Monday, February 21, 2011

Borrowing $$ from family? Do it right!

It's common enough. Especially if you already have debt from student loans. You go to a well-off (or at least better-off!) family member to help you start your business. Still, you are likely to maintain healthy family relationships if you do this right and protect your family as much as you can if you ever had to default on the loan. Here are some tips to help you keep happy family relationships: 1. Don't think about borrowing from anyone until you have done a thorough business plan. Know exactly how much you need, what you need it for, and how you will market and grow your business to pay the loan back! If you aren't organized and grown up enough to do this work, you are not likely to be grown up enough to run a business in any case. 2. Establish the amount of the loan and terms of repayment in writing...with signatures. 3. Treat this loan the same as you would a bank loan. Make your payments in full and on time. 4. Keep you family updated about what is happening at your business. Send them regular reports in writing. That way, you don't have to discuss it during Thanksgiving dinner or other family gatherings! 5. If things go badly and you cannot make a payment, don't avoid the issue. Tell them immediately and request an extension. 6. If you think that you may have to default on the loan, don't avoid that issue either. Doesn't your family member deserve to know about your problems first? 7. Do a UCC Filing your loan as part of the initial establishment of the terms. ( This gives your family member a better chance at getting their money if you have repayment problems or even go into default, and especially if you are also going to borrow some from a bank. 8. Don't even consider borrowing money from someone in your family who cannot afford to lose it. If this person can lose the money without causing financial hardship, you will sleep better, and so will they. So it's better NOT to borrow money from friends or family if you can avoid it. I have only done it once in my life and it worked out fine, but added a level of stress to the relationship that was undeniable until it was paid off. If you decide this is the only way you can get your business started or up to the next level, be sure you know what you are doing and why and what actions are going to allow you to grow enough to pay the money back.
Honora Wolfe writes and speaks on business and practice success at schools and conferences all over the world. Her upcoming classes include an all day workshop at the NEW England School of Acupuncture on March 20th, an Internet Marketing class for the AOBTA conference in Austin on April 7th, and a keynote speech on business success at the Acupuncture Society of NY on May 22nd.

Monday, February 14, 2011

When was the last time you called your inactive patients?

It's difficult to overemphasize the power of patient re-activation phone calls. It's way easier than cold calling (calling people who don't know you) and it's a tried and true method to get a positive response from the universe in growing your practice.

You don't need to have a huge agenda for the calls, but it may be easier if you write a few "scripts" for the calls. Here are some ideas for those:

1. For patients where you parted ways after treatment success: "I saw a recent article about your condition (which I'd be happy to email to you if you're interested) and it made me think of you. How are you doing? Still no more symptoms?" Then listen to the patient and see what they say. If they are still better, you have at least reminded them of your ongoing care for them as a patient. You might suggest a "tune-up" appointment or two at the next change of season to maintain their health.

2. For the patient that cancelled and disappeared: "I see you cancelled your last appointment and then we never heard from you after that. Can you tell me how you are doing? I was just wondering if you disappeared because you were feeling great, or was there something that did not work for you at our clinic...something that we could have done better?"

3. For the patient where their written contact information no longer works: "I'm calling for two just to check in and see if you are still feeling improvement from your treatment through my clinic. Second, I see that your email address as changed. Did you still wish to be on our mailing list? We really hope so, but we need an updated email address!"

4. The patient where your interaction was OK, but you don't know why they stopped coming: "Hi Jane. It's been awhile since I saw you and I just wanted to say hello and see how you are. I know you had ...(you divorce finalization, our son's graduation, your mother's serious illness, your new job, whatever). I know that was stressful for you and I wondered how you are doing."

After each of these possible openers to the conversation, you then be quiet and see where the patient will take the conversation. If they haven't much to say, you can ask if they'd like to continue to receive your email newsletter; you can offer to send them a coupon for 1/2 off the next time they might want to come in for a visit; you can let them know about a new class you are teaching or a new skill you have acquired; you can tell them about a free lecture you are giving somewhere; you can remind them that regular tune-up treatments can keep them symptom free. Whatever feels appropriate.

After the call, you might follow up with a card or a personalized email and include a piece of research or an article on their condition if you can find one (check out our TCM Infoline here at Blue Poppy for lots of free research: see the search mechanism in the center at the top of our home page). If you send a regualr piece of snail mail (what a concept), include a copy of your biz card as well.

Does this take a little courage? You bet, but then if you were a wimp you probably would not be running your own business anyway. Plus, you don't know what fruit this will bear. For every ten phone calls you make, you will likely get one patient to make an appointment right away and another one to call back for an appointment within a few weeks, or to refer a friend since they have now been reminded about you and your services. Or perhaps one of them calls and asks if you will come and give a talk for their special group. You just don't know.

So don't abandon your inactive patients. Make it a monthly task to call six-or-eight-or-ten of them. The more you do, the eaiser they become (and what's the worst that could happen anyway?). It's easier to get your old patients back into your clinic than to develop new ones who have never been there before!

Honora Wolfe is the author of POints for Profit: The Essential Guide to Practice Success for Acupuncturists. She is teaching a class on biz and practice success at the New England School of Acupuncture on March 20th. Check it out here.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I Stole These 15 Marketing Ideas from Other Industries (and you should, too)

Do you read magazines or publications from other niches and industries? I find it very revealing and worth my time as a marketer to check out all kinds of ads, articles, and ideas from industries outside the world of Chinese medicine and then “cross-pollinate” the ideas in ways that make them relevant to improving the marketing plans for my company and my clients’ in private acupuncture practice. Try out some of these and see where your creativity may take you.

