I've been out of practice for about 10 years. Back then I had a busy practice. Now that I'm returning to practice what recommendations would you have?
Rip Van Winkle was asleep for 20 years and awakened to discover the American Revolution had taken place. His peers died in the war, his son was fully grown and George Washington had replaced King George. Similarly, you may find some of the changes disorienting.
Here are some suggestions to keep in mind as you get back into the swing of things. Essential to all these recommendations is having an open mind. Remain teachable and resist the urge to dogmatically replicate what you were doing a decade ago.
1. Maintain a Low Overhead
While you have the experience and muscle memory from 10 years ago, you share many of the characteristics of a new practitioner fresh out of college. Resist the temptation to start with the 3,000 square foot facility you may have had back in the day. You can have it if you want but give yourself time to create the necessary momentum.
Remember, it not the gross, it's the net that counts.
A huge edifice is unnecessary and can become a millstone around your neck. Unless you have lots of cash to burn. That may mean being your own CA, doing the billing and collections and being the doctor. There's no shame in this. And I assure you that knowing how to use all aspects of your practice software will serve you in the future.
Don't linger too long in this startup mode. Add part time staff as you see things come together and hold the promise of 1 plus 1 producing 3.
2. Marketing: Your Greatest Challenge
Don't be misled by the "build it and they well come" mantra that has ended the careers of countless chiropractors before they could begin. Nobody cares about your intent, vision or previous success. Instead, your mission is to become visible, familiar and relevant. Make sure you have a plan more complete than "running a couple of Facebook ads."
Besides the suggestions below, such a plan will almost certainly involve pressing the flesh and introducing yourself to strangers. For those who are on the introverted side of things, this can be a barrier.
Pressing the flesh. Walk the neighborhood. Introduce yourself. Hand out a brochure or flyer with your business card. Along with the doors slammed in your face and the rude comments, expect an appointment or two. Just remember, a no is just a no.
This is emotionally taxing because of the meaning most of us attach to "no." We take it personally. We see it as rejection, judgment—even abandonment. Instead, see it as merely what it takes to get to the next "yes."
Meeting strangers. Perhaps more profitable than simply being chatty while waiting in line at the grocery store, is to be acquainted with those serving the health-oriented tribe you'd like to serve.
That means meeting the yoga and Pilates instructors. Joining the running club. Introducing yourself to midwives, doulas, breastfeeding experts, natural childbirth teachers and similar experts.
Befriend the managers of every Whole Foods, Sprouts, Vitamin Cottage, GNC and similar business. Meet the nutritionists, acupuncturists, naturopaths and all the other vitalists in your area. Same with become acquainted with the local golf and tennis pros.
Your motive is not to harvest new patients! But rather to understand the resources in your community to which you can refer or generously contribute. The new patients will come. Eventually. But only after you're familiar and trusted. One whiff that you're there to selfishly secure new patients and the doors will close.
3. Differentiate Yourself
Avoid becoming a commodity at all cost. As in, an adjustment is an adjustment is an adjustment. If there is little or nothing separating you from other chiropractors, it all comes down to price. With the lowest price often taking the lion's share of the business. If it's a race to the bottom, you don't want to be the winner!
That means attracting your unique "tribe." Seeing you as a kindred spirit will cause patients to drive past other chiropractic practices to get to yours. That means certain types of patients will feel uncomfortable in your practice. To attract you must be prepared to repel.
- Maybe you have affinity for fitness
- Perhaps your focus on nutrition and weight loss can become your hook.
- Are the seniors in your area being under served?
- Do you have a special knack for resolving headaches?
- Will young mothers with children find your practice especially inviting?
It's counter intuitive but narrowing the scope of your practice can often serve to enlarge it!
4. Have a Digital Strategy
In the era of Google, you'll want to put most of your new patient marketing energy into digital channels. You simply can't rely on great results and gushing referrals. Prospects are still going to "check you out" on your website before committing.
Like it or not, when people want just about anything, they go online. And that's where you must be—for the same reason bank robber Willie Sutton revealed a century ago why he robbed banks: "Because that's where the money is."
Today, there are five factors of digital marketing success. Winning online means attending to all of them. At the same time:
High-converting Website - Achieving your new patient goals begins with a high-converting website. That means a design that creates an emotional connection with your ideal patient with content that is persuasive.
Website Traffic - Once you have a website designed to convert visitors into new patients, you need traffic. Website traffic is generated organically by investing in SEO (search engine optimization) or buying traffic using pay-per-click advertising.
5-star Reviews - More and more people trust reviews almost as much as a recommendation from a friend. Plus, there's evidence to suggest that Google gives weight to your review profile in its ranking. This is because Google is risking its reputation on your reputation.
Social Media Management - Before making an appointment with you, 92% of new patients will first visit your website. Social media plays a supporting role. First, it reveals your practice personality and cultivates your ideal patient. Second, it creates a sense of community, cultivating your tribe.
E-mail Marketing - E-mail marketing stimulates inside-out practice growth by connecting with those who know and trust you—your active and inactive patients. Mastering the right tone and frequency of your messages means you can educate, celebrate, up-sell and cross-sell.
5. Be Patient
Finally, it'll be tempting to judge your progress by your 10-year old yardstick. Unless you're a marketing savant with deep pockets or a fearless extrovert that everyone in town knows, your practice is likely to grow more slowly than you probably expect.
Be nice to yourself. Don't beat yourself up about it. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Submit to the Law of Sowing and Reaping. When we're impatient we tend to go about reaping where we haven't sown. You can do that for a season, but you must be willing to plant seeds that may take months or years of cultivation to manifest into new patients.
Regardless of why you're returning to active practice, welcome back. Your community needs your experience and wisdom today more than ever.
Thanks for the question!