Dr. Shawn Dill and Building Relationships to Grow Your Upper Cervical Practice

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Dr. Shawn Dill

Dr. Shawn DillDr. Shawn Dill is the founder of The Specific Chiropractic Centers with 9 locations and growing. He also runs a knee chest technique program called The Art of the Specific. Their clinics are all cash, upper cervical specific offices that have been extremely successful. Dr. Dill was recently interviewed by Upper Cervical Marketing. We discussed the importance of relationships and systems, how you need to find and focus on your target market and how you cannot be all things to all people and much more.

Get ready to learn!


The Chiropractic Story

Dr. Bill:    Dr. Dill I would like to know what got you started in chiropractic to begin with?

Dr. Shawn:    Chiropractic story. Well, my cousin Steven Hernandez was a chiropractor. He was a little bit older than I was and so growing up in those influential years, was the 80's for me. And I was very impressed with my cousin's lifestyle as he was working his way through the Mercedes 80's as a chiropractor. And I always said that I would wanted to be like him. I didn't really know why.

Then, as fate would have it playing high school soccer, I was actually was playing indoor soccer. I had gone up for a centered ball and the goal keeper came out and went to punch the ball but he missed the ball and instead he hit my head.

And it caused me to flip upside down and I landed on my head and I was knocked out. And when I finally came to, I was like, “Oh my God, I am okay.”

And then the next day, I had of all things, lower back pains. I was having difficulty walking. My low back really hurt. My legs hurt. And so, my mother ended up taking me into a chiropractor. But something there just sort of stayed with me that I had hit my head and it caused my low back to hurt.

I was able to get put back together. Then, from there I just sort of heightened my interest in chiropractic.

Dr. Bill:    Interesting. So then when did you go to school?

Dr. Shawn:    Well, I went to Indiana University for undergrad. And all I did was fulfil my requirements. I knew I wanted to be a chiropractor so I did two years at Indiana University and so the next fall I was enrolled at Logan. That was 1992. I graduated from the Logan College in 1995.

Dr. Bill:    So then when did you start getting interested in upper cervical?

Dr. Shawn:    Well, luckily for me in my very first trimester at Logan I happened to pledge the fraternity Delta Sigma Kai.  And as soon as I was in the fraternity, the brothers who are in the senior tribes, they told me about DE.

They were like, “Hey, listen.  We’re all going to DE.” And I was like, “Alright. We're going, we're going.” And we got in a van and drove down to Atlanta and that was my first exposure to Sid Williams and DE and Michael Kale.

And so right away I knew that I really liked what he was talking about, what Michael Kale was talking about. I went up and saw him in his hotel room and all the people lay out on the floor there. And I was like, “What is this?” And received my first adjustment there by Michael. And then, from there I started to go to Spartanburg.

I have family in Hendersonville, North Carolina right outside of Asheville. And so I would go to Spartanburg for the Kale seminars and then stay at my grandmother's house in Hendersonville. So it's quite convenient and started going down and taking the modules with Michael Kale.

Then if anything at Logan, upper cervical was frowned upon. It was illegal in that sense. And so, anything that you tell a student that they can't do or should not do, I think that causes them to have even more interest in.

Dr. Bill:    So that was the beginning you started with upper cervical in school and then when you came out of school you practiced upper cervical specific work right away?

Dr. Shawn:    In my chiropractic career from 1995 I have never practiced anything but upper cervical. I don't mean any disrespect by the statement. But I think what's interesting is there's a lot of people that do upper cervical, that don't do upper cervical. I mean, by definition, if you're an upper cervical practitioner that means that you focus your work exclusively on the upper cervical spine.

If you're adjusting anywhere else, then by definition you're a full spine chiropractor with an emphasis on the upper cervical spine which again, there's nothing wrong with that. But that's just not what I do.

So since 1995 and as professional doctor, that's all I've done is practice upper cervical exclusively. And for me it's been knee chest work.


From Costa Rica to the World

habla espanol

Dr. Bill:    From what I know about you, you went and practiced overseas for awhile, right?  Was it Costa Rica?

