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COVID Recovery Story By Nina Hershberger

by | In the Magazine, Nina Hershberger

How A Chiropractor Recovered From His COVID Meltdown

I recently caught up with Dr. James Feddich, a chiropractor in a small rural town in New Jersey. 

When COVID hit it March 2020 his business went from 350 patients a week down to 90 in a span of 2 weeks.

This article is how he recovered and grew his practice back to 350 patients and more per week. “As a chiropractor if you don’t learn marketing quickly and make it on your own, you could be in a lot of trouble.

Medical doctors could go work in a hospital, but Chiropractors have to find their own patients and make it on their own even if they work in a group setting,” Dr. Fedich explained to me.

Fortunately, he had an interest in business and marketing. 

He had leased his first 700-foot office space before he passed his boards. Today he operates out of a 5,000 square foot space and has 2 other chiropractors working for him.

An avid reader on business and marketing when I did this interview with him, he had 6 books on his desk he was reading and always has an audio book when driving. 

Dr. Fedich Shares His COVID Recovery Story

Most doctors dislike business and marketing so they turn over the management and marketing of their practice to someone else but don’t know if they’re doing a good job. I not only love working with patients, I love marketing.

I was lucky that I’ve been in practice for a while when COVID hit, but our business got decimated just like everybody else.

We went from seeing 350 patients in one week to 150 next week and 90 the next week. So within 10 days our business went to 30% of what it was real quick.

So I made some pretty good business move. We had to lay some staff off for a real short term, but we were hiring them back faster than they wanted to come back.

I was kind of begging people to come back because we grew it back so fast through basically a lot of recall programs. So with more time on my hands, I was really hitting up Facebook and some mailing programs, but I’ll walk you through it.

We did certain things that worked really well for us. 

  • We did a lot of multimedia. So what worked really well to get our numbers back up in the beginning, we did a recall postcard. We took a funny picture of me with a goofy hat on standing next to a skeleton. We said we want you back. It’s safe.
  • We bought better hospital beds and gave a discount for their first visit back. They got $30 off their first visit back in. 
  • We also gave them a free t-Shirt for coming back in. 
  • We were really selective with the list we made this offer to
  • People that were coming in four or five times a year, at least, and hadn’t been in the last three, four months as COVID hit. We had really good response to the postcard to this list.
  • We matched the postcard with a Facebook ad. We upload the list and targeted them with the same ad/offer as on the postcard. 
  • Then we sent this same list an email with the same ad/offer.
  • And finally, follow up with a second postcard.

So they got two oversized postcards, a Facebook ad, and 3 emails from us for 60 days with the same message and offer.

We reinforced the message that we wanted them back, it’s safe and healthy here. Here’s a discount for your first visit back.

We’ll give you a free gift for coming back in. That pretty much almost got our numbers back to normal, just that campaign right there doing that for 60 days.

https://motivate.kartra.com/page/six-figure-subscribe

Of course, people started coming out more and that stuff, but hitting that up, worked really, really well to get people back in.

It was a real nice multi-step campaign, but I think one of the reasons it was most successful because we did do multi-step. They got a Facebook ad, emails, and two postcards. That really helped ramp up our recall numbers during COVID.

Nina: Well oftentimes some businesses don’t even have a list. I’ve seen that time and time again. Do you maintain that list in some sort of a health database? Or is it in a separate kind of a database?

Dr. Fedich: Yeah. Good question. So many people don’t have lists and I’ll even talk to other doctors. Because we’re in medical, you pretty much have to give people your names and address, even if you’re not good about taking it. So we’ve always had it.

We do use our medical software to maintain it all, but certain people don’t use it or sort through it. All these software’s can tell you who hasn’t been in in a couple of months, what type of insurance people have, how many visits they use. So just having the data is really important.

Keeping up on the data is really good too. So we do a monthly patient newsletter, like most people should, and you get back dead addresses every month, or people moved or passed away or whatever happened.

So keeping that list up to date is really, really important, which we’re always fanatical about.

But then, like you said, just having the list and using it, be able to sort through it. I was always amazed how many places I never hear back from, especially during COVID.

You haven’t been to the hair salon in a couple months, you didn’t get a postcard from them or an email or anything, or really much of anything. So keeping in touch is really important.

