Graduate to Greatness Series Part 1: You’ve Graduated! First Steps to Setting up Shop
You graduate with your acupuncture or massage therapy degree and are ready to take on the world. You are skilled and enthusiastic to make a name (and some money) for yourself in a career that helps people to feel great. But how do you put your education into practice? What steps do you need to take now that you’re out of school and in the workforce? How do you get clients in the door (and keep them coming back)? Pacific College is here to help you flourish even after you leave our campus. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Set up your website. Think of your website as the first sign that you’re opening shop. It should be created before you ever open your doors. A website will lend you credibility. A prospective patient browsing your website has the opportunity to get a feel for who you are before they even meet you in person. The quality of your website can make the difference between a “just looking” patient and a getting an appointment. Having a website provides you with the space that a brochure, business card, or a newspaper ad cannot. When people are shopping for a practitioner online, the more information they can access about you and how you practice, the better. We’ve talked about this a bit before here, in our article “12 Reasons You Need a Website” The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) provides free websites for diplomats at http://www.nccaomdiplomates.com/
Talk the talk. Self-promotion is not something that comes naturally to most of us. But it’s time to set aside any reservations you have about talking the talk. It’s not bragging, it’s advocating. And if you don’t promote yourself, how can you expect it of others? You don’t have to shout your name from the rooftops to get attention, but you do need to get creative. David Fireside, Owner of Urban Decompression a massage studio in Chicago, has an interesting suggestion. Fireside says, “When someone asks you what you do for a living, don’t reply ‘I am a massage therapist’, tell them you are a ‘relaxation specialist’ or you ‘facilitate the healing of soft tissue injuries’ or ‘help people deal with chronic pain’.” The key, says Fireside, is to say something about massage therapy and your skill that will engage the other person in a conversation.
There are two halves to the equation: you must get out there and meet people, but you must also be memorable when you do. The Massamio Blog has some great advice on getting creative when it comes on places to meet your potential clients, “Get involved with groups where your target market is hanging out. Is your ideal client a well-to-do stay at home mom? Where's that mommy hanging out? At the salon, the library, neighborhood cleanup day, the gym, 5K walk/runs? Yes, there's always joining the chamber of commerce, but we know you can get more creative than that!” Wherever you make your connections, make sure you always leave the potential client with something to remember you by: your business card. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) advises, “Always be prepared with your business cards and a 30-second "elevator speech" regarding the benefits of massage therapy.” The same goes for acupuncturists. A business card is imperative for getting your information out there in an effective and professional manner. If you’re a massage therapist, you can build your credibility and become a member of the various massage organizations for support, CEU information, and advice on opening your practice. Many even offer members the use of their logos and other images to put on your business card.
Play nice with others. There’s no doubt that you’re the driver on your path to success, but don’t think you have to (or should) go it alone. Get involved with complementary practices. For example, chiropractors are an excellent source of potential clients. Introduce yourself to your local chiropractic offices near where you’d like to set up shop. Come bearing gifts—people are always more inclined to deal a favor like a referral after a tasty bagel. Tell your local salons about yourself and what you specialize in and provide them with your card or fliers to share with their clients. And, of course, return the favor. Networking is a give and take and if other small businesses know you’ll recommend them, they will be inclined to reciprocate.
Use your connections. If you’re a Pacific College graduate, who do you know who’s an acupuncture graduate or a massage therapist? If you are an acupuncturist and you can rent a room in a massage practice, or vice versa, you may find yourself with a built in client base of massage patients who are also interested in acupuncture. Talk to your campus Director of Career Services for more ideas regarding mentors to speak with as well as work and practice promotion opportunities Also be sure to attend our events designed to support alumni networking, such as the Prepare Now for Success talks, as well as the PCOM Business and Bagel at our San Diego campus or Practice Success Series talks at the New York campus. These events are designed for graduates and alumni to network and learn business tips. Participate in community outreach both while a student and as a graduate to network, build experience with special populations, and educate community members about the benefits of what we do.
Here’s a list of our Directors of Career Services for each PCOM campus:
San Diego: Angela Yvonne
New York: Cynthia Neipris
Chicago: Lamya Kamel
Above all, stay focused and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. As you grow your client base and establish yourself as a successful practitioner, choose specific marketing areas you’d like to focus on. Pacific College Marketing Director, Gail Vogt, offers this advice, “While it’s great to have a solid understanding of the varied types of marketing you can do for your practice, it’s better to focus on a few and knock each out of the park than to spread yourself thin if you aren’t able to fully execute each. Focus on what you gravitate toward. If you enjoy being on Facebook and know the ins and outs of social media, make that one of your main marketing tools. Make the most of your current skillset.” If you’d like to see more of Vogt’s marketing advice, check out her Prepare Now for Success talk on how to get the most out of social media for your practice on the PCOM YouTube channel
Arroyo, Araceli “Boost Your Business”, Massage Therapy Journal, February 2013
American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) “Growing Your Practice: Marketing Plan Basics” http://www.amtamassage.org/career_guidance/detail/139