Dr. Shawn:    Yeah, I graduated in 1995 which was an interesting time in chiropractic. That was the birth of HMO, of managed health care and HMOs and PPOs. And that was a really scary time because managed health care meant that in order to see your chiropractor you're going to need to receive some sort of referral and that's from a primary care provider. And luckily for us, we begin to be primary care providers and we didn't need to have a referral from a medical doctor, anything of that nature. People could access this directly.

But there is a time when that wasn't very clear how it was going to play out. And so I was sitting in school thinking, “Geez I spent all these money to be a chiropractor and here it sounds to me like this whole thing is about to be over.”

I was 24 when I graduated from Logan. I didn't have family or anything so I just decided to go to Costa Rica.  On the other hand, it was great and on the other hand I was kind of dumb because I didn't speak Spanish. So I went there and I just scrambled through it. And so my first year of practice was actually very, very, very difficult. I would define it as terrible

I think at the end of my first year I was seeing approximately four people a day and I had maxed out my credit cards and I was in trouble financially. I had to make a decision. Managed care ended up not being that bad. I knew that people were kind of making ends meet, taking insurance and I figured I move to the States and learn that game.

But I decided to stick it out and thankfully I made that decision to just hold in there. At the end of my second year we were over 200 patient visits a day. And so this persevering and getting a better handle on the language really made a big difference for me to be able to last there.

And over the course of time, fortunately we were able to write the law that regulates chiropractic.  At the end of my second year, towards the end of my second year, Dr. Andy Roberts came down and joined the team there and started working with us.

And then, over time we grew to where we had four clinics. And certainly pretty much in all of Costa Rica through our different outreaches and things that we were doing and so we had a really nice run.

I had two daughters that were born during that time and so we decided to move back to the States to basically give them a better education than what they could get there in Costa Rica.

Dr. Bill:    So what do you think was the main factor involved in your success from that second year compared to the first year?

Dr. Shawn:    Two things. One was, and this happens a lot. And it's interesting that I would think that some of the criticisms that maybe directed my way from the upper cervical crowd. Actually, I think, they don't fully comprehend this first point.

But number one was when I graduated from school I had this idea that upper cervical could be made better if it had, maybe not a strict of an approach to adjusting, I guess would be the best way.

I didn't really have a handle on understanding the magic that happens when you make the adjustment at the right time. I was very aggressive with my adjusting. I think that's one of the things that I see oftentimes with people in chiropractic clinic or upper cervical clinic is that the key to being a great practitioner, what makes a great practitioner is the number of people that are coming into get checked that don't need to be adjusted.

And I was very hung up on the adjustments. And I felt like I wasn't providing value to the patient if they came in and got checked and they didn't get adjusted. I had been taught properly but it just, I have this understanding of listen to this, “I'm going to make a run at this.”

It's actually being committed to doing upper cervical and not try to use upper cervical as a therapeutic approach or adjust based off of symptoms or just because I thought that that's what patient thought they wanted or what they needed.

And then number two of course was the language. Having a better command of Spanish, I tell people, can you imagine somebody showing up in the United States and having some new procedure that they're running around with that they say can help these people get well. And they kind of talk to you and they sound like a third grader. It would be different if I was like a medical doctor, you know and they are like, “Okay, I kind of know. I know medicine.” But we're talking about, “Hey, adjust you, fix me, fast.” What?

And so, that was one of the big problems that we had. We had a brand new thing. We had a new concept in health care to these people and I couldn't communicate it very well.

It's super simple. That’s the key to the success in year two. Once I was able to communicate it, it made sense to them. And then, the practice just exploded because it was like, “Oh that's what you've been saying.”

Dr. Shawn Dill and Building Relationships to Grow Your Upper Cervical Practice
Dr. Shawn Dill and Building Relationships to Grow Your Upper Cervical Practice
Dr. Shawn Dill and Building Relationships to Grow Your Upper Cervical Practice

Dr. Bill:     That's excellent. So when you're in the Costa Rica and you had multiple clinics, when you came back to the States, did you envision that same sort of a model when you came here?

Dr. Shawn:    First of all, in Costa Rica I had super high volume. I would say that from year two until I left, the average in the clinic that I worked, this is not an aggregate number.  But my clinic we average 225 patient visits a day. I worked five and a half days a week.

So a lot of times people ask me what I like about Costa Rica or what are my favorite beach or resorts were and I didn't have vacation. I wasn't there looking at the beach. I was working in this little tiny room and seeing patients constantly.

