Chiropractic Marketing 101 - Advanced Systems
BY: MIKE HAMILTON // INCEPTION CHIROPRACTIC WEBSITES, OWNER
Before starting Inception Chiropractic Websites my wife and I owned a very successful chiropractic practice where we averaged over 80 new patients per month. You may not want to generate numbers like that, but you must be curious about how we did it? I update this article each year and it will walk you through the marketing programs that we used to build a 500 visit per week office in less than two years.
I'm not selling anything here. It's literally everything we did for marketing in it's full detail. All the printouts, handouts, and videos you need to understand the smallest details. I hope it brings you great success.
Internal Chiropractic Marketing
Internal chiropractic marketing is often overlooked. Most doctors are looking for home runs instead of looking for a bunch of singles. The bedrock of any marketing program has to start with internal marketing systems. They are often the easiest to do, and the most cost effective. Take a look at the ideas below, and pick the programs that fit your practice.
The first, and most effective internal marketing program, would have to be “Patient Appreciation Days“. Now this event does not have to be a big deal. Put a white board up in each of your adjusting rooms with a message about the upcoming event. Put some balloons on the board as well as the front desk, and tell your patients that you’re having a special day where they can bring in friends and family members to some special that you’re offering. Make sure your staff is also doing this at the front desk, and giving patients simple handouts.
We did patient appreciation days every other month, and they consistently produced 15 new patients. We did not do a big giveaway, and we spent very little money on the event other than balloons. PAD’s just became a part of our monthly schedule. We didn’t have to think about when we were going to do them or how we were going to promote them, our staff just started the process every two months as we hit those calendar days.
In office lectures are a part of many chiropractic practices. They can be a great way to educate patients, but they are traditionally not a good way to generate new patients. General health talks can be interesting to some of your current patients, but they are not a very big draw for potential new patients.
The way to overcome this is by thinking outside the box. What if instead of doing a talk on posture you did a talk about weight loss? If you pick a topic that more people are interested in, you will have a larger pool to draw from. It’s also critical here to have all the traditional marketing pieces in place.
- Compelling Title or Name for Your Event
- Call to Action
- Limited Availability
- Social Proof
Instead of setting up a boring talk, take the time to put together a can’t miss event. Create a buzz around it, and watch your new patient numbers grow.
An area that most doctors forget about, in the area of internal chiropractic marketing, is the overall look of their office. If patients don’t feel comfortable in your practice, they are unlikely to become regular patients. They are also much less likely to send in referrals. The list below will give you a few things to think about in the way your office is setup.
- Wait time should be 5 mins or less.
- Give patients something to occupy their time (Magazines, Plants, Aquarium, TV, etc…)
- Give them social proof to look at on the walls.
- Exceptionally clean bathrooms.
- They should feel at home when they are there.
One of the things we used to do for re-activations in our practice was to write personal notes. In fact we actually had our staff do this for us when they had free time. We had our staff write a small note that said something to the effect of, “Hi Sue…Dr. Aimee wanted me to send a note to you today to see how you are doing. Please give us a call if there is anything we can do to help you.”
You would be surprised at how many patients called our office when we did that. Not all of them scheduled, but they were happy that we cared enough to think about them. Guess where they went when they felt they needed care again?
This is something that I learned recently, but that I believe would work well to reach out to past patients. During my day I answer a lot of emails. My fingers actually get sore from typing all day long, but about six months ago I discovered something that saves me time, and impresses clients that get my messages.
I bought myself a good quality microphone (Rode Pod-caster), and I use my computers internal voice recording function to record my voice. When people get my email it tells them to click on the attached audio file. They get a high quality, very personal, well thought out, voice message from me. I’m able to give them more detail than I could type to them, and it’s much faster for me. It’s a win win on both sides.
My idea here is that this would be an awesome way to do re-activations. How cool would it be for a patient to get a personalized voice recording in their email from you asking them about how they are doing? You could sit down and knock out a dozen of these every day in a few minutes.
The majority of chiropractors that use newsletters today are using some kind of canned newsletter from a company that sells them. This boring information is then passed out to your patient base with the hopes that they will in some way be excited by it. I’ve yet to meet a chiropractor that is expanding his or her practice with this useless tool.
