There Is No Silver Bullet: Turn Your Marketing Mindset Around
By Shelley Simon, RN, DC, MPH, EdD
Almost without exception, the chiropractors I speak with daily are all looking for the same thing: a silver bullet that will make marketing easy, or better yet, unnecessary. If you are in this majority, you're probably hoping to find the one unique marketing strategy that will deliver a steady stream of new patients to your door - ideally, with very little effort on your part.
On this front, there is bad news and good news. The bad news is there is nothing fundamentally new in practice marketing. There is no silver bullet.
The good news is you don't need one. Instead, you need to develop a different marketing mindset - a shift in the way you think about and approach your marketing efforts. Without this turnaround in thinking, even the best marketing tips, tactics and techniques will do you little good.
- I shouldn't have to market. I'm a healer and I excel at what I do. I'm not a marketer; I'm a professional. Doctors don't market.
- I've tried all kinds of marketing and nothing seems to work in my town. Any marketing that used to work no longer seems effective, but I don't know what else to do. Besides, it's expensive and I don't have the time.
- I have no idea why the doctor down the street (who is far less qualified than I am) has a booming business, while I struggle to get patients in the door. He must be giving away services or doing something unethical.
- Most chiropractic marketing is misleading or manipulative. It feeds the public's distrust of chiropractors, and I don't want to be a part of that.
- My patients appreciate me and get great results. I am shy and don't like to toot my own horn or come right out and ask for referrals. Still, I don't understand why I don't get more patients by word of mouth.
- I put off marketing for as long as possible, and when I do get around to it, I feel uncomfortable and pressured. I can't stand doing it, especially since I'm not even sure if it works. I only market when my volume drops or I need a quick income boost.
- I've accepted the need to promote my practice, and have even developed some skills in marketing. Yet I continue to have fears that get in my way and limit my success. I'm not sure how to address the conflicted feelings I have about marketing myself.
If any of these attitudes, experiences or beliefs reflects your own history with marketing, know that you're not alone. The question of how to consistently attract new patients is a frequent topic of conversation whenever two or more chiropractors gather. You talk with colleagues, study practice marketing, and attend seminars, but you continue to struggle with marketing and don't get the results you want.
Your current practice reality may be that you spend half your time searching for the elusive silver bullet that will make the need for marketing disappear, and the other half on biting the bullet and forcing yourself to engage in marketing activities. Deep down, you think there must be a better way. But what are your options? You could spend the rest of your career pushing this SUV-sized marketing boulder up a steep hill, or you could work on turning your marketing mindset around. The best option: Start with your mindset. Because the hard truth is that if you want a healthy practice, marketing is part of your job.
Marketing - So Misunderstood
Ill-conceived notions and misperceptions about marketing abound. Marketing is not synonymous with advertising or sales. When marketing is reduced to a series of disconnected tactics or gimmicks, it quickly loses its value, creativity, credibility and effectiveness. It's no wonder so many chiropractors want to hide under their desks when they hear the dread word marketing.
How do you define marketing? According to the American Marketing Association, marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers (prospective and established patients), and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization (your practice) and its stakeholders (you, your family, team and patients).
Marketing is a process, not an event. Successful marketing encompasses all that you do - tangible and intangible, subtle and direct - to connect with your community, and with prospective and established patients. Marketing involves positioning your practice, packaging and promoting your services, honing your personal effectiveness to turn prospects into patients, and continually improving the quality of service and care delivered by your practice. When you focus exclusively on marketing methods and tactics, you miss this bigger picture.
Turn Your Marketing Mindset Around
Marketing is a challenge for many service professionals, not just chiropractors. Even when you engage in marketing activities, you often bump up against complex emotions, such as shyness, entitlement, aggressiveness, defensiveness, anxiety or shame - any one, or all of which, can make promoting yourself particularly challenging. The importance of addressing these emotions, limiting beliefs or faulty thoughts should not be underestimated. Successful marketing requires a certain mindset, one that (fortunately) can be developed.
A successful marketing mindset involves thinking about and approaching your marketing activities so they are inherently valuable to your audience; so the marketing itself feels like a contribution; and so you are always building relationships. It also means basing your marketing activities on a comprehensive strategy that is effective, ethical and valuable to your patients.
