Why don’t massage therapists market? That’s a good question.
It’s also a trick question—because health care professionals do market. In fact, everyone (regardless of their profession) markets themselves—and markets health care—in some way, shape or form. The term marketing is loaded with negative connotations and stigma.
For many people, marketing has unpleasant associations with sleazy used car salesmen and gimmicks. The reality is that every human interaction involves presenting yourself or your service, product, or idea in a favorable light; in a word, marketing. Let’s look at some other reasons health care professionals may steer clear of marketing.
Market Health Although It’s Scary
“Yikes—It’s Scary.” Yes, it can be scary to put yourself out there. What if people don’t like you? What if you’re giving a talk and the audience starts heckling you or asking questions you can’t answer? What if you make a statement that’s incorrect? (Let’s face it, even though you may have years of training and education, you’re still human.)
Fear of rejection and fear of public speaking are two major fears of people in general, and health care providers are no exception. Instead of allowing fear to keep you silent, try to think about marketing health care in a different way.
First, remember it’s natural to be nervous. Second, consider it’s virtually impossible to please everyone. No matter what you do and no matter how hard you try, there are still bound to be people who are critical of you.
Stop focusing on those few, and refocus on the many people you can affect positively. Imagine the people you meet are excited to see you and hear your information. What if, instead of rejecting you, they welcomed you with appreciation and respect? Who knows? As people ask questions, you might even learn something new in the process.
When I was younger, I was extremely shy and terrified to speak in public. Classroom speeches and presentations were nightmares for me. I would tremble and struggle with the words, and my stomach was in knots the whole time. My dad used to tell me I had to get over this fear because there are very few jobs in life where I wouldn’t have to deal with people. Still, I was a nervous wreck.
This lasted until I was in my mid-20s, and then something happened: I had to defend my Master’s thesis. I had been working on this project for the better part of 18 months, and I was required to prepare a two-hour presentation to be delivered in front of my respected faculty. In addition, the entire campus was invited. And on top of all that, if the defense was unsuccessful, my degree wouldn’t be conferred. Talk about pressure!
In the end, I think about 25 people showed up. Aside from a few relatively minor technological glitches, everything went smoothly. I was able to answer most of the questions asked of me. The questions I was unable to answer were so specific or inconsequential that no one really cared. I simply admitted I didn’t know and moved on.
To my surprise, I received rave reviews, and yes, my degree was conferred on schedule.
The lessons I learned from that experience were numerous, but there are a couple that fit with our current discussion. First, my audience didn’t have to “like” me in order to understand and appreciate the information I provided. Second, when I made mistakes in my delivery or in what I said, the world didn’t end. I just corrected myself and continued. Third, if I could get through this, I felt I could get through anything.
And finally, all of the anxiety and fear I had felt leading up to the presentation were unnecessary. So, gather your courage and your knowledge, and you may be surprised to find that marketing isn’t as hard as you think.
Market Health Although You’re Shy
“I’m a Shy/Reserved Sort of Person.” Some people are naturally shy or more reserved, but that doesn’t mean they can’t market. It just means they’ll likely be better suited to a more subtle approach. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of marketing strategies.
Not every technique works for every professional. Some people like to host large events, others shine in front of an audience, and still others do best when they’re one-on-one. Pick strategies that play to your strengths and that suit you. In so doing, you’ll achieve better results.
For example, if you’re nervous speaking in front of an audience, you could host or sponsor a guest lecturer in your area. This would educate your community and promote your practice without requiring you to be front and center.
Market Health By Using Time
“I Don’t Have Time.” Effective marketing does take time and planning. However, when people say they don’t have time, it’s often an excuse to cover an underlying issue or concern.
My colleague, Dr. Adam Bordes, once commented that while many people say they don’t have the time or money to follow through with health care recommendations, he sees it as a problem of priorities. If this treatment or service was going to save a person’s child, they would make the time and/or money for it. His point was that if a person understands the necessity or value of something, they are more inclined to make it a priority.
Take a few minutes and imagine two scenarios. First, imagine you put off marketing because you don’t feel you have the time. What does your practice look like? How busy do you think you’ll be? Can your practice grow the way you want it to? How do you feel about yourself?
Second, imagine you have taken the time to schedule and prepare for marketing events in your practice. How does this mental image compare to the first? Under which scenario is your practice more likely to prosper?
Market Health With Your Budget
“I Don’t Have a Budget for Marketing.” Refer to the discussion just above on priorities. As you’ll discover later in this book, there are many forms of effective marketing that don’t require a large budget. In fact, some require no money at all.
Marketing on a shoestring budget is a skill any professional can learn. In today’s economy, you can’t afford not to market. Your budget may dictate that you start small, but you must start.
When I opened my first practice, I had no cash flow. That’s right: none. In fact, I think I could have written the book on how to ineffectively launch a new health care practice, because I did just about everything wrong.
I opened my doors in January 2008, just as the economy was taking a nosedive. I opened my practice in an area where I knew no one. I had a very limited amount of money to work with, and that was it. I had no loan, no back-up, and no rich relative who could float me money if I hit a dry patch. It was truly a sink-or-swim situation born out of necessity.
Yet even in that circumstance, I knew how important it was to market. For the first six weeks, I literally had no patients. However, I had plenty of bills. I had to get word out about my practice. It was a scary, stressful and exciting time.
Market Health to Grow a Practice
So, what did I do? I culled through my mental list of marketing strategies and started with the things I could afford. I went to networking meetings. I hit the pavement and introduced myself to local business owners.
I sent letters to companies and schools offering free health workshops. I met tons of people and told them what I was doing. I volunteered for various organizations and forged relationships in the community.
Gradually, my practice grew. I added new marketing techniques and events as cash flow permitted. When I closed the practice two years later to move with my fiancé to accept a new opportunity, I was well-entrenched in the local business community.
I held marketing events regularly. I was often asked to speak at different events, and I enjoyed a solid reputation. If I could build that from nothing in two years, imagine what someone could do with a budget or in an area where they already know people.
Excerpted by permission from Community Connections! Relationship Marketing for Healthcare Professionals, by Kelley Pendleton, D.C.
Kelley Pendleton, D.C., is a chiropractor, health care marketing consultant, professional speaker, and the author of Community Connections! Relationship Marketing for Healthcare Professionals. She’s committed to using her experience and expertise to help other health care professionals build the practices—and lives—of their dreams. She wrote “How to Get More Clients: The 5-Step Referral Process” for massagemag.com (April 1, 2016).