Community Outreach: Using Experiential Marketing to Grow Your Integrative Medicine Center
By Glenn Sabin
Simply put, a live presentation is and always will be the most powerful communication medium.
Nothing touches people like a live experience. Whether it’s sports, music or … yes, even medical information—participation in a live setting is often more engaging than seeking the same entertainment or information from a book, CD, television or Web site.
Some of the most successful integrative medicine practices, clinics and centers share at least one theme in common: consistent community outreach and education. Centers with varying levels of fiscal and human resources are realizing the value of providing relevant, useful information to educate—and often motivate new patients to try their integrative services.
Communicate to Educate
Evidence-based integrative medicine is still quite new for the majority of the population. In fact, it’s also quite new to many conventionally-trained clinicians, administrators and medical students. Next to word-of-mouth referrals, community outreach is often cited as the primary driver of clinic utilization through self-referrals and physician referrals.
Here are some community outreach content ideas that you can implement in 30 days:
Create a weekly series of 60-90 minute lectures, each targeted to single interventions or specialty areas:
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
- Yoga & Pilates
- Pain Management
Centers specialize in different conditions and provide varying sets of interventions. Choose your top five or six areas of expertise and get started.
Introduce your center and discussants
Start each lecture (seminar, discussion—whatever you choose to call it) with a short introduction about you and your center. Introduce your staff and colleagues—and anyone else who will be addressing the audience. And of course, thank folks for making the time to attend.
Let your audience know what will be covered during the 60-90 minute lecture, such as:
- The evidence
- How specific interventions are administered in clinic
- Service model: insurance vs. pay-for-service
- Q&A session
- An opportunity to meet the speaker(s) and clinic staff after the lecture
Don’t forget the collateral
Always make sure your center’s brochure is readily available, by placing directly onto each seat or having someone pass them out as they enter the lecture. Having a one sheet about the lecture is a good thing to do, and makes it less awkward to also include your brochure.
Depending on your audience sizes, you may opt for small or large group demonstrations. For instance, for larger groups you could provide mats and towels and introduce the audience to yoga or Pilates. Or forgo the mats and towels and do a mini Tai Chi class—or turn the lights down and do a deep, relaxation breathing demonstration. For smaller groups, acupuncture or cooking demonstrations can be wonderful. When it comes to developing quality content for your lectures, the topics are almost endless.
Quality educational content can be shaped to appeal to many, or more tightly targeted.
Existing clients? Check. Prospective patients? Check. Community physicians and practitioners? Check. Part of an institution and want to engage with conventional docs? Check.
Samples of speaking series/events
- Lisa Larkin MD & Associates—Lecture Series
- Marino Center for Integrative Health—Continuing Education Program
- Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology —Insights Into Cancer Public Lecture Series
- MD Anderson Integrative Medicine Program—Lecture Series
- Darien Center for Integrative Medicine—Educational Series
Potential Speaking Venues
- Your center or clinic
- Affiliated hospital (not offering IM services)
- Local grocery store like Whole Foods or indie health food store
- Local gym
- Community center/senior center
Marketing your lecture series
There are a number of ways to promote your integrative medicine lecture series. Here are just a few:
- Your Web site (and partner Web sites)
- Media tie-ins: Look for an appropriate local media partner sponsor (radio, print, Web) to cross-promote your series
- Develop an attractive flier or post card and distribute at local health food stores, spas, gyms, etc.
- Via your e-newsletter
- Through Facebook, Twitter and other social media
- Venue Partner: if you tie into a community center, library or other public or private venue, get a calendar listing and heavily cross-promote
You don’t have to be a major center or spend a lot of money to create a quality experiential educational series to raise awareness of your integrative practice or center and build clinic utilization of your services. You just need to plan ahead and follow these basic steps. There’s never been a better time to go “live” and touch someone!
For more tips on creating your community outreach program, download FON’s white paper, How to Increase Clinic Utilization of Integrative Medicine Services in 60 Days.
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