Follow the retailers: When setting up your own product display, follow accepted rules of merchandisingcopy ideas that work, such as this boot display [below]. The products must be displayed prominently and attractively and neatly arranged in an organized, uncluttered manner so the patient can hold the products in their hands, read the packaging or labels and examine them closely without feeling rushed.
Most chiropractors have strong beliefs and philosophies that guide their practices and contribute to all decisions regarding the practice. Introducing nutrition into a practice is sometimes rejected for a variety of reasons-no interest in nutrition on the part of the chiropractor; fear due to lack of knowledge or just an overall contentment with a practice that doesn’t include nutrition.
Regardless of a doctor’s personal viewpoint on nutrition, it’s time that all chiropractors begin to look at their practice through more of a business eye and not just a philosophical eye. With the squeezing of every dollar coming into a practice today for services rendered, the wise practitioner is going to prepare for the future by creating the practice that will allow for growth and excitement. A “services-only” practice has to expand. Practices today have to create “one-stop-shopping” for all their patients’ health care needs and provide products that will allow a patient to become more independent and responsible regarding their individual health. Practices need to begin thinking in terms of becoming a health “store.”
The days of the doctor providing “health” to the patient, especially if they have a great insurance policy, are long gone. The doctor of today has to truly work, educate and motivate on a daily basis and then provide the necessary “tools” to allow an individual to improve. This store has to be right in your office, preferably in the waiting room or adjacent to it. The first round of products that will make the biggest difference in a patient’s health is nutritional supplements.
How many stores in strip malls would cherish the opportunity to have 30-120 people per day come through their doors by appointment? Not only that, but these appointments are people who have specific health needs and the desire to get better. As the old slogan goes, “Find a need and fill it.” If you’ve ever referred out for an L-S support or some specific nutritional supplement, you’re missing the boat on total patient care and net profit. Yesteryear (during the 80’s) it may not have mattered, but today, survival is the key, and all of us need to operate under different terms. Practices need to provide a full service center. Even if we disagree philosophically, don’t let a practice die or patients leave because of inability to change with the times.
There has never been a better time than now for chiropractors to step up and put a product center in their practice. And this center should be spearheaded with nutritional products, as every patient needs them (whether they know it or want them). Nutritional products are consumables, so now, with proper education and management, a practice can grow exponentially on a growth chart regarding future income. Get a patient increasing and improving their health requirements, manage it over the long term and the practice grows with increased patient compliance, success, income and referrals.
“Business Darwinism” dictates survival of the fittest. During challenging economic times, the fittest businesses are often those who can diversify the fastest. For example, traditional product companies can generate additional revenue by expanding to offer customers services that they had previously been forced to shop for on the outside. Similarly, service-oriented businesses, such as chiropractic practices, must diversify to offer “for sale” products that are related to their services. Technically, this is known as “scrambled merchandising” a concept that modern chiropractors should embrace as a key to growth during a time when many competitors are simply struggling to survive.
Four Elements to Scrambled Merchandising
There are four important elements to the success of a scrambled merchandising program for a chiropractic practice.
1. Consumer needs
The products offered must be consistent with the needs or desires of the patients. In other words, they must be products that the patient wants. Ideally, the products would be available in many alternative retail locations, however, purchasing them directly at the chiropractor’s office would be considered a desired convenience.
The products must be displayed prominently and attractively, according to accepted rules of retail merchandising. All products should be neatly arranged in an organized, uncluttered manner. The patient should be able to hold the products in their hands, read the packaging or labels and examine them closely without feeling rushed. When possible, supporting full color posters and advertising slicks should be incorporated into the display area.
3. Personal Recommendations
The products must be backed by a personal recommendation of the trusted practitioner. Often overlook-ed as a marketing strategy, the personal recommendation is arguably the most powerful sales tool a product has at it’s disposal. Consistent with this, of course, is the quality of the product. The chiropractor must make every effort to offer the finest quality product available anywhere to the patient. Additionally, when possible, a full array of written supporting information should be made available to the individual patient. Written supporting material reinforces the personal recommendation and simplifies the question-answer phase of a sale.
The pricing of the product must be competitive, straight forward and easy-to-understand. All products should possess price tags or marked prices clearly visible on their packaging. While discounts on individual products are not necessary, ideally, the patient should be given some measure of control over the pricing. For example, an item that retails for $9.95 might be made available for $9.95 each or 3/$24.95. Patients who have at least partial control over pricing are far more likely to buy than patients who are forced to accept a single price.
Set-up an Office Store
While some chiropractors might want to research a wide variety of product options and manufacturing sources, there is an excellent alternative to this time and energy consuming process. There are companies that offer a complete chiropractic office turn-key product package. Usually the total price of the entire turn-key module is less than the sum of all the wholesale prices on the individual products. It is a one-step program that allows chiropractors to diversify their business immediately without prior product knowledge or retail experience.
