A Question For Practice Building


Do your practice members, who refer people to you, usually send people with musculoskeletal problems? If so, why?

I think that people tend to refer those with musculoskeletal problems to our office more than for any other type of problem. Excluding those referrals who are members of the immediate family of a new practice member, we all have to admit that the majority of people being referred are those with bad backs, stiff necks ad other structural problems. If they are not, you’re probably not getting enough referrals or seeing enough new people. But that’s an altogether different problem. Why do people bring in their spouses and children for maintenance care but rarely refer friends and acquaintances for maintenance care? I would like to suggest that there are a number of reasons for this phenomenon.

First, we have moved away from the idea that chiropractic has the answer to all of man’s ills. While this is good, it leaves us with a very nebulous niche to fill in society. Generally, people are no longer going to chiropractors to have their ulcers, allergies, sinus troubles, or other ailments cured. That is because we are (correctly) not promoting that type of care. Most chiropractors (again correctly) do not see chiropractic as a cure-all. That has caused us to allow society to do much of our marketing. Consequently, cartoonists, stand-up comedians, yellow page ads and other marketing tools have placed us in the bad backs/stiff neck category. If you open up a yellow page ad, that’s mostly what you see, so we really cannot blame others for creating our musculoskeletal identity. We have given them that image.

Second, most chiropractors have readily jumped into filling that niche, despite the fact that in doing so we are in competition with the physical therapists, medical doctors, osteopaths, massage therapists and everyone else treating those conditions. The general public sees us as back doctors and we have done little to change that image.

There’s a third reason why chiropractors tend to have people coming to them with primarily musculoskeletal problems. It’s not even that we personally promote those kinds of practice members. Most straight chiropractos do not consciously try to attract those kind of people. It’s that our practice members find that they are the easiest people to get into the office! It’s easy for a practice member to get people with musculoskeletal problems into the office because the average person probably already thinks that chiropractors help people with those problems. Your practice member does not have to explain chiropractic to them. The primary issue is that too many practice members are not able to explain chiropractic to their friends so they only tell those who have a problem that does not take much “selling”…someone who does not need much of an explanation or any explanation to be convinced to see a chiropractor. They just have to know that there is one, recommended by someone whose opinion they respect.

Should we start promoting ourselves as helping high blood pressure, constipation and other ailments or perhaps substitute the eight internal problems for eight musculoskeletal problems? That would only replace one bad marketing program with another. It wouldn’t solve the problem of getting everyone under lifetime regular chiropractic care to be the best expression of life that they can be. Our desire should be to see our offices full of healthier people. We must develop a continuous and coordinated education program. It must be one that motivates practice members to refer others in for the right reasons. Not to get rid of their back pain or any other medical problem but to enable them to be a better expression of the inborn wisdom of their body. Chiropractic is a logical and simple philosophy of life. It made enough sense to all of us. So why are we not explaining it to people in a manner that makes it easy for them to share it with their friends and motivates them to do that even for those friends who don’t have a musculoskeletal problem.

If people truly understand what it is to be a better expression of their innate intelligence, what their increased potential might allow them to accomplish, and why it is important whether you have every medical condition known to man or none, more people might be interested in our approach to chiropractic. We need to teach our practice members that idea and teach them how to share it with their friends.

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This article has 21 comments

  1. Bob Vano, DC 09/28/2011, 7:43 pm:

    I will admit that my education process can be greatly improved in my office. Thanks for the reminder today.

    If I could get them to understand ii instead of having their spine check for the better expression of ii, —————— does that make sense?…………………………..anyway, ……………talking out loud here……………if they “get” ii, then maybe they’ll “get” chiropractic and stop relating things to their back, neck, etc.

    • JStraussDC 09/28/2011, 8:36 pm:

      That’s a good point Bob, but if they relate it to their headaches, constipation, high blood pressure, indigestion, etc., they still haven’t got it. That’s probably the difference between OSC and traditional chiropractic. TC is stiil relating back to the cause of all disease. Thanks.