Newsletters can be outstanding, but you have to put some time into them. Your patients have to know that you actually wrote it before they are going to spend their valuable time reading it. In this day and age your newsletter does not have to be written at all. You could record your voice or do a video as an email newsletter. There are so many efficient, and low cost ways, to reach out personally to your patients.
If you are going to purchase a newsletter I do have an option for you. I’ve been very impressed by the work that Dr. Jerry Kennedy has done. You can find his information at this link: http://blacksheepdc.com/inside-out-written-newsletter-for-chiropractors/.
Internal patient dinners can be an effective way to generate referrals out of your current patient base. The basic premise of this system is to invite about 10 of your best chiropractic patients to a free dinner with you. The catch is that in order to come to the dinner they have to bring at least one guest with them.
In my external marketing section you’ll see that I have another dinner program. That program is capable of producing very large numbers of new patients. The internal patient dinner program is by nature smaller. It does however work very well, and is less expensive than the much bigger external dinner program.
Office giveaways are often wrapped into patient appreciation days, but they don’t have to be. One of the very large practices that my wife and I worked in did regular office giveaways that typically matched the season. For instance in the summer they would giveaway a new grill or a really nice bike. In order to have a chance to win you had to give the office the names of friends or family members that might be interested in chiropractic care. For every name that you submitted you got an entry into the drawing. The office staff would then call all the leads, and invite them into the office for a special event of some kind.
This program took a lot of work, but resulted in large numbers of potential new patients when done correctly. A word of caution on this program is that you need to be careful with your state regulations. Every state is different about what you are allowed to do for contests or giveaways.
On the opposite months of our Patient Appreciation Days we did our “Referral Card Program”. We had some really nice postcards produced by an online company that talked about a special for new patients. We date stamped the cards, and had our staff hand out two of them to each of the patients that came in that week. The staff simply handed them the cards and said “Hi Sue...You've had great results in the office, and we've enjoyed having you as a patient here. Here are two cards that you can give to family members or friends that you care about. It allows them to come in to be checked at not cost. They just have to come in before this date that I'll stamp on the card for you." We consistently generated 15 to 20 new patients each month from this marketing promotion.
Again, this was something that was just scheduled on the marketing calendar every two months. There was no thinking or work required from me to do it. The staff handled pretty much everything.
We tried a number of internal marketing activities, but the Referral Card program and PAD's were the easiest, and the most effective. Schedule one event each month, and do a little training with you staff. As time goes on you’ll see great benefits.
External Chiropractic Marketing
The majority of our new patients came from external chiropractic marketing. I think we did everything that you have ever heard of, but when it comes down to it there were a few marketing activities that we really relied on. You don’t need to do everything here. In fact, I would say we never did more than 4 or 5 of these programs at the same time. It’s not about doing everything, it’s about picking a few things and doing them really well.
The most effective chiropractic marketing program that we used in all the years we practiced, was the implementation of multiple massage programs. Massage is a great way to break the ice with potential new patients, and your massage therapists can be great advocates for you.
I’m going to walk you through the steps of build an amazing steady flow of new patients here. Implementing a business massage program is a must for any growing chiropractic office.
The first step is to find the right massage therapist. You need to find someone that is good at talking to people, and that is moderately proficient at chair massage. I believe you are probably better off with a female massage therapist, but we worked with both. I also found that working with new massage therapists was much easier than working with established pros. Established therapists have their place, but they often do not want to go out to businesses.
We paid our two massage therapists hourly to call local businesses to set up community outreach massage days. They were able to have 2 or 3 massage events set up each week though out the year by doing about 5 hours of calling each week. They went to the events with massage chairs and small bottles of water to give to participants. While they were giving the massage they talked to the individual about problems they were finding, and offered them an opportunity to come into the office for a small fee.
In most cases the individual would hesitate when asked to sign up. The therapist would then hand them a coupon with a story about our office. The coupon or ad gave them more information about us, and it was also about 3x more expensive than the deal of that day. We didn’t have to pressure anyone at all, but the serious individuals would commit because they didn’t want to pay the higher fee.
