As health professionals, we are eager to provide the best care possible for our patients.
As health professionals, we are eager to provide the best care possible for our patients. As businesses, we need to find ways to let patients know we exist. The majority of patients visit a chiropractor when they need treatment from pain. This could stem from a motor vehicle accident, a workplace injury, day-to-day strains, sports-related injuries or chronic pain. When people are looking for a health service, typically they will ask a family member or a friend. Why is this so crucial to our industry? Our industry is based on service. If we provide a quality, effective service, and get positive results, people will tell others about it. That is the highest level of promotion we can ask for.
Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with New York Times bestselling author Andy Sernovitz, who wrote Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking. If you’ve ever wondered how some chiropractors become huge successes without a penny of promotion, or why some multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns fail to get noticed, this book may provide that “aha! moment” that you’ve been looking for.
When we spoke, Andy walked me through exactly how companies and causes of all sizes create passionate, loyal fans who, essentially, do their marketing for them.
Hook on to the New Love
Dr. Lombardi: In your book, you discuss how a brand new customer, versus a longtime customer, is much more likely to tell others about you. I totally agree with this. In fact, I find that I receive half of my new patients from patients who have been to see me three times or less. I make a conscious effort to provide significant improvement from the first visit, and this seems to stimulate more referrals. Why do you think that is?
Andy Sernovitz: The challenge we face is that our biggest fans are often used to us. It doesn’t occur to them to suddenly start talking about a service that they’ve been using for years.
Think about it this way: you don’t wake up one day and say, “Wow! My dishwasher still works after three years. I’d better go write a review.” But the opposite happens every day – the tiniest, bad thing happens, and you jump out of your seat to complain.
So, one of the jobs of a word-of-mouth marketer is to take advantage of that new love and enthusiasm from a brand new customer who is eager to share the excitement of working with you.
The following are the two things to pay attention to:
- The new-customer experience – you’d better make sure those new customers get their minds blown, because they’re the ones most likely to talk about you; and
- You’ll want to come up with a regular plan to occasionally ask your longtime customers to spread some word of mouth about you. They’ll be happy to support you, you just need to remind them and let them know it would mean a lot to you.
Andy’s answers make me aware of the ways in which I’ve already been implementing his strategy in my practice. Customizing and perfecting my own assessment approach allows me to recognize a patient’s dysfunction within minutes. As a result, I am able to spend more time focusing specifically on treatment during our first visit. As a result, the patient feels significantly better after one treatment, which as Andy says, “blows their mind,” and showcases how I can help. From this point forward, they provide positive feedback about their visit and treatment.
Don’t forget your old friends
The second item Andy brings to our attention is to simply remind established patients that you are still accepting new patients. I also make it a point to thank patients for all the kind referrals they have sent in the past. I’d like to think that my patients may become more aware of how much I value their referrals and hope that they continue to offer them. This makes them more likely to recognize opportunities to tell others about me.
Dr. L: You write about three reasons people talk about you: they like you; they like your product/service and the fact that they found it; and they enjoy being part of something bigger that motivates them to tell others. In my practice, I make it a point to include my patients in helping to promote our services. For example, I had new business cards designed. At the end of each treatment I told my patients about the new business cards and asked them to pass a few out to their friends or to use them as bookmarks. Each of those patients referred at least one new patient within the next two weeks.
What are your thoughts on this approach and what is the mechanism for its success?
AS: This is a great, simple idea that a lot of businesses could implement. You’ve clearly started with the foundation: a service worth recommending. Without that, the most amazing business card in the world wouldn’t earn you a referral.
In this instance, people are talking about you for the first two reasons:
- They like you and your stuff; and
- They like to feel smart – they want to help friends by sending them your way.
Your business cards are making it easier for these conversations to take place – they’re what we would call “a word-of-mouth tool.”
And the best part? You’ve incorporated the “multiplier effect.” One business card would be quietly saved in a drawer somewhere. But by giving them a whole bunch, you’re making it really easy for your fans to share them.
The same thinking is why when you walk into a skin-care or department store, you’ll leave with multiple samples of the same product. One sample would be used by one person (you), but giving away a handful means you are walking out of the store and handing them to friends.
Dr. L: In your opinion, what is the most common reason people who like your product or service do not talk about you? And how can we change that?
AS: The single most common reason people don’t talk about a product or business is because it is not worth talking about.
Even “good” products aren’t good enough anymore. To earn word of mouth, you have to truly make something great, deliver an incredible service, and take fantastic care of your customers. Even when you offer great products and services, you’re not done! That just gets you a seat at the table. To get them talking, you need to do something special, surprising, amazing, unexpected or thrilling.
A great example is Chicago’s Delaware Dental. Great service, great people – all that good stuff. But there are a lot of great dentists in Chicago.
What gets people talking about them? Their office is decorated in funky, modern colours. It feels more like a lounge than a dentist office. And instead of some terrible elevator music, they ask you to list your favourite tunes on your patient forms – and they play them for you when you’re in the office.
The second most common reason people don’t spread word of mouth – even after doing all this amazing stuff?
We forget to ask.
We create an incredible product. We deliver amazing service. We absolutely thrill the customer. But we forget to add that little link at the bottom of the e-mail that says, “Please leave a review here.” And we forget to remind them to bring a friend next time. And we forget to say, “Please share this” on everything we give them.
It really is that simple. Just ask. Your happy customers would love to help.
Andy’s book can be found on Amazon.ca and in any major bookstore. He can be contacted on Twitter @sernovitz.
Dr. Anthony Lombardi is a private consultant to athletes in the NFL, CFL and NHL, and founder of Hamilton Back Clinic, a multidisciplinary clinic. He teaches his fundamental EXSTORE Assessment System and practice building workshops to various health professionals. For more information, visit www.hamiltonbackclinic.com.
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