From Our Readers…
The ‘Weather Channel Doctor’
The Weather Channel offers advertising on the morning forecast. Chances are, you’ve tuned into the “Weather Crawl” yourself. This segment is much more reasonably-priced than other TV advertising. You can write your own brief message, up to 250 characters. I put “back tips for gardening” on during gardening season, and during other times of the year, holiday poems and seasonal greetings. I’ve been doing it for eight years, and often when I meet someone new, I hear, “Oh, yeah! You’re the Weather Channel doctor!”
Dr. Peri L Dwyer
Share Those Testimonials
Nothing seems to speak as loudly and credibly as the testimony of a satisfied patient. Although direct word-of-mouth is best, here is a way to extend the reach of those words. A few effective uses of the patient testimonial include: posting testimonials with pictures around the office, place a view binder in your reception area entitled “How Chiropractic Has Helped Me!”, filled with signed testimonials, or advertising with quotes from these testimonials. The patients writing the testimonials seem to enjoy giving something back, and the prospective patients benefit from finding out how chiropractic has helped others with problems similar to theirs.
Dr. Brian Applebee
New Fairfield, Conn.
An Oldie But a Goodie
The best marketing tip I have is spinal screenings at street fairs and festivals that come around once a year. I would honestly say that 50% of my patient base originates from these events. My best week was 32 new patients, and best day was 12 new patients. Far and above, it has paid for itself time and time again more than any print media or phone marketing ever has. It is an opportunity to get involved in the community with name recognition. I set up a booth that could cost me $200-$1,000 for a weekend. I bring motion palpation benches and screening sheets, a spine model and my appointment book, coupons and my business cards. I offer a consultation, exam and adjustment for $20 and make it a two-visit report of findings. Several patients have become personal injury cases or workers’ comp cases, and several have had great insurance. I get to put the people whose names I collect at these events on my mailing list for birthday cards and quarterly newsletters. It has well been worth the effort. I don’t know if this is considered innovative — but “it works!”
Dr. Lynn Kerew
Santa Monica, Calif.
Ask and You Shall Receive
The best marketing tip that I have used is based on the realization that 80-85% of the American public has not yet used chiropractic care. In order to get more patients, I rely on the patients I already have. I have the GUTS to ask for more patients. With an established patient base of 2,000-2,500 patients, there are always secondary extensions into areas of the families that I am currently treating to find suffering and injured people that need my service. I am always asking who else is injured out there, who else is hurting and cannot find relief. I offer a complimentary seven- to eight-minute spinal exam to any person who calls in and asks for one. Once the exam is completed, I tell them my findings: Are they a candidate for chiropractic spinal work or not. If they choose to become a patient, they are taken to the front desk at the end of their complimentary exam to schedule a new patient exam at a later date. I’m always available to do a complimentary spinal screening exam sometime during the day.
Dr. Thomas S. Brodar
Generating Physician Referrals
A large part of the medical practitioner’s day is spent referring patients to “specialists.” Not only are they comfortable with referring to specialists, it is considered a standard of care. If chiropractors begin to practice as “medical specialists,” they can get a fair share of those referrals. In my clinic, I begin the medical marketing process by noting the family physician of each of my patients. If their physician has treated the patient for the same condition that the patient is presenting with, I am particularly interested. I next get the patient’s permission to communicate with their physician relating to their care. This idea is immediately met with a feeling of confidence on the patient’s part. They like the idea that you are willing to communicate with their medical physician and that their family doctor will remain informed as to their condition. The patient now perceives the chiropractor as a member of their healthcare “team.”
I then send a medical report to the medical physician just as all their other specialists do. Regardless of the medical physician’s opinions about chiropractic, they are forced to acknowledge the chiropractic care the next time they open the patient’s file. The chiropractic report is likely to be right at the top of the file. That report will initiate a discussion about the chiropractic care the next time the physician treats the patient. The chiropractor’s praises will be sung!
There are a number of issues that should be given attention to make this most effective:
- The reports should reflect the utmost professionalism, i.e. typewritten on quality letterhead
- Speak the language of the medical professional (i.e., use terms like “segmental dysfunction” rather than “subluxation.”)
