I’ve never built a chiropractic practice. Because I’m not a chiropractor. However, I’ve spoken with, toured the offices of and consulted with hundreds, probably thousands of chiropractors who have.
What follows is a lot of common sense. There’s probably not a single idea that you haven’t already heard before. Granted, some chiropractors have spent small fortunes learning these skills. But what they were really buying was discipline. They paid for someone to be interested in their plight and holding their feet to the fire to insure implementation.
You’ve probably already done the easy stuff. What remains are the more difficult or emotionally risky steps to building a larger practice and helping more people.
How badly do you want it?
Bad enough to expose yourself to judgment and condemnation? Bad enough to persevere without immediate gratification? Bad enough to endure disinterest, rejection and a mistake or two? Or three?
I hope so. Because your community needs you. They’ve been sold a counterfeit form of health. You are among the very few people on the planet who know the truth.
As you read this, within the drawing area of your practice are people contemplating irreversible surgery. Others are destroying their kidneys and livers with prescribed medications. Others are seeking a natural solution and money is no object. Still others just want hope.
You can do this.
1. Deliver the Goods
While I can’t adjust, I’ve been the happy recipient of just about every adjusting technique under the sun. I’ve had adjustments that were so artfully delivered it brought tears to my eyes. I’ve also had adjustments that took several weeks to recover from.
What kind do you deliver?
Do colleagues ask to be adjusted by you? If you’re rarely repeatedly pressed into service by a fellow chiropractor, it may mean you need to attend some technique classes.
Because it all starts here. Growing a practice is impossible if patients don’t improve under your care. Or complain of being hurt. This is important. All the other steps depend on your ability to assess and deliver adjustments “with that extra something” that B. J. Palmer referred to.
2. Tell the Truth
At the helm of most under performing practices are chiropractors who are people pleasers. In the hopes of being liked, they shortchange patients by minimizing their problem or recommending a mere visit or two with a half-hearted, “let’s see how it goes.”
Come on! Adults with longstanding spinal problems will likely require dozens of visits. And once they achieve symptomatic improvement, will need some type of ongoing supportive care for the rest of their lives if they wish to avoid a relapse. That may not be what they want to hear, but you absolutely must tell the truth.
Please avoid projecting your financial situation onto patients. Everyone gets to value his or her health and prioritize it as they see fit. The fact that you couldn’t afford the care you’re recommending isn’t the point. Tell the truth. How far they take their care isn’t a reflection of you, but them.
3. Be Likeable
All things being equal, we’d rather work with someone we like rather than someone we don’t. Part of building a practice is to exhibit the social health and interpersonal skills that make being around you pleasant.
There are a couple of traits that I frequently see among chiropractors who are up to something and making a ruckus.
Compassionate – They are empathetic and show up as concerned caregivers. They care—but not too much. In other words, they have clear boundaries.
Curious – They love asking questions. It’s the easiest way to demonstrate interest and keep your focus on the patient. By the way, the opposite of practice-building curiosity is growth-dampening judgment.
Enthusiastic – In short, you need to be the most optimistic, upbeat person patients ever encounter. No time for pity parties!
4. Shorten Visit Length
When you’re only seeing a handful of patients, it seems like you can afford to offer college-clinic length visits. You cannot. This common mistake is based on two popular lies:
Spending more time produces better outcomes. Not true. Patients aren’t buying face time with you. They aren’t living to get adjusted—they’re getting adjusted so they can go live! Create high-amplitude visits and you can dramatically shorten your visit length. Which will permit you to help more people. You must first create the openings before they are filled. (If you wait until you need to shorten visit times, it’ll never happen.)
Adjusting more articulations produce better outcomes. Not true. In fact, it’s often proof that you have a lack certainty about what you’re doing. Adjust the majors and leave the compensation reactions to clear up on their own. And don’t over adjust in an attempt to justify what you’re charging. Or to please the patient.
Patients want to buy your talent, not your time. Get your social needs met outside the practice. Cluster book, so patients are showing up one after another so you can more easily maintain a healing consciousness. It creates better energy, you become a better chiropractor and it frees up time to do the activities listed below.
5. Educate Patients
Unless you see chiropractic as a low-tech solution for neck and back pain directed by how patients feel, you’ll want to educate patients. Educated patients remain under care longer, ask fewer inappropriate questions and are better referral ambassadors.
Begin at your initial consultation, explaining how your practice works. That you won’t be treating their symptoms. That a series of adjustments will be necessary. That they control the speed of their recovery. These and other subjects reduce misunderstandings and set the stage for better patient relationships.
Follow it up with a formal report of findings. Explain what you found, how you can help, how long it may take and how much it will cost. Above all, make sure you don’t send the patient home empty-handed! You’re asking them to make a significant financial and time commitment. Use the chiropractic forms to support your recommendations and equip them to recreate your explanation with others.
6. Announce You’re Accepting New Patients
This is one of the easiest, most effective way to grow your practice. But largely overlooked. Especially, if you think asking for referrals is exploitative, unprofessional or embarrassing.
