When your practice is about meeting needs, the market is wide open to you. But to meet human needs, you have to reach people where they are. Why not market where people spend 47.5 hours of their week, on average? Injuries from overexertion, repetitive motion, and slips and trips cost U.S. employers $20 billion in 2007. These types of work injuries are best treated by you, the doctor of chiropractic, because your educational experience best qualifies you to do so.
The menu of services you can offer to industry is broad and may include corporate wellness and health promotion, ergonomic services, lifting and material-handling safety training, substance testing, diagnosis and treatment of injuries, injury prevention and other services, including services specific to long-term care facilities. Workplace safety is a federal mandate; compliance is a requirement. Employers know that a healthy work force results in increased productivity, higher quality of product, reduced absenteeism, better presenteeism and a return on dollars invested for employee safety and well-being.
I have worked with the chiropractic profession for over two decades helping doctors acquire education, information and resources proven to be effective for marketing to and working with local employers. Delivering services to employers can significantly add to your practice and generate income you otherwise may not realize. If you've yet to consider it, I strongly encourage you to market to the companies in your own backyard.
Worried about the economy? Historically, when the nation's economy has been at its absolute worst has proven to be the best time to market; in fact, many new businesses have been started (including corporate giants such as General Electric, Disney, Hewlett Packard and others). To cease or pull back on marketing now risks being invisible in your community at a time when employers still need services for workplace safety and health. To help put your best foot forward as you communicate with the employers in your community, let's take a look at 10 common mistakes you can avoid and best practices to apply.
- Reducing marketing during economic recession. Instead of reducing your marketing, focus a marketing budget and regular efforts to reach a target audience with a consistent message. A consistent message creates trust and interest and is memorable This is important if you want employers to remember you as the economy recovers. It is a direct reflection of how you conduct business. On average, it takes five to seven marketing contacts before getting a meaningful response from a prospective client. It is better to reach a few carefully chosen prospects than the masses that may never pay attention to your message.
- Lacking knowledge about a prospective company client. Do your research. A Web site provides information about the company's products and services. Learn the type of work people do on a daily basis, such as performing work tasks while seated for extended periods of time, operating motor vehicles or standing for long hours at their work station. Knowing this will help you understand what services may be needed. Ask around and review available annual business reports, news items and online information about a company. Patients can give you the inside scoop about where they work as well. They can help you learn which people have executive and vested interest in a particular company. Later, when you are sufficiently acquainted with the business owner, request a tour of the facility to gain greater understanding.
- Assuming every company needs all of your services. You may have the best menu of services any chiropractic clinic or occupational health consulting firm could possibly offer, but that doesn't mean the employer needs them. The key to success is found by taking the time necessary to really listen to the true problems a particular employer faces, and then deciding whether you can realistically offer the best solution to that need. This is really what employers want from you.
- Assuming every company will be a good client. Be smart. Always qualify companies and base your assessment on what you can learn about each company's reputation and the research you have done before going after the business. Become a member of a local chamber of commerce and safety council. Interaction with employers at meetings and events affords opportunities to gain important insights and to meet face to face with people with whom you may be doing business.
- Marketing to get new patients. It is so important to align your marketing intentions with the goals of the employer. Marketing to local businesses for the sake of getting new patients destroys trust and diminishes credibility, and employers will quickly see through this. Their goal is to achieve positive and measurable bottom-line results by obtaining services to bolster their work force, prevent and reduce injury and illness, and keep employees on the job. Carefully craft your marketing message to support such goals. Employers may also envision their employees being blended among your chiropractic patients in your waiting room, and concurrently fear long wait times. Develop a solution that separates employees from general patients.
- Ignoring your best advertising vehicle - word of mouth. Realize the powerful marketing resource already working for you - word-of-mouth advertising by the patients you treat. Every patient is telling others about you, your staff and clinic services. So much of what they tell others can be directly influenced by the conversations you have with them. Maximize this incredible marketing resource by telling every patient that your clinic offers services specific to workplace safety and health. Ask patients to mention you to decision-makers at their workplace, and to help you connect with the right people at the company that would have interest in your services. It costs nothing to build a solid word-of-mouth advertising "campaign."
- Not including customer testimonials. Seventy percent of all Americans choose a health care provider based on a recommendation by a family member, friend or co-worker. Include a testimonial statement or two in your marketing materials that would appeal to employers. Always get written permission before you publish a testimonial. (For an example of an effective testimonial with appeal to employers, visit www.powerlifttraining.com/demo_testimonial.html.)
- Complicating the service plan. A letter of agreement (or contract) should be thorough, yet not too lengthy or complicated that the employer looks elsewhere. Use simple language in the agreement. Get as much of the haggling over business out of the way prior to writing the service plan (or proposal). This minimizes steps in the process that will cause delays or confusion, or require too many meetings.
- Going away when you hear "no." "No"seldom means never!If an employer rejects your services or marketing efforts right now, hang in there. "No" usually means, "not now." Keep marketing to the company with your consistent message. In time, when the employer has a need, you will be remembered because you have maintained visibility and your consistent message has lent itself toward building trust. Become socially acquainted with those you market to; rubbing shoulders on the golf course or at other events goes a long way in marketing business to business.
- Talking down the competition. This can be most destructive. You may not like your competition, but the employer may have respect for and/or a relationship with whomever your competition might be. Undermining your competition only exhibits insecurity.
Finally, maintain a written marketing plan with clearly stated objectives and goals of what you want to accomplish, and how you are going to attain those goals. Keep it flexible. Build in benchmarks and a timeline of specific dates, including what your practice is today, and what you envision practice growth to be in the near and not-so-near future. Put an appointment on your calendar to review your plan every 60 to 90 days.
A written marketing plan supported by a budget will guide you in reaching a targeted audience by means of affordable media advertisements and marketing efforts such as direct mail, television and radio. The written strategies you implement for successful marketing can keep you focused yet flexible in how you go about gaining a competitive edge in business and operating your daily practice.
Elizabeth L. Auppl is the executive director of the International Academy of Chiropractic Occupational Health Consultants (IACOHC), and the executive advisor to the ACA Council on Occupational Health (ACACOH). She is also a faculty member of the postgraduate (diplomate) chiropractic occupational health and applied ergonomics program at Northwestern Health Sciences University. For questions and comments regarding this article, contact Ms. Auppl at (507) 455-1025 or