In this Founder's Corner episode, Ajay shares tips and strategies to reach the target audience on a low budget with Dr.Tom Ingengo, a leading acupuncturist at Charm City Integrative Health in Baltimore, Maryland.
Dr. Tom Ingegno DACM, MSOM, LAC. has been providing customized, whole-body acupuncture treatments for a wide range of health conditions since 2001. Tom is passionate about providing treatment that is aimed not only at alleviating symptoms but improving his patients’ overall quality of life.
Speaker: Hello, and thanks for joining today's episode of the Founder's Corner Podcast hosted by Ajay Prasad. Join Ajay as he sits down with healthcare professionals to discuss ways of improving their marketing efforts. As an entrepreneur and proud owner of several seven-figure web-based businesses, Ajay has now dedicated himself to helping healthcare professionals in building up their practices. If you would like to contact Ajay and become a guest on the Founder's Corner Podcast, fill out the form on our website.
In today's episode, Ajay will be speaking with Dr. Tom Igegno, a leading acupuncturist at Charm City Integrative Health in Baltimore, Maryland. He has been providing customized whole-body acupuncture treatments for a wide range of health conditions since 2001 to help patients alleviate symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. Enjoy the show.
Ajay Prasad: Tom, I understand that you are in Baltimore. Right?
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Yes, I am.
Ajay Prasad: Okay. So, how is the weather there? I'm just curious.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Uh – we're
Ajay Prasad: You know, you had some yeah?
Dr. Tom Ingegno: snowstorm. And it looks like it will be 4 to 6 inches. That will cripple our city.
Ajay Prasad: So, has it started already?
Dr. Tom Ingegno: No, no. They are saying like 10 PM tonight, so we have
Ajay Prasad: Okay. Yeah. You see, I'm right now in Nashville.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Okay.
Ajay Prasad: And we had this – we had it in the morning from literally 6 to almost now – until now. Now, it is over. And it was going in your direction, so that's why I was wondering. You know, it was going into the east coast into Virginia and Maryland and that area.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Yeah.
Ajay Prasad: So, that – although over here it looks beautiful. And I was just telling Oliver that in Nashville, it will be cold for two days and then it gets to like the 40s and 50s, which is all the snow melts. So, I mean, I never get the dirty black snow that you see in Chicago because over there, once it snows, it takes four months to melt, so.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Yeah.
Ajay Prasad: But I know what you mean, the city is crippled here. I'm in Franklin, in a suburb of what's that? I'm sorry.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: No, no, no. That's all right. Yeah. I'm familiar with that area. Yeah.
Ajay Prasad: Okay. Okay. Yeah. So, everything is at a standstill in Franklin right now. And if you are familiar, you know the roads are narrow two way and everything, so I barely – everyone I guess is staying from – you know, working from home here, so –
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Yeah.
Ajay Prasad: So, so good – so, tell me something about I think for my audience just so that they can put everything in context. Tell me something about your – about you and then also about your business, and then we can get to your specific questions.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Okay. All right. So, I'm an acupuncturist by trade. I've been an acupuncturist. I have my doctorate in acupuncture and Chinese medicine. I have been in practice for about 20 years. About six years ago, we rebranded and launched Charm City Integrative Health and wanted to combine some of the principles of Chinese medicine with some moderate therapies that seem to have some good synergy with classical treatments.
So, now I'm in an office that offers about 15 different therapies, and we are doing great. We've survived the initial onslaught of COVID, and 2021 was our busiest year yet after having a not-so-great 2020. And I seven days or six days into 2022, but it looks like we're still in growth mode. We see a lot of Western medical practitioners, which is probably one of our biggest compliments. I mean to have the actually coming in and believing in what we do is great. So, I have been very fortunate in this location. I'm in a nice little part of Baltimore, a lot of foot traffic, and we're pretty happy.
Ajay Prasad: So, somebody said the Western medical – so, are the doctors coming to you?
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Yeah
Ajay Prasad: For treatment? Or are they referring their patients to you?
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Both, actually.
