Editor’s Note: We searched far and wide, from coast to coast, from the smallest practice to the biggest, from the doctors out in the “trenches” to the professionals who specialize in helping you make more money — and we came up with our exclusive “Top Marketing Ideas For 2001.” You’ll find a stellar collection of marketing strategies provided by our readers, as well as the best of the best ideas from the “experts” — consultants and chiropractic companies. We had so many great ideas that we’ll be running some of them this month, and the rest will appear in the February issue (and throughout the year). We hope you enjoy this special section as much as we enjoyed putting it together! If you have feedback — or a great marketing idea of your own — please contact Tara Stultz, editor-in-chief, at 440-234-5221 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
And the Winners Are…(drum roll, please)
We were pleased with all the readers who responded to our request for their most innovative marketing ideas. We picked 20 of the best ideas; 10 appear here, and 10 will appear in next month’s issue. These winners will receive cool prizes to help market their practices, from Back Talk Systems, Inc., NCMIC Group, Inc., and Practice Makers Products, Inc. The winners, in no particular order, are:
Dr. Angela St. John; Athens, Tenn.
Dr. Chandler George; Weatherford, Texas
Dr. Michael Berglund; Kenosha, Wisc.
Dr. David Scott Pulling; Silver Spring, Md.
Dr. Debra Skrzynecki; Toledo, Ohio
Dr. Brian Applebee; New Fairfield, Ct.
Dr. Rick L. Townsend; St. Robert, Mo.
Dr. James W. Parker; Irving, Texas
Dr. Robin Rivers; San Diego, Calif.
Dr. Lisa Covey; San Francisco, Calif.
Dr. Karen Feeney; Wilmington, Del.
Dr. Michelle Smith; Brunswick, Ga.
Dr. Bob Allen; Vancouver, Wash.
Dr. Lynn Kerew; Santa Monica, Calif.
Dr. Bob Dubin; Petaluma, Calif.
Dr. Rick Wren; Sherman, Texas
Dr. Peri L. Dwyer; Tallahassee, Fla.
Dr. Thomas S. Broder; Delphi, Ind.
Dr. Kenneth Martin; Temple City, Calif.
Dr. S.W. Engen; Kearney, Neb.
Thank you to everyone who participated!
Pearls of Wisdom (for free, no less)
We’re happy to share with you some of the best marketing advice available from the professionals who provide that valuable information for a living. This issue’s installment contains some fabulous strategies to help you get and keep more new patients — and there’s plenty more where that came from. Next month’s edition, and issues throughout the year, will include more great ideas from experts such as:
Dr. David Singer/Singer Enterprises, Dr. C.J. Mertz/The Waiting List Practice, Dennis Downing/Future Industrial Technologies, S.G. Reader & Associates, Inc., Dr. Marty Kotlar/ FuturePractice.com, Ed Petty/PMA Works, Lakeside Chiropractic Seminars, Ed Sharp/Sharp Management & Consulting, Stanley Greenfield/Greenfield’s Financial Power Program, Heidi Farrell/Chiro Advance Services, Dr. Bruce A. Parker/Parker Professional Management, Dr. Keith Konowitz/ChiroMed Seminars, Medical Consulting Services, Inc., Dr. Steve Cutler/SAGE Practice Management, Chris Nielsen/Advanced Life Support — and others! We’ll even have more advice from some of the experts whose ideas are featured this month.
To contact any of the companies listed here or in this special section, be sure to check out our newly designed website at www.chiroeco.com. Specifically, you’ll find addresses, phone numbers, faxes, e-mail addresses, website links, etc., in our new, easier-to-use Marketplace section. As an added bonus, you’ll find breaking news (both chiropractic news and general health news), current and back-issue editorial, and more. If you have questions about the site or other inquiries, please contact us at 904-285-6020, ext. 255; or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
From the Experts…
Beneficial Business Cards
Business cards are one of the most affordable and powerful forms of clinic promotion available.
To maximize their benefit, consider these ideas:
- Create a business card the size of a bookmark. Patients will retain these cards and keep them in their books, acting as a great referral tool and reminder. Any card that incorporates an unusual size, shape, or clever imagery will add the chance of a longer retention rate and a greater return.
- Think of your card as a “mini-brochure”; include information on both sides of the card or create a fold-over card that gives you twice as much space as a regular card. You can include: a map showing your clinic location; a list of services you provide and/or conditions you treat; a mission statement; a couple of lines mentioning your appreciation for referrals; a money-saving coupon; or a brief testimonial with a patient’s name and photo.
- Print your card on “credit card”-type stock to increase its perceived value and increase retention of the card.
Most of all, when distributing you cards, hand people more than one so they can pass them on to others and keep one for themselves.
Dr. Rob Jackson/Back Talk Systems, Inc.
