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Partners in Practice

January 13, 2017

Practice Tip: Marketing on a Budget

By: Stuart S. Shipe, DAOM, RPh

There are some differences between the marketing strategies of conventional medicine and natural medicine. Billions of dollars are spent by pharmaceutical companies advertising medication that provides a reactionary approach to healing. People are led to believe that by removing their symptoms health is restored. Conversely, the vast majority of people do not know what chiropractic, naturopathic, or acupuncture physicians do. Since natural medicine practitioners do not have the advertising budgets of large pharmaceutical companies, we must create a marketing strategy that is both effective and affordable. The key to this strategy centers around educating the public on why preventative medicine is a better idea than conventional reactive medicine through lectures, patient referrals, and screenings.

Lectures In your office or at locations in your community are a great way to tell people what you do. It is difficult at best and no less expensive to attempt to convey this message via a 3-by-5 magazine advertisement or a roadside billboard. Today’s age of information provides people with instant access to an endless supply of medical knowledge. It is our job to help people sort out the facts from fiction. Even if you lack the public speaking skills of a seasoned orator, inviting people to attend an informational lecture on natural solutions for stress prevention or weight management will always pique people’s interest. This is because most people know that medications are not the answer for these treatments.

The lecture should introduce you as an expert on the topic, present a simplified overview of the problem, survey the audience on their health concerns, and close with an invitation to visit your office for a complimentary consultation and evaluation. This personal office consultation should be focused on individualized attention to each person’s concerns. This will increase the person’s affinity for you, resulting in not only a new patient to help but also a potential referral source.

Asking for a referral from an existing patient is the most cost-effective and easy way to increase your patient volume and practice success. There is a right way and a wrong way to ask for referrals. Most practitioners that are afraid of asking for referrals or have not had success in the past obviously are using the wrong approach. People are naturally obliged to want to help you because you have helped them with their health concerns. So the first guideline is only ask for referrals from patients that are getting good results in your office.

Tell your patient that your mission is to help others find healing with natural medicine, and ask for support in this task. Have the patient identify one person (not multiple people) living locally who is suffering from a medical condition. Write down that person’s name and problem while expressing your concern. Ask your patient to speak to that referral before the patient’s next visit to your office. Present your patient with a free gift certificate for a complimentary consultation and an office brochure to hand to the referral. Follow up with the patient at the next visit to determine the success of the referral process.

There are many people in your community that suffer from dangerous, nonsymptomatic medical conditions that need the support of natural medicine. Screenings at public businesses or events are a way to identify those individuals that are at risk and educate them using an objective test. This can be as simple as setting up a blood pressure screening, Chinese tongue diagnosis, trigger-point pain screening, or spinal screening. Whatever the test, you should be able to show the person being screened what is considered normal and what is abnormal. People don’t feel they need care because they don’t have any apparent symptoms and are unlikely to sign up for your care if they feel there’s nothing wrong with them.

With each of the promotional activities previously listed, the participants should be invited to your office for a personal complimentary consultation and evaluation of their health status. The general public lacks knowledge regarding what health conditions natural physicians can assist with. We are usually a patient’s last resort, not the first, due to conventional medical marketing. During the consultation, educate the person on the safety and effectiveness of natural medicine. Discuss if you feel your care is appropriate for that patient’s needs, but remember to foremost be an active listener. It is better to encourage a patient to discuss how a medical condition is affecting that person’s work, hobbies, or relationships than to try to explain how your therapy works.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Dr. Stuart Shipe is nationally boardcertified as an acupuncture physician and Chinese herbalist. He practices primary care medicine in Stuart, Florida, using integrative medicine principles and hosts a weekly talk radio show that educates the public on natural medicine. To help acupuncturists thrive, he provides seminars for natural health professionals as a practice management consultant. Dr. Shipe is also a registered pharmacist who routinely provides continuing education lectures on natural medicine to biomedical professionals and serves as an assistant professor for the experiential Eastern/Western herbal externship for Nova Southeastern University College of Pharmacy and Palm Beach Atlantic College of Pharmacy.

Opinions and methods presented in this article are those of the author and not representative of any Standard Process view or position.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.