Simply wishing for a more positive mindset or attitude about marketing isn't enough. You must take action steps and begin to think about marketing in a new way. It's mostly an inside job, as you'll see in these eight ideas intended to help you begin to turn your marketing mindset around.
- Believe in what you do. You've heard this before, but it's worth repeating. Every marketing decision you make should be driven by the belief that you have a valuable contribution to offer that makes a lasting difference in people's lives. In addition, you also must believe in the inherent value of your marketing efforts, and view educating and informing the public about chiropractic care as a necessary and worthy endeavor.
- Study the art and science of marketing. Practitioners who embrace a positive marketing mindset take the process seriously. They understand both the tactical approaches and the psychological nuances of marketing. They are willing to learn new techniques and experiment until they find what works in their own practice. Developing confidence in your abilities and acquiring knowledge about the essential elements of marketing takes more time, effort and focus than chiropractors tend to believe.
- Manage yourself during every marketing encounter. This is the inner game of marketing. Learn techniques that will help you listen intently, so you can consistently give your complete attention to the conversation at hand. Stay focused on your desire to educate. Convey your healing energy and kindness. Do not focus your attention on whether the person you are engaged with is leaning toward doing what you hope they'll do. When your focus is on getting someone to agree with you or on convincing them to work with you, paradoxically, you push them away. Stay present. Focus on giving, not getting. Serve, don't sell.
- Put marketing ahead of selling. Chiropractors complain about patients who want only relief care or low-cost, quick fixes for complex problems. These same practitioners then take shortcuts in their own marketing efforts. They, too, want relief - relief from the pain they experience when promoting themselves. They jump too quickly into sales mode with potential patients. They "pitch" their services before they even have the attention of the person standing in front of them. This can come across as self-serving and heavy-handed. Instead, in any marketing encounter, seek first to gain an individual's attention and arouse their curiosity. Only when a person shows genuine interest should you offer information. If their interest level remains high once they have information, they will likely be receptive to experiencing what you have to offer. Always remember that marketing is not about you and your offer; it's about the patient and their needs.
- Repeat - marketing is not about you. A central principle of the art and science of marketing is WIIFM. While prospective patients do ultimately need to understand the features of your service, you must first address and answer their number-one concern: What's In It For Me? If you fail to address this critical question and true need of the patient, you'll miss the mark and fuel the misperception that chiropractors are only out to get something for themselves. (Keeping the WIIFM principle in mind is important during all stages of clinical care, as patients are continually assessing the value of your services from their own perspective.)
- Understand yourself. Become aware of your own behavioral style and how you interact and relate. One way to do this is by developing self-awareness and building emotional intelligence and personal competence. For example, become aware of when you personalize a situation. A prospective patient's lack of readiness may have nothing to do with you. Instead of getting defensive or annoyed, review your presentation, try to see the situation from the patient's point of view, and think about how you might communicate more effectively the next time. Keep in mind that you haven't "lost" a patient. You've planted a seed, communicated your message and potentially established a relationship that you can continue to cultivate over time.
- Develop resilience. A positive marketing mindset can help you stay focused on long-term strategies even when you're faced with short-term setbacks. By shifting your mindset to one that is confident, relatively comfortable, relationship-oriented and optimistic, you will stay focused and effectively engage in the most critical aspects of your marketing program.
- Don't delegate or abdicate marketing. It is the most important aspect of any successful business. Marketing will always be a critical component of your practice. Do, however, get your team on board with your vision and support them in developing their own positive mindsets toward practice marketing.
Results Do Matter
Of course you are concerned, as well you should be, about the efficiency and effectiveness of your marketing efforts. There has to be a WIIFM for you. Otherwise, why bother marketing? Focusing on the inner aspects of marketing and turning your marketing mindset around does not mean you aren't attempting to secure new business. It simply means you go about achieving the results you want with more finesse, clarity, preparation and thought. Your marketing mindset determines how you engage in each marketing moment and shapes both your immediate experience and your ultimate outcomes - short- and long-term.
Effective marketing is the engine that drives your practice. You don't have to love it, but you do have to come to terms with the fact that marketing is an essential part of what you do. Avoiding, resisting and resenting take a lot of energy. Embracing, cultivating and integrating marketing efforts in your routine also requires energy, but it's a much more constructive - and enjoyable - approach to accomplishing your goals and having a successful, sustainable practice.
for previous articles by Shelley Simon, RN, DC, MPH, EdD.