When it comes to marketing, there are thousands of ways to bring in new patients. The key is knowing how to make those strategies work for you.
To be proficient at marketing, there are some basic principles you should learn. The first step is understanding how marketing works. Another is knowing the difference between public relations and marketing. And, finally, you need to determine why your current marketing techniques may not be working (or aren’t being done).
First, it’s important to understand the basic principle behind marketing. This is the subject of flows. A flow is simply the pathway or direction that something takes. When you turn on a hose, the water flows out the other end of the hose. When mail is delivered, it is flowing into your office. There are two flows that need to be considered in the procurement of new patients. They are in-flow and out-flow.
If you want an in-flow of new patients, you must first out-flow. If the office needs new patients, there must be an out-flow of something first. This creates a vacuum and allows the new patients to flow in. In fact, it “pulls” them in. Asking for referrals is an out-flow. It is an out-flow of communication that gets patients to in-flow their referrals.
Talks and lectures are an out-flow. It is an out-flow towards a group of people in your community. You have to put something out there. You have to communicate to your patients or the audience, give out brochures, send out a mailer or flyer, put out newspaper advertisements or send something to a mailing list. There has to be an outward flow.
This factor is why I have seen an office send out a newsletter to old patients, and almost magically new personal injury patients walked in. Something had to flow out so something else could flow in. This is a basic law of marketing and must be followed.
When a doctor is saying and feeling he must have new patients and is not doing something to out-flow for these new patients, he is, in fact, in-flowing. He is pulling inward, which results in no in-flow of new patients. Since he is in-flowing, the new patients are out-flowing. He is operating on a reverse of the flow he wants.
Getting What You Want
It is best to qualify what type of patient you want and then direct the flows toward that type of patient. If you want personal injury patients, then call attorneys. If you want insurance patients, then provide talks for companies that have good insurance for their employees. If you want all types of patients, ask for referrals, etc. It’s an on-going process if you want continuous incoming new patients.
If your clinic is keeping records of what out-flow activities it has been doing and a record of the number of new patients coming in, this data can be analyzed. The activities that created the greater in-flow can be reinforced, and the not-so-successful activities can be dropped out. You don’t just stop doing something because you “felt” it did not work; look at the statistics.
Take, for instance, one clinic that was doing “piggy-back” mailers. The doctor dropped the mailer when it came time to renew, because he felt the strategy was not getting the results he wanted. As soon as he did, his new patients dropped by two per week. He reinstated the mailer and that number went right back up. Now mailers are a regular part of his marketing activities. You must watch the statistics.
Public Relations vs. Marketing
The next thing to understand in the area of marketing is the difference between public relations (P.R.) and marketing.
P.R. is your public image. It is how you appear to others. For example, if your office is disorganized and cluttered, it does not present a positive image.
Many doctors have found that just by fixing up an office, the income in their clinics has increased. It does happen. So straighten up cluttered areas. Paint your office if it needs it. Clean up your desk and the front office areas, anywhere a patient might be able to see. Make the office a pleasant place to be.
What type of image does your staff present? Are they dressed in professional attire? This does not have to mean suit and tie, but are their pants pressed, their hair well-groomed, their overall look “polished”?
Another important P.R. factor is the doctor’s reputation. Patients notice things like the way you speak to your staff and what other patients say about you in the reception area. You must have good P.R. for your marketing to be effective.
What is marketing? Simply put, marketing is an activity that creates a desire, interest or want for your product. Marketing is focused on developing an interest in what you do or the product you sell. This could be pots and pans or chiropractic.
Your marketing efforts should result in getting more patients in to see you. When a potential new patient comes in to see you, you take that “interest” and sell her your “goods” – chiropractic. Once that patient arrives in the office and fills out the paperwork, you are now dealing with the area called sales.
If you were doing a scoliosis screening at the local elementary school, this would be a P.R. activity. The parents are not there, so you can market to them. You probably won’t get too many new patients from the screening. It’s a good thing to do and will help the community and increase awareness about spinal health, but is not a marketing activity.
All chiropractors should do community service projects; if for no other reason than to help the community and enhance the image of chiropractic. If you have good P.R., you will get community support. If you don’t support your community, you cannot expect their support.
If you present a community health talk and at the end thank the people for listening and walk off, that was a P.R. activity. Where was the marketing? You need to create the desire and need for your services. You have to close (end off the activity with the audience having an interest for your product) the lecture by having the attendees fill out a questionnaire. You should also allow for a question-and-answer session. When these potential patients mark what health problems they are having on the questionnaire, you should also ask whether you may call them for a consultation. Then be sure you or your staff follows up immediately.
The failure to close is the major reason more doctors don’t do talks/lectures or screenings. Learn how to close your talks better and turn those talks into marketing activities, not just P.R. activities.
Trouble-Shooting Ineffective Marketing
The final area we need to address is why your marketing might not be effective or no marketing is occurring at all. These problems usually stem from the disorganization in the office. There can be an undercurrent counter to the in-flow of new patients.
This counter-effort can come in many forms. For example, the office is behind on its insurance reports, and any new patients would mean that the office would just get farther behind. It could be that the staff are overworked because of inefficiencies and the front desk person, being overwhelmed as it is, doesn’t want to see anybody new.
Or the doctor’s time management may be off and he keeps getting behind throughout the day, with patients stacking up and having to wait long periods of time. Or, the doctor doesn’t have time to market.
These counter-intentions can affect the in-flow of new patients. When something is blocking the flow of water coming through a pipe, the result is no water at the tap.
When doctors say their major problem is no new patients, the source of the blockages has to be investigated before a marketing plan is even put in place. It would not do any good to do heavy marketing until these blockages are removed.
So remove the blockages and streamline the activities in the office so these blockages are not reoccurring, boost your P.R. where needed, and out-flow with plenty of targeted marketing activities that get people interested and into your office. It can be nearly effortless if you do it right.