Business Advice for L.Ac.'s: Finance Strategies for the Summer Slump

It is mid-July and summer is in full swing. Regular clients are taking vacations and missing standing appointments. As the weather heats up, business gets a bit slower. You are probably used to this summer slowdown; however, you might not be accustomed to the pace of summer in a poor economic environment. Take advantage of these slower months to put business practices in place that will increase your income and bring in new clients.

Make your services more accessible..

Accept credit cards. For better or worse, these are still the days of credit. Many people do not even carry their checkbooks with them anymore, let alone enough cash to pay for a treatment. Although implementing a system to accept credit cards will cost you more, it might actually help you bring in and retain customers whose cash flow might be a bit slower at the moment. Shop around for the best credit card processing rates, not only at banks but also at places like Costco that offer the service at reduced rates.

Sell packages..

You might look at a package deal and think that you are losing money because, for example, you are only getting paid for three treatments instead of four. The other side of the coin, however, is that you are guaranteed payment up front for three sessions - three sessions you might not have booked otherwise. You´ve also potentially gained a new long-term client or enhanced your relationship with a current customer. Apart from "buy two, get one free" and those kinds of packages, think about how you can create packages that focus on specific issues, perhaps even combining acupuncture and herbs in the price. People are often more willing to commit to treatment when they know at the outset how much it might cost them and how many treatments is will likely take to address their problems.

Market more effectively..

Get people talking. Encourage your clients to refer their friends by giving them a tangible incentive. Offering your clients a specific amount off (percentage or fixed dollar amount) on their next treatment when a friend of theirs comes to see you for a paid service is a great way to not only show appreciation for your current clients but to hopefully grow your business.

Create a professional network..

Develop partnerships with other local businesses in related fields. Foster relationships with health food stores, chiropractors, gyms, masseuses, etc. to establish a network of health services that cross-refer. Instead of just dropping your fliers off quietly, set up an appointment to talk face-to-face so that you will be the first person they think of when a customer comes in wanting to try acupuncture. You, in turn, may refer your clients to a particular store for their groceries or vitamins or to a chiropractor after a back injury. Be sure to develop these relationships with people you trust and believe do good, healing work.

Head to the net..

These days many people look to the internet when they are searching for service providers. You might think web ads are expensive, and they certainly can be. With pay-per-click ads, however, you can choose how much money you want to spend and to whom the ad is shown. Target people only in your location and your market. You are able to evaluate whether your ad is drawing in the right people based upon how many leads you get and adjust accordingly. Don´t have a website? Post your phone number. Consider getting an 800 number or a number within your area code that has letters associated with the numbers that relate to your business and are easy to remember.

Make sure you are listed in localized searches through Google and Yahoo. You can publicize your business, make it show up on maps, highlight specific services and even generate coupons to lure in customers. Encourage your current clients to post reviews on website like Yelp and Citysearch or whatever might be popular user-generated search engines in your area.

Next month we´ll have more tips on how to tailor your products and services to increase your earnings, as well as where to save money without hurting your business.