I’ve been hearing from a lot of practitioners lately that say “I can’t do XYZ to market myself because my regulations won’t allow it”.
“I can’t use testimonials”
“I can’t offer free sessions to generate leads”
“I’m not allowed to have a specialty”
YES, if you’re a regulated practitioner then you’re bound by the standards in place by your associations and boards. They have them for (mostly) good reasons: to protect both you and your patients, to maintain quality of care and keep you from getting sued.
But I get that sometimes those regulations can feel limiting, especially when marketing on it’s own feels scary enough.
That doesn’t mean you need to throw in the towel. In most cases, there are what I call “work-arounds”. Creative ways you can still market yourself while still working within the boundaries of your regulations.
I’m laying out 5 smart work-arounds for the most common regulations I see limiting practitioner marketing so you can work within the boundaries of your regulations while still doing what you need to grow your business.
I also suggest you hire a lawyer for a few hours to read through your marketing/advertising standards, operating/business standards and code of ethics in detail and highlight what you can and can’t do. When you’re informed then you can easily make decisions to benefit you and your progress while still providing quality, professional care.
PLEASE NOTE: EVERY state, province, and modality has it’s own marketing standards, business standards and code of ethics. I’m laying out the common restrictions I see but do your own due diligence for your specific board (see suggestion above).
1. COMPLIMENTARY OR DISCOUNTED OFFERINGS: If you’ve attended my Blank to Booked Webinar or are a member of The Booked Up Blueprint then you know I’m big into lead generation systems. They are SO important (even critical) to increasing your bookings and growing your patient base, especially in the beginning. And one of the first steps in getting a lead is offering something of value for free as a way to introduce people to you and how you can help. A fantastic way to do this for practitioners is to offer complimentary consultations.
Problem: Some associations limit your ability to offer free services. Most boards don’t want you offering free or discounted services when it comes to diagnostics, examinations or treatment. You cannot charge a “block” or “package” fee and you cannot offer a reduced fee for prompt payment.
Solution: With these regulations you still have a huge opportunity to offer “complimentary consultations, introductory or educational sessions. These could be 10-15 minute in-person or phone chats to help prospective patients understand more about your field, your approach, how you could work together and if that might be a good fit for their health needs and goals. There is no diagnosis, testing or treatment as part of this consultation (although some boards allow for testing which you could always incorporate). This can be offered on your website, social media, via email and in person to people who express interest in your services.
2. REFERRALS: Pretty much every practitioner I speak to wants a business built on referrals. And rightfully so! They cost you WAY less in time, energy, money – they’re the gold standard. But you can’t expect referrals to just come to you (at least in the beginning). It’s not your patient’s or friend’s job to remember to refer you. It’s your responsibility to not let them forget.
Problem: The trouble is for many practitioners that they’re restricted from offering, requesting or accepting a benefit for a referral. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask (just can’t demand or pressure).
Solution: Again, depending on your board’s exact stipulations, you have a variety of options to leverage your opportunity for referrals:
– Create a referral program in your clinic where you give patient’s cards or an email with complimentary offerings they can give to friends and family. There is no benefit or obligation to your patient (just be sure that what you offer is allowed – see #1)
– Simply stay in touch and top of mind with your personal network and past patients regularly and use “indirect asks” for referrals. You can get the exact email templates for this here.
– Host “bring-a-friend” events or workshops so you can meet new people and indirectly gain referrals while also providing value to existing or past patients
– Establish professional referral relationships as these often have fewer restrictions than public referral relationships
3. TESTIMONIALS: Using testimonials, reviews and case studies is one of the best ways to demonstrate the results you’ve gotten for others without you having to talk about yourself non-stop. Letting prospective patients see how you’ve helped other people builds immediate trust and credibility and is hugely beneficial in booking new patients and clients.
