Ivan Delman, DC offers advice on how to find the right niche for the marketing of your practice.
Focusing Your Attention
When comedienne Joan Rivers would get angry with someone, she’d stick her hand in his face and holler, “Talk to the hand. My ears aren’t listening!”
Believe it or not, there’s a tie-in to that statement and the way you market your services. I’m referring to the difference between marketing to everyone’s ears or picking a more focused area like a hand. The focused emphasis on directing your chiropractic services to a specific area is called niche marketing.
There are many books and articles available on niche marketing. Niche marketing has been called “target marketing,” “segmental marketing” and similar terms. They all follow similar themes and rules and all agree on the starting point:
Plan your marketing strategy before you start expending too much of your time or money.
Please note that the key word here is plan. The small amount of time you will spend to plan your approach will save you huge losses further down the road. You may have a photographic memory, but your lens cap is still on if you get involved in niche marketing without that four-letter word, plan.
Before you start planning, you should have an idea of to what part of your community you’ll want to provide your services.
Discovering Your Niche
Finding a niche sometimes just happens. For example, when I was in practice, I also was active in racing cars on road courses. Since I knew what physical stresses a race car driver and even members of his pit crew undergo when participating in that sport, it was natural to offer my services to that market.
I wanted to make it easy for the people in my niche to get familiar with my chiropractic services. One of the things I did was to bring a portable adjusting table to the races. I also had a sign in my pits which stated, “Free chiropractic consultation to race car drivers.” The drivers visited between races, bringing along members of their crew (usually family). The driver’s crew watched while I administered palliative treatments to the driver.
Usually, the minimal work I performed on them afforded some relief, so they would ask about follow-up treatment. If my office was handy for them, we’d make an appointment. If not, I referred them to someone I knew in their area. In either case, I was able to introduce chiropractic to a specific niche. I also had my practice name on the side of my car, plus our clinic name was on cars we sponsored both at our road course races and at my local circle track.
Other Possible Niche Markets
Local Government Employees
I also addressed two other markets: outside city workers such as sanitation and maintenance, and the police department. They each required a slightly different approach; however, between those three segments and the spin-off from non-targeted patients, our office stayed busy.
If you’re involved in other sports or have a desire to work with children, or have experience in an interesting segment of your community, they could use the good services of a dedicated chiropractor.
The key is not to try to be a renaissance chiropractor—that is, cutting across market segments and attempting to treat all of Earth. That course of action reminds me of the bumper sticker I once read that said, “Forget world peace! Visualize using your turn signal!” In other words, addressing today, not someday, and focusing your efforts works very well in our real world.
It’s difficult to accomplish your mission by embracing the entire universe. The streets are littered with the wrecked practices of chiropractors who have failed in their attempts to deliver their services to an excessively wide-ranging area. In the end, their services were so diluted, their efforts contributed very little to the health of their communities.
Making a Point
Try an experiment. Take a pencil and firmly press the eraser end into the palm of your hand. Then, turn that pencil around and firmly press the lead tip into the palm of your hand. As you can see, the smaller the area, the more intense the focus of pressure. If you pressed hard enough, that point would penetrate your skin.
Think of your hand as the market and the pencil as your marketing efforts. Your efforts are scattered (the eraser end) or they’re focused (the lead end). It’s that simple! So you have to get the lead out and focus your efforts. Get the point? (Sorry…couldn’t resist.)
Doing a Market Evaluation
Once you identify the niche you want to serve, it’s wise to check out the stability and potential of that market before you start going full-speed-ahead and committing your resources to a declining or poor market. Before you hastily decide to jump off the niche cliff without checking your parachute, you should do a marketing evaluation. The Small Business Administration has marketing plans available that are excellent.
Look At Both Sides of Your Information
As you work your way through the marketing evaluation, one of the items you’ll want to check out is how many other chiropractors are serving the same niche. As an example, if you are planning on locating a new practice to serve the agricultural workers in the Philippines, that’s great! That’s because your evaluation revealed there are no chiropractic providers anywhere in that area. You also should ask yourself, “Why?”
If your plan includes opening your office on the lava slopes of Mount Pinatubo, an active volcano, perhaps that’s why no one has been serving that segment of the agricultural population. Obviously, in this case, long-term plans for establishing a thriving chiropractic practice would be unrealistic. The point is to look at both sides of your information and keep asking yourself, “What does this mean?”
Since few of us have unlimited resources, when your evaluation reveals that you have discovered an excellent niche for your services, make certain that the size of that niche is large enough to support your anticipated practice growth. On the other side of that information coin, make sure that your intended niche is not so large as to use up all your financial and physical resources during the process of establishing yourself in that market segment.
Therefore, to conserve your resources and make them as effective as possible, you should firmly focus them, like that pencil tip, on a small spot. That will allow you to more easily penetrate your selected market.
When you decide to develop a niche practice, use the following steps to make that journey easier:
• First off, identify your target segment.(Gee! What a unique idea.) Believe it or not, I’ve met some docs who were not specific enough and they had to work twice as hard to get the ball rolling. Instead of targeting “The factory workers of the East Coast”, why not start with targeting “The factory workers in my town?” Even better, consider targeting “The factory workers who are now doing what I once did.” It’s much easier to penetrate a market when you have a working knowledge of that market.
When you start writing down the profile of your proposed niche, make certain you take a careful look at the physical size of the intended area. (The typical chiropractic marketing area is 3 to 6 miles and sometimes more depending on your specialty.) Remember it has to be large enough to support your planned practice size and not consume all of your financial and physical resources as you attempt to provide service to that area. The drain on your resources while trying to properly cover a large area would include such items as advertising, long drive times, signage, extra staff, longer hours and wear/tear on your own energies.
• List the steps to adequately provide chiropractic services within your niche.
If these steps are not in line with your practice mission then you may want to re-evaluate your plans. For example, if you decide to target chiropractic services toward all the baseball teams in your area, then you will be busy both in and out of your office. You’ll want to be visiting team workouts and games for observation, treatment follow-up, holding injury prevention clinics and physicals.
A baseball-oriented practice might be in conflict, for example, with a practice devoted to pediatric care. If this looks like it is the case, you might want to re-evaluate your proposed market niche to find a more compatible niche.
Be Able to Walk the Talk
If you’re going after a niche, it very much helps if you understand how it works and can talk the language of the patients in that market segment.
Taking the baseball example, if you’re going to offer your services to the team, it would be neat if you knew something about the game. You then could talk baseball language and be aware of the physical stresses involved in playing baseball.
If you are lacking in some aspect needed to properly develop that niche, see if additional training, obtaining experience or hiring staff experienced in that niche would place you in a better position to proceed.
Last, but Absolutely Not Least
Please take the time to go over your marketing plan. When you finish, it will clearly spell out whether or not you are in a good position to proceed with your plans for developing a chiropractic niche practice. If it indicates otherwise, taking time to do the marketing evaluation will save you a lot of time, money and wasted effort.
Whatever you decide…please make a decision. Niche marketing is an important aspect of any company’s success whether it is local or international.
So don’t be like the procrastinator who said, “If at first I don’t succeed, there’s always next year.” Not likely! Next year, someone else will be providing similar services to a niche you should have owned. You really need to start today.
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.