Thanks to Today's Chiropractic for permission to reproduce this article!
By Dr. Paul Hollern
Currently, on any given day, only 6 percent of the American population is actively seeking chiropractic care. This leaves an untapped market of 94 percent of the population. While these statistics make the number of potential chiropractic patients seems endless, the truth is a lack of marketing and business skills by chiropractors means the market will remain untapped. This fact is proven by other statistics showing that up to half of chiropractors do not make it past the fifth year of practice.
From a strictly business point of view, there are nine common marketing mistakes made by chiropractors that prevent the chiropractic profession from moving beyond a market percentage of 6 percent. The intention of this article is to bring these mistakes to light so that more chiropractors and chiropractic itself may move beyond survival by obtaining an appropriate percentage of the health care marketplace.
The Nine Most Common Business Mistakes
1. Prospecting the Wrong Way
Nine of the 43 socioeconomic classes described in the American marketplace account for 80 percent of all chiropractic visits. Thus, not everyone buys what chiropractic has to sell. A simple example of this is reflected in statistics that continually show blue collar workers utilize chiropractic services at higher rates than white collar workers. Since blue collar workers outnumber white collar workers and they have a higher utilization rate, chiropractors should focus their marketing efforts primarily on labor, as opposed to management. Putting the chiropractic message in front of the people who do not typically buy chiropractic decreases the effectiveness of the message.
2. Branding or Gateways
Consumers remember firsts, not seconds. The public associates a business with the one thing that it is best at, not two or more. Deviation from this violates the consumers perception of the rules. Our marketplace buys based on pain motivation. This is evident in the fact that 84 percent of chiropractic patients seek care for neck pain, headaches and lower back pain. Only 7 percent seek care for extremity problems. Other problems have even lower percentages. With this in mind, chiropractic should use neck pain, headaches and lower back pain as the gateways to our recognition in the marketplace. The chiropractic brand then becomes associated with the gateways of neck, headache and lower back pain as Kleenex is associated with tissue.
Some will argue that this sells chiropractic short because we can, and do, treat more than neck, headache and lower back pain. Unfortunately, in the rules of marketing a business must give up something to get something else. Business marketing rules differ from the rules of chiropractic philosophy. Once patients enter chiropractic offices through branding and gateways, other benefits can be offered. This is referred to as a line extension. Advertising wellness care and that chiropractic can treat everything from disc problems to hang nails violates the rules of branding and gateways. The public simply will not believe that chiropractors can be everything to everybody.
3. Unfamiliar Terms
Subluxation, Diversified technique, Innate intelligence, Gonstead technique and Activation technique are terms specific to chiropractic. These terms are known as industrial language. The chiropractic marketplace is typically unfamiliar with these terms. Lack of understanding creates a lack of trust and increases the publicís resistance to buying chiropractic services. Unless your patients have had these terms explained to them, reserved these phrases for intraprofessional communications. Chiropractors must be able to describe a diagnosis, treatment options and other complicated methods in laymenís terms for effective patient communications and care.
4. Stressing Features and Benefits over Need
If a patient does not see a need for chiropractic care, all of the bells and whistles in the world will not sell them on care. The need must be established and care initiated before benefits and features can be described.
5. Being Pushy
People have a natural tendency to withdraw or push back if they are told what they need to do or should do. After a need is established, features and benefits should be presented as options, not mandates.
6. Selling Pleasure instead of Pain
Humans are motivated by pain. In fact, 80 percent of all human activity is related to escaping present or future pain. Only 5 percent of human activity is said to be motivated by pleasure. That is why the constant marketing of wellness care is futile. People do not want to feel good, better or stay healthy. They want the pain to stop. Think about this. People are conditioned not to think about their health in the absence of pain.
7. Failure to Clear Obstacles
Consumers will not act if obstacles are present. Thus, when an obstacle arises, and the doctor does not clear the obstacle, the patient will not begin or continue care. If the patient perceives chiropractic care is expensive and time consuming and the practice cannot offer financial options and run on time, the patient will be lost. Most chiropractors fail to address obstacles because they are fearful of confrontation. This must be overcome. Remember both successful and unsuccessful doctors hate confrontation. The difference is successful doctors can manage to follow through despite their discomfort.
8. Time Management
Since acute pain is the greatest motivation for seeking chiropractic care, most prospective patients want immediate availability of care. If a practice cannot see a patient within 48 hours, the patient will seek care elsewhere. Priority is said to drop by 50 percent every 24 hours. Care must be initiated quickly to avoid this factor. Since chiropractic care is a process and rarely a single event, efforts must be made to inform new patients of the real time involved in each visit and the course of care. If an office has a one-hour wait for a two-hour initial visit, patients will avoid the practice. They may perceive this as the time required for each visit and a 25 visit treatment schedule would seem overwhelming. Initial visits must be efficient and the time for a typical appointment following the initial evaluation must be stressed to the patient. America is a drive-thru society. Everyone is busy.
9. Getting a Commitment
The average conversation between a chiropractor and a prospective patient ends with the doctor providing the interested party his business card and a handshake. A commitment from the patient to move forward with care is rarely obtained. In some cases the prospective patient is less interested in chiropractic care after the conversation than he was before the conversation. He has received a free consultation and either thinks he can now solve his own problem or thinks his problem is not severe enough to warrant his time or money.
Doctors must focus on scheduling the prospective patient and obtaining commitment to that appointment, not on offering free advice.
Failure to apply the information above and avoid the pitfalls described are the keys to chiropractic success. The key does not rely upon location, the communityís level of health consciousness, insurance companies, the medical profession, the technique a doctor uses or any other of the many common excuses frequently given for chiropractic failures.
Many chiropractors are struggling. And, the truth is, the struggle will only end for doctors of chiropractic if they apply proven marketing and business principles to their health care practices. Clinical skills and philosophical principles while important, are only two pieces of the puzzle that make up a successful practice. Chiropractic and chiropractors cannot move forward without putting all of the pieces of the puzzle in place.
About the author: Dr. Paul Hollern is a graduate of Logan Chiropractic College and has been in practice since 1988. Currently, he serves as CEO and President of UnclePaul Chiropractic Business Training in Louisville, Ky., and has trained and financed over 90 offices in 18 states.
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