Effective Networking for Growing A New Chiropractic Practice
Business cards have been printed. Your name is posted on the front door. It’s your first week at your new associateship, or you’ve just opened the doors for your own practice. Where are the patients? Don’t they magically appear? I wish that were the case, but the reality is that chiropractic physicians need to find cost-effective ways to introduce themselves to the community and invite those individuals to begin care with them.
One of the best ways to broadcast your message and build your practice is through networking. For many people, that word brings to mind meetings of business people or the local chamber of commerce. However, networking can occur at any venue, group or event where you can meet and introduce yourself to others within your community. What works for one doctor may be disastrous for another, so it’s important to find a networking solution that works well for you, your practice and personality.
Develop your Mission
Before designing your networking plan, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your practice’s mission, who your ideal patient is and how you are different from your competitors. For instance, my practice’s mission is to keep people active and pain-free. My ideal patients are white-collar, type A professionals between the ages of 30-55 years old who like to run, lift weights or do CrossFit, and live within a 15-minute drive of Bloomingdale.
They are tired of constantly getting hurt and are not only looking to become pain-free but want to improve their fitness and move better for the long run. My practice is different from my competitors, because I’m triple-board certified in sports medicine, rehabilitation, and orthopedics, and have a variety of treatment modalities available, depending on patient needs. Also, I do all of the patient care myself without delegating to rehab CA’s and teach patients how to self-manage for long-term results.
After gaining this clarity about my identity, I can now start searching for events, venues, and groups of other professionals who work with the same demographic in my area. For instance, going to a Chamber of Commerce meeting might be a good place for me to meet other professionals, such as personal trainers/gym owners, park district representatives, other health care professionals or financial planners, who work with high performing professionals and others in my target demographics.
When meeting these people, my goal is not to schedule a patient appointment in my office next week (although that can happen if they have an immediate need), but to learn more about their business and start thinking of introductions I can make to help them or ways we can work together to benefit each other mutually. Having a genuine interest in helping others and getting to know them goes a long way to fostering these relationships.
About six years ago, I attended a Chamber of Commerce meeting, and the topic was businesses working together with non-profits to make a difference in the community. I met a woman who worked with a local non-profit that helped women survivors of domestic violence find housing and supported them for a couple of years as they completed their education and improved their living situations. My contact was so passionate about her cause, I started thinking that her charity might be a good group to partner with on developing a charity as a vehicle to introduce my practice to hundreds of local people within my target patient population.
I mentioned my idea to her, and she was intrigued. We set up a meeting to discuss it, and a fundraising race came to fruition the next Spring. Now five years later, this charity 5k has raised over $45,000 for local charities, has grown to over 500 runners each year and has generated numerous patients in my office, due to their familiarity with our practice and because we treat runners.
The Bigger Opportunity
If I had tried to “hard sell” this woman as a patient in my office, I would have missed the boat on this bigger opportunity that helped not only build my practice but helped several charities in my local community raise needed funds. And, by the way, the woman did become a patient and referred several of her family and friends over the years.
Other avenues for networking can include joining groups, clubs or organizations in your community. For instance, if your practice specializes in pediatrics and you are looking to meet moms of babies and toddlers, you might want to see what local mom meet-up groups are around, attend a LaLeche League meeting, attend a Moms of Preschoolers meeting at the local church (as long as you actually are a mom of a preschooler and ascribe to their religious orientation!), or start going to a fitness class that lots of moms attend with childcare available. Sit down and brainstorm, based on your particular situation.
Get to Know Other Professionals
Getting to know other professionals that work with your target demographic or refer for your type of services (or should be!) can be another networking strategy. These people can include medical doctors, massage therapists, physical therapists, athletic trainers, acupuncturists, personal trainers, athletic coaches and much more. Before meeting with them, you should do your research. Understand their profession, typical referral patterns and what their specialty is. You can find a lot of this information online. Presenting yourself professionally and explaining how you can solve a problem for their practice or their patients/client/athlete is a win-win and will generally result in a long-term referral relationship. Keep your eyes open for other blog posts on the ICS website on this topic!
Given the electronic nature of our social lives, you can also take your networking online. Similar to the ideas presented above, you can find local Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups or follow interesting local professionals on Twitter or Instagram. Networking success online is no different than in person. Make sure you add value to the conversation and become an active participant, not just the annoying person that constantly advertises his or her business. Content and value help your target audience realize that they “fit” your practice, and you’ll be the first person they will think of when they need your services.
There is a saying that people do business with people that they know, like and trust. This is the essence of networking. Don’t be afraid to try new things and monitor your long-term results. Check out books on the subject from the library. Read blogs on networking, even if it’s not specific to chiropractic. Listen to podcasts and bounce ideas off colleagues. There’s probably been someone who has tried it before and can help you avoid recreating the wheel. ICS District mixer events, chiropractic Facebook groups and the hotel bar at the ICS convention can be great spots to meet and chat with other chiropractic physicians who can assist you. Within 6-12 months, you should have a good idea of what will work for your practice.