A popular advertising technique for automobile dealers is to entice customers by suggesting that their used car has more trade-in value than it actually does. As in, “Do whatever you have to do to push, pull or drag your car in, and drive away in a brand new car.” Apparently, this suggests that if you have some clunker that’s not even running, you have something that the dealership values that will help reduce the purchase price of a new car.
Most of us can see through this ruse. We know that the purchase price of the new car is either inflated or there are such strict credit restrictions that few can actually qualify for the low monthly payments that are advertised. These types of sales overtures tend to seduce only the naïve and least discerning.
Do you use similar low-rent techniques to attract new patients?
Probably the most common approach used by chiropractors is to offer new patient “specials” that include a complete neurological, orthopedic and physical examination ($250 value!) for $49.95 or something equally ridiculously out of proportion.
Those with even the most rudimentary analytical skills can see through this come-on. There are at least three possibilities:
Either the examination has little value
The price has been artificially inflated so it can be reduced
It’s a come on for something else
My guess is that in the practices that employ this tactic, all three are possible. The examination “price” was something that only third parties, accustomed expensive diagnostics of the allopathic world would pay and that cash-paying patients rarely pay. Naturally, the come on is for the three-times-a-week-until-your-insurance-company-stops-paying. And the low entry fee is merely the inducement to begin care, with the profit made on the back end.
This strategy demonstrates a profound disrespect for the intelligence of the consumer. In fact, it’s symptomatic of the way far too many chiropractors, even those who don’t use this approach, think of patients:
Patients are basically stupid.
If given the choice, patients will do the wrong thing.
If I don’t sell on price, patients won’t begin care.
If this is your perception of patients, no wonder the various manipulative techniques that are taught at management seminars seem palatable. You think you’re doing patients a favor by using scare tactics (so they’ll do the right thing), employing a semantical sleight of hand to get patients to say “yes” throughout your report of findings (so they’ll do the right thing) and your emotional, “close” to your lectures and reports (so they’ll do the right thing). These sales techniques are justifiable because you’ve convinced yourself that the goal is honorable.
Based on who reads these blog posts, I’m probably preaching to the choir. However, even if you don’t succumb to these overt techniques that dishonor the sovereignty of each patient and the free will God entrusts them with, many chiropractors practice manipulative techniques that are far more subtle, but equally unsustainable, differing only in magnitude:
Pressing patents to “get” chiropractic.
Using your social authority to manage patients.
Thinking what patients do can reflect poorly on you.
Refusing to discuss how to discontinue care.
Scolding patients for their poor health care choices.
Valuing new patients over reactivating patients.
Making patients feel guilty for not valuing their health.
Providing leadership and inspiring patients to assume appropriate responsibility for their health is a good thing. The breakdown occurs when the practitioner uses predatory methods that overpower patients, producing buyer’s remorse, or who choose to define themselves, their validity and their worth by what patients choose to do. Cross that boundary, investing your life spirit in something you can’t control, and it causes a slow leak of your “emotional checking account,” eventually manifesting in burnout and a cynical resignation.
Perhaps even worse, it reduces referrals from otherwise delighted patients and suppresses reactivations from them when they have the inevitable relapse. Which, in a strange, ironical way, creates the very circumstances that prompt many chiropractors to resort to inducing patients with freebies, deals and new patient “specials.”