The reason that campaign works so well is because we sorted. They had to be in at least four times during the last year, but not had been in within the last three months. Because if they’re in yesterday.

I don’t want to give them an offer or say, we miss you when I just saw them. That doesn’t look good.

But I wasn’t going to waste resources on a big campaign like that on somebody that hadn’t been in five, 10 years because they’re less likely to recall.

So I think having the list and then being able to sort through it’s really, really important. Any business can get a list.

People will say, “Oh, it doesn’t work for me.” But you can always get names and addresses in exchange for something and it’ll work for you.

Nina: What about HIPAA laws? Did you have any kind of issues sending something?

Dr. Fedich: No. So with the healthcare provider, if you’re in the office for, I want to say it’s within a year or two years maybe, that you’re allowed to contact them by coming into the office.

We have a disclaimer on their intake form as well, but I’m pretty sure the HIPAA laws say, if they’d been in within I think a year or two, you’re allowed to contact them unless they tell you not to. So that is a nice thing.

Nina: Did you actually send that printed newsletter out every single month during this whole pandemic?

Dr. Fedich: Yeah, we never stopped. I almost stopped the first month. But my newsletter rep talked me into continuing.

I’m always playing with parameters. I fine-tuned it a little bit. Like you said, we used to do two year active patients and we fine-tuned it down to people that have been in at least four times within the last year. You always have the one person that came in from a promotion one time, or you didn’t take their insurance, and they’re never going to come back. I was mailing to 2,500 people but with my new parameters, I’m down to 1,600.

The nice thing about Facebook is we can target everyone that’s been in the office for the last 10 years for a couple hundred dollars a month instead of spending all that money mailing them a newsletter.

With those people, we use a reactivation ad to get them to come back in. We have done really well with that during this time as well.

I also do texting campaigns. I think you got to be careful not to abuse this. So I think we’re still trying to figure out what’s the best timing for this. During COVID, I think we did two texting campaigns, but the same idea.

You sort out the list, who hasn’t been in a little while and you send a text. The program we liked for that for the office is Zipwhip.com. Basically, if you export your data to an Excel sheet, you can cut and paste up to 100 phone numbers at a time and send one text to 100 people.

So we’ve had real simple texts. We try to make it personal and don’t make it look like it’s mass. It’s like a text, we just did this not too long ago, said, “Hey, this is Maddie from Village Family Clinic.

I just noticed I haven’t seen you in a couple months. Don’t tell Dr. Fedich, but if you come in within the next two weeks, I’ll give you $20 off your next visit.”

Something real simple like that played around with, and that’s done really well. The 100-limit kind of aggravated me in the beginning, but it turns out kind of good because when 30 of those people text back it’s a lot of work for the staff.

So it kind of works out good just doing that 100 a day, even though I’d like to do like 1000.

That Zipwhip program is as little as $19 per month. That’s a really powerful campaign, especially now. Any business can do that too. You can text your inactive customers for pennies.

We had actually used them forever for the front desk. My patients can text my regular phone (the one I’ve had for 17 years) and it pops up like an instant message at my front desk. People love that. They would much rather text, “Hey, I’m running late. Can I come in early?” All that stuff via text. 

Nina: Okay. Your book that you wrote in 2015 was all about doing promotions. So if I’ve heard you right, so you continued with your printed newsletter, you did some texting, you did a Facebook ad, and you did emails.

So that’s four things that I’m counting. Did you do any promotions during that time? Well, those were promotions, but anything else besides that?

Dr. Fedich: Yeah. So I wasn’t sure, as my book is really like 80% about internal marketing promotions and doing promotions in your office or in your business. It was a little tricky with COVID. But every month we do one or two internal promotions.

We’re ins a part of New Jersey that has a lot of farmers. I went out and bought a $2000 John Deere tractor and parked it right in the middle of the treatment area. We said we’re giving away this John Deere tractor after two months.

They would get tickets to win the tractor if they

  • Referred a new patient
  • Left us a review
  • Donate $10 to a local food bank 

So we’d never done anything like that before. I’ve done little stuff, TVs and Nintendo Switches, couple $100, but nothing big like that. It went gangbusters. We did that right in the middle of COVID. I think April, right when it first hit, I bought it. 

We did it for two months because it was a bigger prize and people went crazy.

We raised $1400 just in ticket sales, which almost would have paid for itself but we donated the money to a local food bank. We got pictures donating the money, we got reviews and referrals from it as well.

