15 Practice Marketing Ideas that Work
by William D. Esteb
Some are quick to blame eroding third-party reimbursement, the influence of managed care, the community they practice in or even the weather. But it’s what you do to market your practice that determines whether your practice thrives or barely survives. Great results or even extraordinary technical skills alone are not enough. If your clinical skills are at least adequate and you have something that passes for a personality, then implementing some simple marketing techniques could increase your patient volume and profitability.
Marketing is not necessarily advertising. Marketing includes everything from office location, pricing, patient waiting time, tableside conversations or the offering of some special product or service. In many of the following examples, marketing is nothing more than creating an excuse to let the world know you’re in business! After all, isn’t that what the furniture stores and car dealerships do by inventing something they call their annual “Christmas in July” sale?
Some marketing techniques lend themselves to once-a-year events and others to constant, ongoing implementation. Here are some ideas to get you going:
Bulletin Board Updates. It’s your practice “refrigerator.” Like the communication center in the family kitchen, your bulletin board can serve to keep your patient tribe informed and motivated. Change its content frequently with testimonials, patient news, new research findings, articles about chiropractic helping certain conditions, health tips related to the season of the year, etc. Look for items that can serve to enlarge a patient’s understanding of chiropractic and who could be helped. This can stimulate referrals and equip patients to be more articulate advocates for chiropractic care.
Lectures and Seminars. Whether you hold these special presentations in your office, in a meeting room or at the local Marriott is a function of your vision. These can be great opportunities for self-expression on topics of interest to you or occasions that prompt you to bring in outside experts. Consider conducting or sponsoring an evening lecture on vaccination, childbirthing, Ritalin usage or other hot topics. If your interests lean toward personal injury or work-related health problems, put a program together for local business groups, legal associations and other people who could influence the lives of prospective patients. Public speaking is simply the least expensive way to share the chiropractic story, improve your communication skills, increase your self-confidence and attract high quality patients.
Birthday Cards. Talk about a no-brainer! You have your patient’s birth date. It’s one of the two times each year a patient is most likely to think about his health. Be sure to remind active and inactive patients of chiropractic care on their birthday. This is especially true as we age. As the number of birthday cards we get diminish each year as we grow older, the birthday card reminder you send can have an extraordinarily high impact.
New Year’s Resolution Letter. This is the other time each year a patient is most likely to think about his health. In fact, health clubs and workout gyms get 80% of their annual business in January following New Year’s resolution time. Remind your inactive patients of the importance of a chiropractic checkup before they start a slimming and toning program so they don’t put unnecessary wear and tear on pre-symptomatic, malfunctioning spinal joints. It’s a natural fit.
Reactivation Postcards. This is another one of those obvious (and inexpensive) ways to increase patient volume. Postcards to inactive patients are less confrontive than phone calls and take just a few moments for you to jot a quick note on and mail. It’s a simple and effective way to remind patients of chiropractic and your office. And while they may not perceive a need for consulting your office now, they may know someone who should, prompting a referral. Consider sending a reactivation postcards to your inactive patients two to three times a year.
Newsletters. They are a proven way to keep in touch with active and inactive patients, spur referrals and stimulate reactivations. Whether you put one together as an office or purchase one from companies that produce them (we offer a quarterly patient newsletter at Patient Media), commit to sending them issue after issue. Newsletters work like chiropractic adjustments with each issue building on the ones before. Then, make sure you have extras so you can hand deliver them to nearby businesses, giving you an excuse to introduce yourself and make yourself familiar to those in your area. Always be on the lookout for ways to encounter as many strangers as possible!
E-mails. This high-tech approach which can work wonders as long as you don’t turn your electronic messages into spam (unsolicited advertising). Even if you’re not Internet savvy, start a sign-in sheet at the front desk for patients to volunteer their e-mail address, indicating that you periodically send out an electronic newsletter with health tips, ways to get well faster and suggestions for health optimization. Most of these communications are too long. Keep it under 300 words and include a suggestion to forward your e-mail to a friend.
Latest Research Mailing. Be on the lookout for abstracts of the latest research affirming some aspect of chiropractic care. Use this as an excuse to send a brief letter to some of your active and inactive patients. Announce the latest findings and what they mean to a typical patient. Bolster the confidence of skeptical patients and equip your other patients to be more assertive referral ambassadors for chiropractic and your office.
These are the techniques that can all work together to project a positive image of your practice.
The key to the following suggestions is to create an implementation calendar so everything is scheduled in advance. Establish a schedule for the year and repeat it annually, improving, embellishing and adding to it. Consider holding some type of special event every month or so, year in and year out. Here are the most obvious to get your started:
Water Awareness Promotion. This is a great event to hold in your office in May or June to alert your active and inactive patients to the importance of proper hydration. Consider getting special water bottles made up and distributed. Talk to a local bottler of spring water and find out about buying some “vanity water” with your name on the label. Create a joint venture with the Culligan distributor and promote the healthful benefits of good old H2O.
Anniversary Week. If you’re like me, you know the exact day you opened up for business. If you’ve been in practice for 10 years or more, use this week to roll back prices to your start-up year. Wear clothes from that decade. Play music from that era. Create alliances with other businesses to obtain prizes that you offer to your patients based on their ability to answer trivia about what was happening in the news the week you started practice. Be sure to encourage your patients to bring a friend and enjoy your birthday cake.
Patient Appreciation Day. You already know how to do this one. Just don’t do it more than once or twice a year, tops. If you have to “appreciate” your patients too often (which usually means special deals on exam fees, etc.), it may mean your fees need a permanent adjustment. But face it. You can be much more creative!
Founder’s Day. The profession’s birthday in September may be a spiritual time for you and your practice members. Besides the usual press releases to the media in your area announcing another year that chiropractic has survived the onslaught of the drug culture, use it to remind patients of the colorful history of chiropractic. The hundreds of DCs who went to jail for chiropractic. The AMA lawsuit and other highlights. Help your patients appreciate the David and Goliath story they are participating in and their obligation to tell others. (See bulletin board above.)
Fall Food Drive. Encourage your patients to bring canned foods and other non-perishable foodstuffs to your practice for distribution to your community food pantry or soup kitchen. It’s a great event to hold sufficiently in advance of Thanksgiving. Allow patients to contribute a food item toward a discounted visit, massage or some other benefit. Then alert the newspaper, radio and TV stations when you’ll be loading the collection into a truck. If it’s a slow newsday, you might just make the ten o’clock news!
Winter Coat Drive. Same thing here. Serve as a collection point for your patients to recycle unused coats for the less fortunate in your community. In Northern climes, this can be a great event to help usher in spring.
Hawaiian Daze. This is a great wintertime event. Maybe in February, pick a week to turn up the heat, play Hawaiian music, wear loud print shirts and turn your office into a tropical paradise. Live in a warmer climate? Turn down the temperature, wear your flannel shirts and serve hot chocolate.
As you can see, the ideas are endless. Countless web sites will give you further ideas, offering a list of national events such as better posture month, heart awareness week and many others. Use these themes to create a reason to contact your active and inactive patients, inform other businesses in your area and alert the media. It’s called marketing. Most small businesses look for ways to focus attention on what they’re doing. With the significance and importance of what you do, you have an obligation to let the world know about your office.
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What a Patient Wants
Originally published in 2002
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