A discounted or special offer is when you lower your consult, exam and/or x-ray price for a new patient. Some people think using discounted offers is the bane of chiropractic.
But I’ve yet to hear any good reasons for thinking this. But I’ve heard many myths about discounted offers that would lead people to think they are bad. Let’s look at each one:
Myth #1: Offers Hurt the Profession
What hurts the profession is when chiropractors are going broke and closing their doors to bankruptcy. And nothing closes the doors faster than not bringing in any new patients. I can understand where this myth is coming from if everyone in the phone book is making the same “free x-ray” offer to the community. But the problem here isn’t that everyone is making a discounted offer. The problem is that they are all doing the same thing, making the same offer. I always recommend my customers and clients make their offers unique, which means different than the competition. This may even mean a higher priced offer! Also, offering something in regards to a specific condition, like neuropathy or fibromyalgia, is much more effective than a generalized “free chiropractic exam”.
Myth #2: Offers Are Illegal in the U.S.
I’m not an attorney, so check with yours regarding your state laws. In the United States, there had developed a long held view that professionals should not advertise at all. A few lawyers challenged this in the Bates v. State Bar of Arizona Supreme Court case, which said that advertising was a kind of commercial speech protected by the First Amendment. Also, the Goldfarb v. Virginia State Bar established that was a violation of the antitrust laws for anyone to restrict competitive pricing with professionals. Many chiropractors will tell me it is illegal in their state to make special offers, but when they actually research it and ask their state boards they find out that’s not the case. Sure there are some insurance carriers like Medicare and other federal plans may require you not to make special discounted offers to their members. Yet, surely you want to see a mixture of patients in your office. I’ve yet to meet a chiropractor that makes 100% of their monthly gross income from Medicare payments.
Myth #3: Offers Makes You Look Sleazy
A carefully written offer in your advertisement is not “sleazy.” What makes an offer look sleazy is the use of hype in your ad (which can make it illegal in some cases.) To say that you’re giving a limited-time, reduced price on a special “herniated disc” evaluation is not sleazy. And the thousands of patients who come in each month to chiropractor’s offices don’t think so either. This relates back to Myth #1 above and the whole “it’s not professional.”
Myth #4: My Area is Too Wealthy to Respond to Discounted Offers
This myth is interesting. I practiced in a high income area ($90k+ average income) and when I ran ads I’d have people drive up in Jaguars and almost beg to be scheduled for the special we were running that week in the newspaper. A friend of mine practices in an even higher income area, and he once said he had quite a few billionaire’s wives coming in responding to his special offers. There’s two things to keep in mind when dealing with high income areas: (1) in a time where people have more debt than ever, the appearance of wealth and true wealth are not the same, and (2) many wealthy people got that way be saving money where they could. I would almost venture to say people with high income respond slightly better to special offers.
Myth #5: It Will Bring in Lower Quality Patients
This myth can become reality if you don’t word your offer correctly, or you advertise in the wrong locations. Usually a slight price adjustment can correct this. One doctor told me that he was getting tons of decompression patients with an offer of a free exam and x-ray. Others have told me this “freebie” offer brings in too many lookers — people who simply waste time for a free exam and have no intent of wanting any care. In this case, a price increase of $25 or $35 can make a huge difference. By charging a little more for the offer, only those most interested will take you up on it. Of course, there is a place of diminishing returns where you can go to high with your price and kill the effectiveness of the ad.
Myth #6: Your Offer Price Must End in 7
Did you know there was magic in the number 7? Twenty or so years ago, the genius marketer Ted Nicholas ran some direct mail tests. He tested prices ending in 7 verses prices ending in 9. The 7’s outperformed the 9’s. Since then, this strategy has spread through most professions. Sure, it worked for Nicholas back then, but does it work for you? The only way to find out is to test. I know plenty of markets who have tested $7 offers against $10 offers, and the $10 almost always wins. So are we going to say all offers must end in 0’s now? You should try $17 or $27, but since I’m not superstitious I suggest keeping it simple by using multiples of 5 ($15, $25, $30, etc.)
Myth #7: Must Be Able To Pay with a Single Bill
This isn’t as common as the myths above, but in some coaching circles it’s somewhat popular. The thought is that when a person sees your offer, they think it’s not really that much money if they only have to pull one bill out. So they recommend you do offer prices at $5, $10 and most often at $20. I’m not sure what they would say about $100 offer, since after all it’s still just one bill the patient has to pull out of their pocket. In a society that pays with credit cards, checks, debit cards, and more, the “one bill strategy” is pretty much useless. It may have worked 50 years ago when $5 was a lot of money to most folks, but today it’s just not a big deal.