One key piece of information you need before you start your practice is “who are the people I will be serving? What are they like?” Sometimes this is called your “market” and it is best described as the prospective patients in the area from which you expect to draw. If you don’t know about these people before you start, you will find out about them the hard way after you open your doors. For example, if you have decided to run a sports practice in an area where the market is mostly elderly people, you won’t have many patients.
Sure, it’s easy to learn about the market in general, and finding out that the market you’re going to has many elderly patients is easy. But what about individual groups within your market? How do they feel about chiropractic? Will they sign up for long-term care? Do they have insurance plans for which you need to become a provider? There are lots of questions you can ask, based on your technique, the type of care you want to provide, and how you want to practice.
So, how do you get the answers to these questions, before you open your practice? You ask. Some ways to ask include:
“¢ Door to door. Walk around a neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon and ask people a couple of questions that you have created about chiropractic. Maybe it’s just “Do you see a chiropractor?” “If yes, would you recommend this chiropractor to your friends?” “If not, why not?” Avoid asking personal questions about their health concerns, unless the volunteer, and don’t get into philosophical arguments. You’re gathering information, not making converts.
“¢ At a mall. Some malls will allow you to rent a kiosk or run a survey. Be sure to ask for permission; most malls prohibit solicitation. Ask just one question per person, unless they express interest and want to talk.
“¢ At an event. The county fair, a health fair, or a community health forum are all good places to rent a booth or share space with someone. You are there to ask questions, but discussions can lead to new patients.
You can see that the questions you ask can be a good way to learn about individuals and allow you to start connecting with them. You can create a simple business card with your name, phone, and email address, and you can ask for their information. Then, when you start your practice you will have both a data base of knowledge about people, but lots of individual contacts you can follow up with to let them know you’re ready to help them.
One more thing: Listen carefully. If people aren’t telling you what you want to hear, you may have a tendency to tune them out, to think “they don’t know what chiropractic is all about.” But remember that it’s not what you think, but what your potential patients think that’s important. Listening might make you adjust your marketing, sales, and financial strategies, but that’s why you asked, isn’t it?