Ivan Delman, DC provides a simple steps towards effectively marketing your practice.
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.”—Albert Einstein
Most of us are more comfortable working with simple, straightforward ideas. I’ve gotten into hot water more often by trying to complicate something rather than trying to make it simpler.
For example, take the monumental task of marketing your services. If you look at the entire project, it’s overwhelming. However, if you take a closer look, you’ll notice there are patterns that run through each and every marketing program you study. The only differences will be in the details of the methodology. The processes will be the same.
Taking Einstein at his word, I’d like to offer you a simplified version of what I consider to be the five most important steps to be considered when you prepare to market your services.
The steps can be summed up in one acronym…P.L.A.N.S. The letters stand for Positioning, Launching, Approaching, Narrowing and Saying.
In another article, (“How to Establish Position in Your Community¨), I illustrate the differences between position and positioning.
Position is a statement of cold, hard facts. It doesn’t describe what you want, it describes how your practice is perceived by the outside world—specifically, the community to which you have chosen to provide your services.
Positioning is how you want your practice to be perceived by your community. Therefore, the first step in your marketing planning is to establish how you plan to present your practice to prospective patients.
In Al Ries and Jack Trout’s classic marketing book, Positioning, the authors delineate four basic requirements for establishing your special place in a market. Implementing that position will require additional effort beyond the following list.
Here are the four basics you should keep in mind when establishing the position of your practice in your community:
• You must position yourself in your prospective patient’s mind.
• Your position must be simple, clear and singular.
• Your position must set you apart from the providers of similar services.
• You should realize you cannot be all things to all people; therefore, focus your services on a market-feasible niche.
Now that you’ve determined the “face” you’ll be presenting to your community, you want to launch into the process of lining up all the information, data and materials you’ll need for your presentation to your marketing area. Therefore, you’ll want to evaluate all of your promotional materials to see if they affirm the following questions:
• Do I have a consistent practice theme reflecting my mission statement?
• Do all of my marketing materials reflect my positioning statement?
• Are all of my materials professional-appearing?
• Do my written messages promise more than I can deliver?
• Does my material focus on my selected niche (see “Narrow” below)?
All of this will start with choosing a name for your practice. During the course of my career, I had several names for my practices. I found that the best was one that included my last name. How many clinics have you seen with the word “Family” in their name? How about “Valley,” “Neighborhood” or “Gentle”?
When you use your name as an integral part of your practice, it then becomes your logo. This logo can be utilized in all of your advertising and no one can copy it. (If your name is Smith or Jones, then you might want to give your practice name a little more thought.)
You’ll also want to be launching into the design of your business cards, stationery, office signage, fee schedules and office layout. But wait! There’s more!
Marketing people refer to the need for a USP or Unique Selling Proposition. In other words, what will you be offering that’ll be different and special when compared to what providers of similar services offer? Can you offer special skills, special office hours or special anything else that’ll make you stand out from the crowd? (See “Niche Marketing for Chiropractors” to get more details on this subject.)
Once you’ve gathered all the materials necessary to inform your marketing community about your practice, it’s time to take it to the world! (Or, at least, to your neighborhood.)
The “Approaching¨ phase of your marketing plan should also include training your staff to know how, what and when to tell their friends about the value of your services. They should also know how, what and when to encourage your current patients to refer their friends and neighbors.
Ration Your Time
When becoming involved in your community, be careful on how much time you’ll be dedicating to community affairs versus time spent managing your practice. The reason for imposing a limit on your community involvement is that it can negatively affect the growth of your practice.
Inordinate amounts of your spare time spent on community affairs will take too much away from your practice activities. Just as important, it will also curtail valuable time that should be used for your and your family’s social activities.
Be selective and join groups or organizations that will have the strongest impact on your reasons for joining.
For example, if you want to be personally involved in helping your community, then local service clubs should satisfy that desire. However, if you have an interest in the conduct and well-being of your community, then getting involved in neighborhood councils or local government activities would be more appropriate. All of these activities will serve to introduce you to your community as a person who is willing to give as well as take.
If you prefer not to join any organizations, then speaking at their meetings, at local events or at company OSHA meetings will still get you local recognition.
Another way to become more recognized in your community is to write a series of articles for your local newspaper. Eventually, you’ll be perceived as the local expert on chiropractic information.
Too many chiropractors are mistaken when they think that an ad in the newspaper and a sign over their door will automatically produce patients. The bottom line is for you to aggressively approach your community with your message to let them know the value of the services you are offering to provide.
In this step, you’ll want to narrow the focus of your message into a laser-like beam of information. This includes practicing how to answer when someone asks, “What do you do?¨If all you can reply is, “I’m a chiropractor,” then you might have blown another opportunity to explain your mission. So, what do you say?
Picture this…Lately, you have been concerned about a worrisome wart on your nose. However, as a change of pace, you decide to get out to attend a social meeting of your local Chamber of Commerce. You find yourself standing near a pleasant-looking person, so you decide start a conversation by asking, “What do you do?”
If that person answers, “I am a surgeon who specializes in removing warts,” would that pique your interest enough to ask more questions? Would that have been the case if that person had just replied, “I’m an MD”?
What if you were at the same gathering and you’ve been bothered by some sort of recent or chronic pain? If you asked that same pleasant person, “What do you do?¨ and the answer was, “I specialize in helping people eliminate painful physical problems,” would you try to learn more about this person? What if the answer was, “I’m a chiropractor”? Would you still ask about your pain?
The point here is to strongly present potential patients with the benefits of your services by getting their attention. As they become more interested and involved with you, then you have the option of filling them in on as much of the Big Picture as they can absorb.
You’ve heard this many times, but allow me to repeat it at least once more: When you’re speaking to a potential patient, you’ll get much more attention from that person if you explain the benefits of your service first rather than how it functions.
Try it out. Make up a very short explanation of what you do and prepare to be surprised at the attention and interest you’ll engender.
The last essential step in your marketing P.L.A.N.S. is to be very certain that you can deliver on your promise to perform. It’s imperative you SAY only what you can provide. There’s nothing wrong in telling a patient, “I’ll do my best, then we’ll evaluate the results of my work in (…) visits.” However, if you specifically tell a new patient, “I can get rid of your headaches,¨ you had better deliver the goods or you’ll find yourself painted into a corner full of problems.
What about your other services? If you say that you are available for emergencies, then, as the captain of the Enterprise says, “Make it so!”
The key to handling chiropractic emergencies does not mean you have to run down to open your office every time you’re paged. In most cases, the person calling you needs some immediate information and professional assurance.
If you answer your page and talk to that patient, plus call back later to follow up, most emergencies end up being easily handled during normal office hours.
So there you have it! When aggressively utilized, Positioning, Launching, Approaching, Narrowing and Saying will form the basis for a very successful set of marketing strategies.
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: [email protected].
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.