Acupuncture Clinic Marketing

Acupuncture Marketing and Advertising

Ready, Aim, Fire… or Ready, Fire, Aim?

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I’m continually shocked at how many acupuncturists are focusing on the wrong things. It happens ALL the time. I’d guess most business owners, let alone acupuncturists, go through the same thing. If you don’t have enough patients/clients/customers, what should you be doing?

Obviously… getting some!

I offer business building coaching, but right now I don’t have ANY coaching clients. There’s a good reason why.

Almost without fail, the folks that want coaching aren’t focused on getting patients. If they ask me for coaching, I’m going to ask what they’ve been doing.

If the answer is “nothing”… well, part of the coaching requirements is to take action. Disqualified. I could charge money just to tell people what they already know they should do. Easy money for me… but it’s not my style.

So I’ll tell them…go ask for referrals, give talks, set up a website, something, anything. Only then we’ll talk.

Funny thing… They don’t come back. Don’t need to. My work is done, even if I never got paid for it.

Sometimes it’s not a lack of action though . Focusing on less effective ways of getting patients is almost as bad as taking no action at all. If you want effective, word of mouth, and websites are very low cost and low effort. There’s also more methods that take more effort but also work. If you’re not doing these first, then you’re probably wasting time and money.

Also, focusing on your clinic as a business doesn’t mean you’re focused on getting more patients. In just this past month:

  • A new acupuncturist said she’s getting incorporated and making a logo and business cards before getting patients.
  • 3 acupuncturists asked me if they should “finish” their website before publicizing it in Google and to their patients.
  • An acupuncturist really, really made his website fancy, but accidentally “hid” it. I didn’t know it was hidden and when I found out, we started working on fixing it. The next week he got 2 new patients. He’s also on the first page of Google for his area.
  • An acupuncturist told me about one new patient via Twitter (it’s like text message facebook). She’s been doing this for months!

Now, none of these things are necessarily the wrong thing to do. For example, I’m almost positive the Twitter acupuncturist does it because it’s fun for her, not because she thinks it’s going to get her all the patients she needs. (She’s a social person, and already doing very well.) Some people really enjoy fiddling with their websites (our service makes it easy).

So all of this is fine, if you realize what’s a distraction, and what’s not.

If you’d like to read more on this idea, I suggest reading a book called Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson. I just read it, and it’s really good. Michael (a pseudonym) is a centimillionaire publisher, who has started many, many businesses and coached people to start many more. He makes a good case for putting sales first. He also makes the point that if it’s not perfect, the feedback from actual customers will help make things even better. If it’s good, if it’s a fair value, it doesn’t need to be perfect yet.

He’s right.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who spend lots of money on incorporating, logos, office furniture, a lease, brochures etc. before they have their first patient. Stuff just adds to overhead – monthly expenses you have to pay whether you have patients or not.

I did this. About 17 years ago, I started a small business making rubber stamps. This was WAY before it became easy or common to personalize things – I knew the technology through my work with a wedding invitation/stationary manufacturer. I could put people’s names on the stamps, graphics, etc. I was thinking big, and here’s what I did.

  • I incorporated in Delaware.
  • Created a lot of brochures, materials etc. that no one saw.
  • Opened a business bank account.
  • Got a Business Reply account at the post office.

After all this work and expense, I only found ONE store to to carry my stamps -and there was only about 1 order a week.

If I had to do it over again, it would be easy – I’d get the sales/stores before anything else. Talk about putting the cart before the horse!

What saved me is I didn’t have high overhead. I spent money I didn’t need to, but I had no ongoing expenses/overhead.

High overhead causes cash flow problems… and cash flow issues are the #1 cause of bankruptcy.

Focusing on getting patients/making sales will actually help AVOID cash-flow problems. It will help avoid spending money you don’t need to.

So do you have enough patients? If not, what have you done in the past week to get some? How can you get more patients, faster, and if possible, automatically?

This “Ready, Fire, Aim” concept is something I’ve been thinking about lately. You may have noticed I haven’t written much lately. I’ve been slaving away building a new and improved version of the website service. I can now serve chiropractors, naturopaths and massage therapists in addition to acupuncturists.

