, always keep your best sellers at eye level.

Fourth and finally, make sure to always merchandise any add on’s (ex. batteries), next to the anchor product. Feel free to display an item or two if space allows. This will give the customer a chance to touch and feel the products. However, make sure not over display a section, as this can cause a cluttered section. I try to keep it to 3-5 displays per 4′ section. To finish off the section, always have a category sign. This will make the section visible to the customers to see and locate quickly. Lastly, do not forget to price the products because there is nothing more frustrating than not knowing the price on something and having to ask.

It’s a Wrap- 

Thank you for reading my latest blog on merchandising. I encourage you to be on the lookout for the final blog in this series highlighting ways to market your new incremental products.

For additional questions, please feel free to reach out to me using my contact information listed below: 

Rob Baumhover

Director, VGM Retail & Vendor Programs

[email protected]



Incremental Products: Employee Training

Posted on: August 10th, 2017 by Rob Baumhover

Hello Again,

We last talked about how to find the best incremental products for your DME. Before your staff can sell new products, they need to be trained and comfortable with them. It would be nice if everything we brought in would just sell itself (and some will), but the majority of the time it will need someone knowledgeable to educate the customer. To position these incremental products correctly, let’s talk about staff training and some tips to properly train and keep an employee trained.

First, get the employee(s) input and feedback on the products you plan to carry, as discussed in my last blog. It’s weird but when it’s their idea or even if they were part of the conversation, they seem to get a little more excited about the products and back them more.

Second, as soon as the products come in, allow the staff to test out the items personally (if applicable). There is no better training than hands on training. This also gives the employee a real life testimonial they can use when they are talking with a customer.

Third, set up a time where the vendor who you ordered the product from can come in and give an in-store training on all the features and benefits of the products. This visit is good for a couple reasons, (a) it allows the employees to receive proper training right from the experts themselves, (b) it also allows time for questions and answers, (c) it builds excitement around the products differently than you saying we need to sell these items. “You can only bring home the next best item from a trade show so many times before they look at you and say here we go again.”

Fourth, set up and discuss expectations and any incentives, this way each employee knows exactly what’s expected of them and the team from the get go. There is no bigger let down to an employee than them finding out later that they should be selling x quantity when they were under the assumption that y quantity was great.

Fifth, set up an on-going training program, this should be a mix of vendor training pieces, (could include a webinar, online videos or educational courses, or even a question and answer session over the phone) and in-house training like roleplaying. Roleplaying is a great tool, but typically not a fan favorite out of the gate because it makes folks have to step out of their comfort zone.  This tool will truly give them the best real life scenarios that they will encounter every day. Looking back they will be glad they practiced with friends first.

Thank you for reading my latest blog. I encourage you to be on the lookout for blog #4 highlighting how to properly merchandise/display the products to gauge customer’s interest and help sell.


Posted on: August 9th, 2017 by Staci Langel


Let’s Break it Down: AdWords

Now that you’re on the AdWords bandwagon – if you’re not, read WHY JOIN THE ADWORDS CRAZE (click this link! ) – now let’s talk about how to set up and manage your AdWords account.

Set AdWords Goals

What are you hoping to get out of your AdWords campaigns? Leads? Sales on your e-commerce site? Brand awareness? This goal affects how you structure your campaigns, the keywords used, the content of the ads, and any other features you use.

Determine Audience

Who is your ideal customer or viewer of the ad? What information are they looking for? Creating a customer persona will help you narrow down what you want your ads to look like and do.

Conduct Keyword Research

Keywords are the words or phrases that are used to match your ads with the terms people are searching for. Selecting keywords that are relevant to your campaign helps you reach the right customers.

Set Budgets and Bids

This is where the money comes in. For each campaign, you set a daily budget and each ad group you set a max cost per click, which will play a role in where or if your ad ranks. We will talk the details of how bidding, quality scores and ad rank work in a future blog.

Relevance is Key

To help you create targeted and specific ads that your customers want to click on, AdWords always suggests for you to make multiple campaigns, multiple ads within those campaigns, each with different goals and target viewers. Making each campaign and ad laser focused will make each dollar and click more effective.

Put on your Creative Cap 

The first step is getting your ads seen. The second is getting people to click on your ads. Writing ads that are compelling and relevant will get people to click on the ad and move to the next step in the process.

Beef up your Landing Page

Your landing page is wherever the ads direct people to. It could be a page on your website, a social media platform, or a data collection form. Relevance comes into play here again. Make sure the landing page gives the information promised in the ad and the information the viewer wants to see. This the difference between conversions and missed opportunities.


Google AdWords provides a plethora of data. It can be daunting at first, but even the information AdWords automatically shows in the default dashboard can give you a good idea of how your ads are doing. Then the more comfortable you get the deeper you can dig.


Even the smallest adjustments to campaigns, ads, keywords, bids or content can have a huge impact on the success of your AdWords. Constantly make tweaks and adjustments to see what gets you the best results.

And Finally – Profit!

That’s all there is to it, simple right?… AdWords is a marketing platform that when given the right attention and commitment can be very effective.

Next week, don’t forget to check out my next blog in the series: BIDDING, QUALITY SCORE, AND AD RANK…OH MY!


Cash Products & Insurance Driven HMEs

Posted on: August 4th, 2017 by Rob Baumhover


Hello Again,

We last talked about the benefits of carrying cash or incremental products in your store, today I’m going focus on the how-tos. The first thing we need to know is what products should we be carrying? Let’s first start here.

What Should Providers Carry?

There are a few reasons I hear on why providers don’t get into retail, one of those reasons is because there are so many products in the market, providers are overwhelmed about what to choose first. Another is the unknown if and what products will actually sell. Depending on who you ask, every item out in the market is the best, right? Let’s simplify the process, so it’s a no brainer for you to carry incremental products and diversify more of your business towards “CASH”.

To start the process you will need to analyze your numbers to verify your best category. Find the category that brings in the most customers or generates the most revenue, “your bread and butter.” This one shouldn’t be a huge surprise to you.

Now that you have confirmed the category, we will need to identify at least 5-10 products that go with or add on to the item or items you sell the most of in that category. My recommendation here would be to talk amongst your employee base and discuss what they think will sell and what their customers have been asking for. You could also reach out to a trusted vendor partner or a retail expert (I just so happen to know of a few), as they know what is moving in the market place.

Once you have identified some nice incremental products, ordered them, received them, merchandised them, and trained the staff (all topics we will be discussing in upcoming blogs), you’re now ready to recommend/educate every customer on the products. After you build some momentum with this first category, you can then feel comfortable to branch out into other categories and build a very nice profitable cash business.

The Process by Example (See the attached PDF) 

Here’s an example: Let’s say your top category is CPAP. The following items are some great incremental items that we are seeing generate profit. Some products include CPAP pillow and cover, CPAP wipes, batteries, cleaner/sanitizer, hose covers, bedside holder, and a travel/portable machine.

One of our why’s on carrying incremental products was to increase our revenue. All these products have margins between 20%-50%, creating a nice stream of new “immediate” revenue. By carrying these items, it also gives your staff the correct tools they need to truly assist the customer. Customers now have everything they would need to improve their quality of life. In turn, these products make you a customer’s trusted partner, and them a customer for life.

Incremental Sales CPAP PDF: IncrementalSalesFlyer_CPAP

Looking ahead…

Thank you for reading my latest blog. I encourage you to be on the lookout for blog #3, which highlights how to properly train your staff so they can feel confident recommending the new incremental products.