Ajay Prasad: Oh, okay.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: So, we are not far from Johns Hopkins Hospital. We're not too far from The University of Maryland Hospital. And it's about five or six other hospitals in Baltimore City.
Ajay Prasad: I see.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: We have coming from Orthopedics, Oncology, a few GPs, a couple of functional medicine practitioners, from all those different University Hospitals. We see quite a few NPs, a lot of nursing staff. Certainly, they are running ragged right now. And they've also been great referral sources for That changed. I've been in the field long enough where people thought we were practicing something that was pseudoscience or just made up to
Ajay Prasad: I know exactly what you're talking about, you know, which is – and then the new trend is very welcome. I know for the longest period of time my doctor friends won't even recognize acupuncture or even chiropractic as any kind of treatment. So, and now there's a much broader acceptance. That is a very good sign. So, are there specific problems that people come to you for?
Dr. Tom Ingegno: So, we tend to – you know, I branded myself kind of as an inflammation specialist.
Ajay Prasad: Okay.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: And before that what we're seeing even, I believe, last in the height of COVID, they were talking about a study that was done showing that acupuncture helped break up the cytokine storm, this inflammatory process that happens during COVID. And certainly, China had people in full HazMat suits treating COVID patients with acupuncture and Chinese herbs with quite good success. So, it seems to have dovetailed around COVID. But the fact that we work on inflammation, we see a lot of different conditions within that umbrella. We have a lot of people that are coming in for workout recovery and longevity. We also have injury, arthritis, chronic illness, autoimmune disorders. We see a good amount of fertility in our clinic, too, and actually have a few fertility specialists, Western
Ajay Prasad: Okay.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: – referring to us.
Ajay Prasad: Huh. So, how – so, I'm just curious for personally and actually also for my audience. So, how does two things that just popped up in my mind So, one is, of course, fertility and the other is autoimmune disease. So, how does inflammation affect in that area for these two treatments?
Dr. Tom Ingegno: So, especially depending on the diagnosis, right?
Ajay Prasad: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: So, if something that, like polycystic ovarian syndrome there is hand-in-hand some inflammation of the ovaries, in the uterus, that kind of area. If somebody is coming in with any kind of pain, there is going to be some level of inflammation, and at -
Ajay Prasad: Correct.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: these regardless of what it is, at some point some tissues become inflamed and is not doing what it should do. And, you know, the classically they would say, oh, you moved the Chi. You smoothed out the flow of Chi itself. And now we know that within that, if I can improve circulation to that tissue by causing vasodilation, that inflammation inflammatory process out we know we can be successful treating a lot of conditions.
Ajay Prasad: Okay. Perfect, perfect. Now, I understand that. Thank you very much for the explanation. You know I'm – every time I talk to doctors for my podcast, I'm always learning something. You know that that's the best part about what I'm doing. So, now, let's just get to your questions. I know that you had some specific questions. And I'm sorry. I read it. I don’t remember that, if you don't mind telling me and I can
Dr. Tom Ingegno: not in front of me, so I'll read them off, and you know
Ajay Prasad: Perfect.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: – most practices, there is only so much money that I can dump towards advertising and trying things out. But what have you found to have been the most effective ways to find the target audience? The people that could use integrative therapies?
Ajay Prasad: You know, some – I will tell you that now, thanks mostly to Google if anything, people who – so, as a small business – first, let me start with that. As a small business, you cannot go out and educate a large number of people about your procedure and efficacy of your procedure and all the details in order to converge them into a believer. Right? I think that you should obviously try to become an influencer, but in the long run, it will bring some benefit. But in the short term, it will do. So, what you want to do is really focus on people who are already aware of your – of the benefits. Right?
Someone like me, for example. I don't have any doubt in my mind that acupuncture works. Right? But for what process and procedure it works? For autoimmune disease, it would not have even occurred to me that I should go there. But I know that for pain, I do it. Right? So, the first thing is the people who already know that they need, and they are ready to explore, the first place they go to is the Google. Right? So, they go to Google. They try to find out about their procedure. And then they want to also look up the doctors. They can find them if they want to talk to a doctor.
