Relationship Marketing: A Modern Approach
Remember when you used to get real letters in the mail? Not the automated type, but the real deal, hand written with a personal message just because someone was thinking about you? You know what I'm talking about. The kind of letters you actually received in the mailbox, in the front of your house.
Most of the correspondence we do now is automated. We don't have to pay for postage. We can schedule emails to go out on designated days at specific times. Push a button and you are done. Email has completely taken over. Don't get me wrong, email marketing has its place, but I think there's real value in sending out good old-fashioned personalized snail mail once in a while.
If you've read any of my previous articles, you know my focus is on incorporating modern technology to enhance your acupuncture practice. I've written a full article about how email campaigns automated through Mail Chimp is great for patient education (The Monkey on Your Back, AT July 2011). I'm going to show you how to cleverly incorporate modern technology into your very own personalized relationship marketing approach to reactivate inactive patients. I'll also teach you how to inexpensively use snail mail to get new patients that fit your target cliental.
Recently, I moved to a new clinic and wanted to make some marketing changes. After meeting with a marketing coach I took the time to ponder what makes acupuncturists unique and different from other medical practitioners, which then led to a couple of dynamic realizations. First, there is something different about the relationship acupuncturists have with their patients in comparison to other medical professionals. Our relationship with patients is very personal. We incorporate all aspects of their lives into treatment. When you treat on this level, you can't help but develop a personal relationship.
Second, something was missing in my marketing strategies. Even though, like many of you, I was beginning to feel the time crunch involved in having a busy clinic. Somehow, I needed to shift my efforts to reflect the personal relationship I have with patients.
With a little creativity and research, I came up with a plan on how to incorporate the personal touch I desired to implement. I came up with a way to use good old-fashioned personal mail, without spending hours and hours to make it happen. Modern technology saved the day once again! I'll break down the resources I've found into two categories that are familiar to every acupuncturist. First, we'll focus on patient reactivation mail strategies, then we'll switch gears with some clever ideas to bring in new patients.
A personalized card to let someone know you are thinking about them goes a long way in building relationships. It can't be replaced with automated email. When you build an honest, heartfelt relationship with a patient, you have a patient for life. Have you heard of a company called Send Out Cards? I love Send Out Cards because it's easy and convenient, yet personal and fun. You can literally create a card for a patient that is completely personalized with a message from you in less than five minutes. The card will then show up in your patient's mailbox at home. Patients love receiving personalized cards and this service makes it really simple. To create your patient address book, simply upload a spreadsheet to include physical malling addresses.
The system has literally hundreds of pre-made cards you can customize to your own liking. You can also create your own card from scratch by adding in a picture, your own wording, your logo, etc. I like to have a few personalized cards created and waiting in my personal card file specific for birthdays, referral thank you's, and a simple I'm thinking of you message.
For birthdays, I create one card for every patient for the year with a special discount, then I tell the system when to send it out. My patients automatically receive a personalized birthday card from me, with a little note and my signature about a week before their birthday.
I have a special thank you card created for patients who send referrals. If someone sends a referral, I can simply open the system, add a little note if I wish, and send a card. You can automatically add flowers, chocolates, brownies, gift cards, etc. to any card as well.
Thinking of You cards are my favorite. I believe when you are thinking about someone there is a reason. Send Out Cards allows me to act in the moment by sending a card with a quick message. It's so easy. I don't have to run to the store to pick up a special card, find the time to sit and hand write a message, make sure I have postage on hand or make a trip to the post office. I can act immediately with a few simple steps: open the system, find a card that fits the occasion, add a personalized message, and click send. It's such a simple and powerful tool, yet it only takes a few moments.
Postcards are an effective, yet inexpensive, way to send a quick message. The purpose is to get you thinking about the person who sent it. If the graphics are done well, they also make you smile. I have received many postcards over the years specifically from my dentist and eye doctor. Sometimes, I receive postcards from businesses who are having a special event. Other times, I get a post card from someone who just wants to say a quick hello.
