Lean, Mean and Focused: The Keys for Success in 2011

People, our patients, are inundated with stress these days.  They seem to be always in a hurry, and, they have less to spend.

How do you capitalize on this phenomena as a business owner?  You address it and make modifications to your  business.  Find ways to streamline your operations, cut costs, and offer better service at the same time.  Think of yourself as the governor of California.  Californians are facing a huge deficit as tax revenue has fallen and the unemployment rate has sky rocketed.  What would YOU do as governor to cut costs and get back into the black?

Well, take this train of thought and apply it to your business.  Are there one or two too many forms that you’re having your patients fill out?  Can your exam and report of findings be given on the first day, and in 15 minutes?  Can the jobs of your front and  back staff be combined?  Are there ways to have the patient help you do the SOAP notes each visit, saving you time?

Also, are you using today’s technology to leverage your marketing and save you time?  For example, using an email marketing system to automate your marketing; using You Tube to educate patients on exercises and stretches and the importance of keeping their chiropractic visits; using video email to send personalized messages to all of your patients; using FaceBook to stay in your patients’ mind and win that battle for attention, and getting them to refer their friends to you; perhaps using an answering service plus online scheduling system that will allow them to take your calls and schedule appointments while you do other things?  Or perhaps using WebEx to do a new patient webinar?

These are just a couple of things you can do to trim costs and automate your practice.  And that is what this blog is all about.

Economists are saying that 2011 is going to be more of 2010:  high, persistent unemployment rate,  depressed home prices and less consumer spending.  Consider cutting your overhead by using technology and operating leaner, meaner and more focused and pass on the savings to your patients.  Go on ahead and lower your cash rate if it is $50 or more per visit.  Your patients are watching every penny they spend, and if you announce a discount on your services it will be a big incentive for them to return.

An Absolute Must To Stay Afloat

Image by aflcio via Flickr

Image by aflcio via Flickr

Chiropractors, I have come to realize that the #1 thing you must do in order to survive, besides having good adjusting skills, is to keep reminding your patients you exist.  When I was a chiropractic student back in the early 1990′s, I heard an old-timer speak (Dr. Gary Street), and still remember his words which ring even more true today:

“Trying to keep getting new patients each month just to stay in business is suicide.”

What Dr. Street meant was in a typical day, most of your office visits should be returning (established) patients.  Patients who are on a treatment plan, or a maintenance plan; or who have been a patient of yours for over a year.  This needs to be your “core,” your bread and butter (and basically, your retirement!).  This is the chiropractic business definition of stability.

Back then, Dr. Street’s solution was to send ten “thank you” cards a day to your patient base (no email back in those days).  Just a simple, hand-written card telling them “thanks.”  Something nice and genuine.  Who doesn’t like a nice, hand-written letter saying nice things about them?  Your purpose of course is to say something nice, but also to remind them that you are still there for them.

In 2010, the number of marketing messages a person is exposed to in a typical day is off the chart:  junk mail, billboards, TV commercials, banner ads (don’t you hate those fancy flash ads on Yahoo?), ads on the supermarket floor; robo-calls on your telephone, etc. etc.   It’s a battle for the consumer’s attention.  As a chiropractor, you need to understand that your patients are hit with these mind-numbing ads, and between that and the demand of life it is very easy for them to forget you exist and disappear forever.

So, you need to get on the treadmill and jockey for a position to get your patients’ valuable attention:  send personalized, hand-written thank you notes a la Dr. Street (probably the best, most effective strategy); send longer letters once in a while which offer more detail into chiropractic benefits; and get an email newsletter going.

Email is a favorite among marketers because it doesn’t cost a stamp, and just about everyone has an email address.   There are chiropractic marketing firms that can send canned health e-letters out for you at a price; or, you can get an email marketing software like GetResponse and do it yourself.  It’s quite easy.  And, you don’t have to send fancy html newsletters; you can just send text emails with GetResponse.  You can pre-load it with messages to your patient list (get their email during their initial visit) and set them to go out every two weeks.  The system sends them out automatically.  Spend a weekend typing 27 short email messages, set them to go out every other week, and you’ve got a year’s worth marketing.

So, when Joe Patient, who last saw you six months ago and has since forgotten about you, gets into a car accident, your sequenced email #21 (Subject Line:  From the Desk of Doctor __) just happens to land in his In box the next day, and presto!  He says, “Oh yeah, I need to call Dr. Smith!”

I think you get the message.  It’s a war of attention out there.  You need to break out your weapons, and get into the fight.  Don’t expect your patients to remember you; they have a life outside your office and are being seduced by other marketers.   Do whatever it takes to break through the noise, ensure they remember you, and call you when they need to come in.  These are just a few ways to do it.

Dr. Dan

Low Cost, High Return Marketing for 2011

There are generally two types of marketing:  high cost, low confrontation, low return and low cost, high confrontation, and high return.  What I mean by “confrontation” is the degree to which you leave your “comfort zone;” i.e., sitting on your chair, surfing the net, waiting for something to happen.

An example of the first kind of marketing is placing a display ad in the main section of your city’s newspaper.  The ad rep will convince you to run it daily or weekly for about six months, and it will cost you an arm and a leg.  Your ad will compete with huge ads placed by bigger businesses like Macy’s.   Typically, this type of advertising does not pay for itself.  This is low confrontation (you get to stay in your comfort zone), expensive, and low return.

Can you think of an example of the second kind?  I think you can.  It’s what a lot of us fear, and that is meeting people; strangers really, and talking to them about chiropractic.  When they didn’t even ask you to.  Yikes.  But guess what– all it costs is your time.  And if your schedule has big holes in it that you really need filled, believe me, you have the time.  How many people can you meet in two hours if you were really focused?  A lot.

So, here’s the technique:  Go door to door in your neighborhood and take a survey.  Choose neighborhoods that are within 2-3 miles of your office.  Ask people if you can borrow three minutes of their time to take a survey.  First tell them you are a chiropractor and your office is down the road from them, and are working on putting together your community outreach program.  Ask them what medium they use when choosing services:  TV, radio, newspaper, street signage, referral from friend, or internet search.  Then, ask them which health issues are a concern to them or members in the household:  back pain, neck pain, headaches, extremity pain, weight loss.  Then, thank the person for her time, and before you leave for the next house, say “because you took the time to take this survey, I want to leave you with a coupon for a Free initial visit at my office.  It will be good until (then write the expiration date on the coupon in front of her).”   Make sure your coupon looks nice and professional.  If you really want to be aggressive, and you made rapport with the person, ask her if she has any health questions for you.  If she starts talking about pain, let her talk and then tell her she should make an appointment.  Then, either make the appointment on the spot or tell her you will call her to set it up after you check your schedule.

That’s it!  The biggest thing keeping people from visiting a new chiropractor is the unknown.  But with this technique, you get to make a face to face impression.  They are now familiar with you.  Familiarity is a good thing.  That’s why major corporations spend millions on branding.  So, when the time comes when these people you meet experience neck or back pain, guess who will come to mind first?  You!

It’s a numbers game, so you’ll need to do this at least a couple times a week, 2-3 hours each time.  Do it for a couple of months.  There is no faster way to increase your patient visits.