Broadcast Faxes, New Homeowners
To get results, try these marketing strategies:
- Try broadcast faxing people in your area within a 10-mile radius of your office. 13,000 faxes only cost about $300.
Keep the fax simple: Offer a free consult and exam.
- New homeowners are a great source of new patients.
The best way to market to them is by joining a “new homeowners” marketing service for names that are continually updated. Once you have the list, send these potential patients a postcard with an offer for a free consultation and exam.
Creative Options Professional Management Systems, Inc.
Well-Read… and Well-Fed
The following ideas can go a long way toward building your practice:
- Books, books, books. Nothing lasts like a book. Many great books are available and can be tailored to your patients’ needs. Patients will appreciate books by authors that provide encouragement in the event of the death of a loved one (Elizabeth Kuebler-Ross), cancer (Bernie Siegel), birth of a child (Zig Ziglar), and other important and significant times in their lives. The sending of books is a powerful way to say “I care,” and the gesture will make a powerful impression.
- Dinner for two. Many doctors wonder what they can do ethically and professionally to say “thank you “ to that small percentage of very high referring individuals. Find a great restaurant, preferably one where the owners are patients of yours, and get gift certificates that says “dinner for two, tax, tip, and all the trimmings.” Have this arranged so when the recipient goes to the restaurant, there is no dollar limit on what the dinner for two can cost, and there will be no outlay of cash by the recipient. What a great way to say thank you.
Dr. Louis Sportelli/Practice Makers Products, Inc.
Referrals as Easy as 1-2-3-4-5
The following referral procedure is an incredibly effective way to increase your number of new patients:
- Ask the patient if he knows anyone with ________ condition.
- Give the patient a brochure on the specific condition.
- Write the name of the patient to be referred on the brochure and on a special offer (Health Pass, etc.) signed by the doctor.
- Ask your patient the next time he comes into your office if he gave the brochure to the prospective patient and if it would be okay to call the prospective patient.
- Call the prospective patient and invite her to your practice. Script: “One of our patients, (Name), asked that we give you a call concerning (Offer) for your health condition. We are providing this special offer to members of our community to assist them in finding an alternative to drugs or surgery for these types of conditions. We have appointments available on (Day of the Week) for your check-up. Which would be most convenient for you?”
The patient will schedule the appointment or will not be interested. If done properly, this procedure alone will produce as much as a 60% conversion rate.
Dr. Dallas Humble/Dallas Humble, Inc.
Use these marketing secrets to increase your number of new patients:
- Send chiropractic information in the mail with your bills and with your payments. If you have local vendors that you get your supplies from then put your information in there with an offer to visit your facility.
- Behind on paperwork? Provide an additional service to your patients and increase your new patient flow. For one to two hours a week, schedule a set time that you are available for phone call-in questions. Don’t schedule patient visits during this time. You should advertise your weekly “office hours” in-house, on your business card, on bulletin boards or message boards, in newsletters, in office flyers, on outside signage and on any outside advertising. If no one calls, you have two hours of uninterrupted catch-up time for paperwork. If your existing patients call with questions, you provide a great service. Best of all, when you ask patients for referrals, you are now available for that potential patient to call in and speak with you about that health problem. Once they have talked with you, it’s much more likely they will make the appointment.
‘Table Talk’ is a marketing strategy that focuses on the development of a series of 30-second messages about the various conditions you are successful in treating. If you prefer to treat four or five primary conditions, you would center the short messages on those specific conditions. These messages are used to educate each and every one of your patients. The best time to do this is while the patient is on the treatment/exam table. Initially, you should talk to the patient about their subluxation, where the nerves go that are pinched by the subluxation and the resulting health problem. You explain to the patient: “I’m going to set this bone back in place, free up the nerve, and your (Health Problem) will be (Alleviated/Improved) .” On subsequent visits, you proceed with your “table talk,” discussing the effects of a different subluxation and the health problem it causes, by simply using one of your prepared 30-second messages. The more educated patients are, the more they stay under care, the more they refer, and the larger your practice becomes.
Dr. Peter Fernandez/Fernandez Discipline
Grab ’Em With the Headline
Using emotional direct response marketing is the best kept secret in chiropractic. Advertising must focus on a specific target group and must generate responses from people who are interested, motivated, qualified, and ready to be a patient NOW! Why waste a nickel on advertising that only gets your name out there or that talks about stuff the general public couldn’t care less about? Instead, use powerful emotional direct response HEADLINES that attract only the patients who are really interested.
If your headlines try to appeal to everybody they will appeal to nobody. Good example: “Warning Low Back Pain Sufferers!” Bad example: “Altadonna Chiropractic Announces Grand Opening.” Headlines are the single most important thing you’ll every learn to write. Also each direct mail, display ad, or Yellow Pages ad should have its own phone number or some other tracking mechanism so you can measure your return on investment (ROI).
Dr. Ben Altadonna/Turn-Key Practice Solutions, Inc.
