How Not to Be a “Me Too” Clinic
How Not to Be a “Me Too” Clinic
by Honora Lee Wolfe
No matter what product or service you offer, if a customer cannot differentiate your clinic from any other in the area, he or she will always base their purchase decision on price. This is true for retail businesses as well as service-based businesses.
The unfortunate fact about acupuncture services that undermines some clinicians is that everyone who went through school with you, the same year, the year before, the year after, etc., received the same skill set as you. Of course some of your classmates may have been more outgoing, some more brainy, some more organized, and all with different backgrounds, communities, and interests. Still, upon graduation, the “product” could look very similar from one of you to the next.
So that leaves two questions.
- How will you differentiate yourself and your services?
- How will you communicate these differences to your prospective patients?
Here are a few ideas
- Sell something different
- Patients are more likely to use products that you recommend than ones they can buy at Walmart. With a certain number of people coming into your clinic almost every day, you can create small product displays with a little plexiglass sign holder that basically says “I love these products and I think you will too!” These can be skin care lines, over-the-counter supplements and herbals, aromatherapy oils, candles, nutrition products, shoe inserts, pain liniments, patches or oils, handcrafted jewelry, a “my favorite book-of-the-month,” a line of greeting cards. It is only limited by your available space and your imagination. Display them nicely (where the person at your front desk can keep an eye on them if required). Price the products fairly, but make some profit for yourself as well!
- Create community
- How could you co-market something with another store or service in your area? A “green” dry-cleaning service, a day spa, a restaurant, almost anything could work in this situation. The idea is that you offer discount coupons to your patients for those services, and vice versa.
- If you have a public space, why not offer it for a local business group meeting, a BNI or Leads group meeting, a series of classes offered by the various other business owners in the area to help promote all of your businesses (think how much new traffic that might get!). Community meetings or classes of any type expose your clinic to lots of folks and win the hearts of local businesses.
- Fundraising days for local non-profits….do this from 5-8 PM on your slowest day of the week, offer community style treatments, people put $$ in a jar for their treatments, and all the proceeds go to the non-profit. Get the non-profit to help promote the event!
- Give a prize of a free treatment for the best halloween costume! Offer one free treatment for each new toy valued at over $XX that a patient brings in December 1st-15th. Donate these to a local homeless shelter or safehouse every year during the Holiday season.
- Make your décor remarkable
- Could your space look like a 19th century Chinatown pharmacy?
- Could it be ultra modern with wifi available while people wait?
- Could it be like the great outdoors with the sounds of water, birds, breezes, waves, and with live plants or an internal greenhouse atrium?
- Could it be a community meeting place that happens to have treatment rooms?
- Could it feel like home with a play area for kids, comfy chairs, headsets with music-of-your-choice while getting a treatment, tea, juices, and simple snacks for purchase?
- How about a plexiglass sign at reception with a “quote of the week?”
- How about a rotating gallery display for local artists...a new artist’s work each quarter? (This idea could also fall under #2 above.)
- Answer your phone
- It is a sad commentary on our profession, but you could set yourself apart from 80% of all acupuncture clinics just by having someone to answer your phone during normal business hours. Here at Blue Poppy we actually call our customers regularly, and we typically reach only 80% of acupuncture clinics on our first call. This truly saddens me because the folks who don’t answer are often working on the fringes of success and don’t feel they have the money to hire anyone to staff their reception. I can tell you, however, that if you don’t have a way to answer your phone, you will lose business.
- Acupuncturists sometimes complain that we don't get medical “parity” and are not treated with the same respect as other healthcare practitioners. If that is what we want, one way to get it is to act more like medical offices in terms of phone behavior, i.e., have our phones always answered during normal business hours.
- It’s my personal belief and experience that you can increase your client base enough to easily pay for someone to answer your phone inside of two-three months from the date you hire them. Having your mind freed up to focus on your patients and your community marketing activities sends a completely different signal to the universe and my belief is that the response is positive growth!
- Be a specialist
- The most difficult “specialty” is to be a generalist. You have to know something about everything, or at least where to find the information to treat almost everything. Of course it’s fine if that’s what you like, but there are some advantages to specializing. First, it is easier to get really good really fast if the universe of what you treat is smaller. It is easier to remember the patterns most likely involved and thus easier to diagnose. Better yet, within a short time your confidence in understanding what you are doing with each patient grows and becomes quite stable. When a patient asks if you know how to treat XYZ, your voice on the phone or your body language in person will be perfect when you respond “yes.”
- For example, did you know that the most common complaint in the US today is with difficulty sleeping? Something like 70 million Americans have trouble sleeping (and I’d bet the percentages hold true in most all developed nations). If you could treat insomnia successfully more than 50% of the time, you would not lack for patients!
- Be a participant
- I’ve said this in other blogs I am sure, but it bears repeating: People like to buy products and services from people they know. So how can you participate with more people in your community? The PTA at your children’s school? A city committee? A children’s soccer or little league group? A 4th of July Parade committee? An active church group of some type? Find ways to get involved that are meaningful to you and good for your town, group, or your own definition of community.
This could go on into “have the best website,” “develop one very special skill set more than others,” “run your clinic on time,” “always be present with every patient every time.” However you choose to do it, find several ways NOT to be a “me too” clinic.
All good things to you!
For more ideas on marketing your clinic, check out my FREE ebook here, and thanks for reading my blog!
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