I was having a conversation with a therapist a few days ago and I was explaining to him various marketing techniques he could use to attract new clients. The surprise came when he replied to my question about when to start as he essentially said that he is now “kind of ok in terms of clients” and will start some marketing actions in the New Year when he will need new clients.
At that point I realised that while it is obvious for me that to any (decision about) action there is a delay in reaction which is definitely not obvious for many. Let’s see what the delays are which will be incurred when you decide to start a marketing campaign:
- Development delays: anything that needs to be designed and developed, from a new leaflet or website, will take days, weeks or even months to be ready, checked, printed or published. This is depending on what is already there, or not there, in this case. Even a simple variation to an existing page or piece of marketing will take some time.
- Deployment delays: as soon as the brochure is ready or the website is published it’s not going to happen that, similarly to the next episode of Harry Potter, all prospects are there waiting for it and to book appointments with you.
- Reaction delays: yes perhaps some people see your new website or advertisement and ring you straight away, most of them will have to see it quite a few times and think about it. By this token when everything is in place and ready to go it will take a while before things are really going at the speed or intensity you expect.
Best suggestion for all people with little or no knowledge of marketing out there is to start today, now, and keep doing something every day. You can be absolutely sure that there will be delays and things will not happen exactly when you expect but after some time everything will be in place and you will have your own marketing machine working for you.
Pay Per Click (PPC) adverts have become for many companies the holy grail of advertising as they offer a clear and reliable way to publish specific adverts to a targeted audience and the Return on Investment (ROI) can be measured very accurately. PPC are those adverts you can see every time you are either doing a search on your favourite Search Engine or when you are scrolling your Facebook feed and you see entries which have the word “sponsored” on top. Somebody is paying money when you click on that advert and, usually, these adverts have been thought of with you in mind, depending on your gender, age, habits, interest, religion or whatever other parameters which might be accessible to the platform in question.
I will concentrate this post just on Facebook adverts which are offering indeed a powerful environment to deliver targeted advertisements to your potential clients. I would also add that I will discuss adverts which bring traffic to a landing page on your website; this is a very specific use of Facebook PPC and they are just one of the several possibilities offered by their advertisement manager.
First of all it’s important to stay away from generic adverts which promote you or your brand as a whole and land on your home page; they will be a waste of time and money. Let us suppose you are a massage therapist wanting to promote a remedial massage to middle-aged female clientele? Or perhaps an acupuncturist promoting fertility treatments to women aged between 25 and 50? These are a good start.
In order for an advert to work and convert (e.g. get people to book appointments) you need to make the whole chain of events, between the moment the advert is shown and when the client has completed the booking, as intuitive and easy as possible. Any discontinuity in this chain of events and people will either ignore the advert or click (that’s when it costs you) to go to the next step and then give up midway and you end up paying money without getting the booking.
Here are the three key elements:
- A well designed advertwhich has a nice and meaningful picture together with the right copy: copy in jargon is the text within an advert or other marketing message. In the case of an advert for a remedial massage you could think about the usual “Problem? Try my solution!” formula. Which could be indicated as “Experiencing muscle pain? Try my remedial massage”
- An equally well designed landing page which reinforces the message above and has a clear and simple way of booking the treatment
- A super simple booking system which is working 24/7, ideally an automated calendar system which can confirm the booking then and there; a phone number could be ok for some people; however in a 24/7 society when an increasing number of people are effectively doing everything with their mobile phones at any time of the day and night they will not wait for a call back and simply give it up.
This way of working has been in place for several years and many businesses have made millions by advertising on Facebook; in fact several other social media channels like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and various others have in place build advertising mechanisms which all work in a similar way. I do appreciate there are many among you reading this who will find it difficult or a bit overwhelming. This is normal as it’s not what a practitioner in complementary health should be spending his or her time on. Everybody serious about their business should be thinking about their marketing strategy but that doesn’t mean they have to do everything themselves. If you need any help with your social medial and digital marketing please have a look around you and make sure you employ someone who is a true expert in this field rather than another cowboy.
Whether we accept it or not we live in a world dominated by social media; it’s easy for anybody to publish content which can potentially reach every person in the world which in theory sounds just great. This factor is however a double- edged sword because everybody can do it and the level of competition is far higher today than it was just a few years ago.
I know I am not saying anything new when I state that potentially, any company and individual interested in offering a service or product to the market place, is in the media business as well. Everybody can write blogs, be active on a variety of social media platforms and create a brand for themselves. For many this is becoming increasingly difficult because the only thing they want to do is provide their products or services but… here we go, there is no going back.