Adding Profit Centers
The most cost-efficient, profitable and innovative marketing strategy for any chiropractic practice is to add profit centers. What this means is adding additional services and/or personnel to help deliver and manage these services. As an example, let’s say you wanted to treat overweight patients. Adding a weight loss program to your facility can create an additional income stream equal (or close to equal) to that of your chiropractic practice. Essentially you can double your net income in a short period of time. Creating additional profit centers is not difficult. It does, however, require placing confidence in those individuals you hire to run the program so it compliments your practice. Aside from the additional revenue a new profit center creates, it can also create a service of additional new patients for your chiropractic practice. Remember, all marketing strategies that create more business for you should require some capitalization, including advertising to help promote the new service(s).
Dr. Martin B. Green/Integrated Holistic Solutions, Inc.
Educate Patients About Ancillary Products
Using materials such as posters and product displays is an excellent way to market ancillary products, while educating patients at the same time. These tools get patients’ attention and are an effective way to convey important information to them. Playing educational videos in your waiting room is another way you can market your services and products to your patients. Some vendors of ancillary products offer patient education videos you could use for this purpose. This will give you better informed patients and give the patients something to watch while they’re in the waiting room.
Foot Levelers, Inc.
All in the Name
One of the best and easiest marketing tips that I know of is to make sure your team is wearing uniforms embroidered with your clinic name in a very visible place. Anywhere any one of your team members goes, you are marketing your practice. It is the perfect way for someone to ask about chiropractic. Make sure each one of your team members knows what to say when someone asks about chiropractic. That is exactly what role-play and team meetings are all about.
Susan Hoy/B.E.E.F. It Up
Corporate Health Fairs
Organizing a “Corporate Health Fair” is a highly effective means of promoting yourself as “the authority” in your community. Market yourself as “the expert” by setting up your own health fairs at local businesses, along with those professionals you know will support your endeavors. Consider inviting a podiatrist, optometrist, massage therapist, and diagnostic blood laboratory to join you in performing health screenings. Review the list of insurance plans that you participate in and approach the businesses that subscribe to those plans. Contact the companies’ human resources or benefits coordinators and allow four to six weeks to set up each event. Ask the companies to place your flyer in employees’ paycheck envelopes for two consecutive pay periods prior to the event. Provide flyers and ask if you can post them (or have them posted) around the business. Hold the fair in a large room. Your goal is to scheduled as many new patient appointments as possible.
Dr. Mark Sanna/Breakthrough Coaching, LLC
Getting Reacquainted with Your Patients
Get out your active or inactive files and start becoming acquainted or reacquainted with your patients. Make a master list of and really learn their names as well as the names of their family members. Know where they work. Know which patient referred them. Know their chief reason for being at your clinic. Know their primary subluxations and your priority adjustments. Become present with the ever-finer details of their cases. Care to think about them more than your obstacles or problems, and watch them appear and refer. Become grateful for the opportunity to serve them. Whatever you think about and thank about you bring about.
Dr. John F. Demartini
From Our Readers…
Art From the Heart
In conversations with some local artists, I learned that there was a great need for exhibition spaces. In an effort to help supply the demand, I offered to donate space in my lobby. One Sunday a month, a new artist installs his or her work and holds an opening reception in my lobby. The artist creates his or her own invitations, reception, and fills my office with people who are potential patients or referral sources. In return, I gain respect from my community for supporting the arts and tons of great exposure at no cost (not to mention a beautifully decorated lobby).
Dr. Lisa Covey
San Francisco, Calif.
News Flash: Chiropractic Works
Here is one aspect of my marketing that really seems to work. I have rented a portable flashing sign for $35 per month. I keep it updated with the most recent conditions that have responded with chiropractic.
Here are some examples:
Slept all night after 1 visit.
Case: Low Back Pain 8 yrs.
Pain-free after 4 treatments.
Case: Migraine Headache
Pain-free 1 hour after treatment.
I believe this strategy targets people’s specific ailments and lets them know what we can do for them and how chiropractic can help! Hope it will work for others like it has for me.
Dr. Angela St. John
Cut, Curl… and Scan
One way that I’ve marketed my practice is to do bone scans, at places such as a large hair salon. Charge a low fee — $15-$25. Have the salon schedule you for three hours, and have one staff person do the scans, while you educate, meet all the new prospective patients, etc. You can do 25 or 30 in that time, and set up a date to re scan in your office, as well as an appointment for nutritional counseling if they didn’t do well. Using this technique, you actually get paid to build your practice — nothing better than that!