There was a time when my office hours was from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. We were just going, just constantly never stopping. And we averaged probably about $12.50 a visit. That's probably what we were getting. Our overhead was super low and so the money was great. Everything was fantastic.

And so when I move to the States one of the other things that's interesting, you know, you hear these people that like to throw up numbers and right now I'm one of them throwing out these numbers. But I also have the flip side of that, my body was breaking down. I was there for nine years which means I was 33 when I came back to the United States. And I felt like my body at age 33 was really more like 53.

I had lots of problems because the knee chest head piece is a closed kinematic chain and those forces, those universal forces that I was delivering; for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. They were coming back and getting me in my upper thoracic spine. I was sick a lot.

There are several occasions when I flew back to the United States to try and get cleared out because I was just constantly dealing with these universal forces that were making me really, really sick.

And so when I came back to the States I wanted a different model. I wanted a lower volume with a higher value model.

The other thing is that I don't know anything about insurance. I don't receive any third party reimbursements from insurance companies because I don't know how to do that. I've never filled out a HCFA before in my life. And it's not because I'm against it, again, this is just not what I do. I don't know how to do it.

If somebody were to say, “That’s your ignorance.” That's fine. That's how I operate because I never learned that. And so I was like, “What I want to have here is that model that will see a lower volume of people so that I will be able to do this well into my later years of life.”  Because the rate I was on it, honestly I was very concerned that I wasn’t going to do the practice for a very long. But I still wanted to be able to, I wanted to command a high fee so that I could create value and still make really good money while serving a community.

Dr. Bill:    And that's where the first Specific chiropractic centers was born with that philosophy?

Dr. Shawn:    Well, yeah. So, the very First Specific chiropractic center. So, what happened is, part of my story went, an interesting part of my story was when I graduated Logan, like most chiropractic students I knew everything that is to know about everything pretty much. So I did not take part three or part four. Why would I? I don’t need that stuff which is a giant mistake.

So when I decided to come back to the United States nine years after I graduated, I still had to take part three and part four which is not an easy task to do. So while I studied and then took and then waited for my results, I took a job teaching at Life West.

And then while I was teaching, I opened the first Specific Chiropractic Center sort of our safety net, sort of a back-up plan just to have a clinic once I got the license and while I was teaching.

And once we got the practice up and running, other people began to sort of take note and say, “Well this is an interesting model.” The timing of it was at a time when upper cervical too was growing. A lot of people were opening these different models. They were opening a lot of different clinics.

Our model was based strictly on cash and it was based off the knee, chest upper cervical adjustments which we were teaching at that time through our program called That Something which has now evolved into a program that's called The Art of the Specific.

And so, little by little we began to license this format, this model to other clinics to where right now we currently have 9 clinics. Our ninth clinic opened May 15th in Atlanta. And then, we'll open Oklahoma City in the fall of this year.  We’re going to launch simultaneously three clinics in Dallas in the beginning of 2016.

So, right now we're kind of going through a growth space. That’s sort of the spawning of that was creating this model that was somewhat unique; a model where we did upper cervical exclusively, where we will cash only and we created these different business and marketing systems that allowed the practices to run successful.

Upper Cervical Marketing Systems


Dr. Bill:    Excellent. So let's turn to that. Let's talk about upper cervical marketing. And obviously you built these clinics and must have solid systems in place in order to replicate them.

Talk a little bit about your marketing philosophy and the some of the marketing systems that you use in these clinics that are in different locations.

Dr. Shawn:    Well, my marketing philosophy is based largely off of Michael Port's New York Times Bestselling Book, Book Yourself Solid. I used his book in a marketing and communication course that I taught at Life West and then subsequently, hired him as my coach and I've worked with him for four years now. And really appreciate his system if you really understand how his system is set up and how it works.

In the Book Yourself Solid System marketing does not get you new patients. Well, I think that's one things that a lot of chiropractors completely do not understand. And in fact I see tons of emails that I get, “Join this marketing thing or do this marketing thing and get X number of new patients.” But marketing doesn't create new patients. Marketing creates awareness.