You can't find too many ready-made post cards options specific to the acupuncture field, but that shouldn't' stop you from sending postcards. If they don't exist, then you should create them yourself. Here's how it started with me.
Creating acupuncture memes for Facebook had become a little hobby of mine. The memes I was creating were becoming quite popular on my Meridian Family Acupuncture page and patients were sharing them with their friends. I decided to make the memes into post cards and use them as little reminders to reactivate and educate patients. My goal was to send a simple card that made my patients think about acupuncture and smile because they received a personal note from me. (See Figure 1)
Once you have a template, it's really easy to create postcards. Your local printshop can print them for you for about 35 cents per card if you order 500. I've seen cards for 9 cents each through Vista Print. The more you order, the lower the price. I like to create 4x6 post cards because they are only 35 cents to send. I avoid jumping up to a 5x7 postcard because the cost to mail them is the same as a normal letter.
I like to add a simple hand-written note before they go out. Sometimes I'll offer a discount to reactivate patients who haven't been in for awhile. If you are offering a special, I recommend leaving a space for a hand-written expiration date so your postcards do not become outdated.
Generating NEW PATIENTS
Recently, I relocated my practice, adding a second practitioner and a massage therapist to our team. I wanted to do some local advertising for new patients without spending too much money in the process. When I went into my local postal services store to talk about the process of creating my reactivation post cards, I learned about a couple resources that really helped bring new patients into my practice, and thought they might be helpful to you as well.
Buy a Mailing List: Did you know you can pay around $100 to buy a mailing list of about 1000 names and addresses which are yours to keep? It's really easy and customizable to the dynamics of what you are looking for in your clinic. Are you looking for patients within a 5 mile radius who make a certain income level? You can fine tune the dynamics of your list so you are targeting a specific clientele for your clinic. This is not an email list, which is a good thing. It's considered "spamming" and illegal to buy a big list of email addresses and send emails without permission. Here you purchase the actual physical mailing address for members of your community. It is perfectly legal to send mail to a physical address.
Make sure your postcard has a reason attached to it such as a really great discount or an event. Think about how many times you've kept a post card from the mail when you get a deal for an oil change, teeth cleaning, etc. Don't just use them to introduce yourself. You have to be more specific. Would you pay $100 for a mailing list for potential patients who live close by and fit into an income bracket that can afford your services? Once you have that list, you can send a series of post cards. If 2% of those mailers generated new patients, you'd have 20 new patients. That's pretty good odds for a $100 investment.
Every Door Direct Mail: Where I live, there are new neighborhoods going up all over town. When someone moves, they are looking for new local resources. Why not acupuncture? With the "Every Door Direct Mail" service you can pay the postal service to saturate an entire neighborhood with an introduction to your services. You choose the neighborhood you want to contact. You do not receive the individual names and addresses for each person in the neighborhood, but the post office will label and deliver your message for you. Cards have to be 5x7 or larger, but you only have to pay 17.5 cents per home to get your message out there. Each neighborhood could have between 100 and 500 homes.
There are a lot of places to order postcards online. The more you order, the cheaper the price. You can do 5000 postcards for less than $300. This would allow you to saturate multiple neighborhoods, or send the same card to one neighborhood over and over again. I've found that letting people know who you are so they can find you in the future has always paid off. The possibilities are unlimited for this type of a mailer. You can use as a discount for new patient visits, an invitation to an open house or community appreciation day, a discount for your new massage therapist, etc. If you add a magnet to your 5x7 card, then they can keep your name for the future.
If you are lacking in creativity, I'm happy to share. I'll let you have some of my ready made patient reactivation post cards in a PDF format you can send immediately to your local print shop for postcards that can be ready in a matter of days.
The most important thing is to evaluate your marketing system. Are there ways you can easily add a personal touch to your current communication process? Relationship marketing, if done right, can pay off now and long into the future.