Problem: This is a common restriction although the details vary widely across boards and modalities. Some are not allowed to include any sort of testimonial or 3rd party endorsement in their marketing (which includes your website and in person) and some won’t even allow you to reference a 3rd party publication that might carry testimonials for you. Further, in most cases, you cannot co-erce or incentivize people into providing a testimonial or review. Sounds like a lot of “can’ts” huh?
Solution: The solutions you have really depends on your exact stipulations so make sure you’re clear on the details of your board’s regulations BUT you still have options (in most cases):
– In follow-up and reminder emails to patients (which are not considered advertising) you can include a link to your Google Reviews, Facebook Reviews or RateMD page. That way there are still reviews online, you just may or may not be able to reference or direct to them
– You can include (no coercion) the same links in your clinic or mention when in-clinic with a patient/client
– You can create anonymous patient case studies outlining what someone was experiencing before they came to you, what you did and measurable results afterwards
– You can use before and after images if the change is visual
– Use 3rd party research articles and studies to demonstrate results
– Use professional relationships and collaborations as a form of testimonial
4. SPECIALIZATIONS: There are a lot of practitioners out there today across all modalities and it’s nearly impossible to stand out (and get booked up) when you look the same as everyone else. The key to standing out and filling your schedule is to specialize because every person coming to you has a specific problem. They would FAR rather see someone who is an expert in digestive issues than a practitioner who is pretty good at treating 25 different conditions.
Problems: Nearly every board and modality does not allow you to “specialize” or be a “specialist” (or use any similar designation that suggests a specialized status or accreditation) unless it is a formal specialty as part of your field or you’ve received an outside certification/accreditation that is still within the scope of practice.
Solutions: There are many other terms you can use to demonstrate an authority on a topic:
– Clinical interest
– Focus or area of focus
– Special interest or area of interest
– Certified in or hold certifications in (this only applies to actual certifications recognized by your board)
– Actually go above and beyond to learn MORE than the standard in your area of interest so you can simply show people you’re an “expert” without having to say it.
5. CONTENT MARKETING: Content marketing is such a powerful tool for practitioners. Content marketing is anytime of marketing where you’re putting out valuable, educational information (think: social media, email marketing, in-clinic handouts, blogs, podcasts, workshops etc). THIS is the type of marketing that helps you get seen as a trustworthy, knowledgeable, likable expert in your field (without having to call yourself an expert). And it feels a lot more genuine than the traditional “pushy” promotional marketing that used to be popular.
Problem: The trouble is, I see so many practitioners afraid to say or promise the wrong thing in their content that they don’t do it at all. And then they have zero presence online and command little authority. I get it, advertising standards across boards are tight on this. For the most part you can’t mislead, make guarantees or promises of results, appeal to the public’s fears, coerce anyone or promote treatment that’s outside the scope of practice
Solution: Luckily there is still A LOT you can say to put out educational, valuable and promotional content as long as you ensure it’s: true, accurate, verifiable, doesn’t mislead or coerce and is professional.
– Focus on how you can alleviate symptoms and the impact on patients (physically, mentally, emotionally etc.) rather than a guarantee of exact outcomes, particularly if the condition is outside the scope of your practice
– Use facts, statistics, research and case studies where possible
– Use terms like “may help to”, “lessen”, “shown to be” “could/can”
– Aim to educate and inform in your content
– Use disclaimers at the bottom of your website, blog or content. Here is a generic one: The content of this website is intended for informational purposes. The information presented does not replace medical advice by your personal doctor. Information on this site should not be used to diagnose or treat. Before starting any new dietary, exercise or lifestyle regimens you should consult your primary medical provider.
I really hope this has been helpful and informative for you. You have SO much opportunity (even within the boundaries of your regulations). You just have to be informed and educated.
Again (here’s my own little disclaimer): My suggestions are based on common regulations I see. Please review your own specific Advertising Standards, Business Standards and Code of Ethics for your governing body as every state, province and profession is different. I also advise you consult a lawyer for an in-depth review of your guidelines