Sales is what creates new patients. So once I become aware of you, if you want me to actually pull out my wallet or my credit card and purchase, you have to sell me. But marketing is how I knew you existed in the first place. So we utilize a lot of marketing systems in order to create awareness and to create relationships.

So the other key philosophical point of the way that we market is this relationship building. I'm not a big spinal screener. And our clinics don't use spinal screening as a marketing initiative. I'm not against it. I don't see people that screen and think like they're ruining the profession. That's not my position. I just don't particularly enjoy it. And the people that I do my best work with, the doctors that I work with don't particularly enjoy it either.

We do a lot of relationship building and networking.  And by networking, that doesn't mean like Business Network International or the Chamber of Commerce. Networking is just creating relationships, sharing contacts, sharing information, sharing compassion and developing that network of influence over the people that can influence your target market. So we do things like that.

We will also do internet marketing. I think that that's one of the things that's really strong. I think that’s something that's honestly, for some people it's very difficult because that's constantly evolving and constantly changing. And so, we utilize a lot of marketing systems that are internet based and utilize a lot of people that help us to put that together.

But most of all, if I were to sum it up, I would say that in understanding that marketing creates awareness and we create awareness through relationships.

Dr. Bill:    And most people don’t have any idea about upper cervical, right? They need to first become aware of it.  They're not even aware that it's even an option. Most people out there that are suffering with different health conditions or just want some more out of their life they don't even know upper cervical is an option.

So like you said, the first step is that awareness phase. You have to get them to the place that they were even aware that upper cervical exists.

Dr. Shawn:     Yeah. One of the things I see sometimes inside of the upper cervical community which I would admit that I was somewhat unplugged from recently. But what I have seen in the past is this ‘loudest voice wins attitude’.

We need to take the community by storm. Maybe if we jam a couple of videos down their throats they would get it. If we kick them harder on the head, they might understand that.

In reality, what I feel like is that they are people out there in this world that are dealing with all kinds of health issues. And when you are dealing with a health issue, you're not trying to prove to the world that you're stupid. And you most definitely don't do things to harm their own self. It doesn't make sense to be upset.

But people who are choosing a medical route are not choosing it to prove that they're stupid, and they're not choosing it to their own detriment. They're not saying, “I just want to die quicker so I’m just going to take drugs.” They’re choosing it based of the information that they have.

And so what happens is that we have lost our position, the involvement, the category, the authority or social proof, cultural authority. What I see is that we've lost the position of trust and credibility with the general public.  And as a result of that, they don't really listen to us.

So what we do is we think that when they don't listen to us that the better option is to scream at them louder or to point our fingers at them.  Our profession as a whole, not just upper cervical, is full of this. Right now it's superhot, this anti vaccine discussion.

But pointing fingers at somebody and telling them they're stupid for vaccinating their kids does not help your upper cervical or chiropractic message at all. Not the least.

It’s the same thing for telling them that they're dumb for giving their children antibiotics or eating at McDonalds. Those things that we've done in the past that's severely impacted and hurt our position and our ability to just give them reasonable information so that they can make an informed decision which is after all, all they want.

And so like I said, our strategy is built on trying to create a relationship of trust and credibility, because all things being equal – I would even say all things being unequal – people prefer to do business with people that they like and trust. I will pay more money to get my haircut by the woman who cuts my hair because I know I can get my haircut cheaper at Supercuts or Great Clips but I won't do that because I like and trust the woman who cuts my hair. And so the price is not a factor.

The thing is people listen to people who they like and trust.  We just have done a terrible job of building likability and trustworthiness. We don't do a lot to do that. What we're good at is screaming. We're really good at that. But we have to get better at building relationships with our community.

And once you have that, then they'll listen to you. That's why they take drugs because they like and trust medical doctors. I mean, that is the bottom line.

Dr. Bill:     How would this look practically for a doctor who's within their own community?

Dr. Shawn:     Well, first of all. Here's the step number one. One of the mantras is, “Every man, woman, and child, checked for subluxation since birth and adjusted as necessary.”  I like that. That sounds great. But here's the problem. Shawn Dill cannot check every man, woman and child on the planet. Again, it is impossible even with the Specific Chiropractic Center.

And you'll say, “Well you have multiple clinics.” I still can't check every man, woman and child even with that involved.  Even if we had a hundred, you couldn't check them all.

