To effectively promote your chiropractic business, there are multiple factors to consider:
- A brief history of chiropractic from Hippocrates to today
- The 2020s Chiropractic Market: what does the future hold?
- Marketing the chiropractic profession: What do people think about chiropractic care?
- Marketing your chiropractic business: the road to ultimate success
A brief history of chiropractic from Hippocrates to today
According to a brief history by Pettman (2007),6 we can track the first documented evidence of chiropractic practice back to 400 BC, when the well-known Greek philosopher and medic Hippocrates used spinal manipulation and the force of gravity to treat scoliosis. Other undocumented evidence suggests that musculoskeletal manipulations were practiced by various cultures worldwide.
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, medical science and surgery were undergoing rapid growth and development. Although so-called “bone setters” were generally popular among common folk, most physicians at that time were reluctant to recognize the benefits of chiropractic care. Yet despite the uncertainty and lack of acceptance by the medical community, lone practitioners still managed to practice manual healing and conduct research, and some were even respected and adored by the public.
During the Crimean war of 1854-1856, chiropractic care, along with osteopathy, massage therapy, and physical therapy, served as rehabilitative treatment for injured soldiers.6
In 1895, Daniel David Palmer improved a patient’s hearing by manipulating the spinal vertebra. After his success, Palmer renamed the science of bone setting, calling it chiropractic from the Greek “cheiros” (hand) and “praktos” (done by). In 1897, Palmer opened the Palmer College of Cure in Davenport, Iowa, making the US the true cradle of chiropractic care.
Today, modern chiropractic is a well-established and licensed profession, and chiropractic students must complete a rigorous education to earn the title of Doctor of Chiropractic (DC).
The 2020s Chiropractic Market: what does the future hold?
According to Grand View Research, the market for chiropractic services from 2018 – 2025 is expected to grow from 12.26 billion to 17.93 billion, at a CAGR of 4.32%. Projections for steady growth arise from more patients seeking chiropractic care for neck and back issues. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, the employment prospects for chiropractors will increase by 4% from 2019 – 2029, which is the average rate for most professions.
Why do people seek chiropractic treatment today? According to both Grand View Research and the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the prime reasons people visit a chiropractor are:
- A desire for holistic alternatives to traditional healthcare
- Increased acceptance of chiropractic care and increased referrals from physicians and other practitioners.
- Aging populations are seeking care for musculoskeletal conditions
- Most insurance plans offer coverage for chiropractic treatment
- Patients are looking for non-surgical solutions to chronic health conditions
- Patients are demanding alternatives to addictive prescription pain medications
- Patients save money by combining various modalities such as massage therapy with other chiropractic treatments and diagnostics
- Chiropractic services are now available through Veterans Affairs, federal workers compensation, and Medicaid
- Chiropractic treatment is effective for restoring balance and vestibular function, fall prevention, and pain reduction
Marketing the chiropractic profession: What do people think about chiropractic care?
For marketing purposes, it is crucial to understand what people think about the industry in general, taking into account such factors as:
- current popularity of the area of interest
- buyer persona profile
- overall perception and trust of the industry
- reasons for seeking services
- likelihood and frequency of visits
For a better understanding of US public opinion about the chiropractic industry, a national survey was conducted in 2015 by Weeks et al.9 Researches randomly selected over 60,000 people from the Gallup Panel, and 5,422 adults completed the questionnaire. To ensure accurate results, participants were not informed ahead of time that the study was about chiropractic care. The findings of the study revealed that:
- 61.4% of people thought chiropractic was effective in treating back and neck pain
- 52.6% thought that most DCs were trustworthy
- 69.6% had good knowledge about what DCs do
- 43.6% thought that chiropractic care required too many visits
- 42.7% considered it expensive
- 24.2% thought that chiropractic care was dangerous
Concerning the frequency and recency of DC visits and the overall demographics, results showed the following:
- 13.7% of all respondents had seen a DC over the past 12 months
- 12.0% had visited a chiropractor within the past 5 years
- 49.4% stated they had never been to a chiropractor
- 26% declared a DC to be their number one choice for treatment of back and neck pain
- the most frequent users were white women, married, and employed
Further research suggested that:
- Frequent users (12 month – 5 year period) will choose chiropractic services again.
- Distant users (5 years+) are unlikely to come back for treatment.
- Frequent users knew that their insurance covered chiropractic services.
- 40.8% of recent users would use chiropractic only for back and neck treatment
- 9.5% preferred a DC as their primary care provider to discuss health issues
- 21.4% were eager to talk to a chiropractor about their overall health and wellness
- 46.3% would visit a DC more frequently if it cost less
Generally, the study showed a positive correlation between high-likelihood visitors and positive impressions. People who had more experience with chiropractic treatment also had more knowledge about the profession itself.9
Marketing your chiropractic business: the road to ultimate success
Every year new businesses emerge on the market, intensifying competition for established companies. Most companies hire marketing agencies to promote their services, and chiropractic clinics are no exception. Today every chiropractic clinic requires some form of marketing, even if business is steady. You may have a great word-of-mouth reputation or a lot of walk-in traffic because of your superb location. Still, any clinic can benefit from a media marketing campaign to establish an online brand presence and achieve operational excellence.
