One of the most frequent complaints I hear when talking with chiropractors about how to market their practices is that they don't want to be perceived as salesmen. Selling products and services, they say, seems beneath their status as a doctor.Many chiropractors believe that patients should be drawn to their practice by the excellent service and great results they will receive. In reality, patients expect extraordinary service and results when they make the decision to see you. In today's new economy, you must understand what it is that makes your practice stand out above all of the other health care options available. It's time to move beyond your concerns of being perceived as a seller and to begin to think like a buyer.
Buyers Are in Control
In the past, the phrase caveat emptor (buyer beware) was the hallmark of economic transactions. Recently, an irreversible transformation in buyer behavior has occurred. One result of the contraction of the economy is that the recession has taught people how to make better decisions when purchasing goods or services and how to bargain for the best value for their dollar. The golden age of "customer loyalty" is over. Thirty years ago, four in five buyers bought the same brand of automobile they drove previously. Today, that number has dropped to one in five.
Buyers of all goods and services, including chiropractic care, have instant access to information via the Internet. Even those patients who are referred to your practice will Google you before picking up the phone to schedule an appointment. Before they call, they will educate themselves of the immense choices available, will make real-time comparisons between you and your competitors, and based upon your Web site, make the decision if you are the right provider for them.
Focus on Your Core Patient
How do you convince a potential new patient to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment? Begin by defining who your core patient is. Many chiropractors position their practice to be all things to all people and by doing so, deliver mixed marketing messages that confuse potential buyers, rather than helping them make the decision to buy.
Who is your core patient? Your core patient is the individual most likely to purchase the services you deliver. To determine who this individual is, marketers typically combine several variables to define a "demographic profile." Commonly used demographics include gender, race, age, income, educational attainment and location. I encourage you to take the concept of a demographic profile to the next level.
Your core patient is a human being, not a collection of demographic information. You must be able to picture your core patient so clearly that you could shake their hand. A great exercise is to write a description of your core patient in 20 words or less. I even ask my clients to give their core patient a name! How your practice meets the needs, wants and aspirations, and resolves the concerns, apprehensions and fears, of this person is essential to your marketing success. An example of a company that has done an excellent job in describing its core client is the fitness franchise Curves. The company describes its core client as "a woman who wants/needs to be motivated to get fit, but fears the embarrassment of a mixed gender gym."
Your Uncommon Offering
The reason that a patient will decide to choose your practice over all the available alternatives is called your uncommon offering. It has been said that no one has ever purchased a drill because they wanted a drill. What they wanted was the hole the drill could make. Chiropractic care is your "drill." Your "hole" is your uncommon offering - the tangible and emotional benefits the care you deliver offers to your patients. Your uncommon offering is your hidden asset and is most often undervalued and underutilized in chiropractic marketing.
Making your practice stand out from your competition is not about being bigger or better. You have to be different. Your ability to sell your uncommon offering to your core patient provides you with a strategic advantage. There are four decisive moments in the purchase progression made by all patients: the now-or-never moment, the make-or-break moment, the keep-or-lose moment and the multiplier moment. Identify who your core patient is and then deliver what matters to them most at each decisive moment in their purchase progression.
The Now-or-Never Moment
The now or never moment is the first brief contact a potential patient has with your practice. Blow it and it is the point of no return. Your number-one priority at this decisive moment is to get the prospective patient to like and trust you both online and offline. Remember, your prospect is already knowledgeable about chiropractic care. Your Web site must tell your core patient how your practice is unique.
Take a look at your Web site and your competitors' Web sites side-by-side. What information are you providing your core patient that will make them prefer your practice?
The Make-or-Break Moment
This decisive moment occurs when a prospective patient enters your practice. You must be able to deliver the service and support you promise. In this moment you must maintain the trust the patient has placed in you and reinforce their preference for your practice versus your competition. However, don't confuse patient preference for loyalty. Loyalty is unquestioning, permanent commitment. Preference is choosing one option over another because you will receive a valuable benefit. Your patients will choose your practice only as long as you continue to meet their wants and needs.
The Keep-or-Lose Moment
Going beyond your patients' expectations can cement enduring preference for your practice. This is the decisive moment that ensures your patients' continued usage of your services. This requires you to communicate with your patients to ensure they are receiving the benefits they desire from the services you are providing. It means meeting and exceeding their expectations.
The Multiplier Moment
The multiplier moment is the point at which you have built enough personal equity to motivate your patients to advocate for and refer to your practice. It is also the moment when patients enter into a program of wellness care and make chiropractic a regular part of their lifestyle. Magnify this moment by getting your patients to talk to each other and to share their personal experiences about how you've met their needs and exceeded their expectations with their friends and families. Where state law allows, feature personal success stories on your Web site. Reward patients for referring their friends and don't miss any opportunity to celebrate them.
Focus your marketing resources on your core patient and leverage your strategic advantage. Be well-known for your uncommon offering. Align your entire practice team with delivering high value at each decisive moment. Measure and monitor your results. Consistently seek to improve your ability to strengthen patients' preference for your practice as they progress from one decisive moment to the next. Use your knowledge of the buyer's mind and watch your practice grow without selling.
Dr. Mark Sanna, a 1987 graduate of New York Chiropractic College, is a member of the ACA Governor's Advisory Board and a member of the President's Circle of NYCC and Parker College of Chiropractic. He is the president and CEO of Breakthrough Coaching (www.mybreakthrough.com).