You Tell Us!!

Posted on: August 3rd, 2017 by Claire Young


We want to hear from you!

As a team, we are always looking for new ways to improve and innovate. Which is why we want to hear YOUR thoughts, our valued readers, related to our VGM Retail Blog. We work for you – with every blog post, we work hard to provide you with content you’re interested in, insights to propel your business, and information to help you navigate the new and changing Caretailing world.

Please take a minute to participate in a short (we promise it’s short) survey about our VGM Retail Blog. Let us know what you’re interested in reading, how we can improve and anything else you want us to know.

Please click the link below and thank you for your time! We look forward to hearing from you.

VGM Retail Blog Survey:



Why AdWords?

Posted on: August 2nd, 2017 by Staci Langel


Google. AdWords. Geo-targeting. Retargeting. Hashtags. Impressions. Reach. CPC. PPC. SEO. SEM. SERP. CTR. Have I lost you yet?

The ever-changing world of online advertising can be scary and confusing, which is why many people don’t take advantage of the powerful online marketing tools available like AdWords. But AdWords doesn’t have to be scary and can actually have major positive outcomes.

Still not convinced AdWords is for you? How about these four reasons:

AdWords is Measurable

If you’re not into things like graphs, charts, data, or ratios, then AdWords won’t be your cup of tea. If you like knowing how your marketing efforts are performing and how your money is being spent in real-time, you’ll love AdWords. AdWords has endless amounts of information and reports you can run to analyze the success of your ads. But even spending five minutes looking at the default dashboard created by Google, you can learn more about the status of your ads than most other marketing channels.

AdWords is Flexible

Name another marketing platform that you can customize what it looks like, how much you spend on it, who sees it, when they see it, what happens when they see and be able to change all that at the drop of a hat with no penalties or extra costs. Even social media marketing isn’t as customizable as AdWords.

AdWords are taking over Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS)

Go to Google and search the term “Women’s Tops”. How many of the results on the first page are ads or sponsored results? If your results page looks anything like mine, the top four results are ads and the entire right panel features sponsored shopping ads, taking up the majority of my first screen.

Good or bad, AdWords is changing the game of search engine results, and the best way to get noticed is to play the game.

AdWords sync with other marketing efforts

Because of its customizability and fluidity, AdWords can be used in conjunction with several other marketing efforts. The easiest to visualize (and implement) is syncing your Google AdWords account with your Google Analytics account. When these two Google applications talk to each other, you can follow a person through their entire behavior flow – what term they searched, what link they clicked to get to your site, where on your site they traveled, how long they stayed there, and so much more. This allows you to optimize popular areas of your site with great content and design so visitors can find what they’re looking for and more.

AdWords may be overwhelming at first, but don’t give up. The pay-off in the end could be more than worth it.

Stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll talk about how to get your AdWords set up and best practices for managing it.

Understanding Facebook Insights

Posted on: July 26th, 2017 by Staci Langel


Does your company have a Facebook page? Who manages the page? Are they analyzing (and understanding) the metrics provided by Facebook?

If you answered no to the last question, you’re doing your Facebook page and your company a disservice. Facebook Insights is full of powerful data that can help you make strategic posts that people want to read. We’ll stick with the basics in this article to get you started.

Download Your Facebook Page Insights Files

When on your profile, click Insights on the top navigation bar. In the Overview tab, click the Export Data link.

A pop-up box will appear with three available data types: Page Data, Post Data, and Video Data. We’ll only be using the Page Data report for this conversation, but the other reports contain valuable insights as well. Select Page Data and the date range you’d like to look at (by clicking the drop-down menu). Make sure your File Format is set to Excel, and click Export Data.

Analyzing the Page Data File

When you first open the excel file, you’ll notice Facebook gives you an overwhelming amount of data – don’t panic! The file will automatically open a tab labeled Key Metrics. We’ll stay in this tab for today, but valuable information lies in the other tabs as well.

  1. Likes and Unlikes

Columns B, C, and D show you the total number of people who like your page, the number of new people to like your page each day, and the number of people to unlike your page each day, respectively.  Not only are these the basic stats for you to know if your page is growing in popularity (or decreasing if that’s the case), but also can be a check for peaks on certain days. If certain days stand out, look to see what posts were published on those days. If these posts had good responses, they may have earned you a few new fans.

  1. Reach and Impressions

These two metrics are very similar and are the most often confused. Reach is defined as the unique users who saw your post while impressions are the total views of the post. So a user can scroll through their newsfeed and see your post for the first time, they get counted once in as a reach and once as an impression. If that same user is scrolling in their newsfeed later in the day and they see the same post they saw earlier, they do not get counted again as a reach but they do get counted again as an impression. Your impressions should always be higher than your reach.

