Despite acupuncture's ancient legacy and modern-day relevance, a vast majority of Americans are still uninformed about what acupuncture is or when and how to seek a trained acupuncture professional.
Acupuncturists like you must be marketing savvy if you hope to grow your practice and the reach of acupuncture to a wider audience.
Here are some marketing tips that just might help you grow your brand awareness and win new customers:
1. Open Houses
Hold regular open houses. Invite the community to learn more about acupuncture and how it has evolved into one of the fastest-growing healthcare practices in America. Keep the group small and intimate to maximize impact.
2. Meetup Group
Try to get speaking engagements in Meetup groups, or even start your own Meetup group to educate people about "alternative" medicine. You'll have to book a steady flow of speakers but it's worth it if it puts you in the center of the healthcare conversation as a respected expert.
3. Target Market
Figure out who your best customers are based on frequency of visits and revenue; make a plan to go after them in a more focused way. If you work with lots of senior citizens, then spend more time engaging with retirement centers and other senior resources like AARP. Maybe you can write a regular column for a senior center newsletter!
Pitch local news media about acupuncture as it relates to trending topics like helping treat veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine Day, which was on October 24th this year. For hot tips on how to get in the news, consider following my PR over Coffee blog.
Keep your past and current patients up-to-date with regular email campaigns. Consider doing a monthly e-newsletter with lots of interesting facts about acupuncture and alternative medicine so you are constantly "top-of-mind."
6. Social Media Contest
Create a "following" on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets; then run occasional contests where you find a fun and clever way to get your followers to engage with you.
7. Loyal Customers
Offer specials that reward your most loyal customers. It will make them feel valued and probably result in more friendly referrals.
8. Holiday Specials
Offer a package deal that is available as a holiday gift for family and friends.
Advertising is still a way to be seen in a community. Look for a well-read community news outlet (in Austin, we have Community Impact News) and check out the cost of various advertising options. Some are pretty darn affordable.
Keeping a blog on your website is a great way to share information with customers and prospects even as you improve your website's search engine rakings by embedding keywords relevant to your industry. You can also have guest bloggers share related information about acupuncture. (Secret: it's also a great way to avoid having to write a post every week!)
As you can see, there are many ways you can market yourself to customers and the public at large. The key is to be consistent, not expect stellar results overnight, and be ready to stop what doesn't deliver new customers and strong brand awareness.
Slow and steady wins the race!
About Dave Manzer
Dave Manzer is the owner of a PR firm based in Austin, Texas called Dave Manzer PR & Marketing. He works primarily with small businesses and startups and offers a revolutionary pay-for-performance PR model that allows even the smallest businesses a chance to win game-changing publicity. He also runs PR over Coffee, a do-it-yourself PR resources group that has helped hundreds of small businesses figure out how to leverage PR for their benefit.
Gregory Carey is the president of the AOMA Alumni Association. In the latest alumni newsletter he introduces practice management concepts that he believes to be crucial for a successful practice.
1. Join an insurance network.
By contracting with a medical insurance carrier (e.g., United Healthcare, Horizon, Cigna, etc.), you are joining a medical referral network. Each insurance carrier introduces a proprietary fee structure for its participating healthcare providers. Becoming familiar with electronic billing practices is an essential, though not overly difficult, skill for the rendering provider. Developing a business relationship with a third-party insurance clearinghouse such as Office Ally is advisable and will create efficiencies for your practice.
2. Join a healthcare group or existing practice.
Especially for new practitioners who are capital-deficient, this step is attractive. Cultivating relationships with other practitioners in the medical field may create opportunities for business relationships to develop. Some acupuncture students have found employment by leveraging a front-office position into full-time practitioner status after obtaining licensure.
3. Locate to an underserved population center.
This step can seem a daunting undertaking, though the rewards include reduced competition for patient visits. Furthermore, existing medical providers in the area may be eager to refer to a competent acupuncture provider. Upon making a decision as to your practice location, make every attempt to put in place a long-term operational strategy. The personal and professional relationships that you form over the years will pay dividends – if you are still around to receive them.
4. Create a "disruptive" business model.
To increase your competitive advantage, you may want to consider a Community Acupuncture model. There are a number of AOMA Alumni who have chosen a community-based practice set-up. Fellow Alumni may be helpful in sharing practical know-how regarding community-style operations. Community-style acupuncture is one permutation of the healthcare delivery aspect of this business. It’s up to each of us in the field to understand what our respective healthcare markets are asking for and to deliver that product to our clients.
5. Develop relationships with vendors.
Many are competing for your business consideration, including clinical, herbal, topical, and supplement suppliers. It is not difficult to find another practitioner promoting an herbal or wellness supplement as part of their business. Indeed, some Alumni have created their own product lines! Be discerning when choosing a vendor for your clinic. Ultimately, your patients will be the judge of the products you serve them. If you choose your vendors and products wisely, you have the potential for passive revenue generation, increased referrals, and patient compliance.
