A chiropractor who moved his office recently was commiserating with me today about how hard it is to pick up new customers. He'd done fine at his old office through word of mouth, but he's finding that most people, at least those in Manhattan, choose their chiropractors based on proximity as much as anything. The office has to be within a six-block radius, he said, so a lot of his clients have stopped coming, and he's looking to figure out a way to attract new clients.
He advertises at the local YMCA--it costs him $100 per month--but says he has little evidence it's done him any good.
I suggested he try some local ads online. So if someone on, say, Google or Yahoo or Citysearch types in "chiropractor 10011" (his office's zip code), an ad for his services would come up. The beauty of these models is multifaceted:
The biggest challenge might actually come from choosing the keywords and locations. How many people will type "chiropractor 10011" or "back pain 10011" or even "chiropractor new york"? He might not even get to use his full ad budget because not enough of his potential market is online looking in his region for what he's selling. But he can keep trying, and he won't be left wondering--like he is with the YMCA ads--whether he's getting any response.
There are a lot of places to try to advertise your business locally. Google's keywords application lets you target ads by a location that you specify. You choose geographic coordinates and distance from those coordinates. Citysearch.com also has a local advertising keyword option. Yahoo seems to have a similar option, but it's not spelled out as clearly in the help area linked off the "advertise with us" page. And my chiropractor friend should also make sure to get his Web site listed in the local unpaid listings as well; he just submits his URL as instructed on the sites; optimizes his site; and calls, e-mails, and pesters the search engines, whatever it takes. That may be even more cost effective.
You can also try local sites in your area: newspapers, radio station sites, Craigslist--you know better than I what's around and what people are looking at where you live and work. Just make sure to demand value and information.
E-mail can work, too, but there are pitfalls. The chiropractor, for example, didn't realize that he could be exposing himself legally if he sends e-mail to patients who haven't opted in for that kind of communication. That's a whole 'nother kettle of fish.