Ivan Delman, DC provides successful tips on how to help advertise your practice.

by Ivan Delman, DC 

Advertising Defined

What is advertising? Simply put, it’s what you do when you can’t go and see the person you’re targeting. Wait! Before going any further, let’s explain the term “targeting.” 

“Targeting” means different things to different people. For example, here in the Smoky Mountains, “targeting” might mean taking aim on a stranger coming up the mountain looking for your still. Well, the word “targeting” does mean taking aim, but in this article, it means pointing your advertising toward specific groups in your desired marketing base. 

Before getting deeper into the subject of advertising, it is understood there are chiropractors who feel they have no need to advertise. I respect that. However, by looking at some of the basic principles of advertising, those groups will find usable ideas for their other marketing ventures. 

It is generally agreed that internal or referral marketing continues to be the most effective form of advertising. No doubt about it, word-of-mouth advertising is the best advertising for your practice. However, you may want to go beyond internal marketing and receive the benefits of stretching your advertising wings. 

This article is for chiropractors who desire to explore the possibilities of external advertising. Keep in mind that your services still must be affordable, available and effective, otherwise your best-laid marketing/advertising programs will not yield the results you desire. 

Taking the above thoughts a step farther, your service must be good enough to stand on its own merits with or without advertising. As Albert Lasker, the legendary advertising figure, so well stated, “The product that doesn’t sell without advertising, will not sell well with advertising.” 

With Mr. Lasker’s words ringing in our ears, here are some proven tips that will substantially increase the results from your print advertising. 

The Plan

The first thing you will want to do before you start your advertising program is to develop a marketing plan. 

When you develop your marketing program, you’ll be able to determine the location of your patient base, the public perception you’ll want to evolve, the services you’ll offer and how to determine your advertising/promotional budget. All this will save you a bunch of wasted time and money, plus give you an excellent return on investment.

Whoa! Wait a minute! What is Return on Investment ( ROI )? Is that another trick definition like “eyedropper” meaning “a clumsy ophthalmologist”? 

All the tech talk aside, ROI tells you how much you are going to get back in relation to what you have spent—in this case, on advertising. A good ROI means that you should get back more than you spend. 

Although there are as many opinions regarding ROI ratios as there are opinions on how to make a good omelet, a reasonable range of acceptable ROI seems to fall between two to five dollars returned for every dollar you spend on advertising. If you’re able to achieve higher numbers, even better. 

During this era of managed care and competition from similar providers, we have to carefully scrutinize our expenses. You don’t, however, want to panic and cut back on your advertising. Look at this situation the same as you’d look at a big boulder rumbling down a mountain toward you. Don’t stop moving! Just decide which direction to jump. 

So, instead of cutting your advertising budget, make sure your advertising budget is being spent wisely and effectively. During tight times, the business that advertises wisely will be far ahead of the business that pulls in its advertising dollars. When better times arrive (and they always do), the practices that continued their advertising will be ahead of the rest. 

Two Docs

There’s a story about two retired DCs that illustrates the above point. The two docs were talking about how they had managed their practices. 

The first chiropractor, Phil, said to the second, “John, I can’t understand why your practice failed. You are a terrific chiropractor.” 

“Too much advertising!” 

Phil looked at John incredulously and said, “What do you mean too much advertising? You never spent a dime on advertising.” 

“That’s true,” replied Poor John, “But the other DCs did!” 

Targeting Your Market

The best way to tightly control your advertising expense, and save money besides, is to use your marketing data to precisely target your intended market. 

Rather than shotgun your market, be a smart bomb. It’s a lot more effective and will get better results for your expenditures. Specific direction of your advertising efforts toward targeted markets will yield you substantially higher ROI. Beware of spending your bottom-line dollars on the “good deals” offered by advertising sales people. They’ll steamroller your bank account down to a grease spot on your driveway! The smart way is to make a plan, then stick to it.

Most small businesses spend about 4 percent of their revenues on advertising. That percentage should really be around 10 percent, with a portion of that percentage set aside for exploration. Taking that extra portion of your budget, check out alternate venues for your advertising exposures. Then, measure the results to see where it takes your practice.

As with chiropractic, advertising is sometimes not as precise as we would like it to be. Therefore, when you test out those alternate values, you will occasionally find profitable areas in new territories. Some venues work very well and some are like a bad movie…a waste of money. 

