Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Dr Michael Lenarz of The Chiropractic Way and Health 1st Chiropractic. Dr Lenarz is a well-respected upper cervical chiropractor and consultant who has become a leader in the upper cervical community. It was a real pleasure to speak with him and get his insight into an important topic known as the chiropractic marketing lifecycle. I hope you enjoy our interview below...
Dr. Davis: So Dr. Lenarz, why don’t we start with why you first become a chiropractor?
Dr. Lenarz: Oh well interesting. I decided to become a chiropractor when I was 25 years old. And I went to a chiropractor for the first time in my life because I had a shoulder injury from a job that I had. And when I went to the chiropractor, he introduced me to chiropractic philosophy. And he told me that there was a universal intelligence which gave rise to all matter and organized all matter that underlies the universe. And then he told me there was a unique expression of this universal intelligence called innate intelligence. And that this internal intelligence underlies all living things. And that the true nature of health was the full expression of innate intelligence. So he told me that on my first visit. And by the time I completed that first visit, I finally realized what I wanted to be when I grew up and that was a chiropractor.
Dr. Davis: So it was the philosophy that the doctor gave you on the very first visit that convinced you?
Dr. Lenarz: Almost immediately.
Dr. Davis: Wow—turned the course of your life in that one instant! Very interesting. And so from there where did you go to school?
Dr. Lenarz: I went to Sherman college. Sherman college of straight chiropractic and I had to get my prerequisites done. I had already had 4 years to graduate with a business degree and decided that wasn't working for me it was just working different jobs. I had a small business and went to the chiropractor and once I figured out that I was back at school to get my prerequisite and I went to Sherman in 1984 I believe.
Dr. Davis: Now when did you actually start getting interested in upper cervical?
Dr. Lenarz: Well at that time at Sherman college it was very much an upper cervical school. And you were required to take it upper cervically as your initial care there. And they would follow up the full spinal work if things didn't resolve with upper cervical. So it was pretty much the course of care there and the most advanced work they taught at Sherman at the time was the blair work and so that's what I kind of felt drawn to and studied and have been practicing for the last twenty five years.
Dr. Davis: After school when did you first open your practice?
Dr. Lenarz: I opened up in 1988 in Sedro-Woolley, Washington.about eighty miles north of Seattle, it's a rural community.
Dr. Davis: Okay so opened up in Sedro-Woolley and I know that at one time you opened multiple clinics and when did you start opening additional clinics other than your Sedro-Woolley location?
Dr. Lenarz: You know I think that was probably around 1998 about ten years out of practice.
Dr. Davis: And now how many clinics do you have now, Doc?
Dr. Lenarz: I owned 8 and have sold 4 so I currently own or partially own four.
Dr. Davis: Very cool and what sort of volume do you see in your clinics?
Dr. Lenarz: Well single doctor clinics are typically seeing 100 to 150 visits a week. And right now our clinics with two doctors or more are seeing around 200 and above. I actually haven't been in practice full time for over three and a half years. When i was in practice full time I was seeing about two hundred and fifty to three hundred visits a week by myself.
Dr. Davis: All right so now mostly the practices that you have are associate driven is that correct?
Dr. Lenarz: Yeah.
Dr. Davis: Excellent so now shifting gears from being successful in practice and owning multiple clinics and selling them and everything that you’ve done. Then you’ve shifted and you've started helping other doctors. I know a lot of doctors that coach with you now and have great results. So when did you first start The Chiropractic Way coaching and consulting?
Dr. Lenarz: I opened up The Chiropractic Way about six and a half, seven years ago. So we basically took all the systems that we used in our own clinic and we began teaching those to clients.
Dr. Davis: Excellent and do you primarily only work with upper cervical specific doctors?
Dr. Lenarz: Yes.
Dr. Davis: Okay and what would you say separates The Chiropractic Way from other coaching and consulting companies?
Dr. Lenarz: Well there are two things. One of course is our focus on helping the upper cervical community develop their practices. And the second is that it is very customized coaching so we've developed a program, and continue to develop a program, that isn't like a cookie cutter like “do it the way that we do it and then everything will be fine.” We’re going to look at each individual client’s needs and we custom design and work with those clients to develop the practice that they want, not the practice that i think they want.
Dr. Davis: And that's important right because every doctor wants a different practice?
Dr. Lenarz: Yeah it makes my work a bit harder in some ways but in the real world of business consulting that's actually how it's done! Yeah in chiropractic consulting it definitely has, generally speaking, developed into this kind of cookie cutter sort of system.
Dr. Davis: Very good and I know we were talking previously doc, we were talking about marketing, obviously that's my focus. Upper cervical based marketing, online marketing specifically with me. We were talking about something you referred to as the marketing life cycle. Can you talk about that and give my readers some understanding on that?
Dr. Lenarz: Well this is really a concept that we've been really chipping away at for especially the last couple of years. Historically what we've done is we've opened up practices and associates bought them. And in the last few years we kind of switched that where we opened up clinics and they basically remained owned by a corporation but then the doctors can buy into them.
