Grow Patient Volume By Marketing Less

By Glenn Sabin

Perhaps the title of this post is a bit disingenuous because, more accurately, what I’m positing is that you can best grow your integrative medicine business (patient volume, product sales) by selling and marketing differently, if not exactly less.

Frankly, your customers (aka patients) and prospective clients couldn’t care less about you, your ambitions and why your services or products are special. They’re focused on themselves, their own problems and how you might be able to help them. This has always been the reality.

My earlier career comprised of running a media and marketing firm publishing magazines, producing websites, conferences and providing marketing services. I oversaw a robust sales department with tens of millions of advertising dollars, marketing services and sponsorships bought and sold on my watch.

Armed with rate sheets, menus of services, production schedules and additional supportive “sales” materials, my team made over 100 sales calls daily to established and prospective clients. We jokingly referred to this practice as “dialing for dollars”.

We enjoyed great success based on this premise: our perennially award winning, high quality products and content would practically sell themselves. For nearly two decades our winning magic formula resulted in double digit annual revenue growth. That is, until it didn’t.

Perhaps the transformation of the media business isn’t the best analogy for your integrative health enterprise, but given this decade-long revolution—and how general marketing overall has been transformed in just the past five years—it makes sense to compare more deeply. Here’s why.

Businesses no longer rely on traditional media outlets to reach their target audiences. Today we are all the media. Each of us. We’re posting, pinning, tweeting, liking and widely sharing content of interest. We’re both media-makers (content producers) and voracious content consumers. Our content creation, consumption and social media interactions have us listening, sharing and engaging at unprecedented levels.

While companies big and small continue to utilize traditional media—i.e., print, radio, TV ad billboards—to help reach a critical mass of consumers, these highly “interruptive” forms of advertising are expensive and difficult to measure in terms of results. Interruptive media is a one-way communication channel. It’s incredibly challenging (and costly) to tell engaging stories to educate a community via traditional marketing channels.

Humans are wired as story-telling animals. We naturally love stories. Storytelling results in up to 22 times greater retention and recall over the delivery of mere facts and figures. Since integrative medicine is a story—of prevention and wellness creation—and not merely an advertisement, it makes little sense to spend a significant portion of one’s marketing budget on traditional advertising.

Let’s get back to the concept of growing your business by marketing less. The facts are fairly straightforward: 

  1. Your customers and prospective patients couldn’t care less about you, your aspirations products or services and more about themselves and their own needs.
  2. Stories are retained and recalled exponentially better than facts and figures.
  3. People like well-told, engaging stories that provide useful, actionable info a lot more than ads.b   

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So the takeaway here is simple: For each time you sell or pitch, give, help, assist and then give more—i.e., through sharing stories, answering questions and providing useful content about the specific medical conditions and integrative approaches most important to your customers.

The more you give and pay it forward, the more trust you build… consequently, you’ll enjoy greater support of your products and services.

I’m certainly not suggesting you give away or even discount your services and products! What I am saying is BE HELPFUL to those in your community and the impact and dividends will be enormous.

All this giving and helping is not a complex formula for success, but it certainly does require more time to see return value than, say, the immediate (but often short lived) impact of placing expensive print or TV ads. But over time the longer tail of “giving” will pay consistent dividends toward building your business. Always remember that word of mouth referrals and your reputation are your strongest business development tools.

My current and prospective clients don’t necessarily care all that much about me (although I’d like to think my narrative with integrative health is rather unique!) or what FON stands for as a consultancy. They care about helping patients; running more efficient practices; growing clinic utilization; and selling more products and services.

My community cares about their medical delivery models and whether they should be an insurance- or cash-based practice. They care about the PPACA’s section 2706 and how it may affect their center, for better or worse.

So the next time you think about creating new product sheets, updating your menu of services or placing that shiny full page ad in the local holistic health publication, also give thought as to how you can ultimately grow your business by being most helpful to your community of existing and prospective customers (aka patients).

What I’ve personally learned: to the extent that I address the needs of my community by sharing actionable intelligence and helpful tools, my consulting practice does well.

This past summer I provided over 40 complimentary consults to those in my community looking to launch an integrative health business or to grow their existing enterprise—i.e., clinic, center, natural products or service business. Putting this offer out via my newsletter list, I committed to five 30-minute consults each week in addition to my busy client work.

Though several consults did result in formal relationships, my driving intention was to offer helpful insight with actionable recommendations. By helping and paying it forward without asking anything in return, I benefited from a deeply rewarding experience that I plan to repeat next summer.

My consulting practice continues to grow by listening, helping, sharing and connecting.

About FON

FON is a leading integrative health and medicine business development and strategy consulting firm. FON specializes in custom solutions for growing patient volumedeveloping programsand increasing product sales. Our practical business models are driven by innovative marketing, clear messaging, and customer engagement via branded storytelling.

Contact us today to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your business development or personal brand needs


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Author: Glenn Sabin
FON’s founder, Glenn Sabin, is a nationally recognized thought leader with a reputation for successfully positioning integrative health organizations for sustainable growth. Combining media, marketing and business development expertise with an extensive professional and personal integrative health and medicine narrative, Glenn is deeply passionate about advancing the field as the new standard of care—accessible to all.
Read Glenn’s story.


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