How do you attract new patients?
Try these proven marketing tips
What kinds of methods do you use to market your practice? In particular, how do you attract patients through your portals?
Chiropractic Economics asked practitioners, consultants, and other marketing experts for their quick (and effective) tips on attracting new patients. Here are the tips they shared with us.
THINK ABOUT WEARY TRAVELERS
Travelers get all types of musculoskeletal aches and pains. If your clinic is close to area hotels, introduce yourself to the concierge. Provide written directions to your office, along with business cards and (if appropriate) an on-call telephone number.
— Timothy Gay, DC
Ultimate Practice Systems
OFFICIAL CLUB DC
Build relationships with organizations (such as a service club) by becoming the DC for the group. As the club’s “official” DC, you may be able to put your contact information on its Web site and the club’s information on yours. You may also be able to send e-mail blasts to members or clients, conduct health fairs, and give lectures.
— Eric Plasker, DC
The Family Practice, Inc.
VOTE FOR DC!
During election season, take advantage of the political hype and start your own campaign. Post signs around town “campaigning” to be your community’s first choice for chiropractor, as Paul Donaldson, DC, of Waynesboro, Ga., did.
He saw all the political signs around town and got the idea to make signs for himself. He made his signs in green (rather than red, white, or blue). They read, “Donaldson for chiropractor.” The signs resulted in a lot of free publicity and a clever way to get noticed.
— Keith Maule
BUILD A REFERRAL RELATIONSHIP
The key to lifelong referrals is to build relationships with other professionals in your area. If you let people know you evaluate patients and follow healthcare guidelines, you will be amazed with the referral response you will get.
Build your first relationship with family-practice MDs, who generally do not like to treat three types of patients:
• Those with soft-tissue complaints,
• Workers’ compensation patients, and
• Personal injury cases.
To develop an MD-DC relationship:
1. Ask patients for their MD’s name. Include a question on the new-patient intake form.
2. Get permission to contact the MD. Also on the form, include a question asking for permission to update the MD on the patient’s condition.
3. Send information to the MD. Attach a cover letter to exam findings explaining you are keeping them informed as a professional courtesy.
— Bharon Hoag
ACOM Healthcare Business Consulting Group
ASK AND YOU WILL RECEIVE
Tap into your existing patient base for lecture contacts. Find out where your patients work and worship and to what groups they belong.
Ask patients for permission to use their names when contacting the company or group. Then, contact the organization and offer your service to talk on a subject relevant to it — such as stress, ergonomics, nutrition, or chiropractic.
When you utilize your existing patients to find speaking opportunities, you establish an immediate connection with a community or group. You’ll be amazed at how many opportunities you can have merely by asking.
— Kimberly Ownbey
Logan College of Chiropractic
A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY
Almost every patient experiences a “golden visit” — the time when he or she is very excited about the care and results you have given. Take advantage of that excitement. Suggest sharing the good news with others by giving the patient two “golden” certificates to pass on to two other people who could benefit from chiropractic care.
Add the patient to your major lead list and remember to follow through.
— Heidi Farrell
Chiro Advance Services
NETWORKING FOLLOW UP
I participate in a number of networking events and meet many new people. I follow up with those with whom I establish a rapport by faxing a single-paged health questionnaire. The form reminds them of me and shows that I am interested in their well being.
— James M. Ronga, DC
Haddonfield Chiropractic Health Center
Cherry Hill ,N.J.
FREE FOOD SAMPLES
When patients purchase functional foods (meal replacements, greens, or bars), ask the staff to offer a free sample to give to a family member or friend. Provide information about the product, as well as a brochure or flier about your practice. Use samples of products that are available through health professionals only.
— John H Maher, DC
Teaching at a med school brings in MD referrals
What better way to reach future medical doctors than to teach at a medical school? Brian Morrison, DC, does just that.
Morrison teaches an elective semester-long course on integrative medicine at the University of Maryland. Fourth-year med students earn three credit hours taking the course entitled, “Chiropractic: Developing an Understanding for Physicians.”
“The students then have the opportunity to shadow me for a half day at my clinic,” he says.
Morrison’s teaching also includes a lab session for second-year med students as part of their pain and analgesia section of a pathophysiology and therapeutics course.
Morrison received the appointment through his connection with the clinical director of the University of Maryland Integrative Medicine Center at Kernan Hospital. He provided chiropractic treatment to the director, who then invited him to become a practitioner at the center two days a week. Eventually the education coordinator asked him to provide the program on chiropractic for medical students.
Morrison, who has been in practice for 18 years, runs his own clinic, Morrison Chiropractic, P.A. in Ellicott City, Md. (410-465-0555), with the help of an associate DC, three CAs, six administrative team members, two LMTs, two acupuncturists, and one PT.