      • Bob Vano, DC 09/28/2011, 11:56 pm:

        Understood – and agreed —- didn’t want to imply symptoms had anything to do with it. It’s just that the vast majority of people think like you described above and relate chiropractic to symptoms (I don’t agree at all with their thought process) and feel that if only they could understand ii, that chiropractic could have a whole new meaning for them, regardless of symptoms.

  2. Claudelessard@comcast.net 09/28/2011, 8:31 pm:

    For the life of me, how can we expect to educate people about having a full expression of the innate intelligence of the body and having them beat down our doors, when most chiropractic graduates of the last 100 years did not get it? And they had years of it at ADIO and Sherman?

    Perhaps, it’s time to have a long loving look at our educational system, including in our office. Could it be that it’s not WHAT we have to say?
    Could it be that it’s HOW people, TODAY, absorbed knowledge and learn? Could it be that education based on the past is not effective any more? Thoughts anyone?

    • JStraussDC 09/28/2011, 8:50 pm:

      In teaching the history of healing at PCSC, Claude, I learned that in the early ages they bored a hole in the head to let out the “bad”, what about boring a hole in the head and pouring good ADIO information in? Hmm….might be a little too ouside-in? I’ll keep thinking.

      • Claudelessard@comcast.net 09/28/2011, 8:59 pm:

        Sometimes what we know gets in the way of what we need to learn.

      • Claudelessard@comcast.net 09/28/2011, 9:13 pm:

        Yes, it’s definitely too outside-in. At least you’re thinking!
        How about the input of someone else?

    • Bob Vano, DC 09/28/2011, 11:23 pm:

      That’s a great idea, Claude! People and the way they think are different today than even just 5 years ago.

  3. Robert Pull DC 09/28/2011, 9:36 pm:

    It is hard enough to get our practice members to understand chiropractic (OSC) much less teaching them to communicate that to others, and I don’t see a lot of quality marketing materials to that end. Real chiropractic is like marketing a Mercedes Benz. People don’t need a MB when a VW will do, but most need a car. Maybe we should learn from MB. Besides much of the marketing for chiro now is well for a VW, because you need a car. Ok maybe that a poor analogy but it was what came to mind.

    • JStraussDC 09/29/2011, 4:01 pm:

      Robert, I’m not sure I understand the MB/VW analogy. But your first point is important. If practice members “understand chiropractic (OSC)” and it becomes a part of them, communicating it will be second nature to them as it is to you and me. “(T)eaching them to communicate that to others” will not be necessary. Marketing materials, are not necessary but in-office educational materials are. COTB has some but each of us needs to create our own for our PMs use. Good discussion. Thanks.

  4. Steve 09/30/2011, 9:57 pm:

    I don’t mean to jump in late and I’m not the first to suggest it, but it may be the title. People think of Dr as a physical healer. To most Dr’s and lay people, Dr and physician ( one who treats the physical body ) are the same thing. Does any one know how Chiro’s in countries like England ( where they do not use the title Dr) do? Do the straight Chiros there see a different type of patient or PM? I’ve always been curious as to why, if you wont call them patients why do you call yourself a doctor. Shouldn’t practice members have a “practice director or manager”? I have always been proud to call myself a Chiropractor but Dr no longer has the trust, authority or high regard that it did in the past. Should we change our moniker to Innate facilitator, Force assistance coordinator, intelligence promoter or as the other guys like to refer to us as “Innateists”. How about …LIFE ENABLER

    • JStraussDC 10/01/2011, 2:17 pm:

      I like to think that those who “jump in late” usually have given more thought to the subject. My Pms call me anything they want and I tell them I don’t care. What is important to me is not what they call me but that they understand what I do, not what they are called but what they are in my office for. I use to think those titles were important (not using dr. or pt. I’m not sure anymore whether those terms make a whole lot of difference in a person getting the big idea. Rather than asking chiros in England, I think it would be more helpful to get a spinologist thoughts or better yet someone who has been both (spinologist and chiropractor). Does it really make a difference in the person’s understanding….Tom?

