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Free or Fee?
| Here is one of the most asked questions by any doctor who is about to advertise his (or her) practice: "Should I offer a free exam or charge for it?"
Depending on who you ask though, you'll usually get a straight Yes, or a straight No. So what's the answer? Should you offer a free exam, or should you charge patients for it. The answer: Yes.
Huh? Let me explain. I know that many of you are already using one method or the other, and in many cases you may already have determined that your method is "right" while the other method is "wrong".
In truth however, there really is no such thing as a straight, absolutely correct answer. Different approaches will work for different doctors. So what's the difference between the two, and which one is better for you? Let's find out.
Why free? Simple. Everybody wants something for nothing. Even though we all know that there is no such reality as a free lunch, we still are very much attracted to the prospect of getting something for nothing.
Many doctors don't like to give away a free exam. They feel that they get a lot of "lookers" or freeloaders who have no interest in ever becoming patients. Other doctors feel that by giving away an exam for free, the doctor is lowering the perceived value of the care that he provides. Both scenarios are possible.
So does that mean that giving free exams is a bad idea? Absolutely not. Giving away something for free has been proven by thousands of tests in hundreds of different industries to be one of the most effective lead generators around.
Aside from the fact that people want something for nothing, giving away something for free has another incentive for the buyer. In any situation where there is an exchange of money, someone has to assume most of the risk. For example, when you go to a new restaurant, and you order their house specialty, and you've never had this dish, or been to this restaurant before, the restaurant is basically asking you to take on the risk.
You have no idea if you will like the food or not, nor do you know if the service will be the best around. Regardless, when you order your meal, you will pay for it. And you know that even if you do not like the food, you still are not going to ask for a refund, either because you're embarrassed, or because that's the policy of the restaurant.
So guess who has to bear the majority of the risk in this transaction? Right, YOU! Now let's look at it another way. Let's assume that this restaurant offers you a special where your first meal is free. Even though you may not normally have chosen to eat in this restaurant, you decide to give this restaurant a chance. Hey, you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, from this offer.
You go to the restaurant, order your meal, and decide that you've found a new favorite restaurant. Of course you know that future meals will not be free, but that's okay. You've decided that it's worth the price.
And that's the power of offering something free to new patients. You are shifting the risk from them to you. Will some people take advantage of your free offers, and just come once, waste your time, and never show up again? Absolutely.
But doesn't that mean that free offers are ineffective? No, I never said that. The bottom line is that it may be effective for you, or it may not be. I'll give you a way for your to be able to decide if free or fee exams are best for you. But before we do, let's talk about . . .
Like I mentioned earlier, many doctors don't feel that it is appropriate to give away chiropractic service, and they have many good points to support their decision.
Offering free exams will definitely attract freeloaders, along with those sincere about your services. It's just the nature of the beast. You take the good with the bad.
By charging for the first exam though, you won't have to worry about freeloaders. Of course not everyone who comes in, and pays, for their first exam will come again, and will stay with you for years to come. But at the very least they will have been sincere in seeing what you have to offer.
The problem with this though is that you may miss out on many people who are sincere about your services, but are too "scared" to take on the risk upon themselves. If you're old enough, then you've probably heard the saying, "No one has ever got fired for buying IBM". And the same is true of your prospective patients. Many of them might be interested in chiropractic, but they are afraid to try something new. They are uncomfortable about going out of their comfort zone.
So is there a way to attract those "shy" patients without giving a free exam? Sure there is. What you need to do is lower the hurdle. How do you do this? By charging a relatively small amount for your first exam.
"Hold on a minute," you say. "Isn't this the same as giving away the exam for nothing? Either way, I'm not making any money from that first exam." No. There is a world of difference between offering something for free, and offering it at a super low price.
With a free offer, you will get both ideal patients, and people looking for something for nothing. On the other hand, with a very low costing offer, you will get very little freeloaders.
Remember, the purpose of your initial offer, whether it is for free or for a fee, is not to try to make money. Your goal is to get good quality prospects.
By charging a very low fee for the first exam, you will be able to eliminate the majority of the freeloaders (most freeloaders will not be willing to pay even $1). But the best part is that you will be minimizing the risk for those patients who are sincere about what you have to offer, but who have a few hang-ups to coming in and seeing you.
FREE OR FEE
So what should you do? Do you offer a free initial exam, or do you charge a fee (preferably at a lower fee than what you normally charge)? First, you need to decide on what it is that you need for your practice: More prospects coming through your doors, or less prospects (but higher quality).
If you're currently charging a fee, are you getting a sufficient number of prospective patients coming through you door? If you are, then stick with it.
On the other hand, if you're not getting sufficient patients through your door, try a change, and start offering free initial exams. More than likely you'll be getting more prospects into your clinic.
Now, if you are offering free initial exams and are having the opposite problem, and you are getting too many people through your door, but they aren't buying anything, try the opposite approach. Charge a low fee for the initial exam. You'll get less prospects, but they will be higher quality, and they won't be wasting your time.
As a last note, I want to remind you that the best judge of the offer is not me, nor is it you. It is the marketplace. Even though I've extolled on this many times in the past, the only way to know what works is by testing, testing, testing.
Try it both ways, and see what works best for you. It might involve a little bit more work, but the increase in new patients can easily be 25% or more. So good luck on your testing, and let me know if you have any concerns about either the free or the fee offer.
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