So step number one. If coming to the distinct and real understanding that, “I can't serve everybody on the planet. Therefore, if I am only going to serve some of them, why don't I serve the ones with whom I do my best work?” That's called target market, determining who I want to see.

Once I've determined who my target market is that's step number one. Then I need to determine what their urgent needs and compelling desires are. What are they trying to accomplish and what are they trying to leave? And that's different for every single target market.

Some people are trying to get out of pain because they need to play in a professional baseball game tonight. Other people are trying to be better mothers. Other people are trying to perform better at work. Other people are trying to make more money. And so everybody had a different motivation they're trying to do and then everybody is trying to get away from something.

Maybe they are trying to get away from this feeling because they don't feel like they're adequate. Maybe they're trying to get away from an economic situation because they can't work.  They can't work because of their health condition.

Once I've determined that, that will give me a clue as to how to speak to them. And then I begin to formulate my message. And here is one of the things I believe that the upper cervical message is not one size, fits all.

How I would speak to a professional baseball player and explain to them upper cervical is very different than how I would speak to somebody who works at Facebook or Google. It would be different than how you would speak to somebody who works at NASA. All of which I could meet inside of the community in which I live.

Out in Silicon Valley, we're exposed to a lot of the techy people. We're exposed to a lot of people that have a lot of influence. But we also we have NASA and a lot of engineers and scientists out here. So you have to determine your target market. That would then shape the way that you're going to present the message.

And then once you've determined that, what I would propose is that we begin to alter that message so that it fits wherever it is that we're putting. That way it's what we'd called personal brand identity. People begin to associate you with this thing.

So if you showed up and people said, “Oh, that's the migraine guy.” People can resonate with that. What do you mean the migraine guy? “Well that's the guy who helps all those people that have migraine headaches in the community.”

For example, I talk about this a lot.  In our profession, in our community you have epic pediatrics with Tony Ebel, another person that I've had the opportunity to really develop a great relationship with. And I always say, you know, I think Tony just woke up one day and decided he was the pediatrics guy. But now when he shows up at a chiropractic event, you'll know so well there is Tony Ebel, the pediatric guy. So when he walks around in his community people would say, “That's the guy that takes care of all the kids. That's the guy that deals with the ADD, the ADHD, the hyperactivity,” all of those things because he just positioned himself that way.

He doesn't want to see athletes. And in fact, I told him, “Listen, the way that we design the specific chiropractic centers, I'll be honest with you they are not really designed to see kids. I like seeing really sick people and people that are really sick.” If you have full blown migraine or you have cancer and you receive an adjustment and you're sitting in the resting bed, you don't want kids running around.

That’s another thing, too, within chiropractic, there’s this idea that “you're a punk if you don't see kids.” Well, what if you help really sick people recover their lives? I think that is just as worthy.

Dr. Bill:    Absolutely, you can't be all things to all people. I mean, you have to pick who you are. And if you are the pediatrics guy, that's great. Be that person. But if you're the person who, like you said, is someone who has great results with migraines and want to help to help those people, then be that person well.

Well, last, you know I really appreciate this talk. It has been great. And I just want to sum it up with what you're doing at this point? I know you're doing some coaching and obviously with the clinics and so forth so.

Tell us more about what you are up to at this point. How people can get a hold of you and learn more about what you're doing?

Dr. Shawn:    Well, this has been I strongly believe in periods of seasons, times of harvest and times of reaping. And so the past couple of years have been a time where we've been putting in a lot of work on seeding.  I've been out on the road, reaching out to the chiropractic profession. Pretty much every other weekend I've been fortunate enough to be out sharing with a different chiropractic group.

Schubelvision seminars, speaking at those.  We’ll be out in Jersey in July as well. And then, the Art of the Specific seminars, we've got an Art of the Specific coming up in August in San Francisco. Then we'll be in September in Dallas. And October we're going to be in Minneapolis. And here just in a couple of weeks we're going to be in Barcelona with our first offering in Europe.

And so through all of that, we've been planting the seeds here to get ready, as I've mentioned earlier to open some new opportunities. So we're on the plan right now to pretty much double up in the next year’s time to move from eight to sixteen offices. Also including some more work we’re doing in Europe as well as Latin America. We do two mission trips every year to Central America in January and July through the Art of the Specific. And so we're going to be doing some interesting projects there.