    • Bob Vano, DC 10/01/2011, 3:04 pm:

      My patients call me “Bob”, or “Dr. V” or “Dr. Vano” — I think it is done moreso out of respect knowing I went to school longer than a lot of people. I make it very clear that I am not a medical doctor and do not do medical things. I’m cool with anything that makes them feel comfortable with me. The name of my office is Doctor V Chiropractic Center — mainly because at the time, I wanted people to see a difference just by my name and give them an impression that something is different with my office. It’s also an easier way for name recognition – people referring to seeing “Doctor V”. I don’t think it matters either way. However, I do think people make their own assumptions about doctors and have expectations —- that’s why we need to be clear about what we do.

      • Tom 10/01/2011, 3:13 pm:

        Of course you have “patients” you mixer!! 😉

      • Bob Vano, DC 10/01/2011, 3:14 pm:

        Correction – to be more clear —- I really never call my people “patients” like I just noticed I did, above. I am racing Tom right now to post this correction – dammit – I think he might have beet me………

        • Tom 10/01/2011, 3:16 pm:

          And don’t call me a beet!!! 🙂

        • Bob Vano, DC 10/01/2011, 3:16 pm:

          correction – he was too fast…..”beat” – and I mis-typed

  5. Bob Vano, DC 10/01/2011, 3:17 pm:

    Next – time….I won’t call you Tom, before I make the corrections. 🙂

  6. Tom 10/03/2011, 3:35 pm:

    As a spinologist there were no options to call ourselves anything but a spinologist. During the orientation it was made clear that we were not doctors, not in the health field, did not diagnose, treat, cure, any disease or illness or give any advice about the same. Yes, initially we had people come to us for the “wrong” reason, but that was no one’s fault as no one knew what a spinologist was or did. I believe that by laying out what we did and did not do at the very start made it easier for both the spinologist and recipient. No confusion in objectives lead to no disappointments on either part. Occasionally someone would mistakenly refer to me as doctor but I was quick to correct them and once again point out what it was that I did and didn’t do. So as a spinologist we were able to be very clear what we did and didn’t do as every other spinologist did the same thing (or at least were supposed to be doing the same thing), and also there weren’t many spinologists out there (so there were no concrete preconcieved notions about what it was I did), a positive and a negative at times.

    Exit spinology, enter chiropractic. I practiced identically as when I was a spinologist. I had a sign by the front door that read, “Please leave titles and egos at the front door”. I was never big on the title doctor and preferred my people call me by my first name. In chiropractic I didn’t have the luxury of someone coming in with no preconcieved notions of what I did, so I did have more of a challenge in getting them to understand what I did and did not do in my office. Again, that began with a rock solid orientation (thank you Joe S, Joe D, Reggie, Jim Healey and Anthony Tremain for being such great communicators and teachers of this message). Whatever message you set at the start is what the practice member will carry with them through out their stay with you. Yes, there may be an occasional slip up but because that foundation was layed at the start it was much easier to steer them back on the right path. Joe Strauss did a talk on the 3 C’s of success in chiropractic: commitment, consistency and communication (See Higher Ground for the complete transcript of his talk). The more ducks we have in a row, the easier the job we will have in getting this message of non therapeutic chiropractic out to the people and have them understand it. Anything that sends a mixed message needs to go.

    Steve, you’re looking for a new moniker…how about Objective Straight Chiropractor. I have yet to have someone read that on my card without saying, What is that? As opposed to what most do/say when you tell them you’re a chiropractor: I’m glad I don’t need you, or grab their neck or low back and say I’ve been looking for or needing one of you guys, or, I don’t believe in you guys, etc. Try it the next time someone asks you what you do. It amazingly opens the door for more communication. Then you just have to reinforce it with all that you do and communicate in your office.

    • JStraussDC 10/03/2011, 3:55 pm:

      Thank you Tom. I’m sure that answers a number of readers’ questions.

  7. Tom 09/13/2013, 10:27 pm:

    Worth revisiting!

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