1. Use holidays to tie in with your promotional efforts. Go to or and look for lists of holidays or commemorations that may somehow be related to health. Can you write an article about any of those subjects, give a lecture, or create an event that will attract attention? Example: Feb 3rd (yesterday!) was Chinese New Year. It is a common tradition to give red envelopes containing money to family members and especially children. You might have a party at your clinic inviting all your patients. At your party, fill a basket with red envelopes, each one containing a coupon for something (A free treatment during February, a discounted series of treatments, a free bottle of herbs, whatever. On the back of each coupon put a Chinese proverb. Serve tea and fortune cookies!) You can spin this idea for any day, week or month of the year....National Breast Cancer Prevention Month to Mental Health Week. Check out Chase's Calendar of Events at your library for endless ideas about this.

2. Give your patients value-added information every time they come in. This might include bookmarks, pocket guides to dietary health, free books (buy in bulk for wholesale prices), a CD with a recent lecture you gave to some organization and have taped (CDs are not expensive to make), a small pocket guide to "Using Chinese Herbs to Enhance Your Diet". These ideas are endless. And don’t forget that everything going out your door should have your contact information on it, website, etc.

3. When contacting the media about covering your clinic, use odd times of the day. These people often work weird schedules, but the gatekeepers who work for them work regular 9-5 schedules. Thus, if you call at 7:30AM or PM, who knows who will answer and what access you may have?

4. Teach classes and workshops. Find any excuse or reason to teach for anyone who will listen on any subject you are comfortable speaking about. The students in the classes will, more often than not, become your patients. Does your local YMCA or community college offer continuing ed classes? How about your church, PTA, large local corporations, or Better Business Bureau? Don’t be shy and make sure you have flyers, business cards, and brochures to give out.When you get a gig, also take along a sign-up sheet to receive your e-newsletter or blog.

5. If you get a speaking engagement, follow up with a Thank You card to the person who was your contact.

6. Have something really exciting to share? Contact every syndicated columnist in the US. You can purchase a list for $20 from Editor and Publisher. Contact subscription services at, (888) 732-7323.

7. Start and maintain a support group. These may be other acupuncturists or other kinds of business people. Napolean Hill, in his famous book, Think & Grow Rich, calls this a “master mind” group. You can meet for breakfast once each month or each week. At each meeting, take on one or two people’s questions or problems and share your ideas for a solution. This is tremendously powerful!

8. Want to be a radio personality? If you’ve got something interesting to share, go to for a list of stations.

9. If you want to be an expert on a specific subject (improved sports performance, preventing anorexia, treating or preventing fibromyalgia, go to your local/regional paper and TV station websites and find the names of relevant editors (health, special features, modern living, etc.) and send them a short, to the point email message. Keep it to three paragraphs and use powerful words and sentences to get across your message. If possible, reference or tie to a previous story that this journalist has written or covered.....and never use attachments. Give them the guts of what you have to say in a sound bite. Deliver it in a way that makes their job easier and who knows, you might become their main contact for alternative health for years to come.

10. Create a affiliate program on your website to sell products you love. This is not a new article, but you can get started with affiliate marketing using Lisa Hanfiletti's information here:

11. When there are no patients in your office, don’t sit and read clinical books, go out and meet people. Are you in a building with other offices? Does every other business in your building know who and where you are? If not, go introduce yourself and take your business cards. Walk every street in each direction for a mile or so and give out cards and brochures to all who will take them!

12. Are you Hispanic in origin and/or fluent in Spanish language? Find every Spanish language newsletter, paper, TV or radio station. Then try #9, 8, 4, 3, and 1 above....but do it with Spanish!

13. Use artwork for free. Check out You can download over 30,000 free images. Brochures, business cards, flyers, signs, and more.

14. Have a great piece of artwork you’d like to share? Take it (and your contact information) to Kinko’s or a local printer and have posters made. Give away to your best patients. Make sure that a sticker with your phone and email are on the back.

15. For women only.......does your town have a Women’s Networking Entrepreneurial Training resource? You can find out from the U.S. Small Business Administration in your area. They offer wonderful classes and networking opportunities in most metropolitan areas.

16. Cruise over to .....originally for Chiropractors, but has some great ideas no matter what services you offer to your patients.

17. Want to sell your practice? Get a free quote and selling ideas from Professional Practice Specialists, Inc. 800-645-7590.

18. Want to create beautiful window signage? Contact or 800.767.5609 for eye-catching window decals, banners, light boxes, sidewalk and interior signage.

Ok, so that was more than 15. I got carried away looking at ideas from other publications and websites while writing this article. I encourage you to look at every publication you can with a “marketing eye” and steal ideas from everywhere. You’ll be surprised at how your creativity is sparked by other industries’ solutions to marketing problems. Pick one of these 18 ideas and just do it....see how the added qi makes your practice grow!

Good luck!

Honora Wolfe is the co-author of Points for Profit: The Essential Guide to Practice Success for Acupuncturists, available from Blue Poppy Press at She is teaching an upcoming one day biz class at the New England School of Acupuncture, March 20, 2011.