How education and adapting a communication style can open the door to new and diverse patients when considering how to market to minorities
What really motivated me to serve the St. Louis minority community with chiropractic was that they needed me — it’s really just as simple as that. I kind of drifted toward where the need was. I went where the need was as I saw it. About close to a year after I graduated, when I had the opportunity to open my own practice and devise how to market to minorities, I really looked at the map of St. Louis, because I wanted to be strategically centrally located where everyone had access to me. So, I chose a location where people from St. Louis and North County, where there are more minorities, and where they could access me really easily. I’ve been there now 13 years, so it ended up being the right location.
Marketing to minority communities
And when I started I was marketing in those communities, I was speaking in those communities at health screenings because there was a need, but there was also an enthusiasm for the message of chiropractic. It’s a new message for many people in my community, which is not something that I’m super-happy about, but it’s something that I recognized that needed to be changed.
As I began to work, and I began to practice, I realized that the things that we talk about are things that aren’t common — it’s not knowledge that everybody has. The things we think are simple and just make sense are things many people have never heard.
Accessibility is really, really important, from a transportation standpoint in whatever city you’re in. But also important is getting out and reaching into those communities — the more we got out and got into those communities, the more people responded. They hadn’t seen chiropractors before. Most people had no experience with chiropractors.
When I was in my third or fourth year in practice we had a coach, a chiropractor coach, and he was talking to us and he said, “You know, most people coming to your office would have had chiropractic experience before, but you need to reshape the way they think about it,” and me and my partner both said at the exact same time, “Not in our practice.”
Most of the people who come to our practice for the first time are being introduced to chiropractic; it’s their first time getting adjusted, the first time hearing about their nervous system. It was the first time talking about their body from the inside out rather than the outside in. So, all these principles were brand-new for the people we see.
Laying the foundation with new patients
In terms of communication there needs to be more education for minority patients.
We have to teach these basic principles first as a baseline before we really get specifically into what chiropractic is and how it works and how it can change the body over time. We have to teach those principles first before we can really get into specifically what the problem is, and get that knowledge base first.
The first thing is when the new-practice patient comes in, we give them a tour. It’s not designed just to show them around the office, but to begin the education process.
The very first thing we show them is our Tree of Life, and our Tree of Life has families and kids and older people, all on the street, so that they begin to get the understanding that chiropractic is not just because you slipped and fell or you have a headache or you have carpal tunnel. It is for the entire family; that’s the first thing we show them. From there we move into our area where we have all our nutrition, all of our products, and we talk about how you integrate those things and that’s when we begin to have the inside-out conversation.
From there we go to our exercises and we have a board that shows the degenerative process — what can happen if your body is not aligned and there is stress on the nervous system. It’s another education point, once you go through this process, and we hope to get the patient closer to where they need to be with their knowledge about chiropractic.
Then we have this big Wellness Wall, where we talk to them and they see people getting adjusted, and it’s their introduction to adjustments. Our practice is open — we have open-bay adjusting by design to create a community, for them to be able to see other people who look like them, maybe with the same things they have going on, and they’re getting care and happy to be there.
We have another area where we’ll quickly educate them on how the nervous system functions before they go in for an exam, then in the exam room we’ll get into a deeper description of what we do.
How to market to minorities: a different communication style
One of the first things we teach our doctors when they come into the practice is communication style. This was something we learned really, really early on when we got in the practice.
We were getting the door kind of slammed in our face when we first went out into the community, saying we want to teach you guys at your church or your community center or your nonprofit or the club that you belong to, we want to teach you about chiropractic, but what we realized was that was “doctor speech,” or professional speech, and that wasn’t connecting. We quickly realized that what we needed to do when figuring out how to market to minorities was speak to people the way we always speak, the way you speak to your family members or your friends. We needed to speak to the pastor of that church just as if he was your dad or your uncle, or speak to the lady who was in charge of a club the same way you speak to your mom or your grandmother.
When we changed that communication style and got more comfortable, just being ourselves and communicating in that fashion, things changed because in my culture it’s very much about relationships. It’s about feeling — they have to get to know you, to like you before anything else can happen. That’s the first thing; I have to be able to trust you first, and you have to be honest and you have to be up front, because they can sniff that out pretty easily.
So, for us, when we understood that we needed to just be ourselves, communicate and get straight to the point and tell them what it is and what we want to do, and why we’re here, once we explained the “why,” then people really got on board.
Nutrition impacting adjustments
In our practice we talk about how the body works with nutrition and chiropractic; all those things that exist on the wellness side of health care that are about facilitating the natural processes of the body.
It’s not about changing; it’s about helping the body. And that’s where we start — for us there are the two components: the chiropractic adjustment and there’s nutrition. The body needs to function chemically and the body needs to function physically in order for you to get healthy — and mentally as well.
We do a lot of workshops in our practice, and by far the most popular are the nutrition workshops. We’ll have two to three times more people at that workshop than any of our other workshops because it’s an area people are familiar with, and many of them understand that they don’t have as much knowledge as they need in order to get the results they are looking for. You can see the light bulb kind of go off in their head as people connect with the things you’re saying.
It’s not a simple concept for most people, how what they’re eating affects their health. They really don’t understand that a burger from McDonald’s, although it has all these components in it, are not the same as the components in healthy foods. So, when we break those things down and we talk to them about things as simple as water or refined sugar, or what magnesium does, we talk to them about these things and the gears start to turn and they realize where they are versus where they need to be.
For us, nutrition is that next layer. For us, we started carrying nutrition products 5-6 years ago, and prior to that, we just adjusted. And that’s not enough. The chiropractic adjustment is amazing, but that’s not enough. People need lifestyle changes in order to facilitate the things we are doing as chiropractors. We had people coming back year after year and they were sick, and we realized with the things they were doing, our treatments were not holding. We added an exercise component, and we added a nutrition component, and as it’s grown we’ve really come to see an increase in people’s performance in our office.
Most of the people who come into our practice come in for pain, for back pain, for headaches, for specific issues. But it’s important for chiropractors to talk about nutrition because we are the biggest portal into wellness and holistic healing.
That’s one of the biggest challenges we have: the basics of nutrition and explaining how the body’s nervous system works and how chiropractic works at its most basic level is the biggest challenge in chiropractors being able to successfully communicate that.
Heeding the call to serve minority communities
We find that minorities aren’t getting adjusted at the rate that they should be getting adjusted, and maybe even more than other populations, because we suffer from the most conditions. We die the fastest, we die the youngest, we’re the most unhealthy, so we feel like there’s a call for minority chiropractors to be in these minority communities, and to be serving at a high level. They need to be a presence in those communities.
In chiropractic I feel like the status quo is what’s hurting us — doing things the same way is going to get you the same results. We just don’t have time to waste anymore when it comes to people’s health. We’re sick, we’re dying, we’re not making it. We can’t softball these issues; we have to deal with them directly.
EDGAR EVERETT III, DC, currently resides in St. Louis, Mo., and is a partner at Proficient Chiropractic in the metro area and founding partner of Evoke Chiropractic Coaching. He is driven to bring to his practice members a caring, inspiring and solution-based style of health care. Since being in practice he says he has seen the chiropractic landscape shift dramatically. For this article he spoke with WholisticMatters podcast for the series Nutrition Education and Racial Disparities in Health. For more from the podcast series go to wholisticmatters.com, or for more info on Evoke Chiropractic Coaching go to evokechiropractic.com.