Chiropractic + Naturopathic Doctor

Features Business Management
Looking Inward – Part 2


June 17, 2009
By Shawn Veltman and Scott Newman

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In part 1, we discussed that during difficult economic times you should be concentrating on strategies that will serve to make your practice come out of the recession even stronger than it was before

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In part 1, we discussed that during difficult economic times you should be concentrating on strategies that will serve to make your practice come out of the recession even stronger than it was before – namely, you should be investing your time and money into the internal aspects of your practice, rather than focusing all your energies on bringing in new patients from the external world.

This is the time to be actively focusing on how to improve your patient retention, and on reactivating patients who have left your practice for various reasons.

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In part 2, we’re going to focus on patient reactivation, because this is an area that will glean immediate and measurable results.

Why patient reactivation works
A person who has been a patient in the past, and comes back, is far more likely to stay longer, be more compliant and see lasting results than a patient who walks in “off the street.”

There are a lot of reasons for this, but the biggest is simply that these patients don’t need to be convinced that chiropractic treatment is right for them. They don’t need to be convinced that you’re going to have their best interest at heart. In fact, since they were previously patients, they know exactly what you can do for them – all you need to do is remind them.

A simple reactivation strategy
Many practice owners will look at a structure, or a strategy, but will decide that it’s either too complicated, too costly, or requires too much effort to use. So, they end up using a strategy that has the same underlying idea, but none of the elements that will make it successful.

(Then, of course, they’ll tell you, “Oh, I tried that once – It didn’t work for me.”)

The key to seeing results is to keep a strategy simple, and to use it consistently. Let’s look at a simple patient reactivation strategy that can be used effectively in practice:

  1. Identify a large subset of patients who have been gone for a significant period of time (say 120 days to three years).
  2. Develop a schedule – a series of times/ways that these patients will be contacted within a fairly short period of time.
  3. This schedule should consist of three or four contact points, organized in such a way that each patient receives each contact at consistent intervals. (For example, if you decide to do a letter with a phone call followup, make sure that there is a consistent delay between letter and phone call for all patients.)
  4. Follow through by making each of the specified contacts on specified days.

You have just created four easy steps to an effective patient reactivation program.

How to waste 90 per cent of your dollars and efforts
Sometimes, when we talk to prospective clients about utilizing systems and strategies, they are adamant that they’ve tried them all, and none of them has worked. They’re “old hands,” they assure us, but their practice is different for many reasons.

When we dig a little deeper, what we almost invariably find is that while they’ve tried to apply the “general idea” that we are suggesting, they missed out on the “little things” that really make it work. (Nowhere is there a better example of this than in the area of marketing to patients – both current and past. They tell us that they have tried all of this “marketing” stuff but insist that it “never works for me”!)

As an example of how a strategy can be tinkered with, thus destroying its effectiveness, let’s look at the patient-reactivation strategy above.

The doctor says, “I want to go through the list by hand, and try to guess which patients will be most likely to respond.”

This diminishes a reactivation strategy in two ways. First, it can dramatically decrease the number of potential respondents. And, as importantly, when you trade an hour of your time to cherry pick a list, it wastes your valuable time. How much is that worth? (Hint: Usually a lot more than you think it is.)

Alternatively, the DC may say, “You want me to get in touch with them four times over five weeks? No way! We can do the same thing getting in touch with them twice, and it’ll save money and effort.”

Reactivation strategies recommend sequenced marketing for one reason – because it works. Trying to “save money” by cutting costs here, will cost you more in the long run.

Then there’s “That scheduling sounds complicated. What I’ll do instead, is just mail off everything on day one, then have my staff follow up when they can.”

This is another favourite tactic by many practice owners. The problem, of course, is that it completely destroys the proven benefits of sequenced marketing.

Consider the following: the original strategy dictates that the past patient receives a personal letter, then a phone call followup three days after they’ve received the letter. The “cost cutting” structure has over 200 letters go out, then phone call followup whenever. Because your support staff is busy with your practice, weeks, or sometimes months, may pass, after the initial contact, before the follow-up phone call is made.

That’s no longer a sequence – that’s no longer really marketing. And that can prove more costly, for you, in the long run.

The easiest way to waste your marketing dollars is to take a strategy, or campaign, that has been proven to work, and “fix” it. Of course, we’re not suggesting that you blindly follow every Pied Piper who tells you that he’ll bring back your patients and make you rich while you sleep. What we are actually suggesting is that you keep two things very clearly in mind when deciding on a strategy to use:

Be very wary of the temptation to examine only the up-front cost of any strategy. Instead, be sure to look at it from a return-on-investment point of view.

Be aware of the purpose of each part of the strategy, when you evaluate whether changing or removing it will give you better or worse results, over the course of the strategy.

In an economic climate that ensures new patients will be even more cautious, even more skeptical, and even more wary of spending money than they would otherwise be, it may benefit DCs to examine their practice internally, rather than focusing on returns from external sources.


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