The Nuts and Bolts of Advertising for the Chiropractic Physician
Unlike most medical doctors, physical therapists and other healthcare professionals, chiropractic physicians are expected to not only to see patients and complete clinical tasks but also need to be actively involved in the process of growing their practice. At the same time, your budget for practice marketing may be slim — which requires you to do a lot of the work yourself. Success in practice can often depend on how well you understand the basic principles of marketing, advertising and copywriting. The more effective your advertising and marketing campaigns, the less it will cost you to acquire a patient, and the more profit you will retain at the end of the month.
Before writing your own ad or even hiring a company to design advertising for your practice, you need to do a little groundwork. Preparation ahead of time can save you thousands of dollars in wasted marketing dollars, as well as keep you out of trouble with the state medical board and Office of Inspector General (OIG). Remember, you are responsible for any materials that your practice publishes to advertise your services — even if you purchase a pre-made template or killer ad.
Before embarking on any marketing effort, you need 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, have a variety of treatment modalities available depending on patient needs, do all of the patient care myself without delegating to rehab CA’s and teach patients how to self-manage for long-term results. Once you have clarity on your target demographic, it makes it much easier to design your ad and also decide how to distribute it to your community.
The next step is to learn about any federal or state regulations about advertising by a health care provider. The Illinois Chiropractic Society is a great resource to help you research existing rules, as well as keep you up to date as new regulations come into effect. They often have convention workshops, webinars, articles and email blasts for members to keep you in compliance with laws that you may have never heard of, but can have drastic consequences if you violate them.
Call to Action
Effective advertising has a clear “call to action” that addresses the “why” your target demographic associates with the service you are offering and brings that message to them in an accessible way, at enough frequency that it drives them to take action. Whew! That’s a lot of different factors at play that can make or break your campaign!
Let’s suppose I’m trying to increase the number of runners that I am treating this summer and am putting together a series of ads to be distributed to local running enthusiasts. I should start the design process by brainstorming all of the ways a runner would benefit from seeing me as a health care provider — the more emotional and basic that I can get, the better. This is called the “why.”
Do they want to finally succeed in finishing a marathon? Are they looking to run faster? Is their training too time-consuming? Are they a beginner and get hurt every time they start a new fitness program? Depending on the scope of your project, you may want to settle on an individual “why,” or several of them.
Once the “why” has been selected, you have to decide what action you want the person to take as they respond to your advertisement. Do you want the individual to pick up the phone to schedule an appointment? Submit his or her email address to receive a free report so that you can follow up later? Register to attend a workshop at your office? The more risk or commitment you require of your prospect, the less likely he or she is to respond to your ad.
For instance, you may only get 2 phone calls to make an appointment if that was your call to action in your ad, but you might get 50 email addresses as the same group of people signed up for your free report. On the flip side, all 50 of those email addresses probably won’t show up as patients in your office — but if you have a structured follow up plan (a/k/a “patient funnel”), you might be able to convert those 50 people into 5 patients, which is a higher number than you would have gained through the direct “call our office” style advertisement. The work involved with properly mining your patient funnel is greater, but if you have a system that is efficient to automate follow up, it might be worth it!
You could have the perfect “why” with a great “call to action,” but if the graphics do not effectively communicate your message, the advertisement will be a flop. Try to use a picture that will grab the attention of the targeted demographic. There are several websites online that offer free stock photos, or you can purchase them inexpensively. You may also want to consider having some professional photos of you treating “patients” at your office. Just make sure you have appropriate model releases signed. When designing the text, double check to make sure it is easy to read and stands out on the page. Less text usually says more, so don’t overdo the written component. Attention spans are only getting shorter, not longer.
Perhaps the most difficult part of advertising campaigns is that you have to display your ad to the target audience five to twelve times before you start seeing results. Make sure you factor this into your marketing budget. For instance, if you want to do some direct mail postcards to your local community, sending one batch of postcards is unlikely to bring you many new patients. You may get a call or two if you are lucky. If you send those postcards out every two months for a year, towards the end of that year, you’ll start seeing a sharp uptick in phone calls. It just takes time, persistence and money to get there.
Even though I tried to pack in lots of information about advertising into this blog article, you probably need to educate yourself further on how to design effective advertising campaigns. Take advantage of your local library, chamber of commerce events, tutorials online or online classes on advertising, copywriting or marketing. Don’t be afraid to learn from those outside of health care or chiropractic. There are many small businesses out there with similar needs to those of your practice, and you can often set yourself apart by trying newer techniques that are not commonly used in chiropractic circles.
Even though every advertising campaign may not be successful, it’s important to stick to your goals and keep refining the process. Within a few years, you will have a good idea about what works and what doesn’t for your community and can improve your return on investment for your marketing dollars.