- Avoid philosophical discussions.
- Be actively engaged in making referrals yourself, when necessary.
Eventually medical referrals will start to come in. Patients who are referred by medical practitioners are usually very compliant patients. They expect to pay their bills. They do not expect free steak dinners, free X-rays, free pens and coffee mugs, etc., etc. They must, however, be treated according to the expectations of the referring physician. It is not likely that that physician will send patients for life-long subluxation care. Treat the specified condition as quickly and efficiently as possible. More referrals will follow.
Dr. Rick L. Townsend
Let’s Get Physical
I do complimentary school sports physicals that require a parent/guardian to be present. The scoliosis screening and posture analysis have opened a lot of eyes and created new business.
Dr. Debra Skrzynecki
My best marketing idea involves the report of findings. Three years ago, I started putting pictures of the patients’ X-rays in the ROF. I teach my new patients in a group setting once each day how to read their own X-rays. Then in private rooms, I have them show me what is wrong with their X-rays. I also tell them if they get any of their immediate family members scheduled for an appointment within seven days, I will pay for their exam and X-rays. Since we have added the X-ray pictures to the ROF, our family referrals have gone up 300%. We also put a small picture of the X-rays on the back of our business card and laminate it, for the patients to keep in their wallet or purse for emergency visits to out-of-town chiropractors. All you need is a digital camera, Pentium computer, photo-quality printer, and a laminator.
Dr. Rick Wren
The Personal(ized) Touch
I have learned enough about computers and some of the basic office packages to perform a mail merge where the patient letter is personalized. I use a translator for English to Spanish when I don’t have someone around who can help me. In addition, I hand out business cards by the hundreds. These are simple strategies, but they’ve worked for me.
Dr. David Scott Pulling
Silver Spring, Md.
A Little Help From Up Above
Every visit I have the patient fill out a Daily Progress Sheet. The top half is a question-answer format so they can share with me what has gone on since their last visit, any other doctor visits, changes in health, etc. There is also a pain body diagram and a place for a numerical score of their symptoms. The bottom half is where I write my office notes. Several years ago, I added a section to the form that allows patients to check a box if they want “the doctor or staff to pray for their health or for some other reason.” I have had a few cocked eyebrows with regard to the prayer box, but it has, for the most part, been successful with the patients. I decided to set up a time before we saw patients to gather all the files (and the schedule if we suspect some files have not been pulled) and pray.
We have done this since January 2000 and God has truly blessed this clinic. We are up in services and charges are 20-25% over last year. Certainly I would not recommend just following my plan and doing as I have done just to increase your bottom line. Some people (in chiropractic circles) have looked at the sheet and said that it was a bad idea to bring up prayer — or have it on the hard copy record that the insurance companies and attorneys could see. I think that whatever God leads us as doctors to do in our offices, we should do. God’s role in healing is huge.
Dr. Michael Berglund.
All In the Cards
I have been in practice for 18 years, and my office is closed to new patients unless they have one of my cards with the name of a present or past patient written on it. My early referrals came from simply handing out my cards. This was not overly successful, so I told new patients if they sent in another patient, they had to have their name on the back of the business card for recognition from my office. This simple strategy has generated numerous new patients, as they feel they have to be “special” to get into our office as a new patient. We typically see 100 new patients a month (my associate and I). Also… another one of my first big new patient draws was from donating socks to a local football team. They recognized me at their banquet in front of all parents of the frosh, soph, JV and varsity teams. You do the math. Hundreds of new patients came from this small gift of 120 pairs of socks!
Dr. Bob Allen
From the Experts…
Getting Connected For MD Referrals
Every DC wants referrals from the MD, but nothing seems to work. Want to know why? Who spends most of the time with the patient in an MD’s office and who can give the best referral? The NURSE in that office. Why not do what the drug reps have been doing for years. Call the office and offer to sponsor a lunch in their office for the entire staff. Ask what kind of food they would like, and then you and a CA can take the lunch to the MD’s office. You can meet the staff and answer any questions they may have about you and your office and chiropractic. You might get a few of the staff as patients, and more importantly, you will get referrals when they talk with the patients that come through their office. IT WORKS!!
