Why you should check your intuition at the door and follow data instead
When I talk to other doctors about marketing their practices, I am surprised at the amount of money spent on attracting new patients, especially because many of them don’t even have the systems in place to track the success of converting potential new patients into actual new patients.
When someone offers a great new marketing idea they claim was successful in their practice, I want numbers and data. How many calls did it generate? How many appointments were booked? Of those booked, how many patients kept the appointment? You might be surprised to learn that a number of patients who book an appointment never show.
If you’re not sure your marketing efforts are effective, and you have multiple team members marketing your practice, you should listen for differences in how they handle the calls to develop best practices.
In my opinion the most successful marketing calls start with a script. Using a script ensures we are sending consistent messages to our potential new patients. Then, find out how much revenue was generated. This doesn’t mean how much you billed, but how much you collected.
There is a big difference in the two. Your instincts might say it was a success, but do you have the data to back it up?
Profile your ideal patient
When it comes to attracting new patients, lean on what you know, not what you think you know. Don’t get me wrong. I rely on my gut instincts when walking through a dark parking garage, but when it comes to attracting new patients, I want to make decisions based on data and not intuition.
For starters, who are your ideal patients? How far do they live from your practice? What type of insurance do they have? Are they single or married? Do they have children? You may be surprised by the answers to these questions. How do you know who to market to, if you don’t know who your ideal patient is?
The answers to these questions will steer you in the right direction of where to focus your efforts.
Train staff to take new patient calls
Next, you need to find out what happens when potential new patients call your office. I don’t mean what you’ve told your staff to do, but actually what is happening on the calls. Is your staff trained to handle potential new patients over the phone? How do they answer the never-ending stream of calls from patients who simply want to know how much it will cost to see the doctor? Are your front desk staff botching new patient calls without your knowledge?
And I don’t mean that in a negative way; but I’ve had a few staff over the years who intentionally pushed away patients who wanted a later afternoon appointment, so that they did not have to work more hours to accommodate the request.
Not only could poor marketing efforts prevent you from growing your practice, but it also could be a compliance concern. It is impossible to quote a price for a new patient visit over the phone—or is it? The truth is we have staff members who have no knowledge of what type of insurance the person on the other end of the line has, or if they have insurance that covers chiropractic at all.
And without a crystal ball, they have no way of knowing what type of exam will take place. Will the patient need X-rays? Will they be adjusted on the first visit, or need additional therapies? When we teach our staff to be evasive, we slam the door on potential new patients every day. Or worse, we answer the question honestly, but by doing so, potentially expose the practice to unnecessary risk.
It’s not uncommon for some staff, when under pressure from the voice on the other end of the line, to quote a cash fee for patients without insurance. Often, this fee far exceeds the discounting guidelines outlined by state and federal regulators. If you think everyone is doing it so it must be OK, think again.
Commonplace is not the same as legal or compliant. Many practices across the country are using a discount medical plan organization (DMPO) to answer the question of what it costs to see the doctor legally and compliantly, and with higher conversion rates than those who continue to be evasive.
Put yourself in your patient’s position. How would you feel if you had a problem and knew how to fix it, but didn’t know if you could afford it? You make call after call, and you still can’t get this simple question answered, but the friendly person who answers the call assures you they can help you if you will just come into the office. You’d be frustrated, too.
Putting it together
Once you have the data for your ideal patient and you have trained your staff to convert callers to new patients effectively, how do you track how well your marketing is working to set up your practice for success?
Referral source. Make sure that your EHR software has specific referral source choices that correlate to your current marketing campaigns. Each week pull a report to see where your new patients are coming from. You should also pull a report for all new patients without a referral source listed. This report will hold your staff accountable and ensure a referral source is listed for each new patient, which is essential to tracking your marketing success.
Google Analytics. You can create a free account and set it up on your website, or have someone do it for you. After it’s installed, you’ll know who is visiting your website, where they’re coming from (Facebook, Google, Pinterest, etc.), which pages they visit most, which pages they abandon, and other data that can be used to tweak your marketing plan. Even if you’re not sure how to use Google Analytics yet, get it installed and dive in. You can learn as you go. The key is having the data there to pull from.
Google Reviews. Potential new patients love reviews: 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as they trust advice from their own friends, and 90 percent of mobile searches happen on Google. To ensure that you have plenty of five-star reviews, ask patients to review you on Google. In follow-up emails, include a link to help them complete a review of your practice. Respond to all negative reviews quickly. Most patients weigh their decision to use you not only on the number of five-star reviews you have, but also on how well you handled the negative reviews.
Consistency is key. Often, we abandon a marketing effort far too soon, before it has had time to be successful. Give your marketing efforts three to six months before calling it quits. Not everyone needs a chiropractor today (most do, but they don’t realize it yet). Using multiple low-cost advertising streams (print ads, yellow pages, Google ads, Facebook, postcards, etc.) will help keep your clinic’s name “top of mind” when potential new patients repeatedly see it. When it comes time to select a chiropractic clinic, they pick the one they are most familiar with—yours!
Delegate. It’s easy to neglect marketing when you get busy, only to rush back in when things get slow. Assigning the responsibility of marketing your practice to the right person is a great way to keep it a priority, and I’ll let you in on a secret: It’s not you. Pick someone on your team who is more passionate about marketing your services than delivering them. For many of us, promoting our own services seems self-serving. And the reality is, while you may have excellent technical skills, if you’re like me, you would rather have a raving fan who works for the practice at most events instead of one of your doctors, unless the event includes presentations where your doctors may be on the agenda.
It doesn’t take a large budget to market your practice successfully, but it does take time to gather the data, patience to watch it all come together, and a commitment to make it a priority all year long. As author Karen Lamb once said, “A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today.”
So, stop making excuses and start marketing your practice today.
Ray Foxworth, DC, FICC, MCS-P, is president of ChiroHealthUSA and a certified medical compliance specialist. He maintains his practice on NewSouth Professional Campus in Flowood, Miss., home to a large multidisciplinary spine center, with services ranging from chiropractic to neurosurgery. He can be contacted through chirohealthusa.com.