Updated: Jul 5, 2021
I know: you are flush with that sweet, sweet EIDL money and you are wondering… Can I book travel tickets with this?
When you find out you can’t, you may then consider investing in your business. In fact, this is what the loans are technically for, and the truth is that this is your chance to turn this disaster into an opportunity.
Well, first things first. Make sure you have enough cash reserves to hit your break even point (BEP). You should not pursue any of the strategies listed here if you are not already familiar with your BEP. If you would like a review of the math to help you figure this out, check out my previous post on how to calculate your breakeven point here. It really matters because your BEP is essential to determining a budget, which is in turn essential for deciding which of these strategies is right for your business at this time.
If you know your BEP and are confident you have some working capital left to invest in your business, then this is the post for you. Here are three suggestions for spending money to grow your integrative healthcare business, with pros and cons for each.
Pay per Click Advertising (PPC)
Most people are familiar with this term by now, but just in case: In a PPC ad campaign, you advertise a product or service on a popular network like Google, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Google Ads are shown to people who are searching for terms on which you have bid. The other social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) use their robust data to deliver your ads to highly targeted lists of people based on their interest and demographics. In either case you pay the network when someone clicks on your ad.
The benefits of PPC are:
You are immediately put in front of a volume of people who are searching for what you offer. The value of this should not be underestimated, especially now when the market of people interested in our services is (in many cases) depressed. PPC ads won’t make more people want acupuncture, but they can help convince the ones looking for acupuncture that they should come see you.
You get constant, immediate data to afford you insight into what is working so you know where to concentrate your resources for maximum efficacy.
You will build an email list of sales qualified leads (SQLs) that can be tapped later with a lead nurturing campaign (sometimes called a drip campaign, more on this below).
The challenges of PPC are:
Results are not guaranteed. Like I said, ads won’t make people want to get acupuncture during a pandemic. You don’t get enough text to really accomplish that conversion. If no one in your town is looking, the ads won’t deliver.
Even when it works there is a pretty steep learning curve, and you are spending money - potentially a lot - as you learn.
You are basically renting space on these platforms. As soon as your ad budget dries up, there is no residual benefit to the money invested.
If you are considering a PPC campaign, remember:
An ad click just means that they went to a page on your website, not that they bought anything from you. So you have to be sure you have systems in place to track your conversion rates from filling out the form on your landing page (more on this shortly) to actually purchasing your offer.
Hire a management company. The point here is to use the money to grow your business, not for you to get a degree in PPC marketing. The platforms are very sophisticated, and you are likely to get burnt out or overwhelmed quickly if you take this on yourself.
That said, your manager will have to be managed - that’s the job you are signing up for with PPC. That means you have to look at all the text and visuals for the ads they make, you have to offer comments and criticism on their landing pages (which almost always suck without clear direction). You have to actually read and understand the reports they send every month and call them out when the data is trending in the wrong direction. If you don’t want this job I fully understand, but you should consider other options more heavily. It is not impossible to hire a management company and see a good ROI on your monthly budget laissez faire, but it is not typical and you should know that before investing in PPC ads.
Another point: don’t skimp on the adspend, especially in the first 6 months. I can’t say how much money you need because it is heavily influenced by your market and competition. But when you analyze your finances to set SMART goals and a budget for your PPC campaign, it is critical that you allow for the real budget it will actually take, including the management fee and competitive adspend. I will cover the process of setting SMART goals for your integrative medical practice in another post, please subscribe to this blog to get notified when that is published.
Have the management company do the keyword research for you before they run the ads. Some companies will charge for this, it’s worth it. This keyword research will tell you how many people in your area are looking for your services, and for what exactly they are searching. Make sure there is a market for your service before investing the money.
Last (big) thing on PPC: Envision your entire funnel before you launch any ads. A typical PPC funnel looks like this:
PPC Ad -> Landing Page -> Form -> Auto email with offer. If no conversion: entrance to lead nurture campaign.
Before spending any money on ads, you should know the purpose of each segment of this funnel. You don’t have to design the content and pages yourself (that’s the investment part), but you will have to manage this funnel in order to get your best possible results so it’s important you understand the basics. Most importantly, the whole funnel should be done, designed and published before spending any ad budget.
I’ll go through all these terms to make sure we are on the same page. If you are already comfortable with each step of the funnel above, feel free to skip to the next section.
The PPC Ad is the ad that you or your management company develops to show on the platform of choice.
When a person clicks the ad, they are taken to the Landing Page. This is a branded page on your website. Your logo should be featured prominently and the url should read www.yourwebsite.com/adwords/whatever. On the landing page there should be a brief description of your offer, an image that clearly ties the landing page to the PPC ad, and a form for the prospective client to fill out in order to receive your offer.
The form should be concise, and should include a (mandatory) opt-in to your terms of service. If possible, you should have the form built in such a way that the entries are automatically entered into a database that you control. If so, be sure to set up the database so that these entries are tagged as having come from PPC so you can target a campaign to just those people later. Ideally, you will have your email database segmented so that you can send future mail (the lead nurture or drip campaign) only to people who filled out the form but didn’t convert.
When a person completes the form, they should be sent to a thank you page on your website and an Auto Email should be triggered with the actual offer. The auto email should have your logo on it, should come from a person at your company (e.g. Robbie at City Acupuncture, not City Acupuncture and not “The Team” at City Acupuncture), and should be signed by you, the business owner, with your contact info.