Everybody was talking about it for a couple of months.

The family that won it had been patients forever and they show up with a trailer and the whole office is watching them load this on the trailer with their teenage boys. So it was a really, really fun promotion. 

Nina: Did you have some sort of a bucket or something where people put their tickets in? 

Dr. Fedich: Yeah. So you put just those raffle tickets you get at the dollar store and we had them just put their name on a ticket and we had a big fish bowl at the front desk. So everybody saw it.

Obviously, everybody saw a giant tractor sitting in your waiting room.

That was a really, really fun promotion. It worked really well, we did during COVID. We didn’t stop. I did something pretty much every month like that.

https://motivate.kartra.com/page/six-figure-subscribe

Nina: Did you do a live, Facebook live to be able to pull the number?

Dr. Fedich: Yeah, we did actually. We did do a Facebook live with the number with the pastor of the church. The food bank is run by the church that’s right next to my office and the pastor came over with the mayor and pulled the ticket live, which was good.

Of course, she said his name, it was Daniel, and she said, Danielle, it was pretty funny. 

Nina: So you had people put their name actually on the ticket?

Dr. Fedich: Yeah. Then they pull it. Then we sent an email, congratulations, Dan. You put it in the newsletter. Congratulations. So they get a lot of use out of it. So it was a really good promotion,

Nina: Okay. So that’s one promotion. What else? You said you did them all through. What other promotions did you do?

Dr. Fedich: Yeah, so that works so well. That was two months. The next month we donated, we did basically the same thing with a Traeger grill, those wood pellet grills. They’re like $800 grills. I happen to have one at home and I love it.

Someones was talking about it and that worked so well, I said, “Let’s do it again.”

So we kind of copied the same promotion. We only did it for a month. It was buy a ticket for $5 since it was a little less expensive prize. That went to the food bank again. We always mix it up. Referrals, reviews, or testimonials.

Leave us a video testimonial so we can put it on our YouTube channel. We did that for the Traeger grill.

We did the Traeger grill, the same promotion the next month, and the same idea. You do the live, you do the emails, you get it out there. 

Then the month after that, one of our biggest events every year for, since I’ve been in practice, is a patient appreciation day. So I was kind of scared to do that.

We’ve narrowed down the months by trial and error for years that usually works best in September and April partially due to the weather in New Jersey, like summer vacations, and then we have winters bad here.

So those months have always worked good. But after the Traeger grill and the John Deere, I said, “Let’s try a patient appreciation day.” In the summer, the restrictions were loosening up quite a bit, so we could do stuff.

So we did an outside patient appreciation day. I never knew how it would go. We basically turned out the same numbers we would non-COVID. So we had a good turnout, just like if there was no COVID.

Kept everyone outside for the festivities. We had music outside, we had food outside, some games and stuff for the kids. We got a big bouncy house. 

We had the chiropractic care inside obviously. But it was a month that shouldn’t have done well, they shouldn’t do well in the summer because people are theoretically on vacation.

But the timing was good I think with COVID because they were starting to loosen up restrictions and people were in their house for four months looking for something to do.

But basically, we got a normal turnout for a patient appreciation day, which definitely shouldn’t have happened in the middle of COVID. So that was our summer promotional calendar.

Nina: You talked about reviews. Are you talking Google reviews? And YouTube reviews? So are you encouraging people to actually do videos? Are they doing it in your office? Tell me how reviews work.

Dr. Fedich: Yeah. So reviews are really, really important, especially in healthcare. Google reviews are number one. I’m in a town of 10,000 people, and I think we have 245 5-star reviews. We average about probably 15 to 20 new patients a month just from Google reviews because we’ve had so many. So Google is number one.

We also do some stuff with Yelp. I mean, they’re a nightmare to deal with, but for some people, it’s really important. My part of the country it’s not that important, but we do a little bit of Yelp.

We’ve done Facebook review contests as well. So the contests, just like we talked about for reviews are the best thing to do for it.

You don’t need anything elaborate like a John Deere tractor, but just I’ve always tell clients, it’s just something simple like a TV, the easiest way to get reviews is to throw a 32 inch TV on your front desk.

Enter to win this TV, leave us a review on Google or Yelp and you’re entered to win the TV. Just the same with a bucket and put their names in there. At the end of the month, you pick a winner for the TV.