Those companies that were traditionally in the media business like newspapers, magazines, radio and TV find their market share taken away by new media and by an increasing number of business people who are investing their advertisement budgets in new technologies which offer more traceability and increased control on how they are targeting their adverts.
Because of the reasons described above I personally suggest to all of our practitioners to steer away from adverts in magazines and newspapers; this is my case against printed adverts for practitioners in complementary health. It’s not about whether printed adverts work at all; it’s simply that the return on investment (ROI) they offer is way less than it used to be. Many of these media companies still live in their ideal world and keep their prices as they were in 2007. Here are a few examples of how the world has developed a total permeability to printed adverts:
- We spend an increasing percentage of our pause time, e.g. lunch, travelling, waiting rooms and so on, reading updates on our phones; the probability of seeing one of these adverts is therefore diminished.
- We are so bombarded by adverts in every media that our minds simply don’t see them.
- It’s already difficult for an on-line advert to convince us to click through (think about it: when was the last time you clicked on an advert? What was it advertising?); it becomes virtually impossible for us to follow up on a printed advert (same exercise: when was the last time you saw an advert in a magazine or newspaper and decided to buy that product or service?).
The main reason I advise people against printed advertisements is ultimately budget and low ROI, particularly when advertising complementary health services such as massage or similar therapies. If you offer massages at £50 per session and the typical advertisement in a local magazine will cost you £300 for a half page (+VAT = £360), you will need to have at least 8 people in that month that see the advert, are in the right mood and mind set to receive a massage and pick up the phone and ring you immediately; if you are available to pick up the phone at that time and you can speak to these individuals and arrange an appointment that suits both them and you. Even if 8 people are actually committed to arrange an appointment there are at least a couple of scenarios which can play against it:
- they might decide to do it at a time you are not answering the phone or they want to meet you at a time that doesn’t suit you;
- the massage concept stays in their mind but not the details of your advert; they search “massage” on-line and find one of your competitors and book with them;
In short I just find that the probability of these 8 people to successfully arrange a massage is incredibly low, hence I suggest against it.
Of course there might be good reasons, for certain companies, to advertise in magazines and newspapers: that should be when the value of just one purchase might pay for advert by itself.
The majority of enquiries from practitioners interested in working at our clinic in Cambridge can be grouped into 4 main categories:
- Experienced practitioners working for the NHS who decide to go private, either part or full time
- Experienced practitioners working at other clinics who appreciate the free business and marketing support they can get at Salus Wellness
- Experienced practitioners who have built up a home based practice and decide to take it to a higher level by working from a professional establishment
- Experienced practitioners with an established practice in another town interested in creating a presence for themselves in Cambridge
To the best of my knowledge we are the only clinic in Cambridge with a clearly stated work with us page and we invest a substantial amount of time and resources to help our practitioners to learn how to grow their own practice.
This is the main reason why we have recently been receiving several enquiries from people who have literally just qualified or even from some who are months away from qualifying. All colleges and institutions teaching complementary health are offering some kind of marketing preparation in some shape or form. Very often information is delivered as just a few hours of tuition and perhaps a booklet with little substance about the real details and intricacies of running your own business.
So here are my tips about starting your private practice:
- Failing to plan is planning to fail. Have a plan in terms of how many clients you are going to see and how much you will charge, check what the common price is for your market in your geographical area; if you need a simple idea about how to plan your numbers check this post
- Define a precise marketing image for your practice. Will you work with your own name or with a different brand? Once decided you need to go ahead and prepare and get ready with your marketing material; the essentials are discussed in this post; remember that everything takes a long time to develop, usually longer than you expect so if you wait until you are qualified you will have weeks or months of delays before your marketing material is as ready as you are
- Find a place to practice; some people assume that working from home is a good idea but you are exposing yourself and family to lots of strangers. Be aware that the journey to self-sustainability for your practice will take time, as I wrote in this post; therefore it’s best to find a place that will not cost a fortune when you start but also will not charge a large percentage of your income when you become successful
- Be ready to face fast times, slow times, stressful times and again and again; starting your own private practice is effectively like starting any other business. Just months or years of consistent and good quality work will ensure the complete establishment of your practice.
Having done lots of mentoring work with start-ups, I often remind them that most projects will take twice as long, cost twice as much and will generate about half of the revenue you calculated in your initial forecast. It is easy to be optimistic about our own plans but when they don’t work we feel very frustrated. So it’s a good idea to have a plan, perhaps using a scheme I previously described above and be realistic/pessimistic about expected outcomes. If we can be of any extra help please contact us via our standard phone numbers and email addresses.