As I hear from chiropractors whom I have considered excellent examples of the profession, privately confess that their new patient numbers are down, I’ve become interested in the new patient aspect of practice. Frankly, I’ve avoided this. I’ve generally viewed new patient acquisition, beyond the internal referral process, as the seedy part of practice. The “tenderloin” of the profession. Traditionally, this has included everything from bent pens and free spinal exams to lightning-bolt adorned yellow page ads and heavy-handed recall scripting.
I’m assuming that subluxations have little regard for the stock market or the economy. Thus, if chiropractic is suddenly less attractive these days, my guess is that many chiropractors have depended too heavily on the new patient lubrication afforded patients with generous insurance policies. And while coverage hasn’t dwindled precisely in tandem with the economy, apparently a patient’s willingness to pony up the co-pay has.
If your new patient numbers are down, it’s likely that you’re not very familiar to prospective new patients in your community.
How does the prospect of walking into a room full of strangers strike you? Or introducing yourself to the shopper in front of you in the ’10 Items or Less’ line? Or starting a conversation with person waiting behind you in the ATM line?
If you’d rather not pursue these and other opportunities to befriend total strangers, chances are the fear of strangers that your mom instilled in you as a child still has an effect on you. It could be one of many reasons why your practice is underperforming.
This fear of yours served you well as a 7-year old walking home alone from school. But today, it has manifested into a social cocoon that protects you (and your practice) from encountering very many strangers. Without a formal new patient lead generating system, the fear that once protected you is now dampening your new patient statistics and the viability of your small business.
This fear of strangers also constrains you from befriending medical doctors in your community. Written off as a lingering professional bias from the Committee on Quackery, it’s more likely that without knowing any chiropractors personally, most medical doctors have little choice but to go with the prevailing cultural myths about chiropractors.
Just remember, to a stranger, you’re a stranger!
If you have any hope of thriving while others commiserate about the economy or reduced reimbursement, it’s crucial that you become more familiar to strangers in your community.
If you had a need for a new dentist, would you prefer a stranger or one you (or a friend) already know?
If you had the need for a new hair stylist, would you prefer a stranger or one you (or a friend) already know?
If you needed a website, would you prefer to work with a stranger or someone you (or a friend) already know?
I can’t think of a single personal service in which familiarity doesn’t enhance the prospects of getting new business. Can you?
What’s constraining you from being more familiar to your community? Pride? (Doing talks and screenings are beneath me.) Looking good? (Others would think less of me.) Unprepared? (I might be asked a question I can’t answer.)
If you’re not regularly sharing the chiropractic story with strangers, then you’re depending upon others to do so for you—a strategy that is unreliable and largely passive—not the basis of a thriving small business.
Or, if you’re inclined to believe that great results will produce enough referrals from enthusiastic recipients of your care, consider this sobering thought: at some point even delighted patients will exhaust their circle of friends to tell and referrals will come to a screeching halt.
If you’re looking for security at a time when many are feeling insecure, commit to telling the chiropractic story to as many strangers as possible. But here’s where it gets amazingly counterintuitive. Tell the story only with the intent of telling the truth about the self-healing capabilities of their body—not to get new patients! If you tell the story with the intent of solving your problem (to generate sales)—be prepared to see audiences shun your overtures and flee your presence. Tell the story for their sake, not yours.
Get out of your office. Become familiar. Tell the truth. Project hope.