Product Compatibility with Practice Specializations
It is important for the “store” to contain products that are compatible with the philosophy of the doctor. If a doctor’s patient base consists of patients whose primary form of exercise is gardening, then body building products would not be recommended. If a practice wants to focus on geriatrics, obviously children’s products would be improper. Similarly, a sports medicine/exercise oriented practice and a practice looking to increase pediatric volume would need specialized product lines. There are many products available today that can help your patients achieve their goals, whether it be weight loss, increased energy, allergy relief, digestive support and so on.
Patients want to get better. Patients are willing to pay, especially if they’re paying for something that is going to allow them to feel better and save long term. The doctor has to be willing to assume a more intrusive role in the patients’ life and become the doctor/coach/manager with the patient.
Chiropractors inherently develop close relationships with patients, and many times lose sight of the role they are supposed to be filling in that patient’s life. We must never forget that our job is to teach and encourage each and every patient to reach the highest level of health possible. This requires more energy, more focus and more talking with each patient, all day every day. The choice is to either continue fighting with managed care over the services provided, accept that patients will often go to the physical therapist or orthopedist instead of you because that’s where their insurance will cover or become an entity that provides something patients can’t get anywhere else. Encourage, manage and provide the products and your practice will become the practice of the future today!
Timothy J. Maggs, DC [left] is a 1978 graduate of National College of Chiropractic and has specialized in both sports medicine and nutrition for the past 18 years. He still practices on a very limited basis in upstate New York. Dr. Maggs is acting CEO of Team Stick, Inc., and oversees all aspects of company operations. For the past four seasons, Dr. Maggs has worked as an assistant in the New York Giants Strength and Conditioning Department and has consulted the strength departments of both the New England Patriots and Chicago Bulls. He presently authors monthly articles for both regional and national running magazines while directing the Team Stick Kenyan Program. Dr. Maggs, who can be contacted at RunningDr@aol.com, is also the primary author of one of the largest running sports medicine web sites, located at http://www.RunningDr.com.
Charles A. Stebbins [right] is Chief Operating Officer of Betterbodies, Inc., a specialty retailer of fitness clothing, exercise equipment and nutritional supplements. He co-manages the betterbodz.com web site which is the largest interactive commercial web site in the world. Additionally, he teaches Organizational Development, Human Resources and Internet Business Development for both undergraduates and MBA students at St. Rose College in Albany, New York. He has authored many articles and the textbook, “The Test Takers Survival Guide.”
THE MAKING OF A CHILDREN’S VITAMIN
In 1993, a young company, Team Stick, Inc., that marketed and sold sports products founded and sponsored a World Class team of Kenyan runners. When the program originated, the phrase “hakuna matata” was frequently used by the runners. This phrase, which is Swahili and translates into “no problem” became the team slogan and was filed for federal trademark in late 1993. In mid-1994, Disney’s blockbuster movie, “The Lion King” hit the theaters and the central theme of the movie became “hakuna matata.” Due to Team Stick having priority position of the phrase, the children’s line of products was formulated under the Hakuna Matata brand name. The phrase was originally intended for the adult market, but the idea had to be reconsidered when the phrase became a part of every child’s vocabulary after the success of “The Lion King.”
In addition to Hakuna Matata Children’s Chewable Vitamins and Organic Herbal Products, the company is also publishing a children’s book titled by the same name and highlights the relationship developed by a young Kenyan boy and many animals in the Kenyan forest. All of the characters in the book are named after the Kenyan runners of Team Stick.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- Remember, no matter how friendly or close any patient becomes with their doctor, they will still do whatever it takes to feel better.
- Chiropractors are in the health/disease business. It is your obligation to raise the value of health on a patient’s value ladder. Nothing is more important.
- An excellent program which is very test-oriented is the Standard Process questionnaire that can be handed out to patients. This immediately becomes an objective test, highlighting weaknesses in the body and recommendations can be made from it while retests can be performed at 30-60-90 day intervals. Standard Process’ phone number is (800) 558-8740.
- It is always important to remember that all patients will pay for their health, in one form or another, either through pain and suffering with expensive crisis treatment or preventative care, such as exercise, diet and chiropractic. The experienced doctor knows the gravity and cost of degenerative illnesses and believes that any cost to a patient that helps to minimize future illnesses or degenerative diseases is an expense patients can’t afford to overlook.
- The more you recommend for your patient, the more they believe you care. Make them special by recommending products that will help their life.
- The less you recommend the greater the chance of losing a patient.
- Become “The Best.” We’ve all heard patients tell us of that miracle worker they used to see. That title goes to the doctor who makes the patient perform the most and buy those products that will make the greatest improvements.