Stanley Greenfield, RHU
Greenfield’s Financial Power Program
A Few Hot Practice-Building Tips
Use these tips to your advantage to boost practice growth:
- Niche promotions. Schedule at least two special types of promotions over the next six months, such as a special appreciation day for your local firefighters, seniors, or some other specific group. The group could also be “headache sufferers.” Offer a no-charge “muscle and joint evaluation,” “headache evaluation,” or some other service.
- Outside sign. Think about installing a reader board or marquee next to your outside sign. Promote your upcoming events on it. Work out a monthly schedule of announcements mixed in with motivational quotes. The message should be changed often, at least weekly.
Ed Petty/Petty, Michel & Associates
Spread the Good News
Get into the habit of asking patients who are enjoying fabulous results to write a testimonial. Keep a camera handy and ask permission to photograph these patients. To avoid making patients feel pressured, be sure to give the option of photographing at a later visit. Inform each of these patients that you would like to display the testimonial, accompanied by the photo, in your office and/or on your website (be sure to get permission in writing). Most patients are willing and even excited to do this. The testimonials add to your credibility. They also serve to educate other patients. Patients who are under care for back pain learn that chiropractic care has helped people with TMJ disorders, the discomfort associated with pregnancy, migraines, ear infections, etc. Testimonials are more powerful than brochures in the reception room. They spotlight your ability to produce results.
Lakeside Chiropractic Seminars
The doctor makes up monetary bills of $10 and $20 with his or her picture on them and the slogan “In Chiropractic We Trust.” The play money is given out as rewards to patients for things like being on time for a month, completing an entire treatment plan, referring someone into the office, writing a patient testimonial, being the patient of the month, etc. The patient then goes to the displayed award board to “buy” a prize with his or her money. These prizes could be movie tickets, dinners for two, T-shirts with the office logo, adjustments, massages, pillows, etc. The costs vary, and patients may have to earn several awards to buy the item they like. As they earn “money,” it is kept in the patient’s folder until they have enough to buy something. The money is returned to the receptionist and put back into circulation once the patient cashes in for a prize.
Ed Sharp/Sharp Management & Consulting
Be a ‘Lifesaver’
Enroll your patients to be a “lifesaver” to someone else by getting them under chiropractic care. You need to ask your patients for referrals and each time they refer someone in, they get a “lifesaver” card on the wall that says “I’m a lifesaver!” with their name on it. This card can be designed to look just like a pack of Lifesavers candy, brightly colored with tin foil on the ends. Patients like to be recognized, and it’s a simple, fun program that uses patient referrals to enroll lots of new patients.
Heidi Farrell/Chiro Advance Services
Spreading the Word
In my experience, the single most effective new patient marketing method involves public speaking, lectures and workshops. These programs can be done inside and outside your office.The concept is not new, but the way you schedule and run these speaking engagements is.
To do a talk you need to have a topic. Your choice of topics would vary, group to group. The more subjects you can speak on, the more talks you will do. The hottest topics that will bring you high attendance are fibromyalgia, women’s health problems, children’s learning problems, how to increase your energy, removing stress caused by health problems and improving performance on the job.
Once in front of the audience, you need to discuss the problem, explain how you can help eliminate it, and end your talk by inviting the members of the audience to consult with you at the end. You sit down and talk to those who wish to meet with you for about three to five minutes each. Out of that time, you schedule them to come to your office for an examination. You should also have an assistant do a follow-up call to those people you didn’t have time to meet with personally to schedule a consultation. Good luck and get out there!
Dr. David Singer/David Singer Enterprises
Effective Industrial Consulting
Chiropractors can tap into and help their local business community by becoming industrial health consultants. Marketing efforts should be targeted at the decisionmaker who has a budget to spend on safety. Virtually any company that is experiencing workers’ comp losses through on-the-job injuries is a prospect. A key aspect is to have an injury prevention program that delivers consistent, sustainable results in reducing repetitive stress injuries; can be customized to fit any job description; and is cost-effective for both the company and the consultant.
