Do you read magazines or publications from other niches and industries? I find it very revealing and worth my time as a marketer to check out all kinds of ads, articles, and ideas from industries outside the world of Chinese medicine and then “cross-pollinate” the ideas in ways that make them relevant to improving the marketing plans for my company and my clients’ in private acupuncture practice. Try out some of these and see where your creativity may take you.
1. Use holidays to tie in with your promotional efforts. Go to www.holidays.net/index.htm or http://www.holidayfestival.com/ and look for lists of holidays or commemorations that may somehow be related to health. Can you write an article about any of those subjects, give a lecture, or create an event that will attract attention? Example: Feb 3rd (yesterday!) was Chinese New Year. It is a common tradition to give red envelopes containing money to family members and especially children. You might have a party at your clinic inviting all your patients. At your party, fill a basket with red envelopes, each one containing a coupon for something (A free treatment during February, a discounted series of treatments, a free bottle of herbs, whatever. On the back of each coupon put a Chinese proverb. Serve tea and fortune cookies!) You can spin this idea for any day, week or month of the year....National Breast Cancer Prevention Month to Mental Health Week. Check out Chase's Calendar of Events at your library for endless ideas about this.
2. Give your patients value-added information every time they come in. This might include bookmarks, pocket guides to dietary health, free books (buy in bulk for wholesale prices), a CD with a recent lecture you gave to some organization and have taped (CDs are not expensive to make), a small pocket guide to "Using Chinese Herbs to Enhance Your Diet". These ideas are endless. And don’t forget that everything going out your door should have your contact information on it, website, etc.
3. When contacting the media about covering your clinic, use odd times of the day. These people often work weird schedules, but the gatekeepers who work for them work regular 9-5 schedules. Thus, if you call at 7:30AM or PM, who knows who will answer and what access you may have?
4. Teach classes and workshops. Find any excuse or reason to teach for anyone who will listen on any subject you are comfortable speaking about. The students in the classes will, more often than not, become your patients. Does your local YMCA or community college offer continuing ed classes? How about your church, PTA, large local corporations, or Better Business Bureau? Don’t be shy and make sure you have flyers, business cards, and brochures to give out.When you get a gig, also take along a sign-up sheet to receive your e-newsletter or blog.
5. If you get a speaking engagement, follow up with a Thank You card to the person who was your contact.
6. Have something really exciting to share? Contact every syndicated columnist in the US. You can purchase a list for $20 from Editor and Publisher. Contact subscription services at firstname.lastname@example.org, (888) 732-7323.
7. Start and maintain a support group. These may be other acupuncturists or other kinds of business people. Napolean Hill, in his famous book, Think & Grow Rich, calls this a “master mind” group. You can meet for breakfast once each month or each week. At each meeting, take on one or two people’s questions or problems and share your ideas for a solution. This is tremendously powerful!
8. Want to be a radio personality? If you’ve got something interesting to share, go to http://www.ontheradio.net/cities/boulder_co.aspx for a list of stations.
9. If you want to be an expert on a specific subject (improved sports performance, preventing anorexia, treating or preventing fibromyalgia, go to your local/regional paper and TV station websites and find the names of relevant editors (health, special features, modern living, etc.) and send them a short, to the point email message. Keep it to three paragraphs and use powerful words and sentences to get across your message. If possible, reference or tie to a previous story that this journalist has written or covered.....and never use attachments. Give them the guts of what you have to say in a sound bite. Deliver it in a way that makes their job easier and who knows, you might become their main contact for alternative health for years to come.
10. Create a affiliate program on your website to sell products you love. This is not a new article, but you can get started with affiliate marketing using Lisa Hanfiletti's information here: http://www.insights-for-acupuncturists.com/affiliate-information-for-acupuncturists.html
11. When there are no patients in your office, don’t sit and read clinical books, go out and meet people. Are you in a building with other offices? Does every other business in your building know who and where you are? If not, go introduce yourself and take your business cards. Walk every street in each direction for a mile or so and give out cards and brochures to all who will take them!
12. Are you Hispanic in origin and/or fluent in Spanish language? Find every Spanish language newsletter, paper, TV or radio station. Then try #9, 8, 4, 3, and 1 above....but do it with Spanish!
13. Use artwork for free. Check out http://www.aaaclipart.com. You can download over 30,000 free images. Brochures, business cards, flyers, signs, and more.
14. Have a great piece of artwork you’d like to share? Take it (and your contact information) to Kinko’s or a local printer and have posters made. Give away to your best patients. Make sure that a sticker with your phone and email are on the back.
15. For women only.......does your town have a Women’s Networking Entrepreneurial Training resource? You can find out from the U.S. Small Business Administration in your area. They offer wonderful classes and networking opportunities in most metropolitan areas.
16. Cruise over to www.morenewpatients.com .....originally for Chiropractors, but has some great ideas no matter what services you offer to your patients.
17. Want to sell your practice? Get a free quote and selling ideas from Professional Practice Specialists, Inc. www.practicesales.com 800-645-7590.
18. Want to create beautiful window signage? Contact www.grafia.com or 800.767.5609 for eye-catching window decals, banners, light boxes, sidewalk and interior signage.
Ok, so that was more than 15. I got carried away looking at ideas from other publications and websites while writing this article. I encourage you to look at every publication you can with a “marketing eye” and steal ideas from everywhere. You’ll be surprised at how your creativity is sparked by other industries’ solutions to marketing problems. Pick one of these 18 ideas and just do it....see how the added qi makes your practice grow!
Honora Wolfe is the co-author of Points for Profit: The Essential Guide to Practice Success for Acupuncturists, available from Blue Poppy Press at www.bluepoppy.com. She is teaching an upcoming one day biz class at the New England School of Acupuncture, March 20, 2011.