So, I have always said that for a small business these days, the best thing you can do is to have a good Google presence. Right?
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Okay.
Ajay Prasad: So, you can do that locally through local searches because, again, you really don't care if someone in New York finds you because they will probably not come to Baltimore –
Dr. Tom Ingegno: No.
Ajay Prasad: – from there. But you want to make sure that locally in your area, say within their driving distance. If someone is looking for a solution of the problems that you are able to solve, you are found. And for Google, it's very simple in the sense that you can – there are if you – the agencies, or there are tools where you can go, and you can even find out what keywords people are using to search for your services. So, first thing is you want to make sure that you can be found when people are looking for it because those are already your customers. You don’t have to do anything. And for – a couple of ways you can do that. Right?
On Google, you can once you know the keywords, you can get found what is called organically. Right – that normal. And then you can also advertise on paid advertising. So, I would say that if you had to do two things, make sure that you have a good presence on Google for your practice, and the second thing is that I already said that you should have a very strong referral program, almost like automated kind of referral program built in, so that you can use some of the other tools that we'll talk about and that you can use it to get referral automatically.
But, yeah, when you are looking at you – the good news about digital marketing is you generally speaking you can really gauge what is the return that you – on your investment. When you are advertising in the newspaper, of course, you can put up a code and all that, but it's much harder to even engage candidly. And I don't know how many people are reading the newspaper anymore, you know? So, those are – that print advertising is becoming a problem. If you try to do a, for example, a mail campaign, then it's a massive return because maybe 2% or 1% of the people would even be your customer.
So, I think that right now the best thing to do is to go digital. You know, I always say Google because that's where people are searching for a specific product or services. So, that's the best thing for you to get there. And then beyond that, of course, there are some social media like Facebook and all where you can also get it done. So, locally, it should not be very difficult. You will not need a ton of money to do this what I am talking about. And even then, of course, there is always some experiment in the sense that you want to make sure that you are donating enough return.
So, until you have spent some money, you wouldn't know what kind of return you are getting because I have always said that it's all about return on investment, not the money. If you were to spend $10,000, and you know that consistently you're getting $20,000, then probably you won't have any problem investing that $10,000. So, that's my thing. And digital marketing helps you really gauge it very closely.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: All right. Yeah. That sounds good.
Ajay Prasad: Okay.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: All right. Now, you mentioned something which brings up another request from me.
Ajay Prasad: Sure. Mm-hmm.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: I have said that we do have some healthcare workers, some other medical professionals that , but I would like to enhance that relationship. I would like to get more people doing that. Now, in the past, I tried cold calls and sending information about my practice, but that has a very low . Is there a way that you can think of that would help me foster those relationships and get referrals without begging or having to do?
Ajay Prasad: Very good question. So, here is – so let's talk about referrals. So, right now, if you think about the process of when someone is selecting a healthcare provider. So, they will go online typically if they don't know of someone, or even if they are referred by someone, the first thing they do is go on the web. They find out about that provider, and they will check the reviews, what is called online reputation, we call it. So, first thing I will tell you that make sure that you have a great online reputation. Right? So, you have reviews coming in on a regular basis.
You know, there are some – I think several platforms which you can use to create some kind of report card for your reputation. And then I would say for reaching out to the providers, you almost want automated. Right? So, instead of cold calling, what you want to do is you can build a database, so as it is the people who have come to you, patient, and the provider. Of course, the message for patients are going to be slightly different, so that they can refer other patients with a similar problem – but either patient or provider.
So, you want to create a database, and you want to start to have a very regular outreach. Right? . And those at outreach could be as simple as now you're talking about this procedure or something that happened that is interesting, so that for the healthcare provider or for the patient it is interesting. And there – always highlight your reputation because no one wants to refer someone. By the way, even the doctors now tell us, the primary care physicians, that when they referred a specialist, they would check the specialists on the reviews.