And just this year in January for the first time we were in Cebu in the Philippines also working with our mission work and working on some projects to bring some upper cervical work up to Asia as well.

So, now what that means is I have a couple of programs that I run. One of them is called Marketing to the 90's. The other is The Black Diamond Club. The Black Diamond Club is interesting. It's a monthly marketing interface where what we do is we take marketing initiatives that other industries have utilized successfully outside of chiropractic where we talked about how you might implement that in your practice.

And you look at things like reward systems, frequent flyer miles or you look at the way they market auto body shops, lawyers and we see the things that they're doing successfully. And we talked about the psychological elements that make those work and how you would implement those in your office.

All of that information is available in my website, www.shawndill.com.  Also on my website you can receive a free copy of last year's talk which is called Protecting the Dynasty which is the genesis of the marketing to the 90 program. Kind of gives you an idea why we did marketing to the 90 and what it actually means, when we talk about that marketing to the 90.

Well, basically over these next six months I'm going to sort of wrap up my work with my private coaching clients so that next year we're going to be in a time of harvest. We're going to be really focusing on opening new clinics. And getting our clinics up and running, our new clients up and running.

And we'll still run our self-directive programs like Black Diamond Club and Marketing to the 90 but not as much.  You probably won’t see me speaking at all in 2016 and probably not taking on any private coaching clients.

Dr. Bill:    And then if they wanted to find out more about The Specific Chiropractic Centers, is it just thespecific.com?

Dr. Shawn:    Yes, www.thespecific.com is our website for The Specific. And then the Art of the Specific, the technique program is www.theartofthespecific.com.

Dr. Bill:    Before we finish up today, is there anything else that you would like to share with our audience?

Dr. Shawn:    Yeah, I want to throw some props to you. I mean, it's not easy to corral these people. I know that. You and I have played a little bit of message tag there for a little while. And then, to put this together I have a great appreciation. And I think that sometimes people might take information for granted because you're putting information, great information out there for free. So I want to express my thanks and gratitude for all that you're doing to share this information.

And that's the other thing too is that there are so many great things that are going on in upper cervical. And upper cervical doctors tend to be sort of on an island. I get it.  It's the protecting mechanism. You don't want to sit there and have to defend yourself or justify yourself every single day so you sort of create these barriers, this wall of protection.

I think that is great that you are giving all of these people, your audience, an opportunity to gain some exposure to other doctors they may not know exist who are doing phenomenal things. And I was on the website the other day and it was great to reacquaint myself with old friends and also to meet some new people. I was looking on there. I was like, “I've never heard of this person.” And when you see what they're doing that's absolutely phenomenal.

And I think the last thing I would leave people with is inside the upper cervical too, it is easy to get caught up in this idea of who's right. And I've always believed this one thing.  And I think it applies to technique clinically but it also applies to some of the things that we talked about today, business wise, strategy.

I don't know Bill, when you invited me, honestly knew what you are getting into. And sometimes you're like, “Holy smoke. I'm not writing all of this.”

I will say that I fully believe that there is no one right way to do anything. And anybody who proclaims that to you, “This is the only way to do it,” that is foolish. There is always one other right way to approach anything that you're trying to do in life.

And so I would encourage everybody to just look into all of this stuff that you're putting out there. See what resonates best with you and then follow that but know that you're not wrong. The thing is not making people wrong. And I think like we've said earlier, we've made people wrong way too long at a time. The thing is this, find out what's right for you and then find all the people in the world who agree that that's the right for them as well and you will be super successful beyond your wildest dreams.

Want to learn how to use the Internet to build relationships with potential new patients? Download our complimentary e-book The Essential Step-By-Step Guide to Internet Marketing for the Upper Cervical Chiropractor to help your upper cervical practice grow!

Online Marketing Guide

About the Author: Dr. Bill Davis
Dr. Bill Davis is the Founder and CEO of uppercervicalmarketing.com. His goal is to spread the word about the best-kept secret in health through Upper Cervical Specific Business and Marketing Solutions.
We understand the pain of losing valuable time and money… and what it can be like to hate your marketing. That’s why we specialize exclusively in upper cervical care and chiropractic online marketing.
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