Michael Arnold, L.Ac.
With all the financial doom and gloom out there
it’s easy to get worried about the impact of the recession on your
practice. This article covers some of the best strategies to beat the
recession and ensure a constant stream of clients coming into your
clinic. I have personally used these techniques to ensure my own
acupuncture clinic has stayed thriving. I have also taught many others
how to do the same. The strategies work whether you are just starting
out in practice or if you are well established. Not only are they easy
to implement but once set up many of them run themselves, drawing in a
constant stream of new clients, leaving you free to get on with doing
what you love - helping people feel well.
So in reverse order here are the top 5 tips for
keeping your practice thriving during the recession:
5 - Offer a free consultation
Offering a free consultation (either in person or
over the phone) is one of the best marketing strategies you can use. It
effectively takes all the risk away from prospective clients and means
they have nothing to loose by paying you a visit. It also shows
willingness on your part and builds trust and rapport.
I offered a free consultation on my website and the
number of enquiries tripled overnight. At another acupuncture clinic, we
brought in free telephone consultations and again the number of
inquiries skyrocketed. I have found that 90% of people who come for a
free half hour consultation in my clinic sign up for a course of at
least 5 treatments. Now you may think that offering something for
nothing is a waste of time and money but I guarantee you that people
will be much more willing to make a financial commitment, once they have
met you and sampled what you have to offer. In the therapy world, more
than anywhere else the rapport and trust between the practitioner and
the client is vital, and people know this. You can even be very upfront
about this in your website and say that this is a chance “to find out if
I am the right practitioner for you”.
The key is to offer something of real value that
you would normally charge for. When I give a free consultation I simply
give a shortened version of my diagnosis session. I ask the person about
how they would like the acupuncture to help them and give a realistic
evaluation of the benefits they can expect. I also offer any advice that
they can implement straight away. By asking questions and really hearing
the person, I am almost always able to gain rapport and trust. At this
point, the person will be more than happy to book a full session. Do not
attempt to push your services, instead focus on giving and listening.
You will immediately set yourself apart from the crowd.
4 - Reward your clients for referring their
Every acupuncturist knows that referrals are one of
the best sources of new clients for your practice. But how can you
encourage your existing clients to recommend you to their friends? The
best way is to set up a referral system. You can set up a referral
system so that every time one of your clients refers someone to you,
they get a discount on their next treatment.
You can easily do this by sending out a letter or
email to all your clients thanking them referring their friends to you.
Explain to them that from now on every time they refer someone to you
they will receive 40% (or whatever percentage you choose) off their next
treatment. Set it up so that they receive the discount once their friend
has attended the first session.
You can also make discount vouchers for your
clients to give to their friends. This way both the person referring and
the person being referred can receive a discount when a referral is
made. Using both of these incentives together will massively increase
your referrals. We implemented this strategy at an acupuncture clinic in
and the number of referrals tripled from one month to the next.
3 - Keep in touch with your clients via
Keeping your practice thriving isn’t just about
attracting new clients. One of your best sources of new work is your
existing client base. If someone has used your services before they are
much more likely to do so again than someone who has never met you.
That’s why emailing your clients with your latest tips, advice and
offers is a great way to encourage people who haven’t come to see you
for a while to get back in touch.
The best way to do this is to start a monthly email
newsletter. Fill it with useful information that will enhance your
clients lives. Do not overtly sell to them or they will soon ask to be
removed from your mailing list. Instead use it to build credibility and
trust with your clients by giving them useful information. Newsletters
also act as a gentle reminder that you are still there. Often people
simply forget to book back in with you and an email from you is all they
need to get them to pick up the phone and book another appointment.
2 - Communicate the benefits of your
treatment in your promotional material
It doesn’t matter whether its a leaflet, a website
or an advert in the local paper. The text you use to promote your
acupuncture practice can either make or break your promotional efforts.
I see so many acupuncturists who try one form of advertising or another,
only to be disappointed by the lack of response to their advert, leaflet
or website. Nine times out of ten this is because their approach to
writing the text is fundamentally flawed.
The golden rule of writing any promotional material
is that you must communicate to the person reading exactly how they can
benefit from using your services.
Most acupuncturists make the mistake of focusing on
the features of their service such as how acupuncture
works, how old it is, or how long they have been practicing for. This is
great but it does not explicitly explain how the person reading can
benefit from your treatment. For example are they likely to feel more
relaxed, invigorated or suffer less pain? These are the issues that are
uppermost on people’s mind when they are looking for an acupuncturist
and you must address them. Think about it, if you're buying a stereo,
you don't want to know about the gold plated wires, you want to know how
great the music is going to sound! Believe it or not, the same goes for
acupuncture. The first thing people want to know is how it can enhance
their life. If you can provide proof in the form of testimonials or
scientific evidence, even better.
The most important place to communicate the
benefits of your treatment is in the headline of your website or
leaflet. Your headline will either grab the person’s attention and make
them want to read on or .... not. If you spell out how they can benefit,
right from the outset your prospective clients will be much more likely
to read on to find out more. If they then see that you offer a free
consultation, they can see that they have a lot to gain, and nothing to
loose by giving you a call.
1 - Get good at using the internet to
attract new clients.
This is the single most valuable investment of time
and energy you can make to ensure the long term success of your
practice. Most people now use the internet as their first port of call
for researching products and services of all kinds and this includes
acupuncture. In May 2009 alone there were 2 million searches on Google
using the word “acupuncture”.
Four years ago I learned about really effective
internet marketing for my acupuncture practice. Today I still get a
constant stream of people contacting me for treatment via the internet,
even thought I hardly touch my website anymore. This is one of the major
benefits of internet marketing - once you set it up it runs itself. It
is also the most effective, and cost-effective form of marketing you can
do, if you know how to do it properly.
So what do you need to know to be effective at
online marketing? Well the first thing you need to know is who your
target market is online. Who is looking for your services online? What
are they typing into the search engines? Where do they live? What
problems do they have that you can solve? Finding this out is pretty
easy if you know how.
Probably the best tool for finding your target
market is Google’s keyword tool. This is an online tool that tells you
exactly what search terms people are using in Google to search for your
services. For example you can find out how many people are typing in the
phrase “acupuncture Boston” into Google each
month. The keyword tool will also give you all the relevant ways people
are searching for your services that you wouldn’t have thought of.
Pretty useful! You can access the Google keyword tool by clicking on the
Once you know how people are searching for your
services online, you can start to build a website based around what
people are actually searching for, not what you think they are searching
You can get more information on exactly how to do
this by downloading my free guide “How to use the internet to create an
endless stream of new clients”. This is exactly the same information I
used to double my acupuncture practice in 2 months. To access the free
guide simply click on the link below:
So I hope you can see there is no need to worry
about the recession. There are still plenty of people who want to have
acupuncture treatment. It just means you have to put a little effort
into smart marketing that sets you apart from the crowd. Most
acupuncturists don’t like marketing but if you know how to do it
properly you can set things up once and leave it on autopilot to keep
your practice thriving for literally years to come. You can then get on
with the real work of helping people get well.
About the author: Michael Arnold is a licensed
acupuncturist and a member of the British Acupuncture Council. He runs
www.therapymarketingtips.com a free resource providing therapists of all
types with proven marketing strategies to beat the recession and attain
a consistently thriving practice.