  1. Engagement – Comments, Likes, Shares

Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm prioritizes posts based on many things, including the engagement the post is getting. Meaning if your post is continuing to get clicks, likes, comments, or shares, Facebook will continue to place it on more people’s newsfeeds so users can see more of what their friends and family are engaging with. Because of this, engagement is an important metric in determining the popularity of your content.

In column E, you’ll find the number of people who engaged with your content each day. This gives you a general idea of how many people are coming to your page and interacting with your content. It does not, however, tell you what these people were doing (liking, sharing, commenting), only that they did something. To find out what they did, you’ll have to look in a different report.

Now as I’ve mentioned, these data points are only the beginning of what you can learn from your Facebook insights page. All the data that Facebook makes available can be useful in making a strategic posting strategy.

Cash Products? What’s the Buzz?

Posted on: July 25th, 2017 by Rob Baumhover

Introducing Cash Products to an “Insurance Driven” DME.

You’re probably asking yourself why would I add more inventory or a new element to my current business model, and I propose the question back to you WHY NOT? To answer this why, I will be doing a mini blog series with information geared towards introducing cash products into an “Insurance Driven” DME. To start we have to talk about the basics, this first blog will highlight the benefits you and your business will be rewarded if you make the choice to carry cash products in an insurance driven HME.

The Benefits

  1. The 1st benefit to your business is how cash products increase your revenue and bottom line. Now, who doesn’t need or want to increase their bottom line, especially after some of the cuts the industry and you have received? These cash products bring high margins and immediate dollars to the business.


  1. The 2nd benefit; by adding incremental products you now offer your customers everything they would need to make their new experience with that product they came in for easier, safer, and convenient. This is achieved by having all their options in one place vs. making them go elsewhere (most likely your competition) to find these same items that your store should be initially carrying. Consumers like options, it’s why we typically don’t buy the basic model when purchasing a vehicle, educate and show customers their options. Cash products promote experience, adds to consumer trust and gives a reason for customers to be lifelong shoppers.


  1. The 3rd benefit ties back into benefit 2, by adding and offering additional incremental products to your business, you are providing top-notch customer service. Service that most customers rarely see anymore, especially in the big box world who now carry many of these products. When your customer receives this exceptional service, they will appreciate it and typically pay it forward, either by, making additional purchases or recommending you to a friend or family member.

Now that you know why you should be caring incremental products, be on the lookout for additional blogs on the “How-to Tips” of introducing Incremental Products into an insurance driven HME. We will be looking at everything from, where you should start when choosing the right incremental products, to training the staff on the new products, to product placement, to even how you market them.

In closing, your customers and I believe every HME should be carrying a select number of CASH products in their buildings, stay tuned for my upcoming blogs explaining how to do it successfully.


“Be careful what you wish for…”

Posted on: July 21st, 2017 by Maria Markusen

“Be careful what you wish for…” is supposedly a very ancient Chinese proverb. Apparently, people have said it since the beginning of time.  Lately, the retail team is secretly mumbling this ancient wisdom under our breath.  Why you ask?

For years the VGM Retail team has said, “Great looking stores are important.   But, great looking stores only matter if you have customers.  Success depends on driving traffic to your stores with a solid, consistent marketing plan.”

Here’s the good news: some of you are paying attention to our saying! Some of you created a marketing plan.  A solid one.  A plan specifically targeted and based on your existing patients and customers.  And some of you even targeted people who you don’t know you yet.  You have been aiming for the customer of whom, you want to show up in your store, so you can wow them with your products, your store environment, and your superior customer service.

You’ve created a real plan. A multi-faceted, multi medium plan.  One that uses a combination of print, radio, tv, direct mail, social media, a solid website and SEO planning.  One that’s tracked daily, weekly, and monthly.  A plan based on data, competition, demographics and the marketing mediums that matter most to your customer in your, specific market.

If good plans are being created, then what’s the problem?  Why again are you VGM Retail people mumbling? You ask, “We’re doing what you told us to do? Sounds like a Goldilocks moment to us.”

Not only have you created the marketing plan, now you’re asking us the hard questions.  The questions marketing experts and professionals ask.  Questions like: What’s the expected return on our marketing investment?  How much should I budget for marketing?  How do I know if my marketing campaign is successful?  How do I prove the numbers to my boss?   How do I know that our marketing spend has value?  Where and how often should I be marketing?  What should it cost me to acquire each customer?  All excellent questions.

