After six months of absence, I’m back in the saddle.
I’ve had to deal with raising a four year old boy who makes the Tasmanian Devil look like a three-toed sloth. For those of you who have had the painful pleasure of raising a boy, I think you can sympathize.
I’m excited to be back, as things in the chiropractic field continue to evolve. We’re still amidst a pretty serious economic downturn. There is a lot of anxiety about job security in our country. Homes continue to foreclose as low interest rate adjustable rate mortgages expire, and refinancing options are limited due to tough lending requirements. Those fortunate to keep their homes have lost considerable equity, making them feel less secure, financially. Many are living in homes that aren’t worth what they owe, and feel like they are burning money. These factors reduce disposable income and consumer spending, making it hard on the retail sector and services.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, there are lot of major employers, so the impact isn’t as dramatic as in places like Stockton, California which by the way applied for bankruptcy yesterday. But you can sense the fear and anxiety, though. I am getting an unusual amount of “financial hardship” type of requests, if you know what I mean, regarding deductibles, co-pays and cash payments. Even from white collar professionals like attorneys and software engineers. I am also seeing a lot of Groupon and Living Social deals from area chiropractors, offering ridiculously low massage services (which I’m sure they are either breaking even, or losing money on the deal itself) with the hopes of converting takers to chiropractic patients.
So, a lot of us chiropractors are still struggling to weather the storm. But, there are still a lot of chiropractors in my town who are making it; some are doing really well.
Here is my June 27, 2012 assessment on the state of the business of chiropractic in the U.S., adjusted for California:
1. The good news is that there are people who look for chiropractors every day. The bad news is that this rate hasn’t seemed to grow over the past five years, and may have even dropped in some areas.
If the chiropractic profession were a corporation, its stock would not make a good investment. This has to do with numerous factors that the profession hasn’t been able to shake for the longest time; notably the absence of a united front, from a marketing and branding perspective, and limited financial resources. In politics, it’s all about raising campaign funds– the candidate who has more to spend on advertising has a clear advantage over his opponent because it will be his/her voice that people will hear the most. So basically, and sadly, in chiropractic, it is “every man for himself.” It’s a game of survival; there is no one to help you but yourself. You have to be not just a chiropractic office but also a full-time PR and advertising agency. Very tough thing to pull off.
2. The water level is rising, chiropractors are scrambling to compensate, and the island has gotten smaller.
It’s a scene that is playing out in hundreds of cities across America. You have to fight tooth and nail to secure your spot on the island, or drown. The next five years will be a war of attrition for chiropractors. Many of us will go out of business; the remaining ones that are running an efficient operation will see their income go up, as they grab more of the market share. One of the keys to survival is to do what the big guys do during times like this: shed the extra baggage. Cut spending by laying off non-essential employees, automating tasks, getting rid of non-performing advertising, and finding cheaper alternatives to fixed costs such as phone line, insurance, chiropractic supplies, and so on. Evaluate your leased equipment (digital x-ray? spinal decompression table?)– is each one bringing in revenue to your business? Also, consider renting out a room or two in your office to defray the cost of rent.
3. Chiropractors need to get with the times.
Society has been transformed by the internet, social media, and mobile devices. Get over it. You’ll need to communicate your message through these channels, because that is where your market is getting their information.
Do you have your business properly set up in Google Maps? Have you updated your Google + page, and told your patients about it so that they can write reviews for you?
Are you using different names for your business in your advertising, which really screws up your online visibility? Google draws from the major online directories when listing local businesses for a local search term. If you have three different names for your business across the internet, it will hurt you.
Do you even have a website? I personally know of two chiropractors in my area, both in practice for over 15 years, who to this day do NOT have a website for their business. Unbelievable!
Do you have a mobile website? Industry experts say that online searches on smart phones will surpass those made on desktop and laptop computers in just two years. Make sure your main website can read well on a smart phone, or get a mobile site made.
Do you have a FaceBook page? It’s a great way to do viral marketing, if you do it correctly.
Do you have a YouTube channel? YouTube videos are listed in online search result pages. Yep, better get a camcorder and start making promo videos for your business and upload to YT before your competitor does.
And, how is your Yelp profile doing? In my area, Yelp is fast becoming an arrogant monopoly that dangerously possesses a lot of power. Businesses have gone out of business due to bad reviews; some are experiencing a dramatic fall in their revenue, thanks to bad reviews. And, Yelp tends to arbitrarily filter out many legitimate, good reviews (does not show them) and automatically publishes any negative review. It can be quite frustrating to a business owner; Yelp does not budge in this area. So whether you like it or not, your business will get reviewed. As a chiropractor fighting for a piece of the pie in your community, you need to encourage your satisfied patients to write a glowing review of your practice, and build up reviews. What’s happening is that people are getting lazy calling up multiple chiropractic offices to see if they can find a good fit, and are opting to go to Yelp, CitySearch and other local review sites to see which businesses come highly recommended. Google has its own reviews for local businesses, which are just as important, as they are linked to in Google Searches.
So, sayonara yellow pages, your days are through! Don’t wast your time on YP ads, folks; save some trees. You need to set your sights on the major online review site in your town.
The other tech channels for communicating with your market are blogs with RSS feeds, email marketing systems, text messaging, and mobile apps. No need to jump into these channels if you are behind, just make sure you get your website up, your Google Maps listing up, and focus on building your review site profile.
The world is changing, and chiropractors need to find some time in their schedule to keep up– it’s important to survival. Where are you going to be in five years? Think about it.
I will soon be coming out with an updated ebook that shows you how to set up these systems, which you can assign to your staff if you wish. It is tentatively entitled, Social Media Fast Track for Chiropractors. But, as a person who has been doing this for a while, my advice is for the doctor to do most of this stuff himself. It is actually quite enjoyable. If you haven’t already, make sure to opt into my list to get notification of when it comes out.
Till next time,
- Business Operations
- Business Strategy
- Chiropractic Market
- Chiropractic Websites
- Efficiency Tools
- Email marketing
- Google and SEO
- Internet Marketing
- Low cost chiropractic marketing
- Mobile Marketing
- Online Scheduling
- PPC Marketing
- Practice Management
- Social Media marketing
- Time Leveraging
- Twitter Marketing
- Video and Chiropractic