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Dynamic Chiropractic – April 9, 2009, Vol. 27, Issue 08

Niche Marketing: Targeting Your Ideal Patient

By Perry Nickelston, DC, FMS, SFMA

Marketing 101: Market your services to everyone and you market to no one. This is a hard lesson learned in the real world of business - and remember that ultimately, you are running a business. Like any business, in order to survive you must attract customers. That is the essence of marketing.

How can you do that in our industry? You must master the art of niche marketing. Niche marketing is the process of finding a specific group of consumers (patients) and targeting services toward them. One of the big payoffs of niche marketing is that when done correctly, it can result in a loyal patient who comes back often and refers friends. Imagine that. Here are some effective strategies for identifying, locating and targeting your ideal patient.

Identify Core Services

A good strategy for targeting your ideal patient starts with assessing the services you provide and determining the ones in which you really excel. Examine why you are good at providing those services and what the keys to your success are. Always be thinking, how can you separate yourself from the competition? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Is it because you have expertise in a certain technique (e.g., Activator, Graston)? For example, an Activator practitioner would highlight the non-force appeal of the treatment compared to the typical "cracking" visit.
  • Do you offer unique therapies (e.g., decompression, laser, ART)? How about a certain type of equipment no one else in the area has in their office?
  • Is it because you have a unique treatment approach for a particular condition?
  • Do you offer a one-stop-shopping experience with many types of services (e.g., massage, chiropractic, physical therapy)?

The key here is to highlight these services in your marketing campaign. Make them a signature of your program, allowing word-of-mouth referrals to spread. It may be that other doctors in your area offer similar services, but are they taking advantage of using it as a form of differentiation? Probably not, and that is good for you. It will be unique to the potential customer, which is all that matters.

Identify Your Ideal Patient

Another effective strategy, and my personal favorite, is choosing an ideal patient based on condition or injury type. This is where considering your overall practice philosophy is important. Do you prefer seeing acute or emergency-care cases, or longer-term wellness patients who come to see you on a regular basis? My personal practice was built on taking care of shoulder injuries. I am known in my niche as the "shoulder guru."

Now, you might think this would restrict my patient base. Not so. Why? When I help the person suffering with a shoulder injury, who in their life may have other conditions that can benefit from chiropractic? This opens the door of referrals for many injuries I never originally targeted. Here are some potential conditions to focus on in your efforts to attract patients. (Notice I do not mention back pain.) What condition will you be known for?

OK, so now you have an injury niche. The next step is to target where this patient can be found. Think about your ideal patient; where might this person work? Where do they meet socially? What hobbies might they pursue? Are there particular locations or venues where they might gather? Brainstorm all the possible places your ideal patients may be and write them down so you can create a plan for increasing your visibility.

Let's try one on for size, shall we? Take plantar fasciitis (great niche, by the way). Who has this injury? Runners, joggers and marathoners are high on the list. Where can you find them? At gyms, health clubs, specialty shoe stores, marathon events, and networking clubs. Find one of the local running clubs online and volunteer to give a presentation on preventing plantar fasciitis. Help one runner do what they love doing better and I guarantee you will get 15 more before you know it. Word spreads fast in a niche. Get the idea?

Increase Your Visibility

  • Advertise in industry/trade newsletters and magazines.
  • Develop a resource Web site or section of your current Web site for people in the niche you are targeting.
  • Target mailings to members.
  • Join the groups yourself (e.g., a gym, networking group).
  • Utilize specific podcasts, blogs and other social media.
  • Consider offering some sort of award or recognition for powerful stories of recovery.

The Power of Niche Marketing

Niche marketing can be extremely cost-effective. Your marketing budget will go a lot further, allowing you to advertise with greater frequency or use a more comprehensive media mix. In these economic times, that's a big bonus. Keep in mind these three primary rules before implementing any marketing strategies: 1) Make sure the benefits you promise have special appeal to your market. 2) Understand the market's "hot buttons" for taking action. What motivates them? 3) Assess your competitors in the market and test your program before a complete rollout. Before you know it, you will be getting a flood of new patients because you took the time to learn what people want and value.

Click here for more information about Perry Nickelston, DC, FMS, SFMA.

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