Dr. Chandler George
Patients on the Go
We have a large bulletin board across from the receptionist’s desk in the hall leading back to our treatment rooms. The board is covered with photos and articles of “Patients on the Go.” We have gradually added pictures of patients of all ages, and we change the photos regularly. It gives us a great opportunity to discuss how chiropractic is great for the entire family. We have photos of our youngest patients (only a few months old) and our oldest patient (she’ll be 90 in a few months). People love pictures; we try to keep them lively so people are more likely to ask questions. It also adds to our sense of an “office community” so that we can make people feel more welcome and encourage referrals.
Dr. Karen Feeney
How to Make the Yellow Pages Work
Regarding Yellow Page advertising: In most mid to large city environments, your “catchment” area is going to be about a 3- to 7-mile radius around your clinic. You might draw some people beyond that radius from an ad that you print, but the return ratio will be less, and your investment dollar will be inefficiently utilized. Many people who advertise in the big metropolitan phone books are disappointed at the returns. This is because the phone book is sent to parts of the city that are simply too far away from your clinic to induce the people to call. If you live in a suburb, however, you may wish to consider investing in a local phone book that has a small distribution radius. That way, everybody who sees the ad will live (or work) close enough to respond to it.
Also, some phone books will have an incentive program that works like this: Your first year subscription is 50% off of the list price. Your second year will be 40%, the third 30%, and so forth on up to the full list price. However, they will allow you to retain your discount as long as you increase the size of your ad the following year. What I do is simple: I start with a 1/4-page ad in year one (at 50% off,) a 1/3-page ad on year two, 1/2-page on year three, and on up to a full- page ad. So far, I’ve always kept my 50% discount. When I lose my discount for not increasing my ad beyond the full-page ad, I will drop the ad completely for one year only and start over again the following year — with a 1/4-page ad at 50% off. Of the two books I advertise in, I currently have a 1/3-page in one, and a full-page in another. Next year, I will have a 1/2-page in one book, and nothing in the other. For the full-page ad, I’ve already done my homework, and know in advance that the phone book company will offer me 50% off as an inducement to renew my ad after I drop out for a year. All three major phone books in my area use this system exactly. Check with your local company and have them outline the full details of their plan to you. With respect to the ad itself, I would recommend having an outside professional graphic artist construct the ad. The people the company uses have a million other projects to do and are on a very tight schedule — and this usually is reflected in the quality of work that is produced.
Dr. James W. Parker
Tried But True
My No. 1 innovative concept for marketing has always been the business card. There is never a situation where a business card cannot bring your name into focus for a future patient. Leave your card at every store where you shop, whether it be in the mall or buying groceries or gas. My favorite concept is to leave a business card whenever I go out to eat, along with the tip. (Do this only if you are satisfied with the service and leave an appropriate tip!) You would be surprised how you are received the next time you go to that restaurant. You will be greeted by name and will be addressed like a VIP. People who work at the restaurant will remember you if someone asks if they know a good chiropractor. Just starting your practice? Every person you talk to should have your card. That includes your parents, siblings, in-laws, the grocer, the baker and the candlestick maker. You should also try to find places that will allow you to put out cards. Provide a holder for them and let your card do the work for you.
Dr. Kenneth Martin
Temple City, Calif.
‘Smile, You’re on Chiro Camera’
We often take photos of our patients’ major X-rays that show their problem, and then we cut the photos out, place them on the back of our business card, and laminate it so they can show others about their spinal problems. This strategy brings in many referrals who tell us: “Hey, I want one of those photos of my spine.”
Dr. Michelle Smith
Referrals That Are No Accident
In my practice, the most effective strategy I have found is to simply ask my patients if they know someone who was hurt at work or in a car accident who isn’t doing too well, and whom I might be able to help. My practice is over 80% workers’ comp and personal injury due to this strategy.
Dr. Robert L. Dubin
That Personal Touch
I’ve almost never advertised and only have a one-line listing in the phone book. We have an appointment book full of patient appointments every day. Our marketing strategy:
- Treat patients like family.
- Get them well.
- Teach them how to stay healthy.
- Ask them about the health problems of their family/friends and let them know what you may be able to help them with.
- Send them reasonable recall reminders if their condition warrants timely follow-up, and send them a birthday postcard.
- Honestly make sure they know you are more concerned with their health than with their money, and always give them more than their money’s worth of personal service each visit.
Dr. S.W. Engen
24-Hour Patient Recruitment
Ever dream of having your office actually refer patients to you while you were gone? We sure did, so our solution was as follows. If your office has a storefront, like ours, or is in a professional building, with even occasional walk-by traffic, try this idea. Place a three-space plastic brochure holder outside your office, in a prominent location. Fill the holder with various symptom pamphlets and a practice/office brochure with your name and phone number stamped on the back. You will soon discover which brochures move and which one don’t, by the empty slots in your holder. We were, and are, still amazed by the number of passersby, who, while they world normally not enter our office to ask a question, will stop and take a brochure from the holder. Try this idea, and make your office space work for you — even when you’re not there.
Dr. Robin Rivers
San Diego, Calif.