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Practical Applications

Applying patient profiling to marketing is fairly simple. Consider these examples:

Case Study 1: Forty-two percent of your patients are female, ages 30-45, and members of the fitness chain Curves. You could create a marketing initiative with Curves, including membership incentives or cross-promotions.

Case Study 2: Thirty-seven percent of your male patients play golf, of whom 67 percent belong to a single golf course. You could target your marketing to the course with cross-promotions and workshops to enhance golfing skills.

Case Study 3: Sixty-two percent of your patients have families; 47 percent have children in high school. You could put together a sports performance program for high-school students to improve sports performance and improve eligibility for college athletic scholarships.

Case Study 4: Thirteen percent of your patients are employed by one employer with hundreds of employees. You could do a viral marketing initiative to induce co-workers to visit the office for a special event.

Case Study 5: Forty-nine percent of your patients are overweight. You could offer a number of solutions, from workshops to exercise programs to nutrition or weight-loss programs - perhaps even with an alliance partner. Then roll it out to others in the marketplace that match the rest of your patient profiles.

Case Study 6: Twelve percent of your patients are known to purchase OTC pain pills. You could launch a patient-education marketing initiative targeted to only the patients who are purchasing.

Changing Your Target

There are definite situations in which your current patient profile does not meet your desired target. Maybe in the past, you served more patients who were impacted by the economy and lost their employment and insurance. You can take a closer look at smaller segments in your patient records and then design a new marketing initiative to reach and attract more of the patients who were not impacted by the economy.

Once you know the specific elements of the demographics and psychographics you most want to serve, you can tailor your marketing and message to this target audience to change your patient profile. You may desire to move toward industrial care and away from personal injury, for example.

Your patient profile may indicate that your marketplace is declining in terms of your desired demographics and you need to consider relocating to a different marketplace. It's a simple principle: If you are trying to farm in the desert, move to greener pastures!

Trust the Numbers

The best decisions are made with numbers; not emotion, guestimates or your gut. You can convert patient records into demographic and psychographic numbers. The numbers can guide your decision-making process to ensure you invest your marketing resources wisely and with the best opportunity for success.

During a recent office audit, I asked the source of most of the doctor's referrals. The answer was, "patient referrals." "Great!" I responded. "What was the percentage of your new-patient referrals from patients in the last 12 months?" The response was slow and lacked conviction.

But here's what we found: Only 11 percent of his total new patients were from patient referrals; 48 percent were from centers-of-influence, 19 percent were from an insurance plan directory, and the balance came from spinal screening events. The numbers clarified the lack of performance from his marketing plan. His focus was all wrong in terms of his source of new-patient production. Garbage in, garbage out.

Strategy and Tactics

It is important to understand the difference between a strategy and the tactics employed to achieve a strategy. It begins with your desired outcome, goals and vision. What would you like to accomplish over the next 12 months? For simplicity purposes, begin with the triangle of growing your practice: new-patient production; patient visit average; and average visit income collected.

With specificity, you determine your desired results in each area. That is your practice growth model. Next, take your current results and subtract from your desired outcome. The difference is your gap. Some gaps require a shovel to fill; others a backhoe. Once you know what is needed to achieve your desired results, identify the specific strategy you will employ to fill the gap.

Think of your marketing strategy as your high-level vision that will shape the choices you make for your marketing mix. Once you have your targets and strategy developed, work on the specific tactics, tasks, activities - your marketing mix that you will implement and execute to achieve your strategic desired outcome.

The final step is the most important: Write your marketing plan based on your demographic and psychographic profile, your financial business model, your specific strategy that you will use to achieve your business model, and the specific tactics you will implement. Your plan should be for the next 12 months. Plan early and then work the plan.

Follow this plan and you will be much further ahead than most of your competitive colleagues in terms of controlling your future and achieving the practice that you desire.

Lawton W. Howell is the founder and chief executive officer of WellnessOne Corporation, a chiropractic alliance marketing group based in Las Vegas. Direct questions and comments regarding this article to 877 WELNES1 (toll free), send an e-mail to , or visit

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