It's the start of the holiday season and the stores are already buzzing with shopping activity. The sales now taking place or about to take place in stores have taken weeks and sometimes months to plan.Speaking of planning, it's important to think several weeks (or months) ahead if you want a steady and predictable stream of patients coming to your practice. That means if you haven't planned your holiday marketing program, your efforts will need to be a lot more intense.
The new rules for the changed economy say no practice owner should unload a huge chunk of their practice-building budget into a holiday-season marketing program. So, which low-cost marketing strategies yield the best results? Here are some recession-friendly and creative strategies to market your chiropractic practice during the holiday season.
Give the Gift of Reading
Want a marketing program for the holiday season that both patients and practice team members will really enjoy? We all know that the holidays are the time to get and give presents. Make a list of your best patients, those individuals who are under regular care and who serve as your practice ambassadors by referring their friends and family. Hold your next team meeting in front of a computer monitor and visit one of the online booksellers like Amazon.com to find books that you believe will be enjoyed by the patients on your list. You can give the books in person or have the books shipped directly by Amazon.com to your patients with a note from you – Amazon.com gives you this option when you check out. The personal note is the key.
Here's the best part – it doesn't matter to the patient whether you wrote the book or not. What matters is that the book is a thoughtful gift from you. Include a note that says something like, "I read this book on healthy eating and I thought you'd really enjoy it!" This has a tremendous perceived value with the patient. The book may cost you $10-$12 plus shipping but the goodwill generated will be significant.
This gift-giving strategy during the holidays can be applied to other referral sources such as medical doctors as well. Can you imagine sending a book to a referring physician that you feel might be beneficial for them and following up with a phone call? Even if you spend $1,000 or more sending these books out, a single referral will pay for the cost of your entire campaign! In case you are wondering what happens if they never read the book, I have some news for you: it doesn't matter if they read it, what matters is that you sent it. Even if the patient or the doctor never reads the book, they will remember it as a thoughtful and unconventional gesture.
Give the Gift of Connecting
Utilizing social media such as Facebook and Twitter will not bring new patients to your practice immediately, but not utilizing these marketing tools is definitely a way to turn off the new-patient light bulb. Promote your Facebook fan page during holidays and make it personal by including the input of your practice team members. Take turns sharing personalized "healthy holiday" messages. This is an easy conversation to have, as the holidays are already on the top of everyone's mind.
Savvy practice owners survey their patients several times a year to gauge how well they are meeting their patients' needs. The holidays provide an excellent opportunity for you to engage your patient base and even potential patients by posting a link to a survey on your fan page or via your Twitter feed. Ask your patients what's on their holiday wish list when it comes to your practice. During the survey process guide your patients with specific questions that could reveal any gaps in your services and as well as areas for potential improvement or expansion.
Marketing gurus stress that any promotional campaign will have more impact when you have a deep understanding of your customers (your patients). The information you receive from your holiday survey can provide you with key information to build your future marketing campaigns and allows you to speak to the real needs of your patients.
Give the Gift of Serving
Create a "12 Days of Different Products and Services" promotion. This holiday-themed marketing strategy is a campaign during which you promote a different product or service for 12 days during the holidays or every week during the holidays. This strategy is an excellent way to educate your patients about your practice. Many of your patients aren't aware of all the products and services you offer, so this type of campaign can help raise both awareness and revenue. Patients are often strapped to find last-minute gifts for co-workers, teachers, and family members. Gift certificates for a massage, cervical pillows, or lumbar supports provide a quick and easy solution to harried shoppers. The sky is the limit with possibilities!
Remember the Gift of Your Practice Team
This holiday season, make it a point to give your practice team members something they will treasure – your sincere appreciation. There are many ways to make your team members feel that their contributions are valued and the holidays provide an excellent opportunity to do so. Here are a few suggestions. Consider holding your holiday party in November, rather than December. It is less likely to conflict with other parties and team members are less hassled with the holiday rush. If you plan to give year-end bonuses, do so before the holiday season when the extra funds will come in handy.
Take some time to think about each individual's contribution to the success of the practice and share it with them in the form of a written note of appreciation. The note can be simple and straightforward but must be sincere. During the staff holiday gathering read each note aloud to the team and hand it to the staff member with a sincere "Thank you." If you are exchanging holiday gifts, establish a budget. The gifts need not be expensive, but they should reflect each individual's likes or interests. Identical gifts may be convenient, but they are often viewed as tokens of obligation rather than genuine expressions of appreciation.
Make a List
Have you ever heard the saying, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail"? This holds true for marketing your chiropractic practice as well. After the rush of the holiday season, take time to sit down outside of your regular office atmosphere and make a plan. Make a list of what you plan to do to build your practice in the upcoming year and check it twice. A well-thought-out plan is your best strategy to get exactly what you wish for in the year ahead.
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).