The clinic earns approximately $850,000 annually in gross revenues. Approximately 70 percent of patients come from physician referrals
PAPER BEATS DIGITAL
Paper has its place. Many people prefer to receive (and read) information printed on paper rather than by e-mail.
Send monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly newsletters by mail for patient education. Although direct mail costs more than electronic communication, it puts the material in your patients’ hands. And printed material can be left on the coffee table for visitors and neighbors to read.
— John H. Harris
Target Information Management, Inc.
To emphasize that chiropractic is for the body, not just the spine, hold a whole-body health promotion.
Set up a number of different stations for patients to visit. Devote separate stations to spinal screenings, balance stations, nutritional scans, and foot scans.
Analyze the whole body and demonstrate your role as a wellness doctor.
— Mark Mandell, DC
Foot Levelers Inc.
Hold an annual family barbeque as a patient-appreciation event. Pick a day and promote it within your office. Include kids’ games, face painting, horseshoes, or a friendly softball game.
With a little imagination and some planning, this event will become one your patients will look forward to each year.
— Ron Castellucci, DC
Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic
Brand your practice with a cohesive appearance for all of your patient communications. Integrate the look on all stationery, cards, forms, and patient giveaways to help deliver a consistent image for your practice at every touch-point.
— Karyn Dadian
Medical Arts Press
Partner with local businesses, such as a health-food store or pharmacy. If these establishments are willing to distribute or display your literature, give the proprietor and staff x-number of no-cost treatments.
— Wellington Quan
Tiger Balm/Prince of Peace Enterprises, Inc.
To attract new patients and show community support, set up a booth at local running or bicycle races, which are often conducted to support a local charity or community cause. Hand out your business card or a brochure with a free sample pack of product and offer a new-patient special.
— Martin Venturini
Kool Fit America, Inc.
‘ESPRIT DE COMMUNITY’
Become a community leader and supporter. Become active in the Chamber of Commerce, scouts, Little League, local health fairs, and service clubs. Your patients come from your community. The more visible you are as a community leader and supporter, the more your community will support you.
— Peter G. Fernandez, DC
USE YOUR BUSINESS CARDS
One of the most powerful, cost-effective, and underutilized marketing tools is the business card. Include important information such as services, education, and unique selling points of the practices.
Always carry cards with you and leave them every-where, such as at restaurants or when you pay for your meal, with a note, “Thank you for the great service.”
— William Kneebone, DC
Dr. William Kneebone
A ‘trivial’ approach
David J. Clark, DC, believes that people like to play trivia games. So, he developed a marketing ploy that takes advantage of this human bent.
Clark sends his staff out armed with a one-sheet handout headlined, “Did You Know?” The handout contains health trivia and one chiropractic education item.
“At the bottom of the sheet is a laundry list of conditions we treat, along with contact information,” says Clark. “Every couple of weeks, the staff goes back to the same businesses and hands out a new sheet that covers a new issue.”
This method of marketing is new for Northlake Chiropractic & Wellness Center (www.northlakechiropractor.com). Clark moved his clinic to the current location a short while ago, so he is just starting to attract patients.
“The activity is an inexpensive way to make recurring ‘impressions’ on your closest new-patient sources, so that when they decide they need a chiropractor, they go to you,” he says. “In effect, you are their chiropractor already. They just may not need you right now!”
Clark provides a number of entry points for new patients — chiropractic, nutrition, light therapy, weight loss, and massage. He is also a diplomate in chiropractic neurology.
Don’t wait for a national holiday to celebrate. Create your own celebration for patients and the community to enjoy!
Some examples of “celebration excuses” include your practice’s anniversary, kid safety week, a food drive, and back safety week.
To kick of the celebration:
1. Pick the week for the celebration.
2. Visit with area local business owners and tell them about your celebration. Let them know they can participate by offering a special gift or discount.
3. Send a press release to the local newspaper, radio stations, and TV stations about the community event. This is a great way to market your practice because you are helping the local businesses through an avenue that is not typically open to them.
You may be surprised by the generosity of your local businesses.
— John Heggie, DC
Lakeside Chiropractic Seminars, Inc.
CONDUCT BLOOD PRESSURE SCREENINGS
Conduct blood pressure screenings. I recently screened 34 people in just three hours at a bank and resulted in starting five new patients.
When you conduct a blood pressure screening:
• Ask each person to fill out a brief questionnaire (with contact information) before sitting down with you.
• Explain that although most people think of the nervous system in relation to pain, it actually controls organ functions, strength, coordination, posture — and blood pressure.
• Take the blood pressure.