Let everyone know that you’re accepting new patients.
“We’d like to help more people, so if you know someone you think we could help, I hope you’ll send them our way.”
Don’t press them for a name. However, you might hand them a brochure.
“This month we want to help as many people as possible who suffer from back pain. If you know someone who complains about back pain, give them this and urge them to visit our website. And if they’re not in our area, I’ll consult my referral directory to make sure they get a great chiropractor.”
That’s professional, doesn’t sound self-serving or seem like you’re desperate.
7. Get Out of Your Practice
If you have the interest and capacity to help more people, you need to get out of your office. Your mission is to encounter as many strangers as possible and share the chiropractic story. Which is hard to do if you’re hiding in your office.
Alone in your practice, surfing the Internet, deleting spam or attending to admin details is the perfect way to isolate yourself and become invisible. Force yourself to get out and meet new people. Your job is to become familiar. You’re not groveling for new patients. You’re out schmoozing, introducing yourself.
Chiropractors I meet who want more new patients almost always operate in a social cocoon. They go to the same three restaurants for lunch. Drop their dry cleaning off at the same place each time. Buy gas at the same station. You get the picture.
It’s a great way to avoid insults, judgments, bias and stupid comments. But it insulates you from people you might be able to help. Speak first. Introduce yourself. Smile. Show some interest. Social health, remember?
Set a goal to give out at least two business cards every day. You’re planting seeds, not setting up appointment times.
8. Connect With Like-Minded Tribes
Going even deeper with the previous suggestion, identify groups, organizations and clubs that are serving the types of the people you’d like to serve. These are the running clubs, Pilate’s instructors, yoga studios, health food store owners, doulas, birthing groups and the like.
This isn’t about making pitches to become a new patient. It’s another opportunity to become familiar with strangers. As you repeatedly show up as a generous contributor you earn trust “points.” With time, you become the go-to person for health-related issues. But it takes time. So start investing now.
Caution! Even the slightest whiff that you’ve shown up to harvest patients will be off-putting. You’re there to share, participate and become familiar.
9. Improve Your Digital Footprint
We’ve been taught that whenever we want something, even a chiropractor, we go to Google. Even if your current patients produce gushing referrals, prospective new patients will go to your website to check you out first. Which is why your practice needs a digital advocate.
Optimizing your website to attract the most number of new patients is a huge topic. However, here are a couple of key points that will improve the number of new patients your website produces.
Many get distracted by trying to achieve high rankings for the keywords prospective patients use to find a chiropractor. It’s based on the belief that high ranking means more new patients. It doesn’t. It means more traffic. But if that traffic doesn’t convert into reception new patients, what’s the point?
Instead, converting visitors into new patients should be the objective. Which is far more difficult than modifying title tags, meta descriptions, schema code and making blog posts.
Begin with great photography. Help prospective new patients visualize being in your practice. Show lots of people. Smiling. Interacting with you and your team. If that means begging every friend you know to show up for the photo shoot, then so be it. The key to getting busy is looking busy.
Besides the home page, your “meet the doctor” page is the most important. Your mission is to show up authentic. Not too perfect. Real. Remember, most new patients have already tried a medical solution. They want something different. Be different. Be you.
10. Be Mindful of Your Self Talk
State management is a crucial underpinning of all of these suggestions. Your attitude, energy and enthusiasm are far more important than you can imagine.
Improve your self-talk. It starts with how you talk to yourself. If you’re repeatedly whispering to yourself, “I need more new patients,” be prepared for a continual need for more new patients. Far more helpful would be, “Who else can I serve?” Or, “Who else needs my help?” Or, “How else can I be of service?”
Massive physical activity. To increase your ability to handle the emotional stress of building your practice, you need to be in tiptop physical condition. If you can’t afford a gym membership, jog. The key is to increase your emotional stamina.
Eliminate all media. You cannot afford the luxury of a single negative or distracting idea. You’re on a mission, remember? You need to rise above the fear and general malaise that the mainstream media generates to attract eyeballs that can be sold to advertisers. Don’t participate.
Make some new friends. Who are you hanging out with? Cut loose any Debbie Downers, skeptics, naysayers or generally negative people. Surround yourself with those who share your vision and are rooting for you.
Ask for help. If you bought into the popular, but incorrect belief that if you “build it they will come,” your pride or need to reinvent the wheel may stop you from asking for help. Regularly take successful chiropractors to lunch or breakfast. Pick their brains. The truly successful will not see you as a threat, but as a colleague. They will share whatever they can to help you. But you have to ask.
There you have it. 10 ways to build a new chiropractic practice. If you’ll do three or four of them, you’ll dramatically increase your odds for success. Do all 10 of them and your success is practically guaranteed.
Be sure to enjoy the journey. Because there’s no place to get to. Sure, you’ll eventually pay back your student loans. And someday you’ll enjoy a professional income and the respect from having helped hundreds, maybe thousands. Rest assured that a different set of challenges will emerge.
However, the true notion of success will be the deep, soul satisfaction that comes from having chosen the hard, narrow, difficult path—and succeeding.