Wednesday, January 26, 2011

20 In Person Promotions on a Shoestring

So if you're tired of learning how to market your practice on Facebook and LinkedIn...and especially if you live in a smaller town, here are some ideas for marketing yourself and your practice that can cost little or nothing. Some are better than others and some are easier to pull off than others, but it’s a list of creative ways you can promote your business on a shoestring budget. You can probably pick up from #20 and keep going with the list.

As a matter of fact, why not do that? Think up 20 more promotional ideas and then let your friends or partners rank them based on the following criteria:
• realistic (as in you could actually pull it off)
• fun and whacky (people will respond to things that have entertainment value)
• doing good in the community (this will often get you into the paper or on the 5 o’clock news)
• purple cow value (it’s different and remarkable compared to anything in the acupuncture community has already done)

Then narrow down your list to the best three promotions ideas. Then have a discussion with anyone else who might be participating or a stake-holder in the work and the outcome and choose one to try out. Doing just one of these promotions will give you experience and will most likely bring interest to your clinic or at the very least, get you some free publicity.

Here are mine for today…
1. Sports venue contest - Partner with a local sports venue and your state acupuncture association and host a contest that will give the winner free passes to watch a professional sports game in the box seating area. People will love the promotion and it is sure to get a lot of press. What could the contest be? An essay contest about “Why Sport Participants Should Love Acupuncture” with the winning essay going on your website, into the local newspaper, or out in your monthly patient email blast and being printed in the health or sports section of the local paper.

2. Joint Venture with another or several other small business - Joint venture with one or more small businesses in your neighborhood and display each other’s products/services in your respective show room or reception area. This trade could be with a beauty salon with proprietary products, a climbing gym with health-related products, a health-food store, a local spa, a specialty bookshop, or even a company that sells clothing and prostheses for women who have had mastectomies.

3. Niche sales – with other acupuncturists or your state association, sponsor special offers, talks and classes, or products for specific communities (niches) of people who give to the community such as firemen, teachers and policemen. This could be a “Teacher’s Appreciation Day.” An “over 65” senior adults event can be popular as well. Offer a series of lectures on health, stress, posture, diet, exercise, anti-aging, or special products sales that might appeal to these niches. Donate the profits of all your sales of product at these classes to the professional organization or group who sponsors the talk and you can get in the paper as well as their association newsletter! Some of these folks will definitely become your patients.

4. Car/Truck signs – while you may have to pay a bit more for your license plates if it is a commercial vehicle, why not have your vehicle be a moving billboard for your clinic? Have something like “Headaches? Acupuncture Works! Call 333-333-3333 today for more information.”

5. Positive picketers - Positive picketers who picket your business with signs that say how good your work is. If you employ this tactic, call the newspaper and they’ll probably cover it. Call the local T.V. station, too. This could be a bit of a stretch, but then, no one else has used this idea for acupuncture yet, so why not?

6. Get all the acupuncturists in your city to co-sponsor a toy collection for the local homeless shelter for the holidays...or the local battered women's shelter. Get it on the news when you are delivering the toys and you all get some great publicity for being great community citizens.

7. Create a bumper sticker - Give your customers special incentives to put a bumper sticker on their cars. Your bumper sticker could read, “I Got Relief at Acme Acupuncture Clinic! 333-444-5555”

8. T-Shirts - Get a bunch of t-shirts made up and go down to the local 5k or 10k race and give them away to the runners and participants. By the way, while you’re at the race you should hire a couple of youngsters to tote a banner around with your clinic’s name on it (I was just in Seattle, WA at a 3K run and a local chiropractor was getting a lot of attention using this idea.)

9. Participate in Local Parades - If you live in a small city participating in a local parade is a fantastic way to get visibility. Rent a flat-bed truck and get two or three family members (or local public figures, celebrities, the mayor? etc.) to sit on the back with needles sticking out of their head, ears, legs, whatever and wave at the people. It will get a lot of attention. Don’t forget to get a big banner to put on the side of the truck with your clinic name and phone.

10. Host or Sponsor an Award - The best award to give are the best teacher award. Just contact the schools and ask them for submissions. Give away prizes to the teacher (free 6 months of acupuncture or herbs?). This affiliates you with a good cause and you have the opportunity to get a lot of free publicity.