The above is not intended to be a comprehensive study of items related to practice management. My intention in writing was to communicate some basic considerations relevant to the practicing acupuncturist and to hopefully generate productive discussion.
For further reading on business innovation, please see:
Johnson, Mark, Christensen, Clayton, et al. (2008). Reinventing Your Business Model. Harvard Business Review, December 2008.
About the author
Gregory holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Richmond and obtained his Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine. Gregory holds a Diplomate of Oriental Medicine from NCCAOM and is licensed by the New Jersey State Medical Board in acupuncture. His professional background is in research oncology and pharmaceutical trials, teaching and not for profit organizations.
Over the past 6 years Gregory has specialized in Oriental Medicine, including acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Tuina and Qigong for the successful treatment of a wide variety of conditions. He is experienced in facial rejuvenation through acupuncture, including the Mei Zen Facial Rejuvenation System. He is a Manalapan, NJ native and is happy to serve surrounding New Jersey communities. His personal interests include the practice of Qigong, Yang Style Tai Ji, Mandarin Chinese, classical literature, hiking and New York Jets football.
There's no doubt that Austin,Texas is a popular place – recently topping the list of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. With such a dynamic environment, it's no wonder that many students choose to pursue acupuncture school at AOMA.
In our first post in the Moving to Austin series, we covered the basics of the Austin rental market. However for students looking for alternative housing in Austin, many opportunities exist including roommate arrangements, house shares, and cooperative living.
Finding a Roommate
For students seeking to limit their housing costs, finding a roommate is one of the best options. New residents have a variety of resources available when seeking roommates, including well-known sites like craigslist.org and roomster.com. These sites provide an opportunity to screen and to connect with potential roommates online.
AOMA offers support in the form of a biweekly Housing Digest that enables new students to connect with future classmates and potential roommates in a secure platform. Throughout the year, current students also post openings for roommates online via AOMA's Housing Opportunities page and LinkedIn group.
When considering a potential roommate, it's important to be clear about your housing preferences. Taking time to consider lifestyle factors like school and/or work schedules, cleanliness, socializing, pet ownership, and personal habits is essential to ensuring a harmonious living environment. Additional factors to assess include the terms of a lease and/or approval from the landlord or property manager.
Cooperative Living & Co-housing
Housing cooperatives (or “co-ops” for short) are member-ship based legal-entities that own residential real-estate. Becoming a member typically grants one the right to live within the co-op house or building.
A number of housing cooperatives and co-housing communities exist in Austin. Many of these co-ops feature communal living environments where multiple residents occupy a single house or building and work together to manage/maintain the property. For residents, the benefits of co-ops can include reduced housing costs and increased social interaction with roommates. When considering this type of living situation, it's important to account for personal privacy and space needs.
Information about housing cooperatives in Austin can be found through the Austin Co-op Directory.
Alternative housing may not be for everyone. Depending on your personal or family needs, more traditional housing may be a better fit. No matter your preferences, Austin has a wide variety of options available to support your lifestyle.
Justine is the Director of Admissions for AOMA's graduate programs and works regularly to support new students in their transition to AOMA & Austin. A native to of the east coast, she relocated from New York five years ago. Since moving to Austin, she has lived in four different zip codes and is happy to share her personal knowledge of the city with newcomers.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health produces videos about the research on complementary health approaches. The three videos presented here explain some of the most popular integrative medicine practices: acupuncture, qigong, and meditation.
What happens during an Acupuncture session?
This video narrates the basic historical and theoretical background of acupuncture while also giving a step by step guide on what to expect during an acupuncture treatment such as possible physical sensations, different acupuncture techniques, and the importance of finding a qualified practitioner.
This video explains how the practice of Qigong can enhance the flow of energy in the body through movement, meditation, and regulation of breathing; and in turn, how it can benefit your daily life.
This video shows the practice of meditation and how it can result in a state of greater calmness, physical relaxation, and psychological balance.
John S. Finnell, ND, MPH, LAc is AOMA’s director of research, as well as doctoral program director. Dr. Finnell’s latest research project “Unravelling the Relationship between Biomarkers of Aging and Vitamin D Metabolism” investigates the possibility that correction of vitamin D insufficiency in humans may result in increased expression of Klotho, an anti-aging protein tightly involved in vitamin D homeostasis. Deficiency of Klotho confers an age-like phenotype in multiple mammalian species. Decreased Klotho protein expression has been implicated in rapid aging and increased oxidative stress, and potentially contributes to increased disease risk and all-cause mortality associated with vitamin D insufficiency. Dr. Finnell and his research team hypothesize that treating vitamin D insufficiency may result in changes in circulating Klotho levels. They expect that this research may lead to a better understanding of the health benefits of sufficient vitamin D status.
The first results of this research were published online on March 31, 2014 in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism as “Impact of Vitamin D3 Dietary Supplement Matrix on Clinical Response”. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2013-3162
Read more about current research project at AOMA.