Conscious marketing is deliberately and continuously promoting yourself and your staff and services to current and potential patients. A key step is evaluating and promoting the strengths of your practice. John Gay shows where to begin.” “Marketplace, there is no need for you to be hesitant or apologetic about marketing your chiropractic practice. In fact, you probably have your name and practice listed in the Yellow Pages, but perhaps do not recognize this as a small step in marketing a practice. Maybe we should call such an approach unconscious marketing! Now let us consider conscious marketing.
Why market your practice?
There is no denying the fact that competition within the chiropractic profession is intense and continues to escalate. Consider some of the many different forms that a chiropractic practice can take:
- General Chiropractor
- Acupuncture Specialist
- Pain Manager
- Homeopathy Kinesiology
- Solo practice
- Partnership/Group Practice
- Franchise Practice
- HMO/Preferred Provider Practice
It’s a confusing array. Of course, we recognize that there often will be differences in the services offered among these practice types. But consider the patient. These practices are all options that confront the patients when they see a chiropractor.
Add to this confusion the simple fact that the sheer number of chiropractic professionals is steadily increasing. That means that your competition is at an all-time high.
Also bear in mind that patients are, first and foremost, consumers. And as consumers, they are becoming more knowledgeable and sophisticated, and yes, even demanding as they seek quality chiropractic care at a reasonable price. So patients themselves are adding to the pressures of competition.
In light of this competition, you may find that for continued success in your practice you will need to meet the competition head-on. That is, you will need to devote more attention to “”putting your best foot forward”” in marketing your practice.
WHAT IS “”CONSCIOUS MARKETING””?
In large part, marketing simply means providing the services that patients seek and then making patients in your area aware of the availability of those services. Conscious marketing is deliberately and continuously promoting your practice–yourself, as well as your staff and services–to current and potential patients.
The key words here are deliberately and continuously. As mentioned at the outset, some of you may already be marketing your practice in subtle ways. Conscious marketing is just an extension of these efforts.
HOW DO YOU BEGIN?
A key step in conscious marketing is examining the strengths of your practice and then promoting those strengths. For example, you may specialize in one or more areas; these specialties distinguish you from other general chiropractors and, thus, becomes your true marketing strength.
In marketing terms this process is called “”positioning.”” You position yourself and your practice in the minds of patients??you separate yourself from the competition.
Any number of factors can be used to identify or position your practice. For example:
Are your patients clustered in a particular age group, occupation, lifestyle, spending level, home or work location? Do you have a chiropractic specialty? Is a large part of your practice devoted to treating children? Elderly patients? Work-mens’ comp? Patients with disabilities or other specific chiropractic problems? What image does your office environment present? High style? Homey?
Where is your office situated in relation to high traffic areas? Is it accessible to the disabled?
What is your staff’s attitude? Business-like? Friendly? What are their responsibilities and qualifications?
What services do your competitors and colleagues offer? Similar? Quite different?
These are just a few of the questions that can help you characterize your practice.
For more sophisticated assessments of your present practice and the directions it could take in the future, you may wish to seek the advice of professional marketers and experts in chiropractic who research and analyze practice trends. Sources include consultants, professional societies, companies involved in marketing chiropractic products, and even journal articles and other literature that address potential opportunities in practice promotion. Your knowledge of the local business climate and of your patients’ perceptions, plus a close look at your practice characteristics (with or without expert help and advice), will provide the specifics you need to identify your practice strengths.
HOW DO YOU MARKET YOUR PRACTICE?
Once you decide to consciously market your practice there are many paths you can take. However, they all rely on improving doctor/patient communications, building a caring professional relationship, and providing convenient, quality services.
People respond to a practice that readily supplies relevant information: name, location, experience, special expertise, and range of prices, prior to and during the office visit.
You can communicate with patients and the general public on a regular and timely basis by advertising your practice location, hours, services and products. For example, new patients, in particular, use the Yellow Pages to select a practitioner.