Direct contact to make a sales presentation to the company decisionmaker who can authorize the expenditure is the most effective. The key to success is to get thoroughly trained on the program you will be delivering, and to know the program can deliver what you promise. It is also important to do your research to understand the industry you are talking to and the workers’ comp and injury problems they are likely to be experiencing. This will raise your confidence and credibility.
Dennis Downing/Future Industrial Technologies
Turning MDs Into ‘Referral Machines’
What we found to be extremely effective for our own practices as well as our clients’ is to stimulate referrals from primary-care physicians. One of the specific ways we recruit new patients from MDs is to consistently send initial reports after examining one of their patients. For example, if a new patient arrives in our office from a patient referral, Yellow Pages or other avenues, we always send a report to the patient’s primary care physician outlining our findings and treatment plan. This technique ultimately results in creating a long-time colleague and networking referral machine. On the average, we see an additional one to three new patients from MDs alone each week. It’s simple and cost-effective.
Dr. Keith Konowitz/ChiroMed Seminars
High-Tech Practice Promotion
Nowadays, a chiropractic office without a website is like a house without doors. Whether it’s your patients, suppliers, or business associates, people expect to learn more about you through your website. But simply having a web site isn’t enough. The impression your site makes can either attract or drive away potential new patients. So, your site must be attractive-looking and deliver valuable content. All of this, however, can require a great deal of work and talent. You have to be able to create impressive-looking pages that have a consistent style and professional design. You have to maintain your site, making sure that information is current, navigation buttons work, and graphics display properly.
Your home page should be well-organized and easy to navigate. Use short paragraphs and words that are simple to understand. Do not use words that are hard to pronounce, such as spondylolisthesis or torticollis, without simple explanation. Patients will not follow your message if they can’t understand what you are trying to say. Your home page should flow smoothly and appear crystal clear. Try to build confidence, credibility and excitement as soon as possible. Give patients specific choices on what to do next. The goal of your website should be like love and romance: the home page is where you begin to “date” your visitors. By the time they finish navigating around your services, office procedures and sub pages, you should be happily “married.” And when they click on “I want to make an appointment,” you know you’ve made it to the honeymoon.
Dr. Marty Kotlar/FuturePractice.com
Just the Fax
Every six weeks, your clinic can fax a one-page newsletter to the general community (primarily businesses). The faxable newsletter can be titled “Dr. Factx,” and subtitled, “Health Tips to Keep Life At Its Best”; or another subtitle might be: “Helpful Medical Facts Through Your Fax.” The newsletter contains no direct advertising; rather, it is packed full of information, which might include informative articles such as: “Does Sunscreen Protect You From Skin Cancer?”; “Grape Juice for Circulation?”; “Glucosamine Sulfate: Does it Help Arthritis?”; “Emergency First Aid: Cuts, Bleeding, Sprains/Strains”; “To Heat or to Ice?” “The Dangers of Second-Hand Smoke” or “Healthy and Delicious Recipes.” Dr. Factx is a “pen name” for the doctor of the clinic, and the newsletter is provided compliments of the clinic. The newsletter should invite its audience to e-mail, fax, write or call in with questions. No stamps, envelopes or letterhead are needed.
The fax numbers can be purchased on a disc and downloaded to widely available office software with the push of a button; while the community is sleeping, the newsletter can be delivered by fax. It is disclosed on the bottom of the newsletter that the complimentary subscription can be cancelled by calling or e-mailing a request. Dr. Factx is broken down into volume and issues so that specific articles can be cross-referenced and used as a personal medical library. The newsletter build a rapport with readers, which can result in plenty of new patients and referrals.
Medical Consulting Services, Inc.
How to Run A Power WeekTM
Instituting Power WeeksTM in your practice will have a profound impact on your new patient flow. So much so, you should only schedule four to six per year. This process involves the concept of compounding momentum. In other words, rather than doing three different marketing programs over an eight- to 12-week period, you schedule and perform three marketing programs within a seven- to 10-day period. An example of a Power Week would be a spinal screening on Saturday, followed by a largely attended special workshop in-office or an outside speaking engagement on Tuesday, followed by a Patient Appreciation Day on Thursday.