This event is capable of generating at least five new patients each week, but the sky is the limit. The more events you set up the more new patients you will produce. The business massage program can be the focus of all your marketing efforts if you do it well.
The chiropractic business massage program is great, but massage is a great tool to combine with every form of chiropractic marketing. Almost every promotion that we did in our office came with some form of massage. Instead of paying an expensive massage therapist to do massages for all our general promotions, we used a water massage table.
You can find water massage tables at very low prices if you do your homework. They are great for promotions, but they can also be useful when you get backed up in the office. With the numbers we had coming in our office each week it was easy to get backed up. Especially considering the fact that we did full Gonstead as a technique. When we got behind our staff would ask the patient if they would like a free water massage. The patient was typically very happy to get the offer, and I had an additional 10 to 15 minutes.
Chiropractic New Patient Dinners can generate an almost unlimited number of new patients when delivered properly. There are three key steps:
- Generate a substantial number of leads
- Call to set appointments
- Delivering a good talk with a solid close
You can generate a large number of leads from your current patients, but the way we were able to generate the largest number of leads was by using a lead collector at screenings. Now, when I say lead collector I’m not talking about a small table top jar, I’m talking about a large stand-alone lead collector with a full size poster on it. It was possible to collect hundreds of leads in a single day, and after a few events we had over 1000 leads to call on.
When calling for appointments our girls would explain that they had won a free dinner for two at such and such restaurant. They also explained what the event was about, and that our doctors would be presenting for around twenty minutes on how to reach optimum health before the dinner.
My talk was around 20 to 30 minutes, and at the end I made an offer that was only good for that night to encourage them to schedule a check-up. I also handed them a card with 10 lines and asked them to write down the names of people they know that needed to hear this information. It was common to get 40 to 80 new leads from each dinner. Those leads were like referrals for our next dinner.
We did one dinner per week, and we typically generated 30 to 50 new patients per month from this activity. That didn’t include all the referrals that started to come in from the new patients that started care with us.
New patient dinners can be very effective, but they must be implemented properly. I know dozens of successful offices that have failed to be successful with this program. It’s all about the details, and you really need someone to coach you through the full process. I’ve done my best to give you an overview here, but if you really want to go after this it will take a bit more coaching.
I was always a little frustrated with outside chiropractic talks. It can be very difficult to get into businesses to do talks, but if you do consistent calling you will eventually work yourself into a number of businesses. It’s always a good idea to go in with the idea of a lunch and learn. We found a number of businesses that were happy to have us come in if we provided lunch to the staff.
A great way to generated leads for this type of event was to put a small business card collector at local restaurants. It helped us and them, because we purchased the food from their establishment if they allowed us to put a lead collector out.
We generally did a talk for around 20 to 25 minutes on the topic they chose, and brought Subway along with us. Certain talks generated a lot of new patients for us, but some fell short. Truthfully I was a much bigger fan of patient dinners because I had more control over the event.
If you are a good speaker, and you’re looking for help with outside chiropractic talks, then you may want to check out Dr. Brad Glowaki “The New Patient Maven“. I went to one of his seminars in Chicago, and I thought it was very good. He can give you some good insight into how he gets in. I felt it was worth the money.
We had some of our biggest new patient months because of success with direct response chiropractic mailers. They can certainly be hit and miss, but when they hit they can change your practice. We used a style similar to that of “killer ads”, but we made our own content. We tried to write about patients that we had helped with significant problems. Stories that we felt people in our community would identify with. For over two years we consistently generated 20 to 40 new patients per month with this form of marketing. We spent around $2000 per month for one ad, but you can see from the numbers above that it was certainly worth it. You need to be selective about the type of ad you run, and there were a few rules I always followed.
The ad had to be big, and it had to be on the front page. If they offered me a better deal to be on the back page I declined. The inner pages of newspapers and magazines never produced for us.
- Don’t get stuck in a long contract. More often than not you need to adjust your ads. You need to have the flexibility to move when you feel it’s time.
- When you find something that works keep doing it. We ran some of our successful ads for many months before changing the story.
- If you don’t have a good newspaper or magazine in your city to run a big front page ad in, I’d skip this form of marketing.
