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The Biggest Marketing Mistake Most NDs Make

By Kevin Doherty, LAc and Dominic Sembello, LAc

If you are an ND looking for ways to grow your private practice, we encourage you to do a little market research and see what other practitioners are doing to promote themselves. If you surf the Web or look at various display ads, you’ll probably notice rather quickly that most marketing pretty much looks the same way, has the same phrases and conveys the same impression. The problem is that the conventional “Web site as brochure” or “print ad as brochure” marketing has the same end result: It simply does not work and is a poor return on investment.

Most practitioners make one massive error in the way they approach marketing, one that could profoundly undermine their ability to generate new leads and qualified patients for their practice. The most common mistake is that practitioners focus on the features of their practice rather than the benefits to their target market. They talk about themselves instead of their prospective patients. Just about all of the ads and Web sites we have researched are guilty of this marketing blunder. The ad will say something like, “In practice 10 years, specializing in allergies, located in downtown,” with a picture of the business logo or some other fancy graphic.

The problem with this is that nobody cares who you are until they clearly see how you can help them. Now, I want you to read that sentence again. If you fully grasp it, you are on your way toward revolutionizing how you market your practice. Don’t even bother talking about who you are or what you treat until you’ve reached out to that prospective patient and said, “Hey, I understand what you’re going through and I can help. Here’s how.” If you don’t do this, you will lose about 95 percent of your prospective audience. This is why typical display ads don’t work and why your Web site may not be generating as much business as you’d like.

What we are talking about here are basic copy writing and sales skills. Amazingly, even most large companies pulling in millions of dollars in revenue don’t get this right either. They still focus on their product, rather than the solution it provides. As a business owner, you are a problem-solver for people. If you can show them that you have the solution for which they have been looking, they will consider your services even if it is foreign to them, as is so often the case with acupuncture.

Your primary emphasis in marketing is to educate people about how you can help them. People don’t want to be sold to. Maybe this worked well in previous generations. Many of us are still caught in “old school” marketing like this, where we go out and try to find prospects to buy our services. Direct mailing, fairs, and display advertising are of this nature. In this day and age, people want to be educated first so they can make their buying decisions in a relaxed, no-pressure manner.

With the advent of the Internet 2.0 world, the average consumer has too much buying power to take the risk and jump from seeing your ad to picking up the phone and setting an appointment. They first want something for free. They want you to show them without any risk whatsoever on their part that you are a knowledgeable and trustworthy resource. They may even want to experience some regular contact or follow up with your practice (although not necessarily from you in person) before they feel comfortable initiating treatment in your office.

In our next article, we will explore in more depth how to market your practice with this new perspective in mind. For now, just remember that your first goal is to take the focus off you and put it onto your prospective patients and show them exactly, without risk, how you can help them and why they should trust you. Brainstorm what kind of free offering you can make to your prospective patients in order to convey the benefits of your care and establish trust. If you do this, you will gain an enormous competitive advantage in your local area, and your marketing will be exponentially more effective.

About the Authors: Kevin Doherty and Dominic Sembello are licensed acupuncturists and business-development consultants. They are the owners of Dream Practice Coaching. They can be reached at

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Date Last Modified - Tuesday, 13-Jan-2009 10:42:06 PDT