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It Takes More Than Patience To Bring in New Patients

By JoAnn Perusich

When it comes to new patient recruitment, the old marketing methods of relying only on patient referrals and a big sign in front of your office are becoming a thing of the past. Today’s successful chiropractor must drive the practice using sound business decisions and consistent marketing strategies.

New doctors may have an advantage over some of the established doctors out there when it comes to marketing: They know no other way! Doctors who have just graduated from chiropractic college - often in debt - are usually “hungry” to market and promote their practices to be successful. Many established doctors are also marketing-savvy, but others are still finding their way.

Advertising is not immoral or unethical… it is necessary. In today’s health-care marketplace, more and more patients are choosing alternatives to traditional medicine. As a result, chiropractic has steadily grown in popularity and is a primary health-care choice for many people today.

However, there are still many potential patients out there who cannot pronounce chiropractic, let alone know what you do. Effective marketing and promotion of your practice are ways to reach the masses by educating and providing incentives to experience the benefits of chiropractic.

The key to a successful new patient marketing program lies in two areas: how to get them, and how to keep them. When marketing for new patients, it is important to realize there is no silver bullet that will bring you all the new patients you need for an entire year. It’s much more effective - and realistic - to implement a “shotgun approach.”

Monthly new patient activities should be planned in advance and implemented based on a sound schedule. The successful marketing plan should include a mix of external advertising, internal referral programs, and public events such as speaking engagements and spinal screenings.

Your marketing plan can include print media such as newspaper and magazine ads, inserts, billboards, and direct mail. Radio and TV advertising can be effective if you can afford the frequency required. It’s often effective to include a “call to action” in your ads, whereby you offer a special promotion or introductory offer to encourage new patients to try chiropractic and visit your office.

Internal referral programs provide the “incentive” for your current patients to refer friends and family. Some doctors find it difficult to ask for referrals when actually, patients are happy to refer others if prompted to do so. Internal referral programs can include patient appreciation days, charity sponsorships, health certificates, or simply a program set in place to ask for referrals on a regular basis.

Public speaking engagements give you credibility as a leader in your community and an authority on the topic presented. Select subjects of community interest such as pain management, headaches, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, sports injuries, or stress management. Public speaking is a good image-builder and helps potential patients build confidence in your abilities as a doctor who is up on the latest research and treatment methods.

When it comes to spinal screenings, it’s not uncommon to hear a doctor say, “I’ll do just about anything, but don’t make me go screen in a mall.” There are many effective venues other than malls where you can sponsor screenings. Consider home improvement stores such as HQ, Home Depot, or Lowe’s. Other visible locations include retail giants such as Sam’s Club, B.J.’s, and Wal-Mart. You may also want to consider YMCAs, home and garden shows, fitness clubs, drug stores, health-food stores, and even flea markets. Go where the people go, and you will always find patients.

Of course the first time you do a screening, you may feel a little nervous - but that first flood of new patients will have you going back for more. Keep this in mind about screenings and you will maintain your focus: Screenings are a community service project; you are there to educate. Rather than thinking of yourself as a needy doctor begging for patients, visualize yourself as a hero to the community for offering your time and a free health service. This “attitude adjustment” will help you both as the screener and in the image you convey to the public.

Once you are bringing in a steady flow of new patients, how do you keep them coming back? Patient education and customer service are the main ingredients to patient retention.

A well-educated patient knows not only that chiropractic works, but also how it works. Patient education begins when a new patient calls the office for the very first time, and it never ends. Be thorough with patients and empathetic to their health needs. Provide patients with a detailed written report of findings, progress exams, and progress reports. Patients should be invited to attend spinal-care workshops presented by you periodically. Train your staff to be able to “speak chiropractic.” Use educational pamphlets and materials that help deliver the message as to why patients need your care. Use every opportunity patients are in your office to educate them.

Customer service is the other key. Create the “wow” factor in your office. Patients should come and go saying, “Wow, that was an incredible experience.” Most often, your staff will be the ones creating the wow factor for your patients. Make certain your staff members are well-trained in the art of exceptional customer service, not mediocre customer service.

Your staff can and will make you or break you when it comes to getting and keeping patients. Simple steps such as remembering a patient’s name; maintaining a clean, professional office; smiling; and paying attention to the little details, will make your patients’ experience in your office a memorable one.

Most patients want good health. It’s up to you and your staff to help them achieve their goals. But remember… patient marketing and retention do not happen magically. Success requires a lot of work from you, and a lot of patience with your patients - but the rewards are returned to you many times over.

Ms. Perusich assists chiropractors throughout the country as a consultant with Kats Management in Lincoln, Neb. She previously worked at Cleveland Chiropractic College. She also works alongside her husband, Dr. Michael Perusich, at Perusich Chiropractic and Rehab Center in Sedalia, Mo. Ms. Perusich can be reached through Kats Management at 800-843-9162; info@katsmanagement.com; or sign on to www.katsmanagement.com


 
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