Ivan Delman, DC offers ways to use marketing to build the foundation of a practice.
Service an Untouchable Product
In the United States, 80 percent of our work force is in service industries. The other 20 percent is involved with the production of a product that can be seen, touched and sometimes smelled. You can’t, however, see, feel or touch a service. A service is abstract, elusive and intangible. Chiropractic is a service, not a product. A great example of the difference between a product and a service can be found at your favorite restaurant. Most restaurants offer similar food, so why do you have a favorite?
One reason will be the quality of the restaurant’s service. That quality service could be faster order taking or food delivery, friendly interaction between you and the servers, or whatever. The service that appeals to you can’t be seen, felt or smelled, but that service sells the product, the food. As chiropractors we offer a very personal service…period! We have no products. When the consumer buys our service they do so with uncertainty, discomfort and sometimes distrust. This is accentuated when our friendly consumer’s health is involved. If that isn’t enough burden, there are no guarantees regarding the outcomes of our work. This makes the task of marketing chiropractic services more difficult than selling an actual product that has the same cost.
The Best DC Doesn’t Always Succeed
Chiropractor/businesspeople come in all styles of ambition. Some are astute, curious people who constantly look for ways to raise the success level of their practices. At the other end of the spectrum are chiropractors who just wish to be successful and patiently wait for the Spirit of Success to appear at their clinic’s door. Of course, this rarely happens. To put it another way, some come to the fountain of achievement to quench their thirst and others just to gargle. How can one practice be thriving and successful when the one next door is sliding down the frictionless slope of failure? The answer to that question does not usually rest with the technical competency of either the thriving or failing chiropractor. Instead, if you observe the way they market their services, you’ll see why your colleagues are either succeeding or failing in their practice efforts.
Marketing a Service vs. Marketing a Product
The first step is to interest prospective patients in your services by offering the benefits they seek.
The second step is harder. If you recognize you’re marketing an intangible promise, then you must also recognize that the consumer will be looking for the nearest tangible item for validation. That item they can touch and feel is you!
The best way to validate your chiropractic message is to communicate to your patients the assets they consider important to the success in their treatment program. In other words, your expertise, experience, dedication and history of past treatment triumphs will validate you in the eyes of your patient. Once your patient believes in you they will start believing in your work.
Along with earning your patient’s confidence, a parallel approach to marketing your services is to remove the barriers prospective patients put up as reasons not to use your chiropractic services.
Below are a few of those barriers:
Pain…”I’m afraid you’ll hurt me” or “I’m hurting too much to see you right now.”
Commitment…”Chiropractors make you come back forever.”
Cost…”I can’t afford you right now. (Or ever?)”
Time…”I’m too busy with (add any reason) and just don’t have time to see you.”
Try these answers and see if they help you handle those objections:
Pain…Explain the palliative therapies used in your office that you initially use to reduce their discomfort. Go into detail on those methods to eliminate the patient’s fear of the unknown.
Commitment…A person will not be as hesitant to make a commitment if they feel somewhat in control of that commitment. With that in mind, give your patients control of their future appointment schedule.
In order to give you enough visits to stabilize your patient’s condition, your patients will not control their visit schedule until after they have agreed to a finite number of appointments prior to them deciding the scheduling of future visits. In reality, your patient already controls their future appointments; however, if there’s mutual agreement to a defined number of visits to effect condition stabilization, the patient will feel more comfortable regarding future appointments.
Cost…Your goal is to lower the financial speed bumps that prevent new patients from driving into your office. Look over your first visit costs with a target of making it easier for the first-time patient to pay for that visit. A caveat! Be careful on levels at which you set your fees.
When setting schedules, be aware of your overhead costs. Don’t be like the toy manufacturer who, when he found out he was losing a dollar for every toy he made, decided to fix the problem by making more toys. You must be aware of all the costs involved in providing your services. Also, be aware that if you set them too low, those fees will demean the value of your services.
Time…Conduct an analysis of your busy and slow patient times. Without making major scheduling changes (you’ll have fewer problems when you make operational changes in small increments), see if you can schedule patients who have trouble making their appointments at a time that is not normally used for patient treatment.
You might consider offering those patients a walk-in schedule (no appointments) as long as they know they might have a little wait. You might want to consider shutting down during slow times and reopening at a time more convenient to your patients. In other words, see what you can do to accommodate your patients rather than yourself.
The Bottom Line
The reasoning in presenting all of the above information is not to provide an article on how to do this or that but to steer your planning to the central concept of marketing your chiropractic services. That is, your marketing should be based upon the fact that your service is the foundation upon which you’ll build your successful practice. Further, by consistently communicating your caring personality, professional assets and personal dedication to your patients, you’ll discover that marketing your services will be a natural.
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.