How important a role does credibility play in the marketing of your chiropractic clinic? Surprisingly, answers will vary depending on whom you talk to in our profession. A doctor who uses gimmicks, freebies, and deeply discounted fees to lure patients to his or her practice may have one perspective, while another doctor who utilizes a marketing strategy that charges reasonable/respectable fees, and reinforces the value of his or her care, may have an entirely different perspective.
In general, the chiropractic profession is continually striving to enhance its credibility and, thus, boost acceptance to achieve greater numbers of new patients. While research, more exposure (experiences with chiropractic), and more education are often thrown out as the solutions to building chiropractic’s numbers, a few points of interest stand out that are worth your consideration.
As has been reported many times over, the percentage of the population that has experienced chiropractic care is far less than is acceptable. Yes, there may be some external factors at play (bad press, less than enthusiastic recommendations from other healthcare professionals, pharmaceutical marketing, etc.), but for the sake of this discussion, let’s just focus on our own backyard and any potential credibility issues in the eyes of the public at large.
Credibility is a byproduct of repetitive action. To suggest that you can make yourself credible (like flipping on a light switch) is amusing, at best. How you position yourself in your community is a starting point, but the real fuel for building your credibility is the community’s perception of you, your staff, and your clinic. Without question, passion is important. But passion dressed up in a cheap suit will only take you so far. Understand that how you present your practice to your community is the tipping point that can translate into expanded credibility. This is crucial for building a practice that doesn’t have to rely on gimmicks and games.
On a larger scale, how you market your practice (and, thus, affect your credibility) is dependent on your choice of marketing and practice management direction. An important factor in basic marketing strategy that is commonly dismissed in chiropractic practice management is assumption. In most areas of life, assumption has a negative connotation; but in marketing, it’s a MUST! You must assume all positive, as well as all potential negative outcomes for every action you take in building your practice.
There’s no question that a new patient chiropractic examination of the human nervous system that is valued at $350.00, but on sale for $17.50 (a 95% discount) "for this week only," will probably attract more than a few takers. What must be assumed (even if it’s hard to go there mentally) is the potential negative perception associated with deep discounting of such an important service. To put it another way, you may want to consider how your fire sale on examinations could hurt your credibility and the value of the care associated with your practice by those who did not take you up on your most generous offer.
Albert Einstein kept a sign in his office that read: Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. Looking at the first part of that saying, one should consider factors that may not be measurable, but are still significant. And, when considering the second part of that saying, remember that twenty new respondents to your deep-discount promotion might seem like a big win until you consider the potential harm to your credibility.
Unfortunately, the common response to using these kinds of tactics is one of defensiveness. Instead of considering the negative side to using these kinds of gimmicks, the angry reaction typically involves (a) a slap to the hand of the person who dared to even mention the fact that there could be a downside to something like a 95% discount on a new patient chiropractic examination, (b) a round of applause for those respondents who did become patients, and (c) the all-too-familiar, "You’re just a negative person, and what we need now is positive affirmations and positive thoughts."
What’s so funny is that, if you were to sit through a discussion in the conference room of a large marketing/advertising firm (as I have done many hundreds of times since the early 1980’s), one immediate consideration that is brought to the table is, "How can this marketing strategy come back at us?"
There’s no doubt that discounted exams and gimmicks have made many chiropractors very wealthy but, with an average annual salary below $90,000, those strategies haven’t made everyone wealthy. There have always been and will always be takers, regardless of what you do and how you do it. The two questions that should be considered are: (1) Could you have hurt your credibility to the point that it outweighed any short-term gains, and (2) If gimmicks and deep discounts are the key to chiropractic’s proliferation in the marketplace, then why, after all these years, are we still seeing such low numbers?
Finally, I do realize that other healthcare professionals (like some dentists) also use introductory gimmicks to get new patients through the door. The difference is that, right now, today, dental care is not considered an IF by most—but a MUST. Perhaps a different overall approach that boosts our credibility is what’s needed so that chiropractic becomes an automatic MUST, and not an IF.
Dr. Marc Swerdlick is a 1998 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic and is the president of S Group Inc. and PracticeCentral.com—Chicago-based companies that offer marketing strategies and systems to health and wellness professionals, as well as to businesses outside the health and wellness arena. Dr. Swerdlick presents his Pre-Sale Strategy, New Patient Acquisition, and Patient Reinforcement Seminars in conjunction with Integrity Strategies LLC. For more information, go to www.integritystrategies.com or call 1-608- 865-0466.