You also have to be good at writing compelling copy. I’ve helped a number of chiropractors over the years edit their ads. Don’t write like a doctor, write like you are their best friend. Take a look at the videos I made about writing ads under the “print advertising” program. I’ll walk you through the steps I took to write all of our ads.
I have to say that I used to laugh at this form of marketing. I didn’t see that it could produce enough new patients to make it worth our time, but times have changed. In our last two years of practice we started to generate a substantial number of new patients from online chiropractic marketing. The best part about it was that it was something that ran on autopilot. Picking up 2 or 3 new patients per week without having to do any work was a pretty good deal.
Today chiropractic website marketing has become one of the best ways to attract new patients, but there are a few things that you must know in this area:
- All the traffic from a Google search goes to the top 5 or 6 search results. 50% of all the traffic goes to the number 1 website. You must be at the top of the page for the search results in your city. Anything less is a waste of money.
- Your website is there to generate new patients, not to educate your current patients. We tried everything we could think of to get our existing patients to go to our website with little to no success. You need to pick a website company that designs websites to generate patients.
- You need to spend some money on search engine optimization. It’s just not possible to rank at the top of the search in most cities without professional help.
Test the knowledge of your website provider. Find someone that does the work themselves, not someone that outsources to another country.
Websites are very dynamic these days. Having a provider that can help you achieve a top rank along with a cutting edge design is critical.
If you’re not shooting for the top rank in a Google search my suggestion is to save your money. You don’t need to have a website for patient education. It doesn’t work, and there are much better things that you can put your money into. On the other hand if you are serious about chiropractic online marketing our team at Inception Chiropractic Websites is here to help.
CLICK HERE to check out an article I wrote about the Top 20 Chiropractic Website Companies.
In 2016 Google is making a pretty big push to get people using Adwords. The color of the ads have changed making it very difficult for people to decipher between ads and organic results. Added to that Google is not starting to offer a paid ads spot in the Google Maps area.
In the chiropractic field we have not seen a great ROI come from this kind of advertising. It will produce a positive ROI, but no where near the 5 to 1 that I would love to see. This is an area to explore, but be careful for the excessive fees that most companies charge to manage your account. I can assure you that there is very little managing going on.
In 2016 you're likely to start hearing about Facebook ads and Facebook marketing. There are a number of companies selling this service right now, but does it work?
The basic premise is to run paid ads on Facebook for niche conditions. The people that click on the ads are taken to a landing page about that topic, and the hope is that they will become a new patient.
There are some niche conditions that are showing success. Topics like neuropathy, knee pain, and hip pain have been working quite well. If you have a functional medicine practice or a physical medicine practice Facebook marketing may be a good answer for you.
Where we have not seen it work well is for everyday chiropractic conditions. Things like back pain, migraines, and neck pain have not been as effective. We've been testing this service here at Inception for the last few weeks. The jury is still out, but it should work well for certain conditions.
Over the last year we've done some extensive testing in the area of Facebook advertising. We've hired some of the best Facebook marketing consultants in the world, and we've spent thousands of dollars testing every possible variation of this form of marketing.
Our conclusion is that chiropractors need to be very careful spending money on Facebook advertising. We have seen little to no success in the chiropractic field, and we have not spoken to any chiropractors that have had anything more than minor success. Watch our for the hype!
The majority of chiropractors I know dread chiropractic screenings, but if you live in a bigger city they can be very effective. The majority of the large offices I know use this form of marketing to generate huge numbers of new patients, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
Don’t advertise that you are a chiropractor at your booth. Don’t bring your spine, and don’t post your banner on the wall with the word chiropractic on it. I love chiropractic, but most people believe they know what you do and they are not interested in talking to you about chiropractic care. Use a projector to display thermal scans, or come up with some other way to get people to want to stop and see what’s going on. If you can simply get them to stop they’re likely to be interested in what you have to tell them. Focus on getting them to stop.
Give them an offer to come into the office. You may be the greatest chiropractor in the world, but it helps to have an incentive to get them to say yes. You can choose any kind of offer you want. Be creative and it will improve your results.
