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August, 2011

Patient Profiling: The Key to Marketing to the Right People

By Lawton W. Howell

Profiling is not considered politically correct by police, airport security or employers, but it is one of the most important tools you can use to improve the performance of your marketing. In marketing, profiling is based on understanding the demographics and psychographics of your best patients and where can you find more just like them.

For example, if you choose to promote decompression to the entire marketplace, only a select group of people will be receptive to the message. Most of your marketing investment will be wasted on those who do not have a need for decompression therapy. On the other hand, if you receive a referral from a MD for a patient considering spinal surgery, your targeted marketing (decompression) will likely be much more effective (high conversion ratio).

The essence of profiling is understanding who is most likely to be receptive to your brand of chiropractic. Not all spines are created equal. Not everyone in your marketplace is ready, willing and able to seek out your care.

The most difficult form of marketing is a product or service that must modify or change the perception or knowledge of people before they will purchase what is offered. The reality is that it is much easier to attract people who have an experience with chiropractic than those who have elected not to include it in their health care plan. That's why purchasing a practice with thousands of inactive patients is a great marketing opportunity.

Consider this: If you had a list of contortionists in your marketplace, you could direct your marketing message to this targeted audience. Of course, there may only be three people on the list, so it is not a valid list to grow your practice! Let's dig deeper and see how we can apply patient profiling to your marketing efforts.


The first level of targeting is "demographics," such as age, gender, marital status, family size, education, geographic location, and occupation. Using this information, you can profile your patient base to see "groups" of demographics that have been successful with your brand of chiropractic, and then apply those groups to your new patient marketing plans.


The next level of profiling is "psychographics." Psychographic elements include lifestyle, attitudes, beliefs, values, personality, buying motives and product usage.

Combining demographic and psychographic profiling allows you to gather the optimum information for selecting not only the right media for your marketing, but also the actual marketing message itself.

The Patient Audit

The first step to developing an appropriate marketing strategy using demographics and psychographics is to conduct a patient audit of your existing active and inactive patient files. You don't need to "audit" all files; you can do a random selection of every 25th patient record, for example.

Create a simple form to gather the demographic and psychographic information on each of the selected files, and then tabulate the results. You may not have psychographic information on your patients, but you should have most of the foundational demographic data. Often you will find that a group of demographics forms the majority of your patient demographics. You may find that most of your patients are female, age 30-55, employed, married and residing within 15 minutes of your office.

This initial audit will give you solid information about your patients and the profile that has been the most responsive to your brand of chiropractic thus far.

Upgrade the Base

The next step is to take your patient list (inactive and active) and submit it to a service that will append your list with a full range of demographics and psychographics. To find a vendor to append your list, look in the Yellow Pages under "mailing list brokers" or search online: "append demographics."

Once your list is appended with a comprehensive set of profiling variables, you can produce reports, using cross-tabulation for multiple data points, to segment your list into "groups" of patients who offer you the best opportunity for reaching and converting new patients. Using your patient profiling database, you can actually get a list of people who fit the profile!

You can also use the data to select other media with the demographics / psychographics you most want to reach. In other words, you can select a radio or TV program that has the right "people" in the audience. This is how to wisely invest marketing resources.

By the way, while you are appending your list, you can also have it updated with current mailing addresses and e-mail addresses, and even include people who purchase OTC pain pills or have had back surgery.

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