Each program is individually promoted; however, the screening feeds to the workshop (or outside talk) and both the screening and your talks feed to the Patient Appreciation Day. You will consistently produce more new patients from each of your marketing programs when you learn to combine them into a Power Week. There are over 100 different combinations when you consider direct mail, radio shows, an infomercial, screenings, talks, and referral days, just to mention a few. Start doing Power Weeks now rather than evenly spreading out your marketing programs throughout the year, and watch your new patients grow though the roof!
Dr. C.J. Mertz/The Waiting List Practice
One of the hardest jobs a doctor faces is patient compliance. No matter how strong your report of findings and patient follow-up, most doctors still have patient fall out. In the days of managed care, you need to be effective in delivering your message the first day. Providing new patients with audiotapes in which you deliver a message to them about chiropractic reaffirms your findings and builds a strong trust bond. Most cars have an audiocassette player. Patients will usually listen to the tape on the way home from your office, giving you an extra nine to 12 minutes to reaffirm the many benefits of receiving and maintaining chiropractic care. This is a low-cost marketing tool that helps lock in patients for a lifetime.
Chris Nielsen/Advanced Life Support, Inc.
Giving Something Back
Community service projects can often be spearheaded by an Eagle Scout candidate looking for a community project to earn his award. The event benefits a non-profit organization such as a food bank, women’s shelter, etc., and is organized and executed by your clinic and the Eagle Scout candidate. For example, one event you could help sponsor is a “Kidz Day Health and Safety Fair.” This event can be held in the parking lot of the clinic. The event includes spinal screenings, vision screenings (by a local optometrist), and information on rollerblade, bicycle and skateboard safety. Featured events can include rides on a fire truck, a petting zoo, and talks by police involved with the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance through Education) program. Food, treats, and exhibitions can make for a great Saturday afternoon.
The entrance fee to the fair is a donation of food, clothing and/or toys to the benefactor. The Eagle Scout candidate arranges for free advertising in the local newspaper and radio, as well as donations from various vendors. The scout should shoulder approximately 85% of the workload in putting the event together. Additional events throughout the year might include a “Senior Expo”; “Soccer Expo”; “Fire Safety,” etc. Everyone wins: the scout receives his Eagle award; the non-profit organization receives an abundance of donations; and children and parents have a great time and receive valuable information and needed services from the event. In the end, the chiropractic clinic ends up with many new patients (at almost no cost) and begins to build a relationship of trust within the community for long-term referrals.
S.G. Reader & Associates, Inc.
Getting A Bigger Piece of the Pie
A recent article in the Journal of The American Medical Association described the trend to alternative healthcare as shocking to the “traditional” medical community. In 1990,387 million office visits were to traditional medical doctors, while 427 million were to alternative practitioners. These statistics were even more unnerving to the medical community when repeated in 1997 to find 2 million less visits to the traditional medical doctors, at 385 million — while visits to alternative doctors had risen 201 million, to 628 million. Additionally, they were shocked to discover that most of the alternative office visits were paid “out-of-pocket.” That year nutritional supplement sales alone were at $22 billion.
As a student of trends and statistics I became very interested in how to attract a share of these 628 million office visits. Only 1.5 people out of 10 were going to chiropractors in this study, with four out of 10 choosing a nutritional solution. We placed small ads promoting vitamins that increase health and vitality as do the vitamin stores, and we promoted that the vitamins are doctor-recommended. When people come to the office to purchase the vitamins, they are invited to a health lecture on how they can increase their health and vitality. In the lecture, the four elements of health are explained: water, food, oxygen and nerve supply. Explaining that chiropractic is essential in healthcare repositions the perception of chiropractic from neck and back pain, to an essential part of maintaining optimum health. Isn’t that what chiropractic is all about? Results? 1,400 new patients a year from this source alone!
Dr. Bruce A. Parker/Parker Professional Management