So, here’s the conundrum:  we don’t have all of the answers about marketing outcomes yet.  The market place is changing.  And it’s happening fast. Healthcare is the ultimate unknown right now.  What worked before, doesn’t necessarily work now.  And many of the tools we use to market aren’t tested.

Why bother?  Why get expertise?  Why spend 5%, 7%, 10% of expected revenues to generate revenues and drive traffic? Why use social media?  The answer is this:  In an ever-changing environment, the only choice is to do the homework to know your market. Create as much buzz, excitement, and awareness as you can.  Test stuff.  Be thoughtful about the amount you spend.  Budget.  Spend with a laser like focus.  Make sure your website is solid. That people can find you with a search engine.  Budget and track your results. Know that what works in your market, might not work in the next town over.  The only certainty you have is that you won’t have all the outcomes and information for a while, maybe ever.  And finally remember, If you do nothing, you’ll get nothing.  Results and proof are always good.  But right now, that might not be fully possible.

Need a place to start? Read our blogs that focus on marketing tips and trends. Lastly, always feel free to reach out to any of our team members! 

Cattle, Teenagers and #Caretailing?

Posted on: July 19th, 2017 by Maria Markusen


Learning from the Unexpected

It turns out, teenagers, like elevators and airplanes can tell us much about the human condition too.  Last week I lost my cool, big time, for the first time, in a long time.  Jim and I spent five days with five 17-year-old boys plus a 12-year-old tween.  One morning we woke up after a heavy rain storm to find hundreds of dollars of fireworks drenched with rain.  Left out overnight.  Ruined.  The drenched fireworks definitely bummed me out. But what got me on my soapbox was the comment that followed, “Well, I mean, can’t we just go get some more?  It’s the 4th of July.” I instantly became an adult.  “Of course not.  Do you think we are made of money?  You guys need to show me you can be more responsible before I buy you anything else.”  The boys sulked.  Jim reminded me, “Not everyone, especially teenagers, agrees with you or understands your values and reasons without some coaching.”

A couple of days later came the next challenge to my values.   It’s the two year anniversary of the word #caretailing.  Greg from Medtrade Monday wrote an article about the anniversary.  He celebrated the reasons why we caretail, what it represents and how retail in DME is evolving.   I was excited.

It turns out not everyone shares our vision though.  Not long after the article was published, I received this message via email, “I am not trying to be obstinate on a Monday, I just continue to try to understand what #caretailing really means.”  To make it worse, it came from someone I really respect.  I started to question the value of the term.  Are we wasting our time with a silly term? Are we actually making any headway in the industry?  Is retail in healthcare really that different?

The Meaning behind Caretailing

We define caretailing as, “The act of providing customer service and expertise to consumers willing to pay cash for health-related products that improve their lives and are beyond the usual scope of Medicare and other third-party payers.”

At the time we created the term, and even now, retail in our industry isn’t fully defined or developed. It’s the Wild, Wild West.  We don’t have one defined store type or process.  We don’t know what retail in DME will look like long term. There are multi versions of retail in DME right now.  Some stores are retail only.  Some stores are combined with related 3rd party business.  Some are owned by hospitals.  Some stores are wildly successful.  Some traditional retailers are trying to get into the business of healthcare retail.  Others fail quickly. Some are successful as soon as they open.  Others take a while to ramp up.  As an industry, and at VGM Retail, we are testing and trying and learning.  Trying to get the model right.

Early in my career, I was an agricultural lender.  One of my wise customers taught me about the cattle herding pause.  One day I described the struggle and slow growth of one of our startups to him.  I was frustrated by the testing, the trying and the learning.  He told me that building a business is like herding cattle. Every once in a while the herd will stall and need to mother up.  It turns out that the calves get separated from the mothers.  And the mothers hold back from following the herd, making sure the calves are safe and close to them.  The herd gets stalled, distracted and fragmented.  The cowboys pause.  Help redirect.  And wait for the herd to form again.  And then move on.

The whole purpose of creating the term #caretailing is to give retail in our space, which is in flux, some real definition.   An attempt to define what makes us different. To focus on the nuance of patient and customer care. To define our values as an industry during a time of change and uncertainty.  To better communicate with our particular consumer.  It’s our cowboy pause.  A constant reminder. A center point.  A place to come back to when we get stalled, distracted and fragmented.  Yes, caretailing is probably similar to good traditional retail. And maybe we won’t need the term forever.  But we haven’t figured out the exact way to make it work yet on a large scale.

