The Two Hats You Must Wear When Treating Your Patients

two_hatsBeing an acupuncturist in private practice requires more than needles, herbs and treating patients. You have to wear the hat of both a healer and a business person. Yes, it’s true. You are not only in the business of helping people to get well and stay healthy, but you also have to run a business. Many practitioners shy away from the business and marketing aspects but the truth is, they HAVE TO go hand in hand. You can’t fulfill your role as a healer without getting new patients and you need to do marketing to get patients.

Below you will find a few questions to help get you thinking and seeing yourself as more of a business-owner, in addition to being the healer you already are. Jotting down some answers to these questions will help you define and refine your role and goals as a business owner. This way, you can focus more on being a healer.

Marketing plan are two words that strike fear in the hearts of most business owners. Believe it or not, a complete marketing plan is fairly easy to do. Before you can determine a set of actions to follow as a part of your marketing plan, you need to get clear about who you are marketing to and what you offer to patients. The following questions are designed to help you to gain clarity:

• What unique benefits do you offer your patients that no one else does? If it is hard to come up with more than a few, check out your competitors’ websites to find similarities and differences. (You can read more about creating your USP here)

• Who exactly are you marketing to? Remember, the more labels you apply to your ideal patient, the better. You can then market to a smaller, targeted audience. Who is your ideal patient? Just anyone who has insomnia, or are you more interested in working with single moms who live in the city and suffer from migraines? When you can answer this, you can target your marketing efforts accordingly.

• What is the purpose of your marketing? In other words, what specific action do you want the people who see your marketing to take?  Does your marketing ask people to call for an appointment, come to a health class, visit your clinic or call for more information? Just saying “I treat neck and back pain” is not enough. Your message needs to say, “I treat neck and back pain. Come in for a free consultation”. Tell them what step to take after seeing your card, flyer or website.

• How exactly will you market to your clients? Will you use brochures, mailings, radio and TV, articles, newsletters, teach health classes or other methods? Use strategies that fit with who you are, not what you think you should be doing.  Remember that there are dozens of ways to market for free.

• What exact niche are you aiming to fill? Yes, you are an acupuncturist, but your personal interests and passions combined with your competitive advantages will steer you to one or more specific area of practice. Specializing in a small niche means that you will have fewer competitors.

• How much time and money will you spend on your marketing? Aim to spend 10% or even 20% of your revenue on marketing. If you plan your marketing you can spend your marketing dollars wisely.  This is why it is important to get clear about the basics. Planning your marketing will help create a clear vision and reinforce your purpose as a healer.

A plan, even a simple one, will expose any areas where you may be falling short in your organizational methods and clinical procedures, and provide you with the opportunity to reinforce those areas before they become a problem.

Consistency is Key

Marketing is like planting a seed that requires lots of water, fertilizer, and love before growing into a tree that can produce fruit. Sporadic or inconsistent marketing is akin to cutting the seedling down before it has a chance to bear fruit.

A marketing rule of thumb is that you need to reach a prospective patient an average of 9 times before they decide to schedule with you. Consumers are paying attention to any given marketing message once for every three times it is presented to them. You must therefore send your message out 27 times before you can realistically expect a great return. It is important for prospective patients to see your name, clinic name, and what you do 27 times. This can be anything, as long as it features your name or practice. When they finally decide to seek out acupuncture care, your name will be the first one they think of.

For long-term practice growth, focus on low-cost, innovative ways of spreading your message and getting your name out to communities and neighborhoods. There is no one right way to market. Again, consistency is key. Stay the course and you will see your practice grow steadily.

me_smallJeffrey Grossman, BA, L.Ac

Acupuncture Media Works, Owner/Founder

In 2002, Jeffrey founded Acupuncture Media Works combining his advertising, marketing and graphic design skills with his love of acupuncture. Over the past 12 years, Acupuncture Media Works has grown to be the #1 leader and supplier of acupuncture patient education materials, marketing tools, practice building materials and websites for the acupuncture profession.