For most Chiropractors the completion of this “if only” sentence is quite predictable. Can you hear the strident voices shouting in unison, “If only. . . I had more new patients!” It is a striking contradiction that a profession that espouses the benefits of an inside-out approach to health is addicted to an outside–in philosophy when it comes to growing a business. We routinely take the path of least resistance looking for the quick-fix event and shun the hard work of building through process.
It is a fact that all businesses need to promote their services to potential customers if they are to succeed. As small business owners we must do the same. How you promote your business determines whether or not you build a flash-in-the-pan practice or a solid profitable self sustaining business.
While everyone can benefit form Chiropractic care, the brutal fact is that unless you are a non-profit organization (by design that is) you have a limited market. Now before you judge that statement consider what constitutes a viable Chiropractic patient. First, they must be aware of their need and made aware that your services could help solve their problem. Second, they must be willing to do something about it and accept your solution. And third they must have the ability to follow through with care. The word I chose is limited, not limiting. The fact is that there is an ample supply of patients who fit these criteria.
When most Chiropractors think of marketing they think advertising. The two are quite different.
Advertising is the promotion through public announcements in newspapers, radio, television, telemarketing and the internet of something to attract interest to it. The game of buying patients is costly, risky, and less profitable. Most importantly it requires more selling on your part. Advertising, by its nature, adds more steps in the decision-making process. Purchasing a series of Chiropractic care is nothing like buying a vitamin or paying for a massage because Chiropractic is a high impact and risky venture for people. The decision process is already demanding, so more steps equals more stress. You will have to make the potential patient aware and then eager to buy. More selling is needed because you have to create urgency and attempt to convince them to buy your Chiropractic solution and your brand of Chiropractic. It’s inefficient and requires a huge personal energy expenditure that eventually leads to burnout.
“Marketing is an Attitude not a Department” – Phil Wexler
Marketing, on the other hand, is the business activity of presenting products or services to potential customers in such a way as to make them eager to buy. Marketing is everything you do to attract and retain patients. It is how your business is perceived by your staff, your patients, your bank, your accountant, your attorney, your church and, of course, your business advisors/coaches. Marketing creates referrals. Everyone agrees that a referral practice is the ultimate goal. These patients are already interested and therefore aware and eager for a solution. A recent Chiropractic survey asked the question, “Where do most of your new patients come from?” 68.4 % of those surveyed answered, “from existing patient referrals.” Why then are we so obsessed with spending most of our time, energy and money outside looking in?
Chiropractors will buy just about anything and they line up with credit cards in hand for the next “killer gimmick.” Do they work? Yes and No. Yes, a flush of new patients come in. No, because 90 days later the numbers are pretty much the same and you need the next “fix” because nothing has changed in the way you do business. Well, that’s not entirely true, your image may have been tarnished by the type of promotional event, rushed exams, rushed reports, overburdened staff, system break downs, and lengthy office visits for the “regulars.”
If the foundational work is skipped and systems are anemic the results are always the same; an influx of new patient euphoria that dulls your logic while your inside voice screams “Finally, I am on my way,” sadly followed by the cold gray reality of a practice plateau. Foundational work is so critical. The Chiropractor who is a skilled entrepreneur never abdicates the responsibility for growing his/her business to others. He/She embraces the leadership challenge of marketing without resentment or hesitation.
Just like you, patients buy what’s familiar. How many times has a patient asked you for the name of another DC, either because they were moving, traveling or wanted to refer a friend? How do you find that DC? If your like me you first check to see if you have any friends or acquaintances in that city or one close by. Referrals are personal. Chiropractic is not familiar to most people, so you, the Chiropractor, must become the familiar gateway. There are three components to becoming familiar; contactability, interpersonal skills, and image.
- Contactability is how approachable you are in your community. Do you go to the gym and put a force field up around you? When you go to church do you bolt out the side door as soon as services are over? When you attend your child’s athletic or school events are you one of the untouchables? If we attached a monitoring device to you and followed your activities throughout the week what would we see? Home to office and back again day in day out? You know it’s really tough to meet people when you are doing a Howard Hughes agoraphobic impression.
- Interpersonal skills How do you behave at a restaurant? Do you tip appropriately? Do you treat the wait staff with respect? You see, wherever you go there you are. You are your message! Are you willing to discuss subjects outside of your interests? In other words, are you boring? Are you always talking about health and healing? The number one complaint that spouses have is that the doctor (technician) never leaves the office and has cloistered his self/herself in a protective cocoon from the world of allopathy. Now I don’t want to get off on a rant or anything but get a life outside of adjusting. Learn to be interested in others and they will be interested in you and your message.
- Image! Like it or not you have 7 seconds to make an impression with a stranger. Do you look like a professional? Do you dress with pride for your self and respect for others, or have you decided that comfort means “I don’t care what others think?” Do you realize that people respond to what you feel and think more than what you say? When you say to yourself, “I don’t care what people think about my image,” they only hear I don’t care. Remember, every one of us has an unconscious attraction or repulsion that impacts our choices. What are you sending out?
Successful Chiropractic Entrepreneurs like you have one thing in common: a single- minded dedication to their patients. They have a passionate commitment to understanding everything they can about the people they serve. They have an innate sense that patients are to be served not converted, served not needed, and served not controlled.
Your SIDECAR Team