As we move into a new decade, I’ve realized that as the older I get, the more the way I think about earning income has shifted.
About 8 years ago, as an acupuncturist without ANY kind of support from a spouse, savings, or safety net of any kind, I had to quickly adapt and find ways to diversify my income stream. Realistically, cancellations, emergencies, illnesses, (for either me or my patients) or even taking a day off meant a loss of income and extra stress.
This led to finding ways to add online income to my acupuncture practice. Turns out, this also helped me help people on a deeper level, while at the same time, expanding into helping people all over the world.
Technology become my ally.
If you want to add online income to your holistic practice, you’ll need to start embracing marketing and technology.
Before you protest that you are a creative that doesn’t have the time or inclination for “this kind of thing,” I want to invite you to consider of the “holistic nature” of business.
Much of modern marketing is about GIVING, demonstrating your experience and expertise via regularly posted content, and as we get older.. leaving a LEGACY.
In order to be effective at any of this, technology will have to be your new ally.
Let’s talk about WHY embracing technology is important as an acupuncturist.
You may already be very good at the YIN component of your practice: Diagnosing, taking care of patients, etc.
But many acupuncturists shy away from the YANG part of their practice: Marketing, sales, and technology. Some even go as far as to consider this component almost unethical. (yes, it does happen)
Here are some reasons WHY you want to make sure that the YIN AND YANG of your practice is in balance,
• You want Google (and your patients) to notice you. YOU. Not Groupon.
• You want HIGH QUALITY leads to notice you. For this we have to think beyond “local.” I spent a lot of time creating content for my website in such a way that it would weed out less-than-ideal patients and and filter in ideal patients.
• You want to create more freedom and flexibility in your practice. I spent time building a more “global” presence so that I could become more or less “location independent.”
You don’t have to move abroad to do this. A move to another state will be an easier transition should you choose to build a more global presence online. It’s worth it!
• You honestly, truly don’t want to be hustling and seeing 100 patients a week as you get older. You would rather “scale” your practice and reach more people, work less, and pass on your expertise. (rather than eat your young colleagues, as they say in this business!)
If you are an introverted holistic practitioner, embracing technology will help you practice on YOUR terms, and help more people the way YOU were designed to.. on a deeper level.
• You want to expand the way you practice to include online coaching, guidance, or follow up with patients. This has a way of providing even more value to your patients.
You will be able to attract the highest quality patients who are proactive about their health and more than willing to do the work it takes to create and maintain health.
• You understand the importance of content marketing, and patient education. You want people to know more about “the medicine,” but also get to know, like, and trust you. And let’s face it, nobody can do what you do, in exactly the way you do it.
Content marketing helps you match up with your ideal patients.
To deliver your content, you need some “technical” systems in place.
Today, this typically includes a blog, but there are MANY creative ways to communicate: media outlets, podcasting, YouTube videos, Instagram, etc.
Of course, the kind of content you create is going to depend on the kind of patients YOU want to work with. I enjoy working with deep-thinkers who are as “nerdy” as I am. (Bio mechanics and exercise geeks, unite!) Blogging works well for me. Epic blogs.
So when someone advised me to keep my content “light” or to “not bother writing because nobody would take the time to read it” I’m happy to say that I avoided this advice.
As a result, found it MUCH easier to work with people like me.. introverted deep thinkers who WANT to be informed with good content! This also helped me weed out those who really were not invested in doing any work, and made work EASY and FUN for ME.
IMO, those who can’t take the time to do a little research are unlikely to follow through when it comes to their treatment plans.
2020 Update: More and more people are doing research online BEFORE booking appointments with health care providers, and they are looking for what YOU have to offer!
If people are going to be doing their homework, why not let them find YOU instead of your competitors?
Again, this all may sound very “YANG” but think about it: Wanting to help and provide high quality information is quite “YIN.” There is a good balance here. Everyone wins.
Also keep in mind that some “lighter” marketing, such as the kind you may find on Instagram, also has its place. Same for video. People want healthcare providers that care and have a good bedside manner. They want to know you are a real human, just like them, who also has kids or loves skiing or has the same interesting hobbies and philosophies and challenges that you do.
• You want to create safety net of several sources of income to help keep your business stable during “dry” periods. There are MANY ways to approach getting more potential patients into your pipeline or funnel.
For example, January is typically slow for many acupuncturists. Many people use SEO keywords appropriate only for those who are ALREADY LOOKING for an acupuncturist, back pain relief, fertility, etc.