When you get good at this hire a team of people to screen for you. Let them call to set up events, and pay them well enough to motivate them to continue working. The most successful offices I know have a team of people working weekly for them. Even in our office we were able to generate at least 30 new patients per month from our screening team.
I often hear chiropractors saying that they don't want to do screenings becasue they feel it makes the profession cheap. I think that things are what you decide they are. I'm thankful for the chiropractors that are able to overcome their fear and stand out there. It's not easy to do and it's one of the few ways the public can learn about our amazing profession.
I’ve known quite a few chiropractors that have setup screenings at local gyms. It’s rarely effective, and can be a real waste of time. What I have seen be successful is having a full time relationship with a gym. A few of the successful marketing offices I know have established themselves as a part of the new client signup process.
When a new client sign up with the gym they are asked if they would like a nervous system evaluation done? The gym schedules times for new clients to come in to have the evaluation done, and the chiropractor has a chance to carefully screen many of the new gym clients. This can be a great way to meet a lot of people and to schedule a number of new patients each month.
I think most chiropractors would agree that teachers are great patients. Doing a teacher appreciation day can be a great way to introduce yourself to them, but how do you get in the door. Every state and every city will be different here, but one of the best ways to work with schools is through massage.
The teachers will appreciate the massage, and the massage therapist can schedule potential patients for you. It’s important to do a great job at the event. Bring water bottles and snacks for the teachers. Spend some money to make sure the school and the principal of the school is happy that you were there. Do this correctly and they will invite you back again and again. Do this the wrong way and you will be asked to leave, and be potentially blocked from entering any of the other schools.
If you have ever been a part of the Maximized Living (formerly Body by God and Teach the World About Chiropractic) then you have been exposed to doing church talks. They can be a very good way to educate large numbers of people about health and chiropractic, but there’s an obvious question of ethics that comes into play here. I’ve seen too many chiropractors, that have no business being in a church, raping and pillaging large churches in their community. Now none of us are perfect, but if you’re committing adultery with your patients during the week, then you probably shouldn’t be quoting the bible at your church talks.
I’m probably going to upset some people here. I’m not saying that working with your pastor to setup an event like this is a bad thing. Pastors, and the people they are mentoring on Sunday, need a great deal of help when it comes to their understanding of healthcare. What I hope is that if you are going to stand up in front of this group of people as a doctor, you need to have some integrity in your life.
This is a great idea that I heard from Matthew Loop, D.C. He wrote a blog about this and basically what he did was that he would walk from door to door at businesses offering a free blood pressure screening. He would preform the screening right on the spot, and would ask if there was a room he could use to do the screenings. While doing the blood pressure screening he would have the patient fill out a symptom survey. This gave him better talking points, and he was able to generate new patients for his practice.
This is not one of the ideas that is going to bring in huge numbers of new patients, but I love it for new start up practices. If you’re sitting in your office with nothing to do this is a great low cost way to get your name out there, and you can do it when you have free time in your schedule. If you want to read his full blog post you can check it out at the following link: http://dcincome.com/blog/this-gets-you-1-extra-chiropractic-new-patient-per-day.
Weight loss my be one of the best ways to grow your practice that I know of. It’s an incredibly popular topic, and chiropractors are positioned well as providers for this. The holistic philosophy that most chiropractors have along with your knowledge level of nutrition and body function, makes weight loss a great fit.
In our practice we implemented weight loss very successfully. We learned quickly that marketing for this topic was much easier than chiropractic. One of our first ads produced over 200 phone calls.
There were 2 problems that we ran into:
- The program was costing us $15,000 to run each month. The system that we put in place required additional staff and space. As the hype of the program went down the overhead was really cutting into our profits.
- The load of patients coming from weight loss overwhelmed our office. This caused the chiropractic side to slip down resulting in very little additional profit.
You can certainly try to create your own weight loss program, but there are a number of programs out there that you can pay for access to. Take your time when investing in a program like this. Look carefully at the overhead associated with the weight loss system you choose.
TV advertising for chiropractic is a difficult task. I can’t say that I know of a single chiropractor that has done well with television advertising for chiropractic alone, but in areas such as weight loss or functional medicine, I’ve seen impressive results.
