Lately I find myself making a lot of lists…things like my most memorable meals, the most interesting places I’ve visited, things I still want to do, and all of the good things for which I’m grateful. While I’m in this list-making mode, I decided to create a list in this post of my best acupuncture practice building tips. This is based on the best advice I’ve ever received, or those painful lessons learned the hard way. Regardless of how they were learned, these are my top ten nuggets:
1) Prospective patients have a problem and want to know if you—and acupuncture—can help them. They don’t necessarily care about your education or philosophy—at least not until you’ve addressed whether or not you can relieve their back pain, help their IBS, or decrease their panic attacks. Review your web page and printed materials…have you told them directly that you can solve their problem?
2) Create a plan for marketing your practice, work your plan, and then let go. You can’t muscle patients into your office; they will come. Letting go soothes your Liver, and keeps you from appearing desperate, which is the kiss of death for your practice.
3) Get help if you need it. Whether it’s a good accountant, practice coach, a social media marketing expert, or the perfect book at the right time, when you feel like your practice is more of a struggle than a joy, get some help. In the early years of my practice, I stumbled across the book, Building Your Ideal Private Practice by Lynne Grodsky. Lynne addressed some of the specific problems that I was having about marketing and my frustration with the ebb and flow of my practice. It was exactly what I needed to get my head back into the game, focus, and make smarter decisions. The point here is if you need some help, get some.
4) Get comfortable telling your patients when they need to come back. They view you as the expert, and want to know what you think, so tell them. The easiest way to do this is through a Report of Findings. Find a flow and a format that works best for you to sit down with your new patients and spell out their diagnosis and your expectations for their treatment. It will dramatically limit the one-timers.
5) Establish yourself as an expert. People want to think that they are coming to the best practitioner in town. You can be an expert at treating specific conditions, offering a unique technique or system, education, herbal therapy…just about anything. Write about, speak about, and network based on your area of expertise.
6) Market to your strengths. I am big on networking in groups and public speaking. My practice partner is great in one-on-one meetings, but would rather cross six lanes of traffic than give a talk. The reality is that you have specific strengths when it comes to spreading the word about your practice. Use them (but don’t be afraid to push yourself a little, too).
7) Make a note of your patients’ personal details in their chart. That way, you can ask about their recent vacation, their grandchildren, or their new job. It makes you look amazing!
8) Give each patient a reason to come back. Tell them what you will be doing or working on at their next appointment. For example, you can tell them that next appointment you will cup them, prescribe herbs, or use a different technique. It gives you clarity and it gives your patient a subtle incentive to book and keep their next appointment.
9) The key to working with referral partners is to find a way that you can help them. Nobody is going to start referring patients to you out of the blue. You need to establish a relationship, and that means connecting by finding ways to benefit each other.
10) And finally, find joy in what you do. Love your practice, love Chinese medicine, and love your patients. It will show that your work is heart-centered. And that’s very attractive.