To Wrap Up – Challenge and Be Challenged

Just as my teenagers reminded me of my values, the email challenging #caretailing was the best gift of the week.  It propelled us as #caretailers. It redefined our values as a division.  And gave us reason to move forward.  We hope it can do the same for you.


Posted on: July 14th, 2017 by Staci Langel

What’s interesting about the marketing and advertising industry is the negative reaction to it. Everyone, myself included, complains about the commercials interrupting our TV shows or radio stations or the ads that show up in your Facebook feed. Yet as the history of marketing shows us, it’s a necessary evil.

So grab your pencils and notebooks, everyone. We’re taking a quick trip to history class – marketing history that is!

The Early Years

Advertising increased in the late 1800’s because of a huge industrial expansion in the US with the advertisements being most frequently announcement of goods available. It was looked at as a vital force in the nation’s economy – encouraging people to buy meant continued production. The first types of marketing were entirely print – magazines, posters, billboards, etc. – with radio to follow.

The Era of the Unique Selling Proposition

As production grew, so did the number of companies creating those products. Suddenly there was a need to prove why Company A’s soft drink was better than Company B’s. Every product needed its own unique selling proposition, something that made it different. With hundreds of products and brands lining the shelves of grocery stores, begging to be bought, it was only a matter of time before the marketing world became cluttered and consumers put up a wall to try to stop. Marketers had to think differently to be heard.

Enter the “Mad Men” Phase

If you’re familiar with the AMC original series “Mad Men,” you’ll understand the next era we’re entering. For those of you that aren’t, this TV series follows the life of 1960’s Madison Avenue advertisers. While the show mainly focuses on the dramatics of the character’s lives, the advertisements created in the show are real examples of the true creative genius that was developed during this time, from the iconic Volkswagen “Lemon” ad to Heinz, Jaguar, and Kodak.

Then a tightening economy changed the marketing landscape once again, and strategy became king and creativity followed at its heels, a battle that still rages on.

The Age of Inbound Marketing

While online and digital advertising had been happening years prior, when the dot-com bubble burst on March 10, 2000, the Internet entered a new age. From this point on, there has been an emphasis on information sharing, user-centered design, and collaboration. Instead of simply pushing advertising at consumers online, the benefits of creating value for customers and earning their business begins to take hold.

Since then, the world of marketing and advertising has evolved and changed as quickly as new technologies and platforms have been created. Social media, SEO, e-commerce, all are changing faster than ever before, making this the most exciting time in marketing since its creation.

The Greatest Defense: Rapport

Posted on: July 12th, 2017 by Maria Markusen

A Lesson from the Sky:

Airplanes, like elevators, are a great place to study the human condition.  Since I am obsessed about connecting lately, my focus during my travels is watching and observing passengers, the crew, and the airport vendors.

On a recent trip, home to Omaha a very frail, elderly woman was sitting near me.  We happened to be in first class. The woman was clearly uncomfortable.  She was cold and shaking. She looked scared.  Right before the pilot took off, the woman’s son came up to check on his mother.  He was sitting in coach.  He gave her a blanket and tucked her into her chair. The man sitting next to the mother said.  “Here, sir.  Take my seat.  That way you can sit next to your mother.”  The son politely replied, “Oh but sir, I’m not sitting in first class.”  The first man said, “That’s ok.  You need this seat more than I do tonight.”  And so the two men switched seats. As soon as her son sat down, the mother smiled.  You could just see her fear wash away.  Humanity.  Kindness.  Instinctiveness. Selflessness. Human connection at its finest.

Build a Defense or Build Rapport?

I’ve been a sales trainer for 20 years in multiple industries.  At the beginning of our day-long training, I always ask, “What’s the one thing you want to learn today?”  Without fail, multiple students always want to spend a significant amount of time learning how to work with difficult customers.  I understand their pain.

One of my past gigs was leading in a large, high-end assisted living and independent living organization.  The cost to live in our buildings was $10,000 or more a month.  The expectations were high.  The customers vocal.  The small details mattered.  When things were not perfect we knew it.

My instinct was to protect my staff.  To arm them with multiple tools to work with our demanding customers.  We spent multiple hours training on service recovery.  How to defuse angry customers.  What I learned in the process, however, is that while customer service recovery is an incredibly important skill, it can consume our staff.  We spend too much time letting one or two interactions in a week or a month cloud the mood of the day, cripple our staff and erode our confidence.