In our practice we did longer TV spots for type 2 diabetes and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. The 90 second and 120 spots that we did gave potential patients a chance to really hear what we had to offer. It also gave them enough time to pick up the phone and call us.
I don’t believe this vehicle would be very effective for general chiropractic, but if you are doing weight loss or functional medicine it can be a real game changer.
Every aggressive chiropractor I know has tried or considered billboards at some point. It seems like it would be such a good way to reach large numbers of people, but does it really work? A number of my close friends have used billboards. What I’ve heard from them is that they rarely pay for themselves. If they are good for anything they are good for creating better top of mind awareness. If everyday you can put your name in front of potential customers, they are certainly more likely to choose you when they are ready.
The caution for billboards is for newer or struggling practices. They are not a good way to generate a lot of new patients, and they can be very expensive. I’ve seen newer practices be put out of practice by doing things like this. Billboards should only be put in place by practices that have extra money for branding in my opinion.
From time to time I hear chiropractic offices doing radio advertising. In my opinion general radio advertising is a waste of money. Most chiropractors do not have enough money to saturate the market with their radio message so their campaign falls short. 15 and 60 second radio spots are not long enough for people to be able to take action on. It may help to improve awareness of chiropractic in your area, but it’s not effective at generating immediate response.
Early in practice I has some experience with doing a radio talk show. We did a 45 minute show on one of the local stations about health. It went pretty well and certainly produced a trickle of patients each week. The problem is that you’re a prisoner to the radio station each weekend. Every Saturday at 8:00 am we were there doing the show. That got old pretty fast so we moved on to other avenues of marketing.
If you are not aware of physical medicine it’s more or less a new name for having an integrated chiropractic and medical practice. A number of my close friends have physical medicine practices today, and the results have been varied. I’ve seen some doctors bankrupt their practices by adding this, and I’ve seen others reach new stratospheres.
There are some traits that I see as common factors for success in this area:
- Prior to implementing the office was very financially sound with significant income.
- The doctor running the office was very skilled at understanding how to run a business.
- The office was able to quickly implement new processes and procedures.
- The office stayed ethical in the billing they were doing for procedures.
The companies selling coaching services for physical medicine will tell you how easy this is. Anything that sounds too good to be true typically is, and this is no exception. I’ve seen a few offices go bankrupt, and a few others that have been destroyed by audits. When your insurance billing is 10x higher than what you used to do, the insurance companies take notice. If you really have your stuff together you can make this work, but this is not a game to get into if you are not a dominating business mind.
Just about every chiropractor I know wants more personal injury patients. There are some exceptional stories out there of offices doing incredible numbers from high volumes of PI patients, but they are very rare. The key to this avenue of marketing seems to be creating relationships with local attorneys.
In our practice we worked very hard at this. We spent months taking all the attorneys out to lunch. We went through Dr. Croft’s whiplash training seminars, and we explored just about every avenue we could find. This is one area that we were not very successful in.
Attorneys in certain areas are more receptive to working with chiropractors. We happened to practice in an area where most attorneys were not fond of chiropractic. Additionally we were a young looking team, and I believe most attorneys were afraid to have doctors of our age on the stand. It’s better for them to have the 50 year old, silver haired, doctor with 30 years experience.
Final Thoughts on Chiropractic Marketing
My wife and I had a chance to work with a few of the largest chiropractic offices in the world. What sets them apart from the rest of the pack is not more talent, but more focus. They spent a good deal of time every week working on marketing, and they were able to see possibilities that others overlooked. The more focus you have the more you will begin to see.
Sit down each week with a notebook and write down all the marketing ideas you can think of. Make a schedule for your office and stick to it. You’ll find that you’ll have to make changes on the fly, but I promise you’ll get very good at it. Before you know it you’ll be seeing over 100 new patients per month. The list of marketing ideas in this article is more than enough to accomplish that.
The crazy thing is that we never did all of these at the same time. I can only imagine how many new patients we could have had coming in if we were running all of the programs simultaneously.
If you have any questions you’re welcome to call. The team at Inception Chiropractic Websites is happy to help.