So we're actually working with doctors you know three years beyond opening up a clinic with us and we've noticed that there’s really a need to move into—they’re really helping the associate doctors if they want to stay in the system and work with a clinic over three years, four years, six years and not going anywhere with it. You have to allow for some individual sort of development of that practice. Also we've noticed that the marketing model that I grow up in was based on some other consulting that I took on early in my career which really left the chiropractic practice reliant on ongoing marketing throughout its life.
So what we've seen is that there's a real need to shift from external marketing to retention and referrals over time. And what I have found is that when I open up the clinic I can get the numbers up significantly relatively quickly within a matter of a few months to a year. Doctors are usually at a hundred visits or more per week. Anywhere from ninety days out to as much as a year depending on the doctor and how well they are able to do that. And to do that you can't just rely on referrals because of course when you open up a practice there’s nobody to refer so you've actually got to go out in the community.
So we've gone and developed some pretty significant models for what we call community based marketing. So that's screening, corporate consulting, public speaking, networking, and so a lot of work needs to go out in the practice on the front end, be out in the community. And I think that there’s some value in the doctor having some ongoing community-based involvement in the long run for many reasons. But over time the practice should become less and less reliant on that to maintain and grow and to become more and more reliant on referrals whether those are from professionals or whether they’re from patients.
But it's not actually an easy transition. Still what we found is that you really have to very contentiously look at how you begin to transition over time from external marketing based to internal marketing. And there’s a lot of components to that. So my experience is then that depending on how quickly someone wants to build a practice that you know you’ve got to really put a lot of effort into external marketing for as many as three years to really get a retention base. But right from the beginning you need to begin to weave in the components that will help build a referral-based practice. And after about three years, the referral base should overtake the external marketing.
So you know maybe it starts out at 10% referral in the beginning, 90% external marketing. And by the time you reach three years, maybe to four, it should be now—over 50% should from referrals and under 50% should come from external marketing and then that should continue to grow to the point where in the long run you know somewhere between 90 and 100% should come from referrals and you shouldn’t be reliant on external marketing. Just somewhere around three and four years you should be able to make that transition.
Dr. Davis: Yeah so during that first portion—for those new doctors that might be reading this—those first, like you said, first 3-5 years the new doctor really needs to be very aggressive in their external marketing to build that patient base.
Dr. Lenarz: Yes
Dr. Davis: Yeah absolutely and that’s one of the aspects online marketing that I like. There’s so many facets to it and so much that can be done. There are strategies that you can use to attract new patients but there’s also a lot of strategies when it comes to just creating promoters within your own practice? And feeding those people who already know, like, and trust you with information to be able to share with others and continue to build that credibility with them as well.
Dr. Lenarz: Yes, I agree.
Dr. Davis: So Doc, I want to wrap it up I just wanted to talk briefly about The Upper Cervical Experience and have you mention that. I know that a lot of the people who read our blog and visit our website I know that they should be at that and I know that you can talk about that event and what’s to be expected next year at the mega conference.
Dr. Lenarz: Yes thank you. I’m super excited about that. And we have a great team that’s actually working to put that on. It’s myself, Dr. Scholten, Dr. Brooks, Dr. Ray Drury, and Dr. Julie Mayer Hunt are kind of the board if you will. And it’s going to be a blast, we’re going to have a really fun format, some really great speakers. We’re just getting the speakers lined up now so I can’t tell you exactly. It’s going to be Thursday through Saturday afternoon. It’s the 26th, 27th, and 28th of February at the Downtown Marriott in New Orleans. We’re going to have a lot of interactive activities, some games to play, really getting the different doctors from the different upper cervical groups to play well together.
Dr. Davis: That’s always good, always a challenge!
Dr. Lenarz: And we’ve got a lot of the younger doctors, some in the diplomateprogram. Some that have just been out of school two or three years, they’re helping to put together the program and along with some of us old goats, so it's just going to be a blast. And I think it's probably going to be one of the most remarkable programs ever held in upper cervical.
Dr. Lenarz: Oh by the way, the Upper Cervical Experience, the tagline is “Our time is coming. Be prepared.” You know, we keep saying our time is now but it's not quite now, but it's coming. And we want everybody in the upper cervical community to be prepared. And so this is about preparing our upper cervical profession to really be ready for what's coming.
Dr. Davis: Very cool, I love it. I'm so excited, you know I'm a big proponent of breaking down barriers within upper cervical. There's so few upper cervical doctors out there that there's no reason we need to be segregating ourselves out from other groups so I'm real excited for this conference. And just the leadership of docs like you and Dr. Scholten and Dr. Drury and everyone that's been involved in this, I'm real excited about this. And thank you for everything you do, Doc.
Look for more information in upcoming blogs and newsletters. But go ahead and mark your calendar for February 26 through the 28th to be in New Orleans, Louisiana for the Upper Cervical Experience.