Because the last thing they say is we want to do is, even though I know he is a good doctor, I know that when I refer a patient, and if he does not have a good review or she doesn't have it, then the patient will come back and say, I don't want to go to this one. Right? So, you just want to highlight that aspect that here is what patients are talking about me. Right? And just create a process. I'm telling you what you don't – you should have almost – think of it as a drip campaign.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Okay.
Ajay Prasad: You have it, and you're building the list. You keep on adding more people, and you're continuously reaching out to them through newsletter, through whatever. And so, number one, it's a reminder to everyone, even the people who came to you, and they really like it. It's not like if they run into the patient they would automatically think that, oh, I had that. Right? So, it's some of what – this is what is called the top-of-the-mind awareness. So, by reaching out, you have that. It is automated. It is very low cost, and there are a lot of platforms that will do this for you. And it can be very easily managed, so that would be my suggestion.
So, you don't – and the best part about that is when you set up something like this, you can also because you are already in communication you can get their feedback. You can ask them about what do you think about this procedure? This is what we are offering. Just engage them. Also, do you have a really – you should never be calling. No cold calling anyone these days.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Yeah, yeah.
Ajay Prasad: Okay. So, that's what I would do. You will start to clear the list, have the website share the interesting information, encourage people to sign up for a newsletter. Right? An ongoing basis just share the information and ask for referrals way. I mean, the biggest thing that I have noticed is you don't get a referral until you ask for it. The moment you ask for it, you start getting a lot more referrals. We have seen the same thing even for reviews. People who just ask their patient and say, would you mind writing a review? They get tons of reviews. People who don't ask, don't get many reviews. So, it's just a matter of asking. But you want to create an ongoing process rather than automated process rather than doing it yourself.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Yeah, that makes sense. That makes sense.
Ajay Prasad: Good.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: All right. So, how about this one? We offer – like I said before, we have about 15 different services we offer. Some are more familiar. And then we have like cryotherapy and exercise with oxygen therapy. And what we found is if we can get people to try them, they get it. They love it. They enjoy it. But there is a little bit trying something new. So, if somebody's unfamiliar with a procedure or a therapy, is there a device give say the practitioner or say our office staff to help people overcome that fear?
Ajay Prasad: Sure. So, here is when – remember when we were talking at it? So, originally, again, online is probably your best solution. Of course, the referral will help. Right? Because if people who trust you, you can ask them. So, that's what I was saying, that referral and online are the two best things. But so, what happens that online people go and search for a solution. Right? So, let's talk about even fertility-related solution. If someone goes online and is searching for that solution, for the procedures that you offer. Right? The benefit of the procedure. So, that's what I would focus on.
Google, again, helps you. And then find all the keywords that people are using to search for that particular solution. Right? So, you already have that. You just want to make sure that when someone comes there who is looking for that and is searching for that particular solution, then they find you and that there, now you have a chance to educate. Right? If someone is looking for a word of autoimmune disease and they are looking for a different solution, and if this showed up on your website, and they can see that you have a fairly well articulated argument about how your service – your particular process can help with that procedure, then now you have a chance for someone to give a trial.
And at that point, of course, you can offer a trial. So, if it is an ongoing, and it's very well known when the dentist, for example, when they say, hey, we'll get you a free x-ray, which is so that way people can go in. They can get something of value. They can see the needs or getting a free cleaning the first time. So, that's what – you know that way – those are – so, once someone has your, or you have their attention, then obviously you can give them an offer to come and try.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Yeah.
Ajay Prasad: But, again, I would focus on it, create a list of all of the 15 things that you are talking about. I can almost guarantee you that for all those people would be searching for a solution. Listen, Google is very powerful and is very helpful for businesses that way because people are searching there, and you have a chance to get in front of them when they are searching. And the moment you do that now you are not doing any kind of selling – selling-selling. Now, you're educating people about your procedure and give them a chance to come and try it. So, that is definitely one thing.
And the other thing is that every time when you have something that is specific, when you are to – when once you have this list of what we were talking about earlier for the referral – asking for referral. Send them a newsletter, two newsletters a day. Each one should be highlighting one of the procedures, so that people can see