Or you may wish to promote your practice through a patient education column in a local newspaper. (The column may be ghost-written, if necessary, and plainly labeled “”advertisement””).
More sophisticated promotion may require an agency or other experts who know the FTC rules, the state chiropractic law, and advertising fundamentals such as correctly targeting the audience and designing and placing effective advertisements.
In the event of the introduction of new equipment, a new associate, the completion of special training or schooling and the availability of new techniques or products, submit the news to the appropriate media?? newspapers, radio or TV stations ??within your local area. Or, put these items in your own newsletter and mail it to your patient base well in advance of the peak vacation seasons, reminding them of the advantages of being prepared for the onset of physical activity.
You may wish to develop informational newsletters that are mailed quarterly to your patients. In addition, have them available to new and old patients when they visit the office.
To remain or become highly visible you and your staff should become involved in community civic and charitable functions, projects, clubs and societies. This is an informal opportunity for the community to get to know you.
Promoting your chiropractic services with hand-outs such as practice referral cards (available in the office) encourages return visits.
Practice brochures displayed at the reception area, doctor’s examination/ treatment rooms, and consultation areas build confidence in you by outlining the practice history, personnel experience, professional services and products available and payment schedules. Also, you should have professional materials printed with your practice address and telephone number available for patients.
Installing bulletin boards with messages such as, “”Ask about our new family discount plan,”” or “”You may qualify for our multiple visit treatment plan — please ask,”” may stimulate conversation and continued interest in your practice.
The attentiveness and competence of the staff will certainly strengthen the patient/practice relationship. Your patients will also find a comfortable physical environment conducive to return visits.
Make sure the reception room is well lighted, warm, comfortable and up-to-date.
Patients will know they are always welcome if the staff is motivated (by you) to present an air of friendliness, concern for their well-being and appreciation.
Ensure patient loyalty with an active patient recall system.
Even bankers cannot keep “”bankers’ hours”” anymore. For many patients, whether an office is open in the evening or Saturdays is a determining factor in selecting a chiropractic care professional.
Offer convenient hours and location for the working public.
To stimulate sales of chiropractic accessories??pillows, vitamins, etc, let your patients know these items are available without appointment.
Strive for immediate service for most of your patients; “”be there”” for them.
Services and Products
Quality care reflects your expertise as well as that of your staff. Based on that expertise, specialty services may offer a practice opportunity.
You may wish to promote your experience in, for example, occupational injuries, acupuncture or geriatric care. Or, you may decide that specializing in homeopathy or nutritional care may enhance your practice success since the competition may not be interested in these areas due to the additional education and training requirements.
Your trained personnel can be encouraged to seek new skills to aid in the specialty.
The depth of the product line you offer and the spending habits of your patients are other practice features to consider. You can:
- Discourage further shopping with a complete line of chiropractic products.
- Stimulate unplanned or postponed purchases with discounts to families and multiple-purchase patients.
What Are The Advantages of Conscious Marketing?
Many chiropractors report that in their experience informed marketing decisions followed by continuous and effective implementation do yield patient loyalty and a more successful practice. Also, additional income wisely reinvested in new equipment and training widens their marketing efforts.
Less obvious are the benefits of focusing your image in the public mind; that is, clearly defining your special capabilities and concerns. Knowing who you are and what you do builds public confidence in your practice. Equally important is the heightened staff morale achieved by sharpening their skills and focusing their attention on patient well-being.
From this overview you can see that marketing is an activity calling for careful, even time-consuming effort. But conscious marketing does reward its practitioners favorably.” “John W. Gay II, LLD, RFC, CIS, President of the Denver-based consulting firm of John Gay & Associates, has assisted more than 2,600 medical professionals with the management of their practices for over 16 years. Dr. Gay, a Registered Financial Consultant and a Certified Investment Specialist, speaks to professional groups throughout the U.S. and Canada, and has written articles for many professional journals. He may be contacted by calling John Gay & Associates, 303-690-2727.