This is a longer post, but I urge you to stick with it. I tried to provide everything you need to know to get started on these marketing ideas right away.
Here’s what we’re going to cover:
- What is B2B marketing?
- A creative example of B2B marketing
- Two key questions to ask yourself before getting started
- Five B2B marketing strategies for acupuncturists and other wellness practitioners
- With plenty of details on each strategy
- Important tips to consider with B2B marketing, including:
- How to approach other businesses
- How to determine your fees
- A list of articles to reference when you approach other businesses, about employee health and workplace productivity
What is B2B Marketing?
B2B stands for “Business to Business.” As with everything on the internet, three words are too many to type and it must be abbreviated. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a crotchety 90-year old grammar Nazi at heart. Just sayin’.
In a nutshell, B2B Marketing is when one business provides a service or product to another business, instead of providing it to consumers (which would be B2C).
An example of B2B marketing would be an engineering company that creates a lens grinding machine for the production of glasses. This company has a very specific product that they sell to businesses who manufacture eyeglasses. They’re not selling it to consumers. (Although I’d love to have one, wouldn’t you? Just in case I need to grind glass.)
Another great example is advertising companies. Most advertising companies work directly with other businesses to create branding and advertising campaigns, because consumers (of course) don’t need advertising. So their own marketing efforts are aimed directly at businesses, not consumers.
In general, most small business owners tend to focus on the consumer, because that’s our largest target market. We don’t often give any consideration to what we might be able to provide for the businesses in our area.
Or we may assume that a business has to be one or the other – either B2B, or B2C. This is definitely not the case. Acupuncturists and other wellness practitioners are in a unique position to profit hugely from both B2C and B2B efforts.
In fact, I think most small business owners simply need to start thinking outside the box and they’ll be able to come up with a few ways that they, too, can significantly expand their market by occasionally focusing on businesses, in addition to their usual focus on consumers.
A Fantastic, Creative Example of B2B Marketing:
A friend shared this with me a few weeks ago and it really got me thinking.
A local restaurant in Rochester called Shamrock Jack’s works together with a nearby flower shop called Personal Designs Florist. On Valentine’s Day, you can have flowers delivered directly from the florist to your table at Shamrock Jack’s while you’re having dinner with your sweetheart. Bonus: Ordering flowers for delivery to Shamrock Jack’s gets you a discount on the flowers, and delivery is free!
All you have to do is make a reservation at Shamrock Jack’s, call the florist to place your order, and tell them the time of your reservation. Then, with very little effort, you can surprise your significant other with a bouquet of flowers delivered to your table while you’re having dinner!
Seriously, what a great idea. All it took was a little creative thinking on the part of whoever initiated this excellent example of B2B marketing.
Why is this idea is genius? Because it benefits both businesses and offers serious convenience to the customer.
The florist benefits for obvious reasons: increased sales. The restaurant benefits because now they can advertise that they have something that other area restaurants don’t: flowers delivered to your table, with almost no extra effort to the customer. It’s convenient, inexpensive (because of the discount) and special for the customer, which makes it an easy sell for both businesses. And both businesses can cross-promote each other as the holiday nears. It’s win-win!
So how can you create a similar situation that is mutually beneficial for you and other businesses in your area?
The key is to ask yourself two questions to get started:
1) What am I an expert in?
Typically the answers for acupuncturists will be some combination of: acupuncture, herbal medicine, pain management, wellness advice, illness prevention, injury prevention, Eastern and/or Western dietary recommendations, Qi gong, Tai chi, teaching about acupuncture and herbs, etc.
2) And how might this expertise benefit the businesses in my area?
Another way to phrase this would be, how can I help local businesses increase the value and/or convenience of what they offer to their employees or customers?
Now think about how your knowledge about the topics above could bring added value to nearby businesses. What could you provide for them that would be beneficial enough that they would want to pay you? This includes, of course, beneficial to their employees.
Five B2B Marketing Strategies for Acupuncturists and Other Wellness Practitioners:
(Scroll down for details. In all of these, you would be considered an independent practitioner, not an employee of the company.)
1. On-site acupuncturist for a large business or corporation.
2. Go-to acupuncturist for employee wellness days for local businesses.
3. Health and wellness educational lecturer to employees of large companies.
4. On-site weekly teacher of Qi gong and Tai chi classes.
5. On-site acupuncturist for fundraisers or other events. (Hear me out on this one.)
1) On-site acupuncturist for a large business or corporation.
This is the most important and potentially lucrative idea in this post, in my opinion.
The idea is that you provide acupuncture treatments on-site at a large company’s office for their employees one or two days a week, and the company pays you a flat fee per day. I think it’s best to approach larger companies because theoretically, they’re more likely to have sufficient employees and extra revenue to make this idea viable. For example, a local college, large law office, engineering firm, etc.
