Branding WellnessAsk a number of consultants to define a wellness practice and you’ll get a variety of answers.
Ask them how to market a wellness practice and you’ll learn about a number of approaches.
Ask them what not to do, and you’ll want to listen closely.
Chiropractic Economics asked a number of practice-management consultants what a wellness practice means to them and for advice on what should and should not happen when marketing a wellness practice.
DEFINING A WELLNESS PRACTICE
Consultants define “wellness practice” in a variety of ways. However, one element common to all definitions is education.
Whether wellness hinges on lifestyle changes, making healthier choices, or changing patients’ perspectives of chiropractic from pain relief to a higher quality of life, education assumes a predominant role.
Michelle Geller-Vino, owner and president of MGV Marketing (www.mgvmarketing.com), said a wellness practice “continually educates its patients on becoming aware of and practicing healthy choices to create a successful balance in their lives.”
She added, “Wellness is a choice and a process of seeking more information on how to improve a person’s physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental well-being.”
C. J. Mertz, DC, president and CEO of Team WLP — The Waiting List Practice (www.teamwlp.com), agreed, but added that a wellness-based practice should focus on family and provide solutions for thinking well, eating well, and moving well for life.
“A wellness chiropractor will educate patients with tools for lifelong changes,” said John Heggie, DC, founder and president of Lakeside Chiropractic Seminars, Inc. (www.LakesideSeminars.com). “This education should include stretching exercises, strengthening exercises, home and office ergonomics, nutrition, healthy eating habits, organic food advice, and stress management.”
Wellness is not just a state of being; it is the doctor’s wellness philosophy reflected in the services offered and embraces the principles of a healthy life, stated Mark Sanna, DC, CEO of Breakthrough Coaching (www.mybreakthrough.com), and Len Schwartz, DC, president and CEO of ChiroPractice Marketing Solutions (www.ChiroPracticeMarketingSolutions.com).
Timothy J. Gay, DC, director of Ultimate Practice (www.ultimatepractice.com), said “A wellness practice is talking to patients about the things they can do beyond chiropractic care and how to implement them into their lives.”
MARKETING A WELLNESS PRACTICE
The consultants offer a variety of suggestions on how to market a wellness practice. Among them: Attend or host external events, offer a wide variety of wellness services, hold internal events, hire a public-relations firm, and properly advertise.
• Provide external events. President of Integrity Management (www.integritymanagement.com), Keith Maule, along with John Madeira, DC, of Madeira Success Strategies (www.MadeiraSuccess.com), believe community outreach programs are some of the best ways to market your practice.
Speaking engagements at health fairs, local chambers of commerce, expos, libraries, local businesses, and corporations, as well as giving wellness talks, health screenings, and attending conferences, all maximize your exposure and build brand awareness.
“Doing lectures on any topic, such as arthritis, digestive problems, sleep disorders, and fatigue, promoted as a wellness solution to these problems is the way to present not only oneself, but to reshape the way people perceive you,” said David Singer, DC, founder of David Singer Enterprises (www.davidsingerenterprises.com). “Knowing how to present a wellness program not only allows you to double and triple your new patients, but also allows you to become involved with corporate America on a level which only wellness programs could provide.” 
External events, or events that take place outside of your practice, also provide opportunities to network with healthcare professionals that provide noncompetitive services and/or services for which you provide synergy.
Jason A. Deitch, DC, chief wellness officer for The Masters Circle and co-author of Discover Wellness (www.DiscoverWellnessCenter.com), said, “The most cost-effective and time-efficient way to educate people is through professional, informative, and inspiring wellness presentations … in the office, at local employers, churches, community centers, and other providers’ offices.”
• Offer other services. In addition to chiropractic, the consultants suggest offering nutritional evaluations, supplements, massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, biofeedback, Pilates, and yoga. They also suggest providing ongoing educational programs related to nutrition, stretching and strengthening exercises, ergonomics, stress management and reduction, and weight loss.
• Host internal events. Events held in your office can include hosting dinners for patients and their friends or co-workers, so they can learn more about the benefits of chiropractic care. Other internal events include sending e-newsletters, posting articles in your office or on your Web site, mailing out a wellness-oriented newsletter, and conducting special “health” days or events in your practice every month.
Deitch added that DCs who offer educational material provide continuing education, and then stay in touch with people through periodic e-mail newsletters. They position themselves to become perceived as “the” wellness resource in the community.
• Hire a PR team. According to Laura Carabello,  principal of CPR Strategic Marketing Communications (www.cpronline.com), “Hiring an effective public relations team is key to building your practice and reaching your market segments.” She said a PR team can help you create specific media announcements, events, press releases, and media advisories which would target consumers, local town media, and even mainstream national media to spread the word about your wellness practice.