When marketing a chiropractic business, the process is always twofold – success relies partly on the ability of business owners to make their practice unique and appealing to the public. The rest is up to the marketing team’s ability to apply the best marketing tactics and strategies to promote the client’s business.
What can chiropractors do to establish a better presence and improve public opinion about the profession? According to an article by Walker (2016),8 the chiropractic profession should embrace new standards:
- Improvement of education
- Establishment of identity
- Development of specialized areas of expertise
- Maintenance of professionalism at all levels
- Promotion of chiropractic as a pro-public health advocate
- Involvement in legitimate organizations
- Improvement of clinical practices
- Following evidence-based practices
- Implementation of new research
- Promotion of leadership
Improvement of education – chiropractic should be taught in universities that offer students quality and evidence-based experience with an emphasis on research. Accreditation of colleges that promote outdated and questionable subluxation techniques should be subject to review. Students will benefit from hospital-based education, where they can observe patients with severe conditions and learn about those illnesses. Hospitals also provide a good venue for developing communication skills and forging future partnerships.
Establishment of identity – DCs should focus solely on treating musculoskeletal conditions, with a predominant emphasis on the spine.
Development of specialized interest and areas of expertise – DCs should focus on a specific area of interest. For example, gait improvement, bone density treatment, or elder care. All specialized areas should be research-based, with proven positive therapeutic outcomes. Defined areas of expertise will gain public interest and trust in the field.
Maintenance of professionalism at all levels – all DCs should adhere to the profession’s best practices and be intolerant of aberrant procedures such as anti-vaccination propaganda, anti-physiotherapy, ideology of innate intelligence and vitalism, and more.
Chiropractic as a pro-public health advocate – DCs should join public health associations to promote health and disease prevention by supporting treatments of musculoskeletal disorders, fall prevention, healthy aging, and ergonomic furniture design.
Involvement in legitimate organizations – DCs should involve themselves only with ethical organizations and make positive contributions to them. As a beneficiary of such organizations, chiropractic clinics should only advertise evidence-based services.
Improvement of clinical practice – chiropractic practitioners should seek to improve evidence-based practice by employing safe techniques, using improved diagnostics, improving communication skills, and replacing outdated methods with better alternatives.
Following the evidence-based practice – not only should chiropractors follow evidence-based practices, but they should also be able to understand and interpret scientific data with accuracy. For example, if some treatment shows a significant positive result, it should always be compared with a control group that did not receive the same treatment.
Implementation of research – Currently, chiropractic research is underdeveloped compared to other disciplines like physical therapy. More practitioners should pursue PhDs to learn how to conduct scientific research.
Promotion of leadership – DCs should advance their leadership skills by being role models for staff members and less experienced colleagues. They should demonstrate clinical excellence by practicing safe and evidence-based medicine.
Further research on the chiropractic profession elicits valuable information about how to successfully promote the profession. Those findings are not universal or applicable to every business, but could be useful for gaining success in the current market and increasing the overall trust of consumers.
- Increasing public awareness of chiropractic by introducing real-time marketing events7
- Selling chiropractic products directly and online5
- Educating DCs in the area of business and marketing1
- Fostering diversity in the chiropractic profession4
- Working on the patient-chiropractor relationship and providing a welcoming reception3
- Incorporation of modern diagnostic tools, innovative technologies, and research 2,8
Increasing public awareness of chiropractic by introducing real-time marketing events – a New Zealand survey by Russell et al. (2017)7 showed that 72.3% of people who participated in a real-time marketing event positively changed their opinion about the field. From those results, we can assume that positive hands-on experience could make people reconsider negative or neutral views. From the US national survey by Weeks et al. (2015)9, we know that people who did not see a chiropractor for more than 5-years were unlikely to make an appointment. Perhaps those people had a negative encounter in the past, or they may have been subjected to antiquated or ineffective treatments. Chiropractors could counter negative experiences by providing safe and effective treatment.
Selling chiropractic products directly and online – a 2007 Canadian audit by Page5 showed that two-thirds of practices from a randomly selected sample sold healthcare products. Those products included pillows, supports, vitamins, nutritional supplements, exercise and rehabilitation products, hot/cold packs, massage oils, creams, herbals, orthotics, ergonomic products, aromatherapy products, baby products, magnets, juice extractors, laundry disks, CPR masks, mechanical massagers, meditation and weight loss programs. The study mentions possible ethical concerns related to selling merchandise. Clinics should always maintain professionalism8 and not put profits above their patients’ wellbeing. However, selling high quality, evidence-based, or FDA approved products could positively influence the marketing campaign of a chiropractic clinic.
Educating DCs in the area of business and marketing – According to a Canadian study by Ciolfi et al. (2017)1, chiropractors could benefit from additional education on business and marketing. Knowledge about running a healthcare business is necessary for the efficiency and success of a clinic.
Fostering diversity in the chiropractic profession – an article by Johnson and Green (2012)4 suggests the necessity for delivering chiropractic services to racially diverse populations and cultural minorities. The authors also point out the need for culturally diverse practitioners.