But we’ve done all kinds of stuff. Beach giveaways, beach sets. We did Tommy Bahama chairs, all kinds of stuff to get more reviews. The next chiropractor in my town has five.

So every month, I mean, literally it’s like 20 people a month come in. “You have the most reviews. You have the most reviews.” It really pays for itself and it pays for SEO.

As far as videos, we do try to get video testimonials. Reviews are the number one thing we go after and referrals and then video testimonials are the next. So we’ll do a contest.

I kind of rinse and repeat that same formula. Put a Traeger grill out there and give us a video testimonial. Enter to win a Traeger grill. We’ll get a bunch of video testimonials. The staff will just do them on their I-phones.

Or we have iPads that we have for the office for office stuff. They’ll do that. We’ll upload them on our YouTube channel and use them that way.

We also have a testimonial page on our website. So when people are looking to check us out, there are a couple of hundred testimonials on our website. We’ve done really well.

Another strategy, probably one of the better Facebook strategies over the years that I keep going back to, is running video testimonials as ads on Facebook and then retargeting the viewers with an offer.

So it’s a little bit probably too much to get into now, but basically, we upload one of these video testimonials, blast it out to my town. Anyone that watched at least half of it, we’ll target them with an ad for some sort of offer to come in.

I’ve had things that work better than that on Facebook, but that’s worked for, I don’t even know, eight years it’s worked. It’s not a home run, but it’s a single double every month that we do it for years and years and years.

So it’s always nice to have a video testimonial, especially us, we’re in a small town of 10,000 people. If you’ve got a video testimony, somebody knows them, “Hey, that’s my neighbor, John.” So it works even better because we’re in a small town.

But for most offices, especially medical, reviews and testimonies are huge for you.

Nina: So reviews. Do you give them a piece of paper that they go away and they know how to do a Google review? Or do they do it right in your office?

Dr. Fedich: Yeah. Great question. So Google reviews is a little tricky. There’s two really good shortcuts.

1. One is to get a URL shortener. So for us, if you just go to GoDaddy and buy a name and you forward where you leave the Google review to them. So if you go, instead of us trying to Google my name, find me, for our office it’s Review VFC.com, Review VFC.com.

If they type that into your browser, or if you do it right now, it’ll bring you right to my Google map listing exactly at the step where they leave a review. So having them try to figure it out on their own, they’re never going to figure it out.

So then we use that URL shortener everywhere. So we have little cards printed up in the office. Did you enjoy your visit today? Leave us a review at Review VFC.com and they can leave it right there.

2. The other trick is a QR code. So you’d basically do the same thing with a QR code. I was away from those for a while. It was so problematic and that you had to get an app and everything, but the new phones just read them right from the camera.

So those funny looking QR fuzzy codes. You do the exact same thing. So you have the QR code direct to exactly where you want the review to be left and you can use them. We’ll put signs up in the office and do that as well.

In the office, you can have them do it right in the office. Patients will do that. The one mistake I’ve heard other marketing people teach is to have a laptop on the front desk and have them leave them there.

Google knows that that’s all coming from the same computer and that can get you in trouble. Some people say that having them all in your office, they obviously know where you are geo-wise having them write them in the office.

I haven’t heard that’s as big of a problem, but we will let people do that. We’ll give them cards.

The other nice thing when you have that URL shortener is so you can just email too. “Hey, this month they’re giving away a Traeger grill, leave us a review at ReviewVFC.com. You’ll be automatically entered to win.

So we use that URL shortener quite a bit. But you can have them do it in the office. Just definitely don’t do it from the same computer, you can get a new one, now you can get a gaming computer costs less than $600. That’ll definitely get you flagged.

Nina: Okay. $2000 for a John Deere tractor, a grill. I don’t know how much those are, 500, whatever. How much are you charging to one of your adjustments? How much is the average ticket coming in?

Dr. Fedich: Yeah. Good question. So one of the reasons we’ve been able to be successful and one of the reasons we’re able to spend this money on marketing is we do collect more per visit than the average office out there.

So we’re at about $75 per visit that we’re collecting now. There’s a lot of reasons why we’re a lot higher. The average officer’s probably 45 or 50. So we are able to do a little bit more of this stuff.