Blood-pressure screenings are an important health service and they allow you to present yourself as a wellness doctor who is interested in whole-body health, but be prepared to refer people to their primary-care physician if their blood pressure is significantly high or low. Although we can often help with blood pressure problems, we do not treat high blood pressure.
— William Collins, DC
Collins Advanced Chiropractic
No matter the size of your practice, maintain an active Web site that provides consumers with valuable information. Make it easy for people to find you on the Web. Once people find you, track their viewing habits.
You may find that people find you by your practice’s name, but you may also find that they find you because of the content in your information library.
— Renee F. Gladieux
The Pressure Positive Co.
Offer to provide in-office ergonomic evaluations for existing patients. When you show up for the complimentary assessment, patients will introduce you to their work buddies. Following the introduction, offer to assess everyone else’s set up (a procedure that takes less than three minutes per workstation), and give some easy, low-budget recom-mendations for improved ergonomics.
Give each person your card. This is a great practice builder, and it’s very effective.
— Bryen Bell, DC
BAC to Health Chiropractic Group
SCHEDULE SELECT WORKSHOPS
Instead of trying to set up lectures all over town, select up to four local clubs, groups, or fitness centers and schedule a series of workshops at each.
I have done workshops and screenings at one club for 20 years. Following each event, I still get new patients. And, when members need care, they know who to call.
Three pieces of advice:
1. Do not spread yourself too thin. Be selective about where you go.
2. Do not stay with any group that does not fully support or cross-promote you.
3. Let your current patients know about your events. They may want to attend — and by doing so, learn more about the organization sponsoring them.
— John P. Hayes, Jr., DC, DABCO
Perfect Practice Web
‘Talking ad’ attracts radio listeners
Ronn C. Radcliff, DC, has a different “take” on radio advertising: Instead of buying airtime to run a “normal” radio commercial, he talks with the host of an a.m. radio show. And the discussions are all extemporaneous.
“Our local radio station offers live advertising. They call me during their morning show, and we talk about chiropractic,” he explains. “I am billed for a 60-second commercial — just $17 — but we usually talk for four to eight minutes. What a bargain!”
Radcliff says that when he decided to buy the radio commercials, he provided the morning host with copies of his clinic’s brochures, as well as other information on chiropractic.
“When he [the host] calls, I never know what we are going to talk about,” he says. “Sometimes he picks a topic from the information I give him; sometimes we talk about something he saw on TV, like Emmitt Smith getting adjusted on ‘Dancing with the Stars.'”
The radio show is called “Carolina in the Morning.” It is mostly talk, with some music. The at-home audience is “mostly older” people, explains Radcliff. “But most of the businesses and factories in the area also play this station. People [new patients] have told me they have been listening to me on the radio and just love it.”
Radcliff tracks the source of each new patient. He has found that 80 percent of his new patients come in to him because of the radio program. And they come as far as 50 miles away.
Radcliff runs a solo practitioner clinic in Gaffney, S.C. Radcliff Family Chiropractic (www.radclifffamilychiropractic.com) employs two CAs, two LMTs, one x-ray technician, and an office manager (his wife). He’s been in practice for eight years, three in Gaffney.
Practice the rule of reciprocity. Take your model spine into every store around your office and use it to illustrate what you do. Explain that you would like to refer your patients to the business and ask for business cards or coupons to provide to patients.
Then request the business to display your fliers or brochures or keep your cards on their counter. Many of these employees will become your patients, and reaching out to them will strengthen your presence in the community quickly.
— Len Schwartz, DC
ChiroPractice Marketing Solutions
PUT ‘SELL SHEETS’ TO WORK
If you’d like some help with promotional, referral, and sales efforts at your office, put “sell sheets” to work.
More businesslike than fliers, these “one-page brochures” are best displayed in clear Lucite stands in strategic locations. Use them to “sell” the practice’s doctors,
allied providers, services, products, and more.
Adhere to a concise standardized format; use a brief opening narrative followed by bullet points and edit well. Keep the content dynamic and interesting, just like your practice.
Offer them to patients, include them in your mail, and take them to events. They’re a great addition to your “sales force.”
— Alexis Parian, DC
The Parian Company
TALK TO THE PRESS
In an ideal world, the media would seek you out as an expert in your field. The challenge, though, is to get the press to perceive you this way. Start to create this perception by writing letters to the editor.
Whenever you see a story in the paper about the school lunch program, backpacks, or vaccinations, share your opinion as a chiropractor in a letter.
— Drs. Theresa and Stuart Warner
Future Perfect Inc.
SHOW YOUR CHARITY
We run food drives to support charitable organizations, such as homeless shelters. The drives are inexpensive to advertise. They create goodwill in the community and bring in new patients, along with old ones.
— Brian Vanderbilt, DC
Vanderbilt Family Chiropractic