I was talking recently with a client who said the offer for the free consultation on her website was more trouble than it was worth. You see, I always recommend you have an offer on your website for a free initial consultation for new patients. I’m not talking about a free treatment – I’m talking about not charging for the additional cost many practitioners charge new patients for the initial visit.
One of the best strategies you can use to get new patients in the door is to make them this offer. But many acupuncturists are afraid they’re going to get a lot of tire-kickers in the door who’ll waste their time. Not true. My stats show that 95% to 98% of “prospective” patients who take the time to drive to your office to meet with you stay for treatment.
As I kept inquiring to find out why the free consultation was causing confusion, I asked the acupuncturist if there is a difference in the cost between the initial visit WITH the free consultation coupon – and the initial visit WITHOUT the free consultation coupon. When I learned there is no difference I had my answer. You see, in marketing this cost difference is called the “risk-free” factor of an offer.
I explained to her the reason the coupon was creating a problem is because the offer is misleading. The website clearly states that the coupon has an $85 value. I advised her to either honor the free consultation offer or remove it completely from the website. It just doesn’t make sense to offer a free initial consultation if the patient is going to pay for the consultation any way.
Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish… Give’m the damn pickle!
Frank Prieto is a marketing strategist helping acupuncturists generate highly qualified leads from the internet and converting more of them into new patients.
Jordan Hoffman says
Thanks, Frank, for the clarification. As a point of feedback, you might want to make this clearer in your newsletter/video the first time around. I have followed your advice about the coupon to the letter– I even used your wording– and it always felt awkward to use it as you explained it the first time around. As I understood it, the $60 value was for the 30 minutes of my time to sit down and do the consultation; it did not mean I took $60 off the initial visit. Though that did feel good to me and I did provide an clear explanation to my site viewers, sometimes pts would come in with the coupon in hand (without coming in for the consult) for the first visit and present it to me. This would then require a further explanation– and that felt awkward. But for those that contact me to come in for the consultation, you are right, they do always come in for treatment– regardless though of whether or not I take that $60 of their initial visit. So I will take this new idea into consideration.
Thank you very mcuh.
Frank Prieto says
Hi Jordan, I admit the coupon offer is a little tricky to understand at first. Whenever an acupuncturist signs up for NewACUPatient$ this is one of the areas I have to go over more than once until it’s perfectly clear. It lends itself to interpretation not only from the acupuncturist but from the patient as well. I’m going to take this opportunity to elaborate on this a bit more because when this is done right it works like magic. Let’s do the math first…
You visit my website and see the coupon for a FREE Initial Consultation ($60 value.) You print the coupon and call my office to make an appointment. When you call for the appointment is the perfect time to explain how the coupon works. So when you call my office you’ll ask me or my staff a few questions like; Do you have experience treating this or that, how many treatments will it take, etc., AND how much does it cost. Here’s when I tell you that the cost of the initial visit is $135, but if you bring in the website coupon you’ll save $60 and only pay $75 if you stay for treatment that day. I go on to tell you that I do this because I want you to come in to meet with me and determine if acupuncture is right for you without any obligation. I continue to explain that this is a “risk-free” offer for you to learn how Chinese medicine can treat your condition naturally and effectively without the use of prescription drugs. If I determine I can’t help you I will recommend other options for you. It’s as simple as that. We like to treat patients who take an active role in their healing process so we want you to feel comfortable when you come in without any pressure or obligation.
Ninety five percent of the time they will stay for treatment that same day. If they stay for treatment they only pay $75 (or whatever your treatment rate is.) Here’s where many acupuncturist say; “Yeah, but I just gave up $60. That’s 45% less that I could have made.” Well, that’s not accurate because most patients will come in (on average) for at least 4 treatments – 4 x $75 = $300. The $60 is only 16% of the big picture ($300.) Besides, you are the master of your own domain and the reason you are in business for yourself – so you can charge whatever you want. All you have to do is increase your prices. Charge $85 or $95 for treatments to make up the difference. Do you see what I mean? Many acupuncturists get hung up on the math or the initial $60 they are giving up and they miss the big picture. This is being penny wise and pound foolish because all you have to do is adjust the numbers up or down so it makes sense to you but for Christ’s sake… Give’m the damn pickle!
It doesn’t stop there. If you really want to kick it up a notch do this… Don’t call it a FREE Initial Consultation like everybody and their brother does. Call it a FREE Initial Acupuncture Exam. It’s essentially the same thing, but it has a much higher perceived value. You’re going to do it anyway, right? When they come in you’re probably going to do a brief TCM exam which includes a pulse diagnosis, examination of tongue, ears, eyes, etc. Now while everybody else is offering a FREE Consultation ($60 value) you are offering more because you are offering a FREE Initial Acupuncture Exam ($85 value.) Is it costing you more out-of-pocket? No, it’s just a matter of perception and structuring your offers the right way.
Get this right and you’ll get more new patients coming in the door – who in turn will refer others and your practice will grow exponentially.
jeffrey Magner says
Free is Free and there should never be a question about that. Do you think that a free consultation is a better coupon offer than something like a % off or $ off coupon? I’m wondering if people have more success with the free consultation than other offers.
Frank Prieto says
What do you do with the patient after the free exam or consultation if they aren’t getting a treatment?? I always thought it was damaging to tell someone who knows nothing about Chinese Medicine that they have Liver Qi stagnation etc because it causes fear that something is wrong with their Liver etc. I guess I’m just wondering after the exam is done what information is shared with the patient?
Frank Prieto says
I understand your question, but I’m not sure I understand your concern. The purpose of the consultation is so they get an idea of how Chinese medicine works. The prospective patient is coming to you for advice because she’s been reading about acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat her symptoms, which aren’t getting better with conventional methods.
Your job is to explain to her your findings in a way she understands them and sees the benefits of Chinese medicine. I can’t tell you how to do that because I’m not acupuncturist, so I asked my daughter Christina to chime in. My job is to show you how to get new patients in the door with the free consultation so you can seal the deal. Once they come in for the consultation, the odds are high that they will either stay for treatment that day, or schedule an appointment for another day if you can’t treat them that day. Prospective patients are going to schedule a free consultation with an acupuncturist regardless. Shouldn’t that acupuncturist be you? I would look into the ‘Report of Findings’ by Acupuncture Media Works. I hope that helps.
Christina Prieto says
This is a great question. The purpose of marketing is to get your patient through the door, and the art of your practice is to retain them as a patient and share your passion of Chinese medicine with them. This is going to look a little different for each person that you might see. As an acupuncturist, it is to your discretion who you share the Chinese medicine philosophies with, and who needs more of the Western medical dialogue. This is critical in connecting with your patient and speaking to them at their level so that they can understand how Chinese medicine can help them.
Perhaps for a patient who you don’t think will be open to hearing the words “liver qi stagnation”, you can offer them the diet and lifestyle recommendations for this particular imbalance. This information is valuable and helpful and will likely get them to seek more information from you or even schedule a treatment with you in the future.
Remember to ask them if they have any questions. This will steer your consultation dialogue in a direction led by the patient. Other practical information that you can offer is how many treatments they might need, where you will place the needles, etc.
You can also utilize materials from Acupuncture media works. They make really great handouts for each of the organ systems that showcase both the eastern and western organ systems in a way that is easy to understand.
I hope this helps. Please keep me posted on your progress.