Working on the patient-chiropractor relationship and providing a welcoming reception – a UK field study by Hennius (2013)3 reveals that a well-structured therapist-patient relationship is vital for a successful practice. The surrounding atmosphere also plays a critical role in the patient’s experience. The study suggests that making small talk during treatment and providing a step-by-step explanation of the procedure can help relieve anxiety and build trust. Hennius mentions that most patients were interested, but did not fully remember or understand the intricacies of the treatment process, and that explaining it helped to break the ice.
Incorporation of modern diagnostic tools, innovative technologies, and research if possible – today, few chiropractic clinics utilize innovative technologies such as diagnostic ultrasound or radial pulse therapy. Diagnostic ultrasound is a safe and non-invasive tool for diagnosing musculoskeletal conditions.
Some chiropractors incorporate ultrasound guided dry needling to treat myofascial pain. An article by Fusco et al. (2018)2 describes a small case study investigating the effectiveness of ultrasound-guided dry needling for the treatment of piriformis syndrome, showing an overall success of this procedure for all 3 participants.
Today’s chiropractic practices have to overcome numerous obstacles and meet high standards to become successful. Even the best clinics require an online presence with ongoing SEO service and maintenance.
Patients with long working hours and non traditional schedules can benefit from online appointments via TeleHealth. The global pandemic has forced people to do the majority of their daily activities from home. Children who attend school online are not as physically active as they once were, and online exercises could be beneficial for them.
With a growing demand for digital marketing services, media buying agencies and IT companies offer the best methods and strategies to promote chiropractic clinics, including:
- Creating a unique presence
- Research and development
- Written content
- Visual and video advertisement
- Reputation management
Creating a unique presence – every clinic wants to be perceived by patients in the best possible light. A media marketing team ensures that a clinic maintains its uniqueness through design, ideology, and the overall feeling of its promotional campaign. Top-notch marketing teams use artistic and technical skills to deliver a favorable picture of a clinic via virtual channels.
Research and development – chiropractic clinics can research ways and methods that best suit their particular location and demographics. Having an area of expertise can help bring more patients to the clinic, develop a brand, and gain a positive reputation.
Written content – well-crafted content is essential for success. Chiropractic businesses can use various types of writing to get their message across, such as e-books, newsletters, and blogs. The content of the main website should also be well-written, informative, scientific, and portray the key features and philosophies of the clinic.
Visual and video advertisement – video of treatment sessions is one contemporary strategy for attracting clients’ attention, but it should be used with caution and in moderation. Hennius3 notes that some patients are anxious or embarrassed when getting undressed, and they may feel uncomfortable with having their session videotaped. But welcoming office videos, free instructional videos, and appealing images of the office and team are effective ways to use visuals for promotion.
PR – Compared to traditional advertising, a public relations campaign gets peoples’ attention in indirect ways. PR is a messenger that communicates valuable information to the public about:
- the clinic and staff
- latest updates
- events and open houses
- chiropractic conditions and treatments
- innovative technologies
- holidays and celebrations
- emergencies and plans of action
- awards programs
- famous and successful people – scientists, athletes, physicians, and celebrities associated with the clinic
The prime role of PR is to advocate for the clinic’s brand through positive interactions via emails, newsletters, press releases, news articles, interviews, and videos. A good PR campaign is a powerful method for projecting a positive image to your community.
Email-marketing – this standard marketing tactic helps retain existing clients and reaches out to new prospects. Email marketing involves sending promotional materials to existing clients and approaching prospective customers. Recent research indicates that almost half the population has never been to a chiropractor,9 and some respondents consider chiropractic dangerous.9 An email marketing campaign could target those populations to change their negative views and convert them to regular chiropractic patients.
SMM – posts, blogs, articles, and advertising on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, and Instagram may bring new leads and more traffic to the main website. Brief YouTube videos that summarize the core values of the clinic and provide information about services could spark the interest of future clients.
PPC – the business pays each time a user clicks on their ad. Various PPC bidding strategies can secure frequent appearances and high visibility of an ad. PPC is an effective digital marketing method; according to Hanapin Marketing research, 79% of brands favor PPC campaigns.
SEO – SEO encompasses a variety of methods, from best keyword selection to YMYA compliance, all aimed at promoting a web page to the top of search engine results. SEO can ensure high traffic, relevant and safe content, and fast page loading speed to secure high rankings.
Reputation management – Having an excellent online reputation is essential for every chiropractic clinic. A well-developed PR campaign revealing positive, honest, and transparent information about the clinic can play a pivotal role in building a reputation. Chiropractic clinics should embrace genuine positive reviews and treat negative reviews with politeness and consideration. Reputation management also involves constant self-monitoring and self-assessment.
The chiropractic profession has been actively developing throughout history,6 and has evolved and adapted to modern society. Today approximately half of the US population has been to a chiropractor,9 and this number is expected to grow in the coming years. Gaining more trust requires safe practices8, outstanding patient-therapist relationships,3 and the establishment of an online presence to reach a larger number of prospective clients.