But to us, how many people spend $2000 a month on TV commercials? I’d rather spend it on a John Deere tractor that we get two months out of. As we’ve been in practice longer, we do less and less external marketing where I don’t do radio, I’m not on TV.

I’m not spending a ton of money. We spend most of our resources targeting patients. But we do have a much higher than average case value here at the office, which allows us to do some of these things.

Nina: Why do you think it is? Why do you think people will pay you more? I mean, I know you’ve got, first of all, you’re not the only chiropractor in there, right? You’ve got a staff of people?

Dr. Fedich: Yep. We have three full-time chiropractors here. Yep.

Nina: So why do you think they’ll pay $75 versus $45 or $50?

Dr. Fedich: Yeah, so our fee is a little bit higher than the average office. We also have some technology. So if you’re just coming in for an adjustment, it’d be $65, which is a little higher than some people, but not outrageous. It’s a little bit higher. I think we have a more premium product.

      • We have the latest technology. 
      • We have a nice big open office. 
      • We have a lot of fancy stuff here. 
      • We have some extras that we charge for. 
      • We do spinal decompression, which is advanced traction of the spine and that we charge extra for. 
      • Then something too is we’re really good about insurance. We know how to bill insurance. We have a really good billing manager that collects everything we’re owed.

We do some extra stuff too. So we’ve branched out into some side businesses. We’re certified in CDL physicals, which are truck driver physicals. So when you drive any kind of truck, you need a certain kind of physical, and chiropractors are allowed to do those anywhere.

Those are $100, which is actually a lower fee than some offices.

A lot of medical offices would be more like $125, $150, but we charge less at $100, but that still helps bring my average transaction size way up from $45, $50 chiropractic adjustments.

So we’ll do five, 10 of those a day at $100 bucks a pop. So that’s extra cash in our pockets as well. So good billing, charging a little bit more, and having some extra services would probably be the key to us collecting more.

Nina: Do you even do any chiropractic anymore? Or are you pretty much doing all the marketing?

Dr. Fedich: I was at the point before COVID and I had two associates that were doing most of the work, where I was doing very little chiropractic, just my regulars. COVID got me back into full-time practice and now one of my doctors actually left and started his own practice.

So I was taking over some of his patients. So I was working harder than usual.

Now that I’ve got another full-time staff back up and trained, I’ll be backing off treating a little bit, but I still have a pretty decent schedule of patients. Then I have two afternoons off that I spend with my family.

I leave at 1:00 o’clock two days a week and do the marketing and stuff as well. So I’ve got a pretty decent schedule.

Nina: Well, when you got all those gizmos and gadgets, there’s something to talk about in your newsletter too. Right? Just letting you know something new is coming in.

Dr. Fedich: Yeah. I think nowadays, especially as a chiropractor, you either got to do the bare minimum, keep your overhead real low and just keep it real simple, keep it down.

Or you got to really be the best and have the latest and greatest. Now don’t buy everything as soon as it comes out, but you don’t want to be where everybody else in town has a machine and you don’t. So we try to keep up on it a little bit.

Nina: Well, a city of 10,000, you don’t have any competition though, right? You’re the only one.

Dr. Fedich: No, we do. We have competition. I mean, there’s certainly nobody like us. There’s a lot of small offices, one doc, and one assistant type practice, but there are other offices around. But there’s nobody, not really much of a … There’s competition, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s not much competition.

Nina: Yeah. Obviously, that was a tongue in cheek question. I feel sorry for them actually. They’ll probably think what in the world’s going on? Why aren’t we getting any of these people?

Dr. Fedich: We’ve had one guy call and complain a couple of times. That’s why you know you’re doing good. The closest ones called and complained a few times, but it’s pretty funny.

Actually, in my sub-town, my sub-town of 10,000 is like 2500 and there’s been like three or four chiropractors try to make it in this town that all went out of business too. Within not too long ago. My landlord actually didn’t want me to open up because he said, “Nobody makes it here.” So there’s been a couple that have tried.

 

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 About Nina Hershberger

Nina is a marketing fanatic who loves helping local businesses not only survive, but thrive. She was recognized as one of the top 6 marketers worldwide in 2009 and is the author of “30 Minute Marketing – 101 Ways to wow your customers, clients, and patients”. She hosts a national marketing mastermind group where business owners from varied niches gather to plan, strategize and share marketing ideas.

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