Academy of Chiropractic’s
Lawyers PI Program
Growing Your Practice #13
From the Desk of:
Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
In the earlier consultations I have always held that marketing is a waste of your time, energy and resources in the personal injury field. I feel I am more than qualified to say that because I probably the biggest schmuck, sucker, loser and failure in the history of our profession when it comes to attempting to marketing lawyers to gain referrals.
I have done television, radio, newspaper, direct newsletters, mailed flyers, direct mail, faxes, emails, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, sporting events, theater events, boating trips, cigar bars, lawyers staff lunches and dinners, small holiday gift baskets, medium holiday gift baskets, large holiday gift baskets, obscenely large holiday gift baskets, golf outings and a host of other marketing attempts which all yielded the same (crap)results. Along the way I hired consultants, printers, publishers, marketers, ad design companies and every "gurus of the day" in the industry. I am also (not) proud to say that when most of the above failed my course of action was to do it again in a larger way because my thought process was I did it too small and needed to "bite the bullet" and spend sometimes an obscene amount of money because the amount I spent didn't accomplish my goal.
I was of the belief that in order to be successful in personal injury you needed to have a large budget and be willing to spend on a consistent basis so the lawyers "remember you" and referred to as a result. It worked.
Although it worked I must qualify how it worked. I would get consistent referrals from a multitude of attorneys, which usually equated to a few referrals per year from each one. After a decade of this marketing schema I averaged 10 new PI cases per week and I was happy until my accountant sat with me one day and on paper showed me the profit and loss margins based upon what I was spending and real return on investment. What I also realized was that unless I actually spent the same obscene amount of money on a regular basis the referrals would stop instantly. In addition the courts were changing rapidly and lawyers were no longer in a position to refer as they were previously regardless of your relationship with them.
There were 2 lawyers specifically who opened my eyes to what was going on. Both of them had become very good friends and as a result were willing to have an honest conversation with me about their referral patterns. These 2 lawyers received the bulk of my referrals from my patients who were in an accident and needed legal representation. At that point my career I had a very large family practice and from my own patient population I was able to refer between 8 to 10 cases a month from my practice to lawyers. I chose to feed these 2 lawyers exclusively as they were friends. First I want to acknowledge that during my naïve years this was a tactical business mistake as I should have spread the referrals across a broader base of lawyers, however I didn't know any better.
Because of my relationship with these 2 lawyers I was able to sit down and have a candid conversation with them. The reason I requested to sit down was because their referrals slowed to a trickle to me and their excuse was they were just "not as busy as they used to be". They tried very hard to keep the truth from me because they didn't want the referrals to them to stop. When I finally sat with them and cornered them into giving me a direct answer they both almost verbatim said "we can't work with you because you are a chiropractor and the courts don't like chiropractors". In addition there went on to explain that although I work with medical specialists my reports were easily overturned by the defense lawyers and was costing them significantly in settlements and verdicts.
That moment in my career was the first time my eyes were opened to why a lawyer will or will not work with the chiropractor. In that particular case it was because I was not a medical doctor, however in future circumstances I learned that not to be true. If that was the case then no chiropractors would receive referrals and in fact there were many, it just wasn't me. So began my quest to figure out how I could get the referrals, which has been well documented in the consultations and it centers around clinical excellence.
When we first started the lawyers PI program and released the program nationally many, many years ago, we initially recommended that on a bimonthly basis you fax attorneys the educational flyers. We no longer recommend anyone fax anything because of the very strong "do not fax laws" that they could get you sued much too easily. I also felt that by simply sending them via email will get them deleted before ever being seen and result in wasting your time. However, there have been a few twists that would suggest emailing (last resort) the reports with the proviso you understand it will not render one direct new patient referral to you.
Currently (July 26, 2013) I would recommend that you deliver on a regular basis, or have delivered the bimonthly flyers to lawyers. What I would do is have them hand delivered to the offices of lawyers by someone other than me. I would include a cover letter stating that the referenced research is available to them and upon request I will sit down with the lawyer or paralegal and explain the research so they understand how to apply it to their cases. In addition I would order 50 pounds of gourmet jelly beans, little goldfish bowls and ribbon and each time they were delivered I would give the staff a little gift of jelly beans with my business card attached. I would do this every time I had the report delivered.
I am of the firm belief that staff is integral to the referral process or at the very least the staff can void a referral that the attorney wants to do should they not like you. By having the reports delivered on a regular basis is a form of marketing that will allow you to stay "in the face of the law firm" on a regular basis. Once again will this get you referrals? I doubt it. However, it does serve a purpose in the grand scheme of the process of referrals.
