By Jim Gemmell
Printed in American Chiropractor, September 2010
The next time you’re stuck at a traffic light, here’s an interesting (if not disturbing) way to pass a few minutes: Count how many times the names “Toyota” and “Honda” go cruisin’ by compared to the iconic brands that once proudly adorned the tailgates of our father’s family wagons. It’s a staggering exercise, really. Then watch how many Hyundais, Nissans, Mazdas, and Subarus, along with a host of German imports, you can count between the occasional Ford and Chevy. A trans-pacific boatload.
Now, I’m all about the free market and as far as I’m concerned, “may the best car-maker win” but, really (and literally)…what in the world has happened here? Did marketing gurus abroad cast the ultimate advertising spell on American consumers sending them thronging to foreign car dealerships like Stepford zombies chanting, “I must have a Honda.”…I can’t cope without a Camry.”? No. While there’s been plenty of skillful marketing on both sides of the equation, the ultimate secret to import success can be boiled down to just one word: QUALITY—plain and simple. Here’s what happened: over the course of 40 or so years, Americans were won…one sturdy little Corolla at a time.
The good news is that Detroit seems to have finally gotten that message but there’s a huge lesson here for any would-be entrepreneur or practitioner; Bold claims and slick marketing techniques are ultimately not helpful if they’re not backed up with real-time results. In fact, “claims without value” is a sure recipe for disaster for any business or practice and the quickest way to lose long-term loyalty and future prosperity. On the other hand, providing quality and delivering a product or service with real value to real people…there is simply no better long-term marketing strategy than this.
My point is really pretty simple and maybe too obvious to take the better part of a page to make. Or is it? A quick flip through any Chiropractic magazine these days (including this one!) will bring you into contact with a myriad of products, services and programs aimed at helping your practice grow and prosper. Many of these are solid offerings and even include detailed support strategies and proven marketing plans designed to lead doctors to the promised land of patient retention, client referral and financial success. All well and good. But here’s the bottom line which is sometimes lost in in the euphoria of a well-designed battle plan: Whatever marketing strategy you choose for bringing more people through the door, make sure it actually delivers real value to your patients when they show up. This is critical and cannot be overemphasized. Will the nutritional products or smarter practice management, or better patient protocols or decompression therapy…will these and many others actually make a positive difference in your patient’s life? Maybe not the same day or to the same degree but sooner or later they absolutely must deliver for any lasting practice value to be recognized. In fact, without take-home value, marketing can actually be a negative for your practice and even down-right dangerous. We all know what happened to the boy who cried wolf, right? His marketing plan worked beautifully; it really brought the villagers out in hordes…or, at least at first.
Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not against marketing—quite the contrary (just read my byline!). Marketing is not only a good thing; it’s a necessity. And a well-conceived marketing effort that also delivers real-world value to your patients is like dynamite with untold potential for explosive practice growth.
So market on. Market big. Market strong. But when the villagers come out, give them something of substance; no smoke and mirrors, deliver on your promises. If you market real value to them, you’ll get real value in return—both in the short term and the long.
Jim Gemmell is the Director of Marketing for Hill Laboratories Company, 4th Generation manufacturers of chiropractic tables and therapy products. Jim can be reached toll-free at 1-877-445-5020