11. Sponsor a Block Party in Your Clinic Neighborhood - Announce the party and provide food, drinks, and music for a few hours. Give everyone a clinic or acupuncture related t-shirt to wear while attending the party. (OK this one is not so shoestring budget, I admit.)

12. Free 4th of July Giveaway - Give away your services for the entire day on 4th of July (or other holiday) in your home town. Start displaying the free giveaway with your company name on it at the beginning of May. You can even sell tickets for a raffled item and give any proceeds to a local charity. Display your event at the local Chamber of Commerce (if you're a member of the chamber of commerce) or in your window or on signs in your clinic waiting area.

13. Good Cause Day - Proclaim a day in honor of a good cause. For instance, suppose your could establish an “Insomnia Day” because acupuncture can help people to sleep drug-free or you can take advantage of an existing day like “Arthritis Day?” You can submit your day to Chase’s Calendar of Events to dedicate your day to a good cause! Call the local press and other associations and let them know about the proclamation.

14. Host a “Free Seminar” - Team up with other local merchants or government agencies to host a free seminars on your area of expertise. If your talent or expertise helps others, you could partner with the local fire or police department to host an educational or awareness seminar, which will increase your chances of getting a lot of publicity.

15. Collect Business Cards from Local Businesses- Go around to local businesses and offer to sponsor a rotating business card drawing to give away their service (meal, dry cleaners, massage, acupuncture) once a month to one customer. One month the prize is a free meal, the next month free massage, the next free dry cleaning, etc. Every business has a bowl to collect the business cards, which are all pooled once per month. You get to keep the business cards and once you have them in electronic format you’ll share them with every business that participates. Before you know it you’ll have hundreds and thousands of business cards you can all use for direct mailings in your local market.

16. Chocolate Shoes – Still trying to get in the door to meet some MDs? This idea takes some brass, but I like it. Buy a dozen chocolate feet (there are a few companies who make these… try and have them boxed beautifully. Send them with your presentation folder and a well written but spirited cover letter to 12 local specialists in the area where you want referrals (gynecology, orthopedics, pediatrics, etc.) Your letter can start with something like “Still trying to get our foot in the door.” Some doctors won’t like your approach, but others may just be impressed/amused enough to give you a call.

17. Sponsor a Half Court Shot - Ask the local high school in your target area if you can sponsor a half court shot contest during the high school basketball game’s half-time show. Award the winner gift certificates to the local movies or dinner for two at a local restaurant. Ask the movie theatre and restaurants to help you offset the cost (or go together with another clinic or two). Get this one in the paper!

18. Got a family member or friend who owns a gas station? - Offer free acupuncture treatments with a fill-up instead of a car wash. Create a large banner to put up at the gas station. This should create some buzz!

19. 6-by-10 – have a heard time doing your cold (or warm) calls? Make a deal with yourself to have six calls done before 10 AM. That’s 36 calls if you do it two days a week for three weeks! If two or three of those calls create a business opportunity for you, it was well worth the time and effort. Some of these calls could be about one or more of the above ideas, some to MD offices, some to inactive patients, some to people you met at a party who asked about acupuncture, or whatever. I guarantee that by the 36th call, you will experience less fear and loathing. Here’s a tip… have a script written and in front of you in advance so the jitters don’t make you forget what you want to say. And remember, your pitch must start and end with what’s in it for them. Here’s another tip… if you cannot get through the gatekeeper, try to make an appointment to meet and “court” the gatekeeper. Invite them to lunch!

20. Start The Acupuncture "Kiwanis" club in your community. In other words, a group of acupuncturists (or alternative therapists if you need a larger membership). Meet once per month for breakfast or a beer and figure out a project to help your community as a group.

Perhaps you are more creative than me and can think up a lot more great promotions. Give it a try. Make a list of 20 more creative promotions and work them down to a short list. Then move out and make something happen. We don't want to let others define who we are and what we can do!!!


  1. Hi Honora, great post! You nailed one of the most important things about successful marketing -- and that is to make it FUN! My favorite one out of your top 20 ideas is #5: "Positive Pickers". That's a new one for me! :)
    Thanks for ALL you do!
    Lisa Hanfileti, LAc

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