While you're staff (or yourself if you have none else) is delivering the bimonthly flyers it should always be explained that you, the Doctor are part of a national medical – legal educational program and as an expert you are committed to educating the legal community. It should also be explained that the purpose of these educational flyers are not for referral purposes and is intended purely for education of both the lawyer and they are entire staff. In addition it should also be shared that those law firms that take advantage of this education program historically get higher settlements on a consistent basis (it's always about the money).
I would avoid giveaways such as pens and other paraphernalia although it may seem like a great idea. I have never seen a surgeon or specialist at any level offer any type of giveaways other than pay for lunch for dinner. It is important that you do not come across as a commercial vendor and only that of the consummate expert. Image is everything as long as you can back it up with credentials. Never lose sight that we are building your career for the entire tenure of your career, not just today.
Should you not be able to have your bimonthly fliers hand-delivered, emailing is the next choice with the understanding that most will be deleted before ever opened. With emailing you must ensure that you are compliant with all local, state and federal spamming regulations.
The goal: to get the attorneys to see your name over and over and invite you into their practice on a monthly basis so that you can hand them the research and explain it to them and their staff.
Since we know through significant market research over time that marketing yields a poor profit margin and is far subservient to gaining the lawyers attention and subsequent referrals through clinical excellence, it is important to judiciously triage our financial expenditures accordingly. Simply put, do not waste too much money on stuff and activities that simply will not work as you intended them to...because they won't.
For validation simply look at the marketplace and see how many chiropractic practices have huge personal injury offices. The answer is very few, yet how many chiropractors or other doctors spend a significant amount of money in marketing to try to attain that goal. The answer to that question is many more market significantly than those who are successful. Meaning that no matter how much you spend at the end of the day the metric for success in personal injury is not directly tied into the amount of money you spend for marketing.
The only variable for success that is predictable is your clinical excellence, your credentials and your knowledge base and ensuring the lawyers know that you are a trauma-based practitioner or colloquially "the real deal". With that said what good is any marketing program that is designed to bring lawyers to you and refer to you if once it is accomplished the lawyers will then have to interface with you. On the first interaction the lawyers will realize that you are nothing but smoke and mirrors with inadmissible work and credentials and you will become the proverbial "one and done".
It always amazes me that everyone I have worked with initially thinks they ARE the real deal because they are good and sometimes great chiropractors. Being a great DC or healer is mutually exclusive to being a trauma specialist and unless you have been trained and have the credentials behind you...be prepared to become that "one and done". Recently, one of those great healers shared with me that they have studied intensively the subject matter and therefore argued they are qualified. The problem, first there were no credentials behind the line of B/S that was shared with as this doctors understanding of simple disc pathology was simply WRONG. Guess who knows that other than me? The answer: the first and every subsequent lawyer this doctor will work with in the future. RESULT: One and DONE!!!!
Therefore, with anything you do you must have the requisite credentials behind you in an admissible CV and the KNOWLEDGE BASE that comes with those credentials. As I have held before those requisite credentials are the PI Boot Camp, MRI Certification Course, Accident Reconstruction Course And The Spinal Biomechanical Engineering Course. These credentials will fill a CV with the tools that a lawyer can use.
There are other soft marketing programs that also work. Birthday cards are another mechanism of staying in the lawyers and paralegals faces. Every time I met with a lawyer I always joked about their astrological sign once we became a little comfortable with each other. I also do that with their staff as this allowed me to get their birthdays and I always sent a birthday card to the attorney and their staff. I went to the catalogs and had cards made from my office that were preprinted so that it would be more professional. I did not use overly "cute" cards and found very conservative and professional birthday cards.
Business cards are also another form of soft marketing that works. For many years in my practice I went through a minimum of 500 business cards per month that I handed out to anyone and everyone that I met. This activity goes well beyond personal injury however, in the end a certain percentage of your family practice will get into accidents and become PI cases. Business card should be extremely conservative on tan "quality" stock with raised black lettering. There should be no pictures of yourself and a small logo is the most you should deviate beyond the printed word.
Many of you will disagree with me because you are wired to believe that marketing works in various forms (see the litany of failed marketing activities above). In addition many of you will seek other consultants in the industry who have every form of marketing scheme imaginable and you might be willing to (be a schmuck like I was) spend as much money as I was in your attempt to make it work. For those who take that track I wish you better luck that I and the multitudes of others I have worked with who have also tried those various failed marketing avenues.
I also acknowledge at the highest level that my way is much harder, much more work, much more time-consuming and much more frustrating because you do not get instant gratification with immediate (same day) results. This is not a get rich quick program, it is also not a "spend a fortune for marketing that does not work program".
If marketing worked the way every consultant and advertisement claimed, then every Doctor who participated in that marketing activity would have a huge personal injury practice. The reality is, very few do verifying those programs in the end do not work.
What I can verify is that if you follow the plan I have laid out for you, over time, this will work for you.