If a person fills out the form, gets the auto email but doesn’t redeem the offer 2 - 4 weeks later (depends on the offer), they should be sent an automated reminder email. If they still don’t convert a week later, I would enter them into a Lead Nurturing Campaign (also known as a drip campaign). I will cover this topic in detail in another post, but for now suffice it to say that a lead nurturing campaign sends (or drips) pre-determined auto-mails to your client list based on where they are on the funnel. When done correctly, lead nurturing emails will answer the most common pushbacks to your offer to remove barriers to conversion.
Also known as Inbound Marketing. This refers to the practice of generating content in the form of blogs, ebooks, videos, white papers, etc. to convert web traffic into customers. I can feel some of you recoiling at this idea through the screen, and I do agree - there are a lot of content market funnels out there, and no, I don’t want to give you my email address to get that copy of your new ebook.
That said, don’t give up on content. Why?
Because it works. In fact, you are digesting content from a marketing funnel right now. And although you are not ready to buy anything from me yet, if you are reading this far this blog has already achieved its intended purpose - proving to you that I know what I am talking about. If and when you decide you want to speak with a professional about all of this stuff, at the very least you know that I am here and I am qualified to review your clinic’s data to help you make good decisions. That’s inbound marketing in a nutshell.
It’s affordable. Use the loan money to hire a blog writer for one year. It is worth it. Post a high quality, informative blog once a week for a year and see what happens to your web traffic (hint, it will go up). Upgrade your website’s design for conversion and you will see even more new people walk in the door. Get good at analyzing the data and improving the funnel responsively and you will se even more new people walk in the door. All of this takes diligence. Some of it has a high upfront cost. None of it is expensive to maintain.
Content sells forever. Unlike a PPC ad, content is hosted on your own site. Of course that means that a smaller number of people will view it than would, say, on Facebook. But still, the ones that do view it are very likely to walk away convinced that you know your stuff and a certain percentage of them will convert to customers. Five years later after you forgot all about the $125 you spent on writing that blog, it will still be delivering a small percentage of viewers in the door, month after month after month. Over time it really adds up, and after a couple of years with hundreds of quality blogs out there, it snowballs.
The biggest downside to content is that it takes a long time for it to deliver the kinds of results you want to see. But even this has an upside: constantly publishing blogs increases the amount of pages for which you are indexed on Google, and if you do it correctly this leads to higher search ranking, and that leads to a higher volume of viewers to convert.
All of that said, you still have to be prepared to invest in content for a year before you can really assess how it is performing. For most of us, that is not typically an option. However, the loan money can be used to design and publish one year’s worth of blogs. That's a great opportunity, don’t sleep on this.
Typically when a professional speaks about SEO they are referencing a series of changes that can be made to your website's design and structure to maximize the number of visitors from search engines. For all intents and purposes, “search engines” means Google.
Examples of SEO include:
Keyword research to determine the volume of searches for specific terms related to your business and then editing the text of your website to feature those terms in key places to be read by Google. For example, you can find out how many people are searching for the term “acupuncture near me” and if there is a high search volume for this term, you could edit your homepage to naturally include that exact phrase. This will help your website achieve a higher position on Google search results. A good example of this is above when I linked to my previous post. The hyperlink text specifically says "how to calculate your breakeven point" because I did keyword research and I know that this exact phrase is what is searched the most in relation to this topic. Not "Break even" (two words), not "BEP." If Google sees users clicking on this phrase to get to that article, it will know what that article is about, and that other people wanted to read it. Note: Google’s recent updates have reduced the impact of this strategy but it remains an important part of SEO.
Editing the metatext of your website to reflect those keywords (this includes what you call each picture file you use, what you name each page of your website, etc.)
Managing the use of header tags in your current text. Header tags are html blurbs that tell your computer whether to show a letter as regular text or large and bold as a title, or something else. Each page should have one and only one H1 tag, and that H1 should be keyword researched.
Maximizing the user experience (UX). This includes (not limited to) regularly checking how fast the pages of your website load on desktop and mobile, and making adjustments to file sizes and layout to keep that rate within a predetermined range of acceptability.
Altering the architecture of your website around pillar pages. This is a big concept that I will cover in a future post, please subscribe to this blog to be notified when that is published.
The benefits of SEO are:
It is relatively affordable.
When done correctly, it has been proven to work. In every industry, across the board.
There are multiple objective data points that you can use to judge the efficacy of your campaigns, make adjustments as necessary, and then reassess. This is an essential feature of all the strategies reviewed in this post, the ability to review the efficacy of your campaigns with objective data.
The challenges of SEO are:
If you do it yourself it is tedious. Picture the worst data entry job ever. It’s worse than that.
There are a million SEO companies at every price point and it’s hard to know how best to decide who to choose.
Most of us don’t understand SEO well enough to effectively manage the campaigns and this leaves us open to being taken advantage of.
I hope this article will prove helpful in deciding what to do with the EIDL money. These are not the only three strategies worth pursuing. In a future article I will discuss web architecture, email blast promotions, and how to encourage your top customers to become evangelists for your business. But this is a great start. If you have any comments, questions, or requests for topics for future posts, let me know! You can email me here, or just get on Facebook and drop me a direct message.
Good luck out there!