Thanks to Today's Chiropractic for permission to reproduce this article!
By Ivan Delman, D.C.
When comedienne Joan Rivers
would get angry with someone, She was known to stick her hand in his face and
holler, “Talk to the hand. My ears aren’t listening!”
Believe it or not, there’s
a tie-in between that statement and the way you market your services. I’m
referring to the difference between marketing to everyone’s ears or picking
a more focused area like a hand. The focused emphasis on directing your chiropractic
services to a specific area is called niche marketing.
There are many books and
articles available on niche marketing. Niche marketing has been called “target
marketing,” “segmental marketing” and similar terms. They
follow similar themes and rules, but all agree on the starting point: Plan your
marketing strategy before you start expending too much of your time or money.
Please note that the key
word here is “plan.” The small amount of time you will spend to
plan your approach will save you huge losses further down the road. You may
have a photographic memory but your lens cap is still on if you get involved
in niche marketing without that four-letter word, plan.
Before you start planning,
you should have an idea of what part of your community you’ll want to
provide your services.
Discovering Your Niche
niche sometimes just happens. For example, when I was in practice, I also was
active in racing cars on road courses. Since I knew the physical stress a race
car driver and even members of his pit crew undergo when participating in that
sport, it was natural to offer my services to that market.
I wanted to make it easy
for the people in my niche to get familiar with my chiropractic services. One
of the things I did was to bring a portable adjusting table to the races. I
also had a sign in my pits which stated, “Free chiropractic consultation
to race car drivers.” The drivers visited between races, bringing along
members of their crew, which was usually comprised of family members. The driver’s
crew watched while I administered palliative treatments to the driver.
Usually, the minimal work
I performed on them afforded some relief so they would ask about follow-up treatment.
If my office was handy for them, we’d make an appointment. If not, I referred
them to someone I knew in their area. In either case, I was able to introduce
chiropractic to a specific niche.
I also had my practice name
on the side of my car and our clinic name was on cars we sponsored both at our
road course races and at my local circle track.
I also addressed two other
niche markets: city workers in the sanitation and maintenance areas, and the
police department. I hardly need to tell you that they each required a slightly
different approach. Nonetheless, between those three segments and the spin-off
from non-targeted patients, our office stayed busy.
While I went with the auto
racing industry and city workers, your choices are sure to be personalized.
If you’re involved in other sports or have a desire to work with children,
or have experience in an interesting segment of your community, then that’s
where you go. They could use the good services of a dedicated chiropractor.
The key is not to try to
be a renaissance chiropractor that is cutting across market segments and attempting
to treat the entire population of Earth. That course of action reminds me of
the bumper sticker I once read which said, “Forget world peace! Visualize
using your turn signal!” In other words, address the “today”
of your practice, not the “someday,” and focus your efforts to work
well in our real world.
It’s very difficult
to accomplish your mission by embracing the entire universe. The streets are
littered with the wrecked practices of chiropractors that have failed in their
attempts to deliver their services to an excessively wide-ranging area. In the
end, their services were so diluted, their efforts contributed very little to
influencing the health of their communities.
Try an experiment. Take
a pencil and firmly press the eraser end into the palm of your hand. Then, turn
that pencil around and firmly press the lead tip into the palm of your hand.
As you can see, the smaller the area, the more intense the focus of pressure.
If you pressed hard enough, that point would penetrate your skin.
Think of your hand as the
market and the pencil as your marketing efforts. Your efforts are either scattered,
like the eraser end of your pencil, or they’re focused like the lead end.
It’s that simple.
Evaluating Your Market
identify the niche market that you want to serve, it’s wise to check out
the stability and potential of that market before you start going full speed
ahead and commit your resources to a declining or poor market. Therefore, before
you hastily decide to jump off the niche cliff without checking your parachute,
you should do a marketing evaluation.
The Small Business Administration has marketing plans available that are excellent. You can also use a chiropractic
adaptation of the SBA marketing plan by downloading the free Chiropractic Marketing Guide located
in the Chiro-Biz archives. (see businessofchiropractic.com.)
