Should I lower my prices?” This is one of the most common questions posed by doctors who are re-evaluating their practice finances. Often, the question is asked by new chiropractors who are looking to get new patients any way they can, or by established chiropractors who are feeling the heat from other chiropractors who are trying to price cut them. In either case, the answer should almost always be an emphatic “No!”
Let’s take a look at why it’s almost never a good idea to compete on price, what alternatives are available, and what you can do if another chiropractor is trying to play the price wars against you.
Consider this scenario. God forbid you needed major heart surgery. Would you go to the doctor that charged $50,000 or the bargain doctor who charged $249.99? Most likely, you would go to the $50,000 doctor. Why? Because you perceive that since you are paying a higher amount, you are getting higher quality.
Whether in fact you are getting higher quality remains to be seen. However, you will assume that since you are paying the higher price, you will be getting higher quality. The same principle is true when it comes to perceptions by patients or potential patients.
If you provide services at a price way below what other chiropractors are charging in the area, in an effort to bring in more patients, you might get bitten from behind when you realize some of your patients are leaving to see higher-charging chiropractors.
No matter what price you charge, whether it is $10 or $100 per adjustment, there is a group of people who will feel comfortable paying that price. At $10 a visit, you will attract those patients who are most interested in saving money. The patients who don’t mind paying $100 a visit tend to be more interested in quality.
Those chiropractors who compete primarily on price might have a hard time believing this principle, but research has proven that price is only a small factor in attracting and retaining customers, especially when it comes to medical services. A much bigger factor in getting and keeping more patients is to deliver a high “perceived” value. What is perceived value, and how is it different from normal value?
Normal value is what you are actually delivering when you get to the core. Whether you charge $10 or $100, there will be little difference between your normal value. Either way, you are providing an adjustment, and you’ll probably spend about the same amount of time delivering the adjustment. So no matter how much you charge, the cost and time for you to deliver this adjustment are about the same. Perceived value, on the other hand, is what the patient perceives he or she is receiving for the fee paid.
Here are a few ways to increase perceived value:
Raise your price. If you are charging a higher price than what other chiropractors around you are charging, patients and potential patients will automatically assume you are higher quality. It’s human nature. Experiment to find what the “break point” is… i.e., how much higher of a price you can charge while still attracting these quality-driven patients.
Know what you are talking about. If patients feel you are credible, you will quickly gain their trust — and their referrals. Ask patients questions about their health problems, and offer beneficial ways they can improve. Keep up with all the latest medical research.
Be the expert. You want your patients to feel you are the best chiropractor money can get in your community. The best way to do this is by becoming “the” expert in chiropractic. There are several ways you can do this. You can write articles about the benefits of chiropractic and get them published in your local newspaper or other publications. You can also write a booklet about chiropractic, get it professionally designed and printed, and distribute it to your patients and prospective patients. In addition, you can speak about chiropractic to civic and professional groups in your community.
Get third-party endorsements. It’s nice when you toot your own horn, but it’s 10 times better when someone else toots it for you. Your patients will feel this type of recommendation is more genuine. Third-party endorsements can include publicity you receive in the media, as well as testimonials you get from patients. Learn how to use endorsements and testimonials to their full potential, and you will have one powerful weapon.
Let them know you are the expert. It isn’t enough to simply write articles about chiropractic, or to produce a booklet on chiropractic, or to give talks to your community, or even to receive glowing testimonials and endorsements. What you need to do in addition to all that is let your patients know you are the expert. You do this by reproducing articles, endorsements, and testimonials, and passing the information out to patients and potential patients, as well as displaying it in your clinic. In your advertisements, you include as many testimonials and excerpts from endorsements as possible. When giving talks, screenings, or at any opportunity you get, pass out your informational booklet about chiropractic. Also, be sure to provide the information to every patient who sees you for a first exam.
No matter how you decide to position your practice, don’t try to compete by lowering your prices. Whether you charge a high price or a low price, there will be patients who are willing to pay what you charge. So by lowering your fees, not only would you make a lot less, and work much harder to make the same amount of money, but you could actually lose patients. Furthermore, the patients you attract will tend to be interested primarily in low prices. Then if another chiropractor comes along and offers cheaper prices, you will end up losing a large percentage of these patients to the new chiropractor.
The only time you should consider lowering prices is when you are trying to get a new patient in for a first-time visit. Instead of lowering your prices, work on increasing your perceived value. Not only will you make more from your patients, but you will actually get more patients.
If your prices are already in the average to higher range, keep doing what you’re doing and follow the advice given here to increase perceived value. If you are the “$10-a-visit” chiropractor, you have a bigger problem. Your current patients are looking for a bargain, and if you suddenly raise your prices, you will probably lose many of them. So you should plan to either increase your prices gradually, and/or plan on an initial loss of a good percentage of your patient base in the process of attracting higher-paying patients. In the end, you’ll be glad you made the investment in your future — and the future of your practice.