Not enough new patients is the single biggest problem in our profession. I could probably get a debate from someone, but they'd lose. For more than 25 years, "too few new" has been the number-one reason (by a ratio of 12:1) chiropractors have sought my advice and guidance.
Why New Patients Matter
I like those problems a lot more than wondering if someone has cut my phone lines or nailed my door shut. Or "Doctor, it's the bank. They're saying my paycheck won't clear – again. What should I tell them?" Ouch. It's actually pretty simple: Get new patients right and things are fun and exciting. Get new patients wrong and you struggle miserably.
It's even more critical to understand that you can get everything else right and new patients wrong, and you'll be in for a very rough, unpleasant ride. It's that important. But don't feel singled out for punishment here. All businesses – and we are businesses – depend on new business to survive. The lack of new business is the reason most businesses fail. So, why do most chiropractors resent the fact that our practices are businesses and even more absolutely, hate the fact that we have to market what we do to an uninformed (or misinformed) public?
Chiropractic Marketing 101: Key Success Principles
"I've never seen an MD do a mall screening," I once heard a colleague sneer. (By the way, I have, but that's beside the point.) What ordinary medicine does have is the most sophisticated, well-financed marketing and advertising on the planet. Big Pharma – a $1.1 trillion worldwide industry – spends billions every year shilling for its distributors in every media possible, 24/7. Try to watch television, surf the Internet, read a magazine or drive down the street and not be bombarded with drug adverts. Oh, and by the way, if symptoms persist, see your doctor. That is never going to happen for us, but that's OK. We are not victims and it's dangerous to think like one.
When are we as individuals going to embrace that we're in business and that virtually all businesses need to market and advertise for new business in order to flourish? Jesus admonished the disciples to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves; that's still good advice. But what is wisdom here? In my view, we start with Chiropractic Marketing 101.
Thinking correctly – not the next desperate marketing Hail Mary – is the first stop. Over decades in my own clinics and advising others, I've developed a set of postulates I share here with a promise. Embrace these concepts and you will produce more new patients. What's more, you'll have an excellent chance of beating the new-patient problem.
- It's not unethical to tell the truth about chiropractic – outside your office – and then give that person a chance to find out if they can live a better and longer life with chiropractic.
- If no one else will, chiropractors and/or their assistants should do all sorts of external marketing to spread the truly good news we have to share. And I mean anything and everything that's legal, ethical and produces new patients.
- Get over the "I am NOT a salesman!" mantra. Truth be told, everyone's a salesman. Pastors, teachers and coaches are selling congregations, students and players. If you have an idea you want someone to embrace, you're a salesman. The only question is, "Are you any good at it?"
- Give three to seven hours a week during which you think and act like the marketing director for yourself, chiropractic and your practice. You get to choose what to do based on what works in your area and your personal taste.
- Take your three to seven hours to develop a marketing six-pack – three internal and three external programs to produce new patients. By the way, if you can't think of anything to do outside the clinic, we don't have a menu problem. We have a dinner problem.
- You can train a part-time community outreach assistant (COA) to do virtually everything you need to in external marketing, leaving you in the clinic to care for your patients.
It's enough to bring tears to your eyes when you walk to the front desk and see your COA writing in six to eight new patients for the following two days. "Doctor, we had a great event, tons of new patient sign-ups and they've invited us back next month! Doctor, are you crying?" Yes, the doctor is crying, but tears of joy.
Even though I know an increasing number of chiropractors who have true waiting-list referral practices, most need to market to be as busy as they would like to be. Since that's the case, doesn't it make sense to have a community outreach assistant? When opening a new clinic, and I've done 10, my first hire for my DC is a community outreach assistant. Do you want to love your busy practice? Do you want someone to go get the new patients for you while you stay in the clinic and care for patients? Then package up all your external marketing into teachable systems and train your first COA.
Dr. Noel Lloyd graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1971 and became the youngest practicing chiropractor in Washington. He is the founder and head coach of Five Star Management, a professional training, coaching and consulting service based in Seattle, Wash.