Both Sides Now
Look at both sides of your information. As you work your way through the marketing
evaluation, one of the items you’ll want to check out is how many other
chiropractors are serving the same niche. As an example, if you are planning
on locating a new practice to serve the agricultural workers in the Philippines,
that’s great. That’s because your evaluation revealed there are
no chiropractic providers anywhere in that area. If it’s a wide open market,
though, you need to take the time to ask yourself, “Why is that market
If your plan includes opening
your office on the lava slopes of Mount Pinatubo, an active volcano, perhaps
you should look for the reason no one has been serving that segment of the agricultural
population. Obviously, in this case, long-term plans for establishing a thriving
chiropractic practice would be unrealistic. The point is to look at both sides
of your information and keep asking yourself, “What does this mean?”
Since few of us have unlimited
resources, when your evaluation reveals that you have discovered an excellent
niche market for your services, make certain that the size of that niche is
large enough to support your anticipated practice growth. On the other side
of that information coin, make sure that your intended niche is not so large
as to use up all your financial and physical resources during the process of
establishing yourself in that market segment.
Therefore, to conserve your
resources and make them as effective as possible, we should firmly focus them,
like that pencil tip, on a small spot. That will allow us to more easily penetrate
our selected market.
Steps to simplicity
When you decide to develop a niche practice, you’re going
to need to follow a simple serious of steps to make that journey easier.
First off, identify
your target segment.
No, this is not exactly a ground-shaking idea, but believe it or not, I’ve
met more than enough doctors who were not specific enough. The result was
that they had to work twice as hard to get the ball rolling. Instead of targeting
“factory workers of the East Coast,” why not start with targeting
“factory workers in your town?” Even better, consider targeting
“The factory workers at ABC Corporation in your town.” The grammar
is poor but the idea works. It’s much easier to penetrate a market when
you have a working knowledge of that market or a target segment that’s
small enough that you can quickly gain a working knowledge of that market.
Mark your geographic
area. When you start writing down the profile of your proposed niche,
make certain you take a careful look at the physical size of the intended
area. The typical chiropractic marketing area is three to six miles, though
it can sometimes be larger depending on your specialty. Remember: it has to
be large enough to support your planned practice size and not consume all
of your financial and physical resources as you attempt to provide service
to that area. The drain on your resources while trying to properly cover a
large area would include such items as advertising, long drive times, signage,
extra staff, longer hours and the wear and tear on your own energies.
List the steps
you feel will be necessary to adequately provide chiropractic services within
your proposed niche market.
If these steps are not in line with your practice mission, then you may want
to re-evaluate your plans. For example, if you decide to target chiropractic
services toward all the baseball teams in your area then you will be busy
both in and out of your office. You’ll want to be visiting team workouts
and games for observation, treatment follow up, holding injury prevention
clinics and physicals. A baseball-oriented practice might be in conflict, for example, with a practice
devoted to pediatric care. If this looks like it is the case, you might want
to re-evaluate your proposed market niche to find a more compatible niche.
going after a niche market, it very much helps if you understand how it works
and can speak the language of the patients in that market segment.
Expanding upon the baseball example, if you’re going to offer your services
to the team, it’s going to be incredibly helpful if you knew something
about the game. It’s good for not only the social rapport with your
patients, but also to understand the biomechanical stresses of the game. If
you are lacking in some aspect needed to properly develop that niche, see
if additional training, obtaining experience or hiring staff experienced in
that niche would place you in a better position to proceed.
Last, and absolutely
not least, please take the time to go over your marketing plan.
When you finish, it will clearly spell out whether or not you are in a good
position to proceed with your plans for developing a chiropractic niche practice.
If it indicates otherwise, taking time to do the marketing evaluation will
save you a lot of time money and wasted effort.
Whatever you decide, my
advice for you is to simply make a decision. Niche marketing is an important
aspect of any company’s success whether they are local or international.
Don’t be a procrastinator who says, “If at first I don’t succeed,
there’s always next year.” That’s not a likely scenario. Next
year, someone else will be providing similar services to a niche you should
have owned. You really need to start today.
Dr. Ivan Delman is the author of The Business of Chiropractic:
How to Prosper After Startup, which is now in its second edition. He is also
the author of numerous articles on how to more easily and profitably manage
a chiropractic practice. To learn more, visit his website at businessofchiropractic.com.
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