Have you ever dreamed of earning your black belt in some exotic martial art? You know the scenario. You’re on an important mission for a top-secret government agency; millions of lives hang in the balance. You’re in a dark alley, and suddenly six trained assassins surround you, knives drawn. If you don’t act fast, all is lost! Every move you make is shear explosive genius, and with the good humor of Jackie Chan and the intensity of the late Bruce Lee, you smile as you mop the floor with all six.
One of the reasons this fantasy is so much fun is the power and total lack of fear you feel as you visualize each and every beautifully blocked punch and flawless flying kick. That’s why nearly every martial arts student ties on the beginner’s white belt and starts the journey toward his or her black belt. It’s the promise of feeling the power and no fear. Speaking of the journey, there’s a lot of it. It takes at least three to five years in most credible disciplines to earn a black belt.
Similarly, the journey you will embark on to master new patient recruitment will require an investment in time, hard work and discipline. But the effort will be well worth it, in terms of building your practice and your professional reputation. I can tell you story after story about doctors who have built successful practices by recognizing that a steady stream of new patients will always be the key to practice success. The good news is that once you start implementing a well-developed new patient marketing program, it takes only a few weeks to know if you’re on the right track.
Like martial arts, there are several types of new patient recruitment tools that work beautifully and are worthy of black-belt determination. Some of the most effective ones include: chiropractic lectures (to patients, laypeople, health professionals, and attorneys), health fairs, telemarketing, surveys, flyers, radio, television, newspaper and more.
The new patient marketing tool that I chose to focus on years ago is still one of the most powerful: spinal screenings. I committed early on to becoming one of the country’s leading experts on spinal screenings. I learned about screenings from everyone I could, and those efforts have paid off. In one 30-day period, my team put more than 600 new patients inside our clinic system with screenings. Last year, at just one screening, we appointed more than 1,000 new patients.
Embarking on the Journey
Imagine earning your own black belt in new patient recruitment through the effective use of spinal screenings. You are super Chiro-Ninja! With that black belt, when you get attacked in the alley, all of your assailants end up making appointments to see you the next day and show up ready to pre-pay for their care. When you leave the battle, the head villain pleads, “Please, can I bring my wife and kids in for a check-up, too? I know we all need the care and I’ve got excellent insurance.” Again, with the good humor of Jackie Chan and the intensity of the late Bruce Lee, you smile, shake his hand and say, “Sure, but don’t be late.” Now that’s power.
Getting the best of an attacker is a fun concept, but imagine having the power to produce all the new patients you could ever hope to see. Now that’s what I call fun! Instead of walking dark alleys looking for fights, you head out of your office ready to add more new patients to your already thriving practice.
Before we set out on this journey, there are a few things you should know. First, any chiropractor can get a black belt in new patients.
Case in point: I knew a chiropractor in the Northwest who never exceeded 30 patient visits a week during eight miserable years. He started his new patient black belt training, which included training in spinal screenings, and was completely transformed.
In his second year, he put more than 500 new patients in his practice and boasted more than 250 visits a week. There are plenty more success stories out there just like his.
Next, earning your black belt in new patients takes hard work, as well as determination and a willingness to do what your teacher tells you. It’s just like getting a real black belt or anything else of value or requiring skill.
If you’re ready to start learning now, put on your white belt and stand in the back row, and we’ll go through some of the basics.
Finding the Right Teacher
After you pick your new patient program, pick a teacher who you know is ethical and has the patient’s best interests at heart. This will allow total commitment on your part. Vow to work your tail off.
Here in Seattle, I have a friend, a chiropractor named Dr. Tom Goodwin. He has his black belt in five different martial arts and does some teaching. I’m not talking about a fifth-degree black belt, but a black belt in five different disciplines. I knew Tom for years without realizing any of this. He’s the picture of quiet confidence.
I asked Dr. Goodwin why he’s given more than 20 years to his quest. “Here’s what I tell my students,” he said. “If you can do one thing well, you can do anything well.” Remember that point – especially as it applies to recruiting new patients.
Remember also that your teacher is supposed to take you out of your comfort zone. Can you imagine a karate class in which the teacher is taking his students through a particular kick, throw or strike, and one guy just stands there, arms crossed, and responds: “This won’t work in my town.” That negative attitude in the martial arts student as well as the chiropractor can lead to looking for a quick-fix short cut. Here’s what that sort of temptation looks like. Someone reads about the new “instant” martial art “Hype-Poo.” You hear about a guy who says he was going to starve before he learned “Hype-Poo”; and, if you just call for his “free report,” you too can learn the secrets of the “Hype-Poo” master instantly!
Now, you know nothing in this world is free – but you’re told the commitment is zero, so you suspend all critical thought and end up calling for the free “Hype-Poo” report. The “free report” ends up being a super commercial for another “Hype-Poo” course that costs an arm and a leg. With critical thought now suspended, you bite and end up with another set of books, notes and tapes you never use, just like the last set. Weeks later you wonder why you fell for that “poo” again.
Your problem in this type of situation wasn’t the need for more information. What you needed was hands-on training on how to apply the information appropriate for you.
