When it comes to practice success, have you ever wondered why one doctor will continue to thrive, while another seems to ride a “roller coaster”-type practice?
The answer to that question lies with the three basic styles of practice: the Spark, the Smolder, and the Flame.
Here’s a description of each type. Which one are you?
- The Spark: This type of practice is relatively easy to identify. If you look at the practice’s statistics and match them to the doctor’s marketing events, they fit like a lock and key. For example: In the first week of February last year, the doctor participated in a community health fair screening.
The practice volume was up in February compared to January, and the doctor was feeling great about the growth. However, by the end of the month and into the beginning of the next month, things seemed to slip back down to where they were, and the doctor got frustrated watching the patient volume drop and concluded that the marketing efforts didn’t work.
So when the same health fair comes around the next February, the doctor doesn’t mark it on his calendar. The doctor didn’t keep in contact with the organizers of the event, and they went with another chiropractic office this year. This practice is known as a Spark practice because the doctor has a haphazard marketing plan with one event here or there, with very little consistency. The events are not carried over seasonally or annually.
Most of the effort in marketing is in creating relationships with local organizations, schools, attorneys and other professionals. When the contact isn’t nurtured, or given some fuel from time to time, any single event only acts as one little spark that raises the practice for a short time, but has no long-term value. Worst of all, the relationship with the contact person is lost and can be difficult to restore.
- The Smolder: Smoldering practices can go either way. If some fuel isn’t added soon, the momentum is gone and you’ll feel like you always have to start over. But pouring in just a little fuel can get this fire roaring again.
The statistics for the Smoldering practice look like an EKG readout. The volume of the practice shows no consistency and no pattern really exists. These practices actually do have a marketing plan, but they are not well-organized or spread out appropriately. Therefore, a few sparks put together will cause some smoke and maybe a little fire, but the gaps in between weaken the growth potential.
For example, a doctor does a back safety talk at a local fire station and at the same time decides to begin doing health-care classes for the new patients in her office. Both of these events “spark” the practice back-to-back, and some nice momentum is generated. The doctor is savvy enough to ask the fire chief if he knows anyone else who could benefit from these types of workshops, and the chief says he’s friends with the manager of a local business that has 15 employees who are always getting injured on the job. The doctor makes the contact, establishes the relationship, and does the workshop.
The practice is growing and the doctor is getting busy. At the end of the day on a Friday, the chief calls and leaves a message for the doctor. Due to the increased growth, the doctor forgets to return the chief’s call. Days, weeks and months go by, and the storm begins to settle. The doctor spent so much time with the new energy that no plans for other events have been made. Now the doctor leaves a message for the chief, and this time it’s the chief who doesn’t return the doctor’s call. Before she knows it, the practice dwindles back to where it was.
Can you see the pattern? Marketing is a never-ending process. This doctor was even smart enough to do some internal marketing to her existing patients with whom she already had relationships. However, in her haste, she dropped the ball on a serious referral source. She let the energy slow down, and therefore, momentum was lost.
The Smoldering practice is clearly stronger than the Spark, but typically two ingredients are missing: one, events must be somewhat continuous to keep the fire burning; and two, if you are going to make the effort to grow the practice, you must prepare in advance for the growth. Procedures must be put into place so contact with the individuals who helped you set up your events never gets dropped. Even if you periodically write a note or place a quick call every few months to ask if you can be of any help to them, you are keeping your chiropractic office at the forefront of their minds.
- The Fire: This doctor is a leader who understands what it takes to build a substantial chiropractic practice. If you go into a Fire-type practice and ask to see the marketing calendar, it is always prominently displayed, with a clear, concise plan. The doctor creates a schedule that includes all types of screenings, workshops, lunches and mailings. The events are internal and external, and well spread-out to ensure a constant flow of new patients. Month by month, the new patient statistics for this doctor are consistent. Now the doctor and support staff are free to work on any other, weaker areas of the practice.
This doctor also holds the key ingredient to keeping the Fire ablaze. Any time a new contact is made, the doctor places that new name in a file in order to keep the relationship strong. It is clear that consistent action, as well as continual personal contact, fuel the fire month in and month out, thus helping to grow any practice.
Now that you’re familiar with these three types of chiropractic practices, you should follow three action steps in order to begin the transformation to higher levels. First, look at your past year’s marketing plan and office statistics and decide which of these three types best describes your practice. Once you know where you are, it is much easier to get to where you want to be.
Second, make a list of all of the outside relationships you have built in the past. In order to re-establish contact, write each one a handwritten note, and follow up with a phone call. Finally, take that pen and paper and write down 20 new patient acquisition methods, get a calendar, and begin to implement them where appropriate.
Remember that every strong blaze begins as a single spark. When you are ready to add the proper fuel, the roaring fire you see before you represents the practice of your dreams.