Many of the challenges facing chiropractors can be traced back to ineffective practice marketing. And no wonder. For various reasons, most chiropractic colleges ignore teaching this practical skill in favor of a medicalized version of chiropractic.
The tragic result is chiropractors disgorged from chiropractic college with staggering debt and naïve notions about how they will attract patients to their new enterprise.
Chiropractic colleges attempt to sidestep the moniker of being a trade school, but in the process, hamstring graduates with the disadvantage of an unrealistic notion about how easy it will be to start their new business. Without marketing skills, they must either seek this information elsewhere, learn by the expensive process of trial and error, or work as an associate for someone who already has.
Many incorrectly believe that chiropractic marketing and promotion is only necessary for chiropractors who possess substandard clinical skills. Or are doing something dodgy with insurance claims or personal injury cases.
But that's rarely true. These days, marketing and practice promotion are as essential as having a practice phone number. Or business cards. Yet, there are still many chiropractors who don't even have a website!
Here are the top 10 reasons why most chiropractic marketing fails.
1. Wrong message. Because our culture has been trained to equate health care with symptom treating, those who seek a licensed health practitioner usually have a specific condition for which they are seeking relief. If your message promotes wellness, innate intelligence or other philosophical principles, it's likely to fall on deaf ears. Instead, offer what patients want, so you can earn the opportunity to explain what they need.
2. Lack of differentiation. Many chiropractors look over their shoulders, seeking the perceived safety of the herd. Their techniques, procedures, fees, hours and other characteristics often match their competitors. Fitting in is a recipe for obscurity. Successful marketing means giving your prospects solid reasons to drive past other practices to get to yours. Explain how you're different in ways that are meaningful to prospective new patients.
3. Wrong media. There was a time when putting ads in the Penny Saver or weekly newspaper or including a coupon in the Valpak paid for itself. In case you haven't noticed, everyone is going digital these days. That means dominating the search engine results in your new patient drawing area as well as being active in social media. If your website doesn't have sufficient authority, you may need to buy traffic with pay-per-click advertising from Google or Facebook. Careful that you don't project how you use the Internet and social media onto prospective patients.
4. Not giving it enough time. There is an inclination towards instant gratification that permeates our culture. Each of us is subjected to hundreds, maybe thousands of competing messages each day. No wonder you unveil your exciting new campaign and are met with crickets. Besides giving your message enough time to saturate your target market, make sure there's sufficient repetition. Inexperienced marketers make this common mistake. Effective marketing requires a long-term investment. It's a marathon, not a sprint—simply because your numbers are down, and you want to be busier.
5. Inappropriate expectations. Chiropractors who promote their practices only when they need new patients, are often dismayed by the number of prospects who respond. Many times, their marketing message lacks a specific call to action (call now, download this, subscribe to this, etc.), a deadline (respond by March 25) or some other measurable response. Marketing only during times when you need new patients often produces the subtle, off-putting aroma of a desperate doctor who appears a bit too eager.
6. Wrong pricing. The classic chiropractic marketing ploy is to offer a reduced fee for the first visit. The “$49 New Patient Special, regularly priced at $250” is a good example. Yes, it may produce financially-strapped patients who hope they can be helped with a single, cheap visit. But any discerning prospect knows that such a dramatic loss leader must be unprofitable. And thus, they should expect pressure to upgrade their purchase. Naturally, those who respond to such offers appear in your practice with shields up and phasers on stun.
7. Poor reviews. These days, many of us take reviews as seriously as a recommendation from a friend. But most chiropractic practices make two serious mistakes. The first is not regularly seeking reviews from delighted patients. Reviews from two years ago raises doubts. And the second mistake is not properly responding to the occasional negative review—or even being aware that they have one. Make no mistake. If you haven't received a negative review, you will. Don't panic. Most prospective patients will grant you some grace for the anger spouted by what is clearly a wacko. Thankfully, those who study such things claim that a lukewarm review here and there actually make the five-star reviews more believable.
8. Hopeless website. About every new patient will visit your website before making an appointment. It's not fair, but your website serves as a surrogate for your clinical expertise. So, if your website is out of date, uses generic stock photography, pages of gray type, doesn't load quickly or display nicely on a portable device, any marketing investment will be wasted. Besides custom photography, make sure your website communicates hope and trust—the two essential components necessary to create an emotional connection with a prospective new patient.
9. Lack of a landing page. Those new to digital marketing make the classic mistake of directing prospects to the home page of the practice website. From there, the visitor must fend for themselves. Many lose their way. Instead, make sure you have a page specifically designed to receive prospects from each marketing overture. This allows you to continue the conversation begun by your marketing, field objections and do what's necessary to convert the visitor into a new patient. This is especially important with pay per click advertising or offering eBooks and other digital assets in exchange for contact information.
10. Zero marketing. The final reason why most chiropractic marketing fails is that it is nonexistent. Back in the day, the build it and they will come mantra was popular. In other words, get on all the insurance plans, have a great set of hands and don't drool on yourself, and your success was practically guaranteed. Those days are long gone. At the very minimum, you need a robust, high-converting website. You must continually cultivate your active and inactive patient base through social media and occasional emails. You must monitor your online reputation and respond promptly and objectively to poor reviews.
Practice marketing is simply the cost of doing business. It should be thought of as a long-term strategy that is proof of your leadership, expertise and interest in helping others. The key is to get out there, make some mistakes, learn what works for you and what attracts the types of patients you enjoy serving.