Looking back over 20 years, my good results outnumbered the disasters. That’s why I hold the belief that the information developed by a well-thought-out marketing plan is essential for effective, profitable advertising programs. With solid planning, even your experiments will have a better chance of succeeding.

The Eight Basics

With all that said, let’s move on to the eight proven concepts that will help you develop a growing, successful practice:

Determine Your Uniqueness

As individuals, we all develop and provide our services based upon our personal traits, inclinations and training. Therefore, the services we offer are unique to ourselves. The key to this kind of marketing (niche marketing) is to determine the nature of your own unique aspects. Then, develop those special aspects of your services to make you stand out as your community’s extraordinary chiropractic provider. One way to start the evaluation would be to assess your hobbies or special talents and see if they’ll interface with your chiropractic services.

Advertise With Clarity

Be very specific and clear on how you define your special qualities because the typical ad reader does not always absorb exactly what you are trying to tell them. For example, your definition of arbitrator may be: “One who is a mediator or go-between.” Conversely, the reader of your advertising may define arbitrator as: “A fast-food cook that leaves Arbys to work at McDonald’s.” Therefore, be very clear on what offers you are placing before the public. 

Pinpoint Your Advertising 

Do you want to flush your dollars down a definite chiropractic loser? Place full-page ads in your local newspaper. Do you want to waste even more dollars? Place those full-page ads outside your marketing area. Throwing your money against the broad wall of a market then seeing what will stick is a waste of your dollars. It’s much more effective to take the same amount of money and run a series of smaller ads. The repeated impact of the consecutive ads will have a greater impact than one big splash. 

Communicate, Don’t Impress

Remember you’re trying to get the public to understand the nature of your services. I doubt if they care that you have more degrees than a thermometer. They want to know if you can help them. Therefore, your ad copy should leave out all the terms we use to impress. Stay with words that succinctly tell your readers how you can help them. When your reader understands the message, you’ll achieve that goal.

Use White Space

Don’t load up every available inch of your ad with text.

You have about 3 seconds to grab the attention of your reader and not much longer to get out your message.

The white spaces in your ad will help the reader focus better on your message.

(See how the spacing helps?)

Forget Chicken Dinners!

Gimmicks and giveaways will diminish you and your profession. Offer your services in a manner that will make you and your family proud. Bozo the Clown belongs in the circus, not in chiropractic.

Avoid Institutional Advertising

This is the type of vague ad that is used by companies that have long-standing public exposure and want to continue keeping their name in the public’s eye. Institutional ads, however, are missing some very important items that you should have in your advertising. For example, your ad should always contain the following:

• The specific benefit to the person reading that ad

• What exactly you do

• Your location

• A command to take action

Stick to One Theme

Your killer lead line will grab your reader’s attention and they will read that line; however, that reader will still have a tendency to zip through your ad and want to move on to other reading material. It is hard enough to leave readers with a strong impression after they read your ad. It becomes even more difficult if you throw several ideas at them in one ad.

Examples of ad themes could be:

• Lifestyle changes to your reader due to physical difficulties.

• The doctor has 70 glorious years of experience.

• Your treatment programs are affordable.

• You have appointments available for new patients.

• You are available for emergencies (and mean it!).

Themes are limited only by your abilities and imagination. Whatever fits your personality, talent and philosophy will work because your advertising theme should be honest and, just as important, good ethics demand you be able to deliver on your promises.

In Summary

Advertising will familiarize potential patients with your special, offered services. It will not necessarily bring in new patients just because your text is awe-inspiring or your credentials heroic, or your photograph makes Marcus Welby look like a troll. Your advertisement will, however, help to bring patients to your practice. Your skills will keep them returning.

One Last Thought

Advertising has to be complemented and balanced by other activities such as community involvement, special clinic programs and so on. If you are going to give anything away, give your time for the benefit of your community.

Consistent application of the above and related activities will substantially add to the sum total of your imminent success. Put another way…If you want to grow an abundance of flowers, you have to plant lots of seeds.


written by Ivan Delman, DC. Reprinted with permission from Do Write Publishing.

Dr. Delman is the author of the book The Business of Chiropractic: How to Prosper AFTER Startup. He has degrees in both business and chiropractic. After 38 years of enjoyable, productive work in both fields, he and his wife have retired to travel and write. He can be contacted at:  Ivan@BusinessofChiropractic.com.

Dr. Chris Clark, a chiropractor and consultant, purchased Do Write Publishing and Business of Chiropractic Publications in 2007. For more ways to improve your practice, visit www.businessofchiropractic.com.