Relying solely on the kind of keywords geared toward those who are ready to buy, such as “Sports medicine acupuncture in Denver” may not get you the kind of revenue you need to keep your practice going for the long haul, and this will become even MORE important in the coming years due to more local competition.
You want to start creating content (with specific keywords) intended mainly to EDUCATE people about the fact that a headache can have many causes. Instead of running to the drugstore, they can explore your epic blog on the 20 main root causes of headaches and how you are uniquely qualified to identify that root cause and treat it.
Different keywords, different media channels. That person who did the research for his headaches may not have been ready to buy in November, but thanks to your blog, videos.. etc.. come January, they are ready to see you and buy from you.
This isn’t so much about “tech” as they say, but doing some research and detective work. Might I add that it’s also.. even.. fun?
• You would rather put in a big effort ONCE, and relax a bit, than play “hustle as you go.” (ME TOO!)
With coaching, not only can we cast a wider net to a non local audience, but we can make it easier on ourselves by adding value to our services on the FRONT end in order to have another source of income to rely on that will keep serving us.
And the way to set this up involves.. you got it, knowing some “technical” systems, like payment gateways and landing pages and lead capture, to start. Automation will help keep momentum going even when you can’t be everywhere, all the time, having to deal with business as it comes, every, single. day.
Building systems is smart. It keeps you from burning out.
An analogy would be spending the entire summer building a high quality brick house, instead of having to repair a low-quality particle-board abode every month, watching the quality of your work go down as your fatigue and burnout levels rise. (The patient mill)
Lets say for example, you create an online fertility course to go with your acupuncture, OM, and/or Functional Medicine services.
Generally, you only need to create the content (.pdfs, videos, etc) once. Great. Of course, all those books and videos COULD just gather dust on your hard drive or somewhere in the “cloud.” But if you put them to work creatively, they can do a lot of the heavy work FOR you.
Who wants to have to explain the benefits of a Spleen qi tonifying diet over and over again? Not me! More people can be served on a deeper level without having to answer basic questions over and over again.
You can also take advantage of new technologies like AI/chatbots so that you can not only respond quickly to requests, but direct visitors towards the information they may be seeking. Direct them towards the great article you wrote on gut health and headaches, or how you handle shoulder pain!
Using “Tech” to Evolve Your Business Model (Less Work, More Money, and Happy Patients and Clients!)
A few years ago, I created a signature “hybrid” program that included acupuncture, herbal consult and herbs, a FB community, and LOTS of coaching. This is what is commonly referred to as a “high touch” program, which meant that I could ask for premium prices.
Think about it. As a client, have you ever preferred to pay a VIP price in exchange for feeling cared for an solving a problem, over shelling out low fees here and there, but not really getting much out of it? Did you end up spending MORE in the end for diminished results?
• You can charge premium prices based on VALUE, instead of discount rates based on volume. (The latter just makes me tired!) So now instead of charging a discounted rate to get more people in the door when times look a little scary slow, you can launch your signature program for a premium package price (say $2K) without having to run yourself ragged and recover from burnout by March. Everyone wins!
You want to add more value to what you have to offer already, and increase patient compliance.
• You can do SO much more with email lists than just a newsletter. You can custom-tailor sales funnels and get creative!
Are you still going through patient files one by one, and sending out random re-activation postcards, emails, and newsletters?
I’m not saying they don’t have their place, but having a master list of not only patients, but prospects and LEADS (in varying stages of “warmth) PLUS a powerful email automation system can allow you to put that list to work!
You ARE a real business! So learning about things like landing pages, creating lead magnets, and linking them to an email system is a powerful way to build your practice.
Update for 2019: There’s even more you can do to link ALL the components of your marketing system, once you have all the main pieces in place.
If you are not getting up to speed with at least the basics like lead capture, email marketing, messaging, and paid advertising, it’s going to get more and more difficult to compete, especially in a saturated or global holistic health market.
• Your WEBSITE can do most of your “heavy lifting” for you. If your website is little more than a $3,000 (or more) brochure, stop procrastinating and get your online presence out of the year 2008! If you don’t have people interacting with your website, it’s time to re-think your approach. And the good news is that you don’t HAVE to drop 3K on it, at least not when you first start.
I’ll be showing you how you can make the most of “tech” for your practice in upcoming blogs!
I’ve been through all of this.. both as an acupuncturist, my own “digital marketer,” and now as a consultant to other acupuncturists, healers, artists, and a dash (for fun) those in the tourist/hospitality industry.
I would love to help you create a time and location independent acupuncture practice or holistic practice. I offer both 1:1 coaching and group coaching for both DIY’ers, those who would rather outsource, and those who do a little of both. Just click on the burgundy button below!