Beggars and Choosers
If you’ve never participated in a spinal screening before, chances are you have lots of questions and maybe even some concerns. I have actually been asked, “Why do you have fun at a screening and I feel like a beggar?” My answer: “Because you go to take, and I go to give.” You see, if you go to a spinal screening out of desperation and to take instead of give, you are a beggar. Let’s get this straight right now: Do you love chiropractic? Yes. Do you love people? Yes. Do you love talking to people about chiropractic? Yes. When you boil it down, that’s all a screening is. It just so happens that at a screening you have a system for assessing the need for chiropractic.
In some doctors’ emotional minds, a screening is a means of “tricking” people into seeing a chiropractor. However, you must make up your mind to go to a screening knowing that you’ll treat everyone like you would want to be treated and only invite those in need to make an appointment. Then you can enjoy screenings, too.
Think of the most rewarding clinical success story in your practice. Chances are excellent that your next powerful patient success story could be the result of a spinal screening.
If you follow some basic guidelines, you can organize a spinal screening that will pay big dividends in the form of new patients and positive exposure for your practice.
First, find a location.
Chances are that you have a patient who works for a company that’s having a health fair. Nearly every chiropractor does. Find out who that patient is. Ask who is coordinating the health fair and offer to give a free spinal screening. Ask the patient to put in a good word for you.
Set some goals.
The number of people you can plan to see at a particular screening can vary widely depending on the venue and the location. Try to establish beforehand approximately how many people you would like to screen. You should strive for a screening that lasts a minimum of two hours.
Be sure to prepare thoroughly and efficiently for the screening.
Bring a SAM, a posture analyzer or an SEMG, lots of brochures and dress well. Make sure everything is very professional, clean, bright and relaxing. Be prepared to talk to lots of people.
Have an opening line prepared. Here’s what I use as a standard greeting. “Would you like to get your spine checked? It takes three minutes and it’s painless.” The greeting is straightforward, outlines the commitment and is easy to say with a smile. If the person stops, great – if not, no problem.
Establish a rapport.
Ask for the person’s name, try to remember it, and tell her your name. Explain how the screening device works and ask the person how she feels. If someone tells you she has headaches, it’s natural to show concern, so you do. That actually starts the doctor-patient relationship.
If the screening device shows an irregularity, you have before you a person in pain who needs you, so you offer to schedule a free appointment at your clinic. It should go without saying that you don’t offer an appointment unless the person is in need. The screening, your conversation with the person, and your explanation of his problems help him to better understand his need for chiropractic.
Have a dialogue prepared.
A good way to suggest that you could help a person with an irregularity is to say: “If chiropractic could help you leave all this pain behind, shouldn’t you know?” Most of those in need say yes. That opens the door to your offer. That too can be phrased as a question. Explain the free offer and ask the person if he would use it. If the person shows resistance or isn’t sure, you tactfully withdraw the offer.
A good way to handle someone who appears hesitant is to say: “Mr. Smith, this certificate is for someone who knows he or she wants to do something about a problem. If you aren’t sure, take my card instead. There’s no free consultation or exam offer with the card, but you will know how to get in touch with me in the future.”
Follow-up after the screening.
About 66% of the people who accept your offer for care at a screening will show up with good follow-up from your staff. In turn, you will end up treating about 66% of those people. It’s important that appointments be made fairly soon after the screening, and you should make sure your CAs are diligent with appointment reminder calls.
Making the Principles Work
Many chiropractors have taken these principles and made them work in their practices. The pay-offs can be incredible. Whether you are starting a new clinic or looking to take an established practice to the next level, you can boost new patient referrals with a well-balanced marketing plan that includes spinal screenings and more.
Take, for example, Dr. David Burns, a recent graduate who just opened a new practice. In the first seven days his practice was open, Dr. Burns produced and processed 39 new patients through the effective use of a solid new patient marketing plan. He was seeing more than 100 visits a week in his first month. In case you’re wondering, these are real, fee-for-service visits at a reasonable charge, not UCAFF (Unlimited Care at a Fixed Fee), compromised charges. In the first month it was open, Dr. Burns’ clinic produced more services than overhead.
Another doctor, a chiropractor in the Midwest, set out some time ago on a new adventure when he moved from his home town and set up a practice in a new area. He was already a successful chiropractor, and his biggest challenge lay in producing large numbers of new patients in his new practice area. He ended up earning his black belt in new patients in record time. He opened his new office and saw 113 new patients in the first month and saw 231 patient visits in the fourth week of practice.
By the way, this doctor eventually took a shine to a new area, just a few years ago. With all the confidence of a black belt, he sold another well-established practice and moved to a new town to start all over again. During his first year in the new location, he produced more than 500 new patients and again was seeing hundreds of patients each week in a matter of two months.
If you make the commitment to work toward your black belt in new patients, you too, could end up with a practice success story to tell. Unlike the characters in those Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee thrillers, you really are on a very important mission. You are a doctor who knows about the power of a chiropractic adjustment. Many of you are already in the dark alley and are pretty scared. It is out of the deepest respect for chiropractic and martial arts that I advise you to make a life-changing commitment: Get your black belt in new patients, lose the fear, and feel the power.