Online Deals and Acupuncture Practice – Is It Worth It?

Online Deals and Acupuncture Practice – Is It Worth It?

  • Unified Practice
  • February 16, 2017
  • 4 Min. To Read

Remember the mythical story of the great Delta bluesman Robert Johnson? In the early days, he wasn’t so great. In fact, other musicians laughed when he picked up a guitar. They told him to stop making such a racket.

So Robert Johnson, in the tradition of Faust, went down to the crossroads at midnight and sold his soul to the Devil.

Hey presto: overnight he became one of the greatest bluesmen anybody had ever heard. Until he died one night in 1938 in Greenwood, Mississippi. The circumstances were mysterious. He was just 27.

There’s always a price for success, right?

A lot of acupuncture practitioners might feel like they’re heading down to that same crossroads when they sign up with an online voucher company like Groupon or LivingSocial. Yet many practitioners are willing to take the risk in the quest to build a thriving practice with a roster of loyal patients.

There’s no argument that online voucher companies have a proven ability to deliver new customers to a small business. But it comes at a potentially dangerous cost. You’re expected to offer a deep discount on your product or service. It’s usually at least 50% off the normal price. And then there’s the voucher company’s commission. It’s steep and difficult to accept. You should expect them to make as much out of the deal as you do.

It means a treatment normally priced at $80 might wind up delivering you a mere $20 and the uneasy sensation that you’re not even covering your overheads. You’ve probably heard horror stories of practitioners working insane hours while taking on debt to cover the cost of a loss leader that never pays off.

You’ll also have to deal with a lot of obnoxious one-off visitors who care more about a cheap bargain than your quality of acupuncture treatment. And you may feel guilty that your loyal patients are continuing to pay full price. And what if those loyal patients find out about the online deal and start to feel like they’re being ripped-off? Disaster!

After a while you may feel like screaming, “I’m trying to promote my practice, not devalue the great work we do!”

But there’s no need to get the blues. Even if it’s tough to transform every bargain hunter into a full-fee paying patient, there are a lot of upsides if you approach online vouchers with caution, do your research, and consider it an advertising expense rather than an immediately profit-making enterprise.

With more patients there’ll be opportunities to upsell additional treatments and products.

You’re also likely to inspire a range of online reviews that will build up your reputation. And old-fashioned word of mouth continues to be important.

A few tips when considering online vouchers for your acupuncture practice

  • Know your limits. Don’t agree to sell an unmanageable number of vouchers.
  • Be crystal clear on the conditions of the special offer in your negotiations with the voucher company. The last thing you want is bad will between you and a patient because of a petty dispute over exactly what they are entitled to. Alas, such stand-offs are hard to completely avoid, no matter how carefully the fine print is worded. You’ll have to live with that.
  • With the extra patient load, you’re going to need to keep on top of scheduling and billing. Acupuncture practice management software keeps things organized, efficient, and integrated.
  • You also better dust off that calculator and read this great New York Times article by Jay Goltz that lays out the eight key calculations you should make before you decide to work with a company like Groupon.

So if you decide to go down to the crossroads to make that deal, make sure you think long and hard about how to make an online voucher work for your practice. You don’t have to sell your soul.

And don’t forget that silly myths aside, Robert Johnson just practiced really hard to become one of the world’s greatest blues players.


Guest blog post by Matt Leask.

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