If you are an acupuncturist starting out in 2021 or beyond, you have at least one advantage over me and my cohort. Acupuncture clinic marketing training is far more available than it was in the past. This increases not only the volume of materials available, but also the diversity of information and presentation. This ensures that more people are going to find the help they need, when they are first building their acupuncture businesses. You’ll find some great help related to acupuncture websites and social media, search engine optimization and pay per click advertising, and some trainings that focus a bit more on strategy and fundamental marketing orientation.
Unfortunately, finding the same diversity and quantity of help in other aspects of running an acupuncture business is more difficult.
What about how to work with acupuncturists as employees? What about accounting for your needs as an acupuncturist during lease negotiation? How do you balance all of the demands on your time while trying to be successful? How do you price your acupuncture services, and how to come into relationship with discounting? While there have been a couple of texts that address practice management and similar concerns, there seems to be a lot of information that is not yet represented in the literature.
It makes sense that a lot of the information out there addresses getting acupuncture clients in the door.
Marketing is obviously important for any acupuncturist looking for success with their business. If you don’t have patients, you don’t have a business. And marketing as a field develops so quickly that there is always room for another acupuncturist to develop and teach about marketing tools and techniques.
Aside from its importance, marketing also dominates the acupuncture business landscape because the topic provokes anxiety for most people. It’s uncommon for an acupuncture student to have much knowledge of marketing when they start, and most acupuncture schools don’t invest in teaching it. It seems such a big, important and foreign topic that most are too overwhelmed to get started.
There’s also a somewhat introverted vibe among a large number of acupuncturists – making marketing feel a little extra uncomfortable. It would seem, then, that acupuncturists could use all the help they can get in marketing their practices – more is better. And maybe pumping enough money into your marketing systems will make up for any other deficiencies. Maybe – but I don’t think so.
Focusing on acupuncture clinic marketing when there are underdeveloped or malfunctioning systems elsewhere in the business will be a waste of time and money.
We have to think of our acupuncture practices as the complex multi-valent supersystems they are. I think of businesses as having organ systems, in a sense, and find that this and other symbolic forms of analysis have helped me in my own business development. The systems I most often discuss are: executive, facilities, operations, marketing and finance. These systems have inputs, outputs, processes, tools, strategies, structures and many interconnections with one another.
What happens if one organ system in the body is taking on a lot more work because another organ system is not pulling its weight?
The system adapts, but that adaptation comes at a price. For short periods, the human body can handle some functions being suboptimal, beyond that, there will be damage to heal. The same is true of our Chinese medicine based businesses. If we have multiple systems of our business with major challenges, what might dumping a lot of time and resources into marketing (a single system) do?
Sooner or later – something cracks.
Groupon in acupuncture clinic marketing is a good cautionary tale
There were many reports of businesses that had a huge influx of business after being listed on the Groupon website and featured in the newsletter. This gave immediate cash. But, not only did that come at a big discount (threatening healthy revenues) but also could put pressure on other systems (your front desk staff, your practitioner capacity) such that everything is worse off in the end.
Of course there are ways to adapt to make best use of something like Groupon, but without proper preparation – the results could be mixed.
This doesn’t mean we never invest in marketing – even when we KNOW there are other problems in the business.
The point is to be sure that the rest of the business can appropriately utilize the energy generated by your acupuncture clinic marketing efforts. What if your campaign is wildly successful? What would that actually look and feel like? What might you have to do in order to take best advantage of the influx of new Chinese medicine clients? And what might be the result if you do not sufficiently prepare?
Survival creates its own decision-making rubrics, and we must never feel shame or even disappointment when we have to engage in something not quite ideal for a while. But, when there isn’t a crisis, I do believe it is best if we proceed in working on our businesses holistically. Attending to all the systems of your business balancing their needs, and educating yourself as to their tending will result in the healthiest acupuncture business overall.