Google has changed everything. Even your practice.
No longer can you blanket the area around your practice with mailers, postcards and penny saver ads to make the phone ring. Instead, when a prospective new patient feels like they need a chiropractor they fire up Google, entering the word “chiropractor.” Sometimes they modify it with the name of their city or town. Either way, the Google algorithm interprets this as an explicit search for a local chiropractor.
Since Google knows the location from where everyone is searching, they connect the dots and deliver a list of local chiropractors that they trust (more about this later). The prospective new patient probably reviews a half dozen or so practice websites on a quest to answer the question, “Are you the chiropractor for me?”
You did nothing except have a website that Google trusts and persuasively answers the question that prospective new patients are asking.
Even more game changing is how a gushing referral from one of your patients still sends their friend to your website to check you out.
Today’s chiropractor needs more than great hands and a compassionate tableside manner. He or she needs a marketing mindset. A digital chiropractic marketing mindset.
What Is a Marketing Mindset?
Most assume that marketing is advertising. And while it’s true that advertising can be a facet of marketing, not all marketing is advertising.
Marketing consists of everything from your practice location, ease of parking, hours of operation, your fees, personality, the cleanliness of your practice and hundreds of other details about your practice and a patient’s or prospective patient’s perception of it.
Many of these are hygiene factors. For example, you don’t get “extra credit” for ample park. However, if you lack sufficient parking it can work against you.
A marketing mindset is an awareness of these countless issues and actively reducing the negatives (every practice has at least some) and vigorously accentuating the positives. A marketing mindset is a continuous, ongoing mindfulness about the promotion of your practice. Which differs from the cyclical nature of many practices, which only invest in practice promotion when the numbers are down.
A marketing mindset avoids the feast and famine of the “roller coaster” practice in favor of an organized plan that is far less stressful and produces predictable results.
Bottom line? If you have a new patient problem today, you had a marketing problem three to six months ago.
Is Marketing and Practice Promotion Unprofessional?
The “build it and they will come” school of practice promotion seems well ingrained in the chiropractic culture. It’s based on the mistaken belief that all you need to grow a thriving practice are great hands, a big heart and results that speak for themselves.
Those are essential, but they too are hygiene factors. Patients expect great technique, clinical mindfulness and an empathetic style.
Some believe that practice promotion is only for substandard clinicians who can’t deliver the goods and must continually “sell” themselves the P.T. Barnum way.
This is a convenient way to discredit practitioners who have a marketing mindset. Their self-righteousness lessens the sting of having an under performing practice. “I may not be busy, but at least I’m not tarnishing the image of the profession like that practice across town.”
Don’t get me wrong. Like you, I find some of the tactics used by certain chiropractors to be just as slimy and selfish as you do. If it’s any consolation, relax knowing that such overtures rarely attract the types of new patients that you want to see.
Instead, your mission is to attract your tribe. Which, by the way, is something far more specific than someone warmer than room temperature with a spine. An attempt to appeal to everyone, a common marketing mistake, is a recipe for showing up beige and having little attraction horsepower.
The Purpose of a Marketing Mindset
You run a small business. It’s called a practice, but make no mistake, it’s a business. With customers. Sure, you probably call them patients or practice members or clients or something else.
Don’t let the fact that it’s called a practice cause you discount the principles that govern virtually all small businesses.
If you resent the business aspect of practice, there’s no way you’ll excel at marketing it. Successful practice promotion requires that you fall in love with business. And if loving the business side of practice seems impossible, at least lose the begrudging attitude.
Mainstream business management guru William Deming observed back in the 1950s that one of the purposes of business is to “…get and keep customers.” Obvious, to be sure. Yet, most practitioners focus entirely on the getting part.
Naturally, if you keep enough patients who choose to embrace some type of ongoing regular wellness care, within a decade or even less, the “getting” part of the equation is significantly reduced, along with its associated stress. But that doesn’t mean you stop marketing.
Because the only way to coast is to go downhill.
Sample Annual Chiropractic Marketing Plan
Freedom, for a small business owner, is to perfect an annual plan that expands your reach and gets your offering in front of enough prospective customers so as to produce a regular, predictable flow of new patients.
Think of your practice promotion like the church calendar. In many denominations you can count on certain annual events such as Lent, Easter, Advent, Christmas, Pentecost and other festivals. Each year it’s the same bulletin board announcements, sanctuary decorations, scriptural passages and congregational events.
Once you settle on the most effective calendar for your practice, which may take a couple of years of testing, you’ll have a sense of ease and peace about your marketing.
Consider a healthy combination of internal and external events spread out through the year, which give you a reason to increase your visibility within your community:
January – Reactivation Month
Every January do a full court press to encourage inactives to return for a chiropractic checkup at one of the times each year patients are thinking about their health.
February – Focus Group Month
Each week during the month of February conduct a patient focus group with some of your favorite patients over lunch at a nearby restaurant. Find out what they like and dislike about your practice.
March – eBook Month
Each month during March, release a short eBook to cultivate prospective new patients. Titles such as “What You Should Know Before Seeing a Chiropractor” or “How to Pick a Great Chiropractor” or similar title can be advertised with Facebook ads.
April – AdWords Month
Each April, select the top four admitting complaints and each week combine an AdWords campaign with handing out coordinating brochures to your current patients.
May – Practice Survey Month
Each May conduct a practice survey. Use it to get clues about patient perceptions of you, your team and your practice.
June – July Dormant
You can light your hair on fire and still come up empty-handed with various marketing overtures during the summer. So don’t bother. Enjoy the weather and get prepare for fall.
August – Backpack screening
Children these days carry a heavy academic load—on their backs! This is the perfect time to offer free backpack screenings, posture analysis and a basic examination for children of patients and non-patients in your community.
September – Chiropractic Birthday
Celebrate the anniversary of the first chiropractic adjustment by rolling back prices to those you charged when you opened your practice during the week of September 18. It’s a patient appreciation event with a historical spin.
October - Annual coat or food drive
Make your practice the drop off point for canned goods, winter coats, Christmas toys and other community wide events. Watch the profile of your practice and the success of your contribution build with each passing year.
November - Cold and Flu Seminar
Each November conduct your annual Cold and Flu Seminar and debunk the common myths about germs, flu shots, the immune system and all the rest. Eventually it will get so popular you’ll need to rent the ballroom at the Marriott.
December - Dormant
Like summertime, December is a difficult month to move the needle. So you give yourself a rest. But get ready for another spectacular reactivation events in January.
These are merely thought starters. Some months will work better than others. Replace your clinker with a new idea. When you find a hit, run with it, making it better and better each year. Keep a journal and track the relevant statistics about how well each email worked and what AdWords campaign rang the bell. The key is to know in advance what you’ll be doing each month next year and the year after to increase your visibility and promote your practice.
Once you embrace a marketing mindset, you simple rinse and repeat. The key is to get started!