It’s -almost- perfectly ready. I could put it off for another month or two while I test and perfect it. But that wouldn’t be smart of me. Instead, I’m offering you a deal. If you’re willing to help me test out the new website system, so everything can be ready sooner, I’m willing to give you a huge discount.  See if you qualify.

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5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Adrian // Aug 17, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Funny I ran into this article tonight. I’ve been in practice just under 3 months and almost opened a merchant account today before changing my mind. I decided I should should get more patients before I offer this extra service. I might wait another month.

  • 2 Burton Kent // Aug 18, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Adrian, had no idea you were a new clinician. I just issued you a refund for your website – you were entitled to a discount.

    I agree, most merchant accounts cost too much upfront and on an ongoing basis. You gave me an idea… I’m checking into something for you that will help you take credit card payments on your website.

    UPDATE: I figured out how to let you accept payments on your website through PayPal (accepts credit cards). The fees are only 2.9% + $0.30 – no monthly fee. You can have them direct deposit the amount to your bank account for free. Let me know if you’re interested.

  • 3 Jann Sumner // Aug 18, 2009 at 10:17 am

    One thing that I feel was failed when I took my very expensive acupuncture training, was advising us on not only ways to market ourselves but also that marketing would be so important! I had NO idea when I first opened that I would have to become a marketer without any training in that field. It is by far the most frustrating and difficult aspect of my career.

    One, traditional methods such as newspapers, flyers etc don’t work. People don’t look for practitioners in newspapers and unless you can afford to brand yourself, forget it. But also, here in Canada, at least in the east; people generally hate the idea of spending any money on health care of any kind. Because our primary medical care is virtually free (some provinces have small fees for the coverage), and most of us have drug plans etc., we are not conditioned to spend any money on our health.

    People think nothing of spending their hard earned dollars eating crappy fast food or getting their nails painted for $40 a week but feel that having to pay for their health is the equivalent to being ripped right off. A huge obstacle for me and others in this field is convincing our patients that their health is worth it!

    I had a guy come in years ago who told me point blank that I had 3 treatments to fix his problem and that was all he would spend on me. After those 3 treatments, he was much better but needed probably 2 or 3 more to completely be free of his problem and I kindly told him that we were almost there and he would greatly benefit by continuing treatments for just a few more… he pointed his finger at me and told me in a very nasty tone; “I told you I would only be here for 3 treatments and that’s all I’m doing!”. And that was it, he was out the door and I never treated him again.

    So, as much as things like word of mouth, yellow pages, websites etc are very helpful, we here in Canada have the extra baggage of patients who don’t spend money ever, on their health and don’t understand why they should do so. Even those with extended health benefits that cover upwards to $500 per year towards acupuncture, don’t like having to pay upfront and waiting for the funds to be sent back to them after they submit their receipts! If we were covered by our medical here, I’d be wildly busy. Sad but true!

    Hope all is well. Jann

  • 4 Joe Alban, L.Ac. // Aug 18, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    In addition to Burton’s advice of getting patients first idea, I also think it is very important to think about making mistakes in your practice.

    The first time he made a business, he made mistakes. But he kept going and pushing on, and now he knows how to run a business better. We all make mistakes, the key is to learn from them, keep experimenting, and keep moving forward.

  • 5 Angel Clark // Aug 21, 2009 at 8:59 am

    I just read your 8/17 post and am with you all the way. Overhead is what kills you! I’m moving into lean mode for lean times, which is how I started my business. And although I’m still not frilly, there is some bloat going on here.

    I am moving my business in the next couple of months and my website is basically going to be obsolete so I’m going to need to change a lot of things or else dump it and just make a new one — not sure what is easier. Right now I don’t know where I’m moving, but I am looking to downsize my space — from three tx rooms to one or two, multiple practitioners to just myself and possibly one other, and just consolidating everything I have and do. Once I get an address and space I will be contacting you for help in changing/redoing my website.

    Thank you for sharing about your previous business experiences.