So now we spend most of the training, practicing, and connecting through rapport.  We learn how to build natural relationships through human and selfless acts like the man on the airplane.  We spend about fifteen minutes on service recovery.  I always ask students, “How many interactions do you have in a day?”  “How many of those are good interactions where you help a customer recover better, solve a problem and get them the products and services they need?”  We then talk about a couple of the best sentences and tactics to diffuse difficult customers. Lastly, I remind them about the impact they have on customer’s lives. Eventually, a switch goes off and attendees realize that sales is easy if you do not let the difficult interactions ruin the good ones.  And you simply remember to be human and connect to build trust.

Introducing the M+D Crutch

Posted on: July 10th, 2017 by Rob Baumhover

Introducing the M+D Crutch– a leap in Ambulatory Aid Innovation and DME Profitability.

For your customers, it eliminates the two worst parts of standard crutches:

  • Pain in the wrist and armpits
  • Loss of hand functionality

For your retail location M+D Crutches represents:

  • 40% net margin
  • Cash Sale

User Experience:

  • The M+D Crutch distributes the user’s weight over the forearms, instead of the wrists
    and underarms
  • Users of the M+D Crutch find relief immediately!
  • The increased comfort translates to user satisfaction and higher levels of compliance
  • The pivoting arm cradle allows users to utilize their hands while performing ADL’s
    without disengaging from the crutches. The user is free to brush her teeth, shake hands+, and all without the danger of losing her balance or dropping the crutch.

DME Benefits:

  • Making a historically unprofitable category a financial winner!
  • Whether a Cash Sale or Rental the M+D Crutch = increased profitability for you

The M+D Crutch is quickly catching on as a short-term user Rental. Like knee walkers, which exploded in popularity once they were rented, the M+D Crutch is a vast improvement over conventional crutches. Compared to knee walkers, the M+D Crutch is:

  • Much lighter at 9 lbs.
  • Less bulky and easier to transport
  • Practical for going up and down stairs
  • Appropriate for ALL leg injuries, not just ankle injuries

Dr. Sabin Testimonial                                                                                      Testimonial
Dr. Sabin is a physician in Kansas City. She has tried just about every
ambulatory aid out there. As she put it:

  • “Thank God I found these crutches, they were a life saver!”
  • “So much more comfortable than the alternatives I’ve tried.
  • “Without them, my recovery time would have been much longer and I would have had to have Carpel Tunnel surgery”
  • “They gave me the freedom I needed”

“What is Alzheimer’s Furniture?”

Posted on: June 30th, 2017 by Rob Baumhover

What an interesting question, for it concerns some 5.5 million people in the United States. To make matters worse this disease is growing exponentially as our population continues to grow older. It is estimated that by the year 2050 as many as 16 million people could be living with Alzheimer’s; the care cost is estimated to be as high as $1.1 trillion. The other factor often forgotten is that the spouse who invariably becomes the caregiver faces tremendous hurdles both physically as well as mentally. It is estimated that more than half of these caregivers will die before the Alzheimer’s stricken spouse.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s is a disease that causes the connectivity of the brain to block or sever cognitive functions. As the disease continues to progress, severe memory loss and behavior changes will occur. Other symptoms may include, difficulty with language, the inability to perform familiar tasks, disorientation, unpredictable mood swings, reduced mobility, sleep pattern changes, decreased muscular functionality, and irritability. Learning to understand the disease, what to look for, and to establish a specific routine while allowing the loved one to be emotionally secure in their environment.

It is no surprise to learn that at the very least, 1 in every 4 people who visit a durable medical equipment retail store are intricately familiar as to the effects of the disease. This makes them a prime contact for a knowledge-based decision in reference to specifically designed Alzheimer’s furniture.

How Can Comfor Tek Seating Help?

When it comes to dinnertime moving an Alzheimer patient can be physically challenging culminating in disorientation and irritability. We at Comfor Tek Seating have developed a complete new line that is a culmination of design, specifically suited for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and other Dementia-related diseases.


  • Features included in the Royal EZ are:
  • Curved without sharp edges and with contrasting colors
  • Easy to clean, with spill-resistant fabrics
  • Stable and comfortable seating for a prolonged periods while reducing incidence of injury
  • Patients will be more compliant with the caregiver’s instructions while providing dignity and self-worth


Functionality plus – to give the seated person dignity without the stutter or associated noises of moving a chair to or from a table. The patented chair assist relieves pressure on the back and legs of the caregiver as he or she gently glides the patient into position. Independence and ease of mobility are the hallmarks of our Alzheimer’s specifically designed chair.
Get to know the Royal EZ from Comfor Tek Seating, as your margins are upwards of 50%. Not only will your profits grow, but you will have a customer who will enjoy the luxury of having a specifically designed chair for their loved one.