• Advertise properly.
“When a member of the general public sees a sign on a chiropractic office (or anywhere else) that says ‘Wellness Center,’” said Ty Talcott, DC, president of Power Strategies Inc. (www.powerstrategies.us), “they have no idea what to expect if they were to walk in the door — therefore, all too often, their reaction is, ‘Why walk in the door?’”
Talcott and Gay believe that to be successful, you need to properly advertise properly the specific benefits an individual will gain by visiting your facility.
Carabello said not to be vague about the services you offer: Specify on your Web site or within your office the variety and types of services you offer to clients, so they understand the full array of what you provide.
ACTIVITIES TO AVOID
In a perfect world, there would be no mistakes. Since we do not live in a perfect world, the consultants offer advice on things to avoid when marketing your wellness practice.
• Avoid focusing on symptoms.
According to Shawn Powers, DC, of Powersource Coaching (www.powersourcecoaching.com), you want to avoid focusing on treating conditions or symptoms. “I do not use a symptom-oriented case history,” she said. “If a new practice member has a symptom or condition, I ask for permission to explain how the body works before discussing anything, so they have a better knowledge base to make their family’s healthcare decisions.”
Madeira and Mertz also said to stay away from symptom-based advertising.
“Make sure not to market or teach on symptomatic-relief care or you will destroy any chance of becoming a highly successful wellness center,” said Mertz.
Heggie agreed by saying “headaches and low-back pain are both common roads chiropractors use to attract new patients into their office. But, the fact is, this type of advertising promotes short-term patients. When the patient’s pain is gone and the patient feels they received what they were looking for, they will terminate care.”
• Avoid improper names.
“An effective branding strategy begins with an evaluation of the practice name, logo, and image the office projects,” advised Deitch. “Marketing experts agree that if a DC is seeking to position a practice as a ‘wellness practice,’ then the word wellness should be in the name of the practice.”
Gay agreed, “If you want to make your practice a wellness-based practice, then put wellness in your clinic name and also involve other natural healthcare practitioners.”
Lawton W. Howell, CEO of WellnessOne Corporation (www.wellnessone.net), said the first key step is the right brand name. “When your brand name is focused on ‘chiropractic,’ such as Jones Chiropractic, the unstated message is that you only provide chiropractic care, not holistic or wellness care.”
Singer said practitioners need to change not only the name of their practices, but also their signs, stationery, cards, and programs.  Doing so sends a consistent message.
• Don’t limit yourself.
If you are going to market yourself a wellness practice, then don’t limit yourself to one or two services, said Talcott. “In other words, say what you do and do what you say. If you are going to be all-encompassing, then potentially label yourself as a wellness practice.”
Singer said that when doctors of chiropractic market themselves as chiropractors they have to accept the image or branding that the vast majority of people have of who and what a chiropractor is. “They perceive chiropractic as a limited specialty within the area of back treatment. You need to become a chiropractic wellness center or a wellness clinic.”
Howell added that you should not limit your practice to only chiropractic or avoid interaction and alliances with other healthcare professionals.
LAST WORDS OF ADVICE
“To achieve the desired results of a wellness clinic, the doctor must have a good report of findings and do proper re-exams to help support the treatment as the patient progresses through care,” said Ed Sharp, president of Sharp Management Consulting (www.thesharp management.com). “If patients do not get through their corrective levels of care, they will not be there to get on to wellness care.”
Mertz suggested visiting a practice that is fully functioning in wellness and begin modeling it. He also suggested hiring a coach to determine the correct actions and strategies that transition a nonwellness practice into a highly functioning wellness-based practice.
“Building a wellness brand is more than just providing the same chiropractic experience you have always provided and just adding the word wellness to your conversations,” said Deitch. “It requires a mental and structural makeover of your communications, procedures, and fee structure.”
Talcott recommended pricing and packaging services to be attractive and self explanatory, highlighting the benefits to the patient that can be easily explained to others.
He also said it is not always profitable to place advertisements in the same sections of the newspaper that other healthcare professionals use. “You may find more success placing ads where you see spas, health clubs, yoga, or alternative providers.”
Schwartz summed up marketing by saying, “DCs who want to have a wellness practice should be doing everything mentioned earlier — and they should avoid anything that is inconsistent with those activities.”
Wendy Bautista is an associate editor of Chiropractic Economics. She can be reached at 904-567-1539 or by e-mail at wbautista@chiroeco.com.