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Are You Familiar?

familiar.jpgAs 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.

Comments (5)

If you care about people and understand the incredible gift of chiropractic, then it's not hard to talk the TIC! Chiropractic is life changing...what's wrong with spreading the word? Chiropractic certainly changed my life!

The trick to this is to have some people skills. Otherwise you come off like a crazy homeless person and it can serve to destroy your rep in town.

Dr. Russo:

That is indeed the way of growing a practice in a stable manner. These get rich quick, 50 new patients per week gimmicks are exactly that, gimmicks. In the 20,000 town of LaSalle (next to the ~300,000 of Windsor)I am very well known and I trust, respected. I am not afraid to stand in front of people, nor to talk to strangers (much to my wife's chagrine). I go out of my way to greet anyone, patient or not. If you contact as many people as possible, you will be familiar to as many people as possible. And familiarity breeds referrals.

Anonymous:

Self promoting? Cheesy? Just weeks after the blog about waiting in line at the grocery store I noticed that the cashier that was waiting on me was rubbing her neck. Tough day I asked? Oh yeah she replied, I find that my chiropractor helps me when I feel that way I said, and I just left it at that. I didn't offer her a free exam or tell her about the 12 warning signs-I felt as though the conversation was incredibly human. I was one human (also a chiropractor) concerned about another human being, and not at all in a self promoting way. A good friend of mine who practices 300 miles away spent 20 minutes at my wedding talking to another friend of mine about chiropractic, he had no hope of financial gain but took the time anyway-how many of us do that regularly? We enter chiropractic college as somewhat normal earthlings and graduate not knowing how to relate to people. 21 years in practice and I'm still working on bad habits that were taught to me at a well-intentioned school and by practice management gurus.

About familiarity, I can't go anywhere in my town of 4000 without running into six patients. I've been the president of just about every organization we have, I thought I knew everyone. Then I thought, I go to the same dry cleaner every week, I go to the post office at the same time everyday, I drive to work the same way everyday. I see the same people all the time and the truth is, there are alot of people who don't know who I am or what I do-thanks again Bill.

Todd Hackney:

I find this article interesting. You mention that people may not want to "pony up" their copayments because of the economy and the reliance of some DC's on "generous(HA!)insurance plans"....If patient's aren't willing to pay a copayment which is probably LESS THAN a regular 'cash' visit, it seems like that's on the PATIENT, not the DC.

I for one, don't rely on insurance anymore than I do my patient's cash, check or charge. I might WAIT for insurance reimbursement, but since those patients who have insurance PAY FOR IT on a regular basis, that predisposes them to USE IT. But that doesn't mean I only treat the patient according to their benefits and policy limits, nor do I have them sign a "contract" so that I can OVERUTILIZE their insurance coverage, thereby OVERCHARGING them for care they don't need.

I DO agree that DC's need to be better "self-promoters" but introducing yourself to an individual in line at the grocery store seems a bit 'cheesy'. Looking for the opportunity to talk to people is an acquired skill, because people will "smell the sell" otherwise.

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From April 21, 2009 7:31 AM

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