Most acupuncturists have a rather stark resistance to marketing. The stereotype suggests that the very definition of marketing connotes overhyping one's message or claim in a way that causes a breach of integrity. As world-famous marketing genius Seth Godin has been known to say: "All marketers are liars."
The problem is that this inborn aversion to marketing is the downfall of many acupuncturists. Without a strong marketing campaign, there is a high likelihood that the practice will crumble due to lack of exposure. As you may know, business is, in many ways, a numbers game. You have to get a certain degree of exposure within a niche, a certain number of leads from that exposure, a certain percentage of those leads converting into patients, and a certain percentage that are retained within the practice.
Any business owner out there is posed with this central challenge of exposure/leads/client/retention. Marketing is what generates exposure and causes this chain of events that sustains any business out there.
Most acupuncturists struggle trying to find the best way to promote their work. They are afraid of losing money, integrity or their reputation. I have worked with many clients who abhor any form of self-promotion, as if it's automatically equated with selling out, regardless of the approach being utilized. This really is a tragedy, not only because the acupuncturist will struggle with this mindset, but the people out there that really need their help won't even know that they exist. You see, when you embrace a new, more empowering definition of marketing, it will become apparent how marketing is the gateway to fulfilling your purpose and being of greater service to others.
This new definition or marketing could go something like this: The actions taken to connect the people that are absolutely longing for help to a specific solution through the service that you offer. Now, the question inevitably arises: Is it possible to do this in an authentic and skillful manner? Answer: Absolutely.
For example, look at what I am doing here on this article. I'm helping you to see that there is a way for you to genuinely promote your acupuncture practice. My intention is to inspire you to take action in your practice and connect with as many people as possible that are looking for your exact service right now. Am I selling anything? No. I hate selling and honestly, I'm no good at it. Some people are natural at sales, but I am not. But what am I doing? I'm trying to help, educate and inspire you, and establish a sense of ease within you when it comes to marketing your services.
Through this process, you may decide that you have a connection with this information and you may want to look further into what I can offer your practice. If you do, that's great. If you don't proceed further, no problem. My intention is still to help you, even if we never work together or have a conversation. That is how I promote my business consulting services. This exact approach can work for you as well and there's nothing "salesy" about it. Your goal is to educate people how you can help them. Here are a few ideas:
Blogging: This is all about conveying value through education and story-sharing. At the same time, it certainly is a form of marketing- but an utterly positive one if done correctly. Blogging is still a new concept to most acupuncturists. I encourage you to set up a blog and take the time to learn how this can help your practice and your patients.
Social media: Nothing has me more excited right now than the potential of social media for the purpose-based business owner to spread their influence quickly and cheaply. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are remarkable platforms for making real connections and sharing with others how you can help them. Never before has there been such a clear and direct opportunity for service-oriented businesses owners like acupuncturists to connect with people who are looking for their services.
Online video: I know that this strategy may seem a little out of your comfort zone right now, but video is by far the best way to build trust and credibility online. When people can see and hear you, they will immediately feel more at ease dong business with you. Now is the time to ride the wave of online video. Video viewing is up by a full 52 percent, and it's only going more in that direction. If you know how to use online video, it is absolutely the fastest and most effective way to get high search rankings on Google and Yahoo.
There are many other ways to authentically promote your services. These just happen to be the strategies that I find the most exciting with the greatest potential for rapid exposure. Please realize that all of these strategies are dependent upon having a functional practice Web site that integrates and is capable of capturing leads and building relationships I'll talk more about this in a minute.
When you use strategies such as these, you'll come to discover that your marketing is absolutely inseparable from how well people respond to the service you offer. What this means is that your marketing and your service are part of the same energetic continuum. How you attract people into your marketing funnel and what you actually do for those people once they pay you are interconnected processes.
If you know how to market authentically, then you'll find that your patients tend to like you, trust you, receive great value, benefit from your services and tell others about you. This know/like/trust/receive value/referral pattern is entirely based on your ability to attract highly qualified and targeted people into your marketing funnel. When you market well, your service feels greatly rewarding, almost effortless. You'll find that you can help people with ease, often on profound levels. You'll find that those people make it a point to spread the word about what you're doing.
This is why about 80 percent of your energy, especially in the initial phases of building a business, should be focused on establishing an authentic marketing plan. This is why I love social media, online video and blogging so much. This form of marketing is about the softest sell possible because it's all about education and conveying value.
What does that do? Well, it prequalifies people first of all. People who find your work will either resonate with your message or they won't. The ones that don't? No problem at all. Don't take that personally. You cannot help everyone, and I can't tell you how many acupuncturists I've worked with who feel hurt by this, as if they should possess some magical power to help every single person who comes across their work. There are, however, a select group of people that you absolutely can help. When those people come across your information, they will be inspired to take action and move further down the marketing funnel you've created.
The next key concept is that, by the time your prospect takes the action to contact you, it is almost as if they know you already. You have offered them enough information and value to make them feel safe and overcome their objections. This is why it's so important in online marketing to have something like a special report or e-course that you offer. It is a powerful way to build relationships without you having to be physically present for each and every interested person.
I can't tell you how many acupuncturists I've known who still don't even have a way of capturing leads from their Web site. There is no way to build a relationship with interested prospects without this, as it's the beginning of your marketing funnel. Make sure you have an opt-in form on your Web site and use an e-mail marketing service such as Aweber for your online database. Give people something for free that will help educate them on how you can help them.
The more value you offer for free up front, the more likely people will be to try out your services, especially when it comes to acupuncture. Please know that there are indeed proven ways to authentically market your acupuncture practice. Marketing can and should be enjoyable. Your practice success will ultimately come down to your willingness to think like an entrepreneur as much as you think like a practitioner. I personally know many highly skilled and erudite practitioners who are struggling to build a private practice. Authentic marketing is the key ingredient. Use it wisely and your practice will flourish.
Click here for previous articles by Kevin Doherty, LAc, MS.
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