It’s sweater weather again, and that means it’s time to start thinking about your holiday marketing plans.
Never thought about them before? Usually leave that until December 1st? Happy to just sell a few gift certificates and not worry about it?
That’s all ok! But let me give you a little nudge and tell you why it’s so important to think about the holidays and how they can really be a big boost to your income.
The health care dilemma….
Those of you working in ‘alternative’ regulated health professions such as Massage Therapy, Physiotherapy, Chiropractic and Naturopathy often find yourselves stuck between two identities: that of a health care professional, and that of a service-based business owner. As health care providers you have to uphold a certain standard, avoid conflicts of interest and put the needs of your clients before your financial ones. But as business owners, you have to think about your bottom line, building a client list, and working on your reputation not just as a health care provider but as a small business.
This can feel weird. It can feel like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Here’s the thing: you don’t have to be stuck between these two things! You are both. You are a health care provider and a business owner. Those two identities can be totally in sync.
It is absolutely ok to do things to build your business, draw in new clients and, yes, market yourself to them. You need to give yourself permission to do this, because if you don’t, you’ll always find yourself in that ‘feast or famine’ mindset. That mindset that means you have no control over when and how often people are booking, because you’re not doing anything to help keep things more stable.
But… how do you do that?
This time of year it can be easy to become complacent with your marketing and business planning. Clients are more than happy to come in for treatments because they have ‘insurance to use up’ or because it’s the holiday season and they feel festive and want to do something good for themselves. They often want to buy gift certificates for other people. So you’re busy, sometimes too busy!
But that doesn’t mean you should just go with the flow and not worry about holiday marketing. January will come soon enough, the holiday ‘glow’ will be over, and you’ll have to start thinking again about how to get clients coming through your door.
Listen, I get it. It’s so easy to go with the flow, especially when you’re working so hard to keep up with the demand that the end-of-the-year brings. But a little extra work now will make January that much sweeter.
Think of it this way: wouldn’t it be so much better if you took advantage of this awesome time of year to promote your business? Coming up with a solid plan will help keep your books more full and keep your income more steady for the longer term, especially when those post-holiday bills start coming in (I feel ya there!).
The key is to find ways to promote your business that feel right for you. If you tend to really shy away from doing any kinds of ‘selling’, I urge you to go outside your comfort zone, just a little.
You are a health care professional, and you have a business to run. It’s ok to respect both of those things.
Now you might be thinking: “hey Candice, that’s all fine and good, but how do I market myself in a way that works for me?”. Well, here are some ideas to get you thinking about that! I can’t promise every idea works for every person, but take these ideas, change them, use them as creative fuel for your own plans. The point here is to give you forward momentum.
This is something most of you are probably doing already. That’s great! But let’s take it one step further: offer the gift certificates in a package with some other items. A package can feel like more of a special deal to someone than just a straight gift certificate. Don’t get me wrong! Gift certificates are great. But if you’re anything like some of my friends, they just feel that gift certificates and cards by themselves are boring and should be given with a little something extra.
There are multiple ways you can approach this package idea. You can team up with other practitioners in your clinic to offer a package of treatments in a bundle. You can offer a special holiday package of treatments yourself. Or, you can bundle a gift certificate with some chocolates or a mug and tea – something nice for gift giving.
Another thing to consider with gift certificates is ease of purchasing. It’s always a good idea to offer to ship them to people to make it that much easier for them to buy. Even better if you have a way for them to purchase online. Of course, do charge an appropriate amount for shipping!
As an aside for those of you in Ontario: people are often confused about the provincial regulations around selling gift cards and certificates. You absolutely can put an expiry date on a gift card for a specific service. See the Ontario government website for details.
Add Value, Not Discounts
Discounting your services is a sticky issue for health care providers. And really, it’s not the best way to run any business. Offering frequent discounts just makes people assume they’ll never have to pay your full fee.
Now, to be clear: if you do offer discounts, go for it! One thing that could be really helpful to get your books more full after the holidays are over is to offer a discount on hard-to-fill time slots. Or, offer a discount if someone books multiple appointments.
But for those of you who really don’t like discounts or feel they are not appropriate, you can add value instead, which gives a similar incentive to clients without compromising your professional stance.
For example, you could run a promotion that offers 15 minutes of extra treatment time for anyone who pre-books an appointment for January. Or, you can offer a free item when they book, such as a bag of epsom salts or a theraband – something relatively inexpensive for you, but something they might like to have.
For any of these types of things, my main caution is to make sure to make it a limited time offer (and perhaps in the case of the free gift, single-use only). Doing something like this is a good way to fill your schedule for January, which can be a slower month for bookings.
If you’re not into the holidays, I hear that. But for many people, the sight of twinkly lights, softly falling snow and Christmas decorations makes them feel happy. That vibe can absolutely be transferred to your office during the holiday season, creating a really positive environment for both you and your clients. It makes your business more memorable and helps build great relationships. Not only can it be really fun, but it can also translate into more bookings.
So yeah… decorate your office! Just make sure to maintain appropriate cleanliness (no pine boughs on the treatment table, ok?).
You can also go the extra mile and decorate your online presence. Put new winter-y photos on your website, put holiday-themed stuff on your social media. Make yourself stand out! People will take notice and it can mean an increased number of bookings and gift certificate purchases online.
Bring the party to people’s inboxes
Ok ok, I know we get innundated with emails at this time of year. You don’t want to overdo it. However, clients do want to hear from you (trust me on this one)!
Try sending a holiday-themed email or series of emails to your clients with tips for surviving (haha) the holidays, delicious holiday recipes, or anything else you might want to send. Make sure to mention any promotions you have going on, and talk about how gift certificates are a good holiday gift and how you make it easy for them.
And on the topic of mailings: When was the last time you received anything in the mail? As in, non-electronic, delivered by the post office mail? These days we do pretty much everything electronically. So another fun way to stand out and give back to your clients is to send them a Christmas/Holiday/New Year’s card (go with whichever feels right to you). Clients will appreciate the fact that you thought of them, and again, this helps with client retention and maintaining great relationships.
Wait… did you say party?
Got a large enough space to host a little open house over the holiday season? Well, that’s another way to send positive vibes out to your local clients. It’s a great way to say thank you for supporting your business.
Serve yummy winter beverages and little snacks. Bring out the adorable Christmas decorations your kids made you. Wear a santa hat if you want!
If throwing a party seems like too much, you could also just have warm beverages and snacks available to people post-treatment for the month of December. Same idea, different implementation.
Take advantage of other sales and promotion days
Have you heard about Small Business Saturday? It’s a day where people are encouraged to support small local businesses instead of the big box stores. Here in Canada the date is in October, but in the US, it’s the day after Black Friday and right after their Thanksgiving.
For you Canadians, maybe the October date doesn’t work. But hey, you can absolutely jump on board with the American date! After all, lots of people will be talking about it on social media and other places online. So talk about it in your own marketing (blog, newsletter, social media) and encourage people to support small businesses like yours.
If your community has a similar date – for example, a ‘shop the neighbourhood’ promotion – you can also participate in that to help bring people into your clinic. It can also be a fun way to meet some of your fellow local small business owners! Networking can be another fantastic way to promote your practice and bring you more clients.
Ready to try some of these ideas out?
I hope this gave you some food for thought for your holiday marketing! I know this can be a bit of a stressful time of year, and I wish you an amazing holiday season for both you and your business. You got this!
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