What’s in it for the company?
By providing on-site acupuncture to the employees, you add value to the wellness plan that the company offers. Ideally, the company would pay you a flat fee for your time there, so the employees don’t have any out of pocket expenses to pay for your services. This is a huge perk for the employees. Happy, healthy people make better, more productive employees, as we’ll talk about below.
What’s in it for you?
Financial security because you get paid regardless of how many patients you see. And plenty of networking opportunities from all the new people you meet by spending time in this new location that is filled with people. Remember how important networking is?
2) Go-to acupuncturist for employee wellness days for local businesses.
In a spin off of the above idea, you could also provide on-site acupuncture for local businesses on an occasional basis, such as when they have employee wellness days or fairs. For example, many businesses will offer chair massage to their employees a few times a year for employee wellness or appreciation events. You can join the LMT and offer relaxing treatments on those special occasions, again for a flat fee paid by the company.
Essentially, you would want to secure your place as “The” acupuncturist that they request at these events, and get booked out well in advance. Once you get your foot in the door, you can make it clear that you want to return. By booking them in advance, it prevents the human resources manager from forgetting about you or losing your card and asking another acupuncturist to do it instead.
How does it benefit the business? Again, you offer added value to the wellness perks they give to their employees. And convenience for the employees because you’re right in their workplace (so no travel for them) and they don’t have to pay for treatment out of pocket.
How does it benefit you? You make a chunk of money for your time, and get to meet potential patients. This is also a great way to eventually become the regular on-site acupuncturist as in the example above. Once the HR manager sees that your services are popular, you have your foot in the door.
3) Health and wellness educational lecturer for employees of large companies.
In a nutshell, you get paid a flat fee per presentation to teach the employees about your areas of expertise. Or, you could host a series of presentations and charge one flat fee for the whole series. For example, if a company is hosting an employee wellness week, you could offer to teach a series of presentations about avoiding illness or preventing injury using TCM principles.
As a reference point, I used to give 45-minute “What is Acupuncture?” presentations at local libraries, and they regularly paid $50 per presentation. You could even go a little higher, I think. But it’s not a bad starting point.
How does it benefit the company? Same as above – increased value and convenience for their employees. Free wellness education right in their office, with no travel and no cost to them.
How does it benefit you? Ca$h money, plus you get to know potential patients.
(Are we sensing a trend here with how each party benefits?)
4) On-site weekly Tai chi or Qi gong teacher.
Have the company pay you a flat fee for teaching regular Qi gong and Tai chi classes right in their building or outside on the grounds.
The company could pay you a flat fee per class, a lump sum for a series of classes (say, over a three-month period), or each participating employee could pay you individually. I think it’s ideal to get a flat fee from the company because of the guaranteed paycheck. But charging each employee individually could bring in even more revenue if you end up with high employee attendance on a regular basis.
As an aside, I recommend doing the class during the employee’s lunch break. They’re much more likely to participate during lunch than after work hours. Most people are just tired after work, and take it from me – if they have a commute, they won’t stay for something that occurs after hours.
Benefits to the company and yourself: Same as above. Increased value/convenience for their employees, and income for you.
5) On-site acupuncturist at fundraisers or other events. (Hear me out on this one.)
I say hear me out because you might be thinking that you can’t make money at a fundraiser. Or that maybe you could, but that you shouldn’t; that all the money should go to the fundraiser itself.
Not so. I’ve done volunteer work (completely free) at fundraisers in the past, providing free acupuncture for eight hours at a time, and the people at the fundraiser were always amazed that I wasn’t charging them at all. They completely expected to pay at least a nominal fee to be treated, that would go either to me, to the fundraiser, or to be divided between me and the fundraiser.
Here’s my thought: Work this out with the people running the fundraiser beforehand. Aim to charge a nominal fee of, say, $10 per treatment. Then you get to keep half, and the other half goes towards the fundraiser.
How does this benefit the charity?
They make a bit more money, of course. And having low-cost acupuncture on site is an additional draw for people to attend their event. Acupuncture can be especially relevant at events raising money for medically-oriented charities.
How does this benefit you?
You may not make a ton of money, but something is better than nothing, and the networking opportunities at these events are excellent. In addition, you may treat people who will then become interested in getting treated regularly in your office.
Important Tips for Approaching B2B Marketing for Acupuncturists:
1. First of all, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
I was very shy when I first started up. Every time I emailed someone, I was afraid I was bothering them. Not so! You are offering them something that provides value and convenience. People like value and convenience! So go for it. The worst that can happen is they politely say, “No thank you, not at this time,” or they simply don’t answer. Oh well! No harm done. But you have to be bold and ask, or you’ll never know what you could be missing.
2. Who should I contact to make my request?
If you know someone in the company, it’s probably best to start with them. Ask if they would mind asking around in HR to see if your request (to be on-site acupuncturist or Qi gong instructor, for example) might be possible. Sometimes having an “in” is the easiest way to go. Having someone in the company who can vouch for you often goes a long way towards getting your foot in the door.
If you don’t know anyone who works there (and that’s okay!), then I would start with the Human Resources department. Look them up online and select the person in the department who seems most relevant to your request, like perhaps a “Wellness Coordinator.” If there’s no one specific, then address your letter to the Director.
3. If I send an email or a letter, what should be included in my proposal?
A) Clearly state how your proposal would provide value and/or convenience for the other business and their employees. In order words, answer the question: What’s in it for them? Be as specific as possible.
B) Include what you would charge, but add that you’re open to negotiation (if you are). Feel free to include what your fee is based on. For example, you can explain that you would charge $260 for a four-hour on-site period because you make $65 per patient per hour in your own office (4 hours x $65/hr = $260). See below for more info on fees.
C) Include research about statistics on work-related injury, illness, stress, etc., to help the human resources office understand why they need you. You will save them money! Less time lost to illness or injury! Happy employees work harder!
There’s plenty of powerful, compelling research documenting that employees who are physically healthier and who have a good work-life balance are better employees. They miss fewer days of work due to illness, they’re more productive, and they’re happier and more pleasant to work with overall. That’s a win-win all around!
Some great examples of articles to reference in your proposal letter:
A. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Workplace Wellness Programs Can Increase Productivity (2013). This article is fantastic. Definitely give it a look.
“The cost savings of providing a workplace health program can be measured against absenteeism among employees, reduced overtime to cover absent employees, and costs to train replacement employees.”
B. The Willis Health and Productivity Report of 2014: All the statistics you can imagine about wellness programs and productivity. Super detailed. A great resource, including ideas on what methods companies can use to measure wellness program impact on productivity, absenteeism, etc.
C. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: How Can Wellness Programs Save Employers Money While Making Employees Healthier and More Productive? (2012).
“Worker productivity lost to diabetes, depression, cardiovascular health, and other chronic and preventable illnesses is estimated to reach $1.1 trillion annually. In response, an increasing number of private and public sector employers are implementing wellness programs which provide a strong return on investment for employers and employees alike.”
D. Science Daily: Investing in employees’ health leads to increased productivity (2013).
“Participating in health promotion programs can help improve productivity levels among employees and save money for their employers.”
E. Fairleigh Dickenson University: Stress in the Workplace: A Costly Epidemic (1999).
“Workplace stress costs U.S. employers an estimated $200 billion per year in absen teeism, lower productivity, staff turnover, workers’ compensation, medical insur ance and other stress-related expenses.”
4. How do you decide what to charge? Considerations:
I think a flat free per day is justified because you make money on an hourly basis, correct? So you could argue that all the time you spend on-site at this other business’ office is time that you could be back your own acupuncture office, seeing patients and making $65 an hour. (Or whatever the going rate is where you live.)
Even if you don’t currently have patients to fill up all the time you would spend on-site at the company, they don’t need to know that. If you’re going to start out with a half day (four hours) to see how popular the service is, for example, and you usually charge $65 per hour-long treatment, then I think it’s reasonable to ask for $260 per half day ($65 x 4 hours).
Be prepared to negotiate a little, but don’t ask for too little money, either. Remember that people are paying for your education (which is extensive), your time, and your expertise. Don’t undersell yourself.
If the business doesn’t want to pay you a flat rate for an 8-hour day, you could charge per hour or per patient. Per patient is less ideal in the beginning, when employees are deciding if they want to try it. But, if you charge per patient, you stand to benefit once you’ve grown your reputation at the company and have a lot of employees there who want to be patients. On the flip side, this can also be limited by the amount of space they’re willing to give you. What if they give you one small space but you have four patients who want treatment at the same time?
Weigh all these options and discuss potential changes to your fees as interest in your services increases.
5. For idea #1, when asking to be the on-site acupuncturist, consider offering to do a trial period.
This is low-risk for the business you are working with, allowing them to test the popularity of your services before committing. The idea, of course, is to eventually get them to take you on regularly, long-term. But this may make your pitch more easy for the company to digest when you first send them a letter.
The B2B approach is a great option for acupuncturists that is seriously underutilized. We can offer so much value to the wellness plans that companies already have in place, whether it’s from treating the employees or teaching them about wellness topics. And remember, happy, healthy people make much better, more productive employees! Those businesses and their employees need you and your expertise.
Do you work with other businesses to grow your acupuncture practice? How exactly does it work for you? Have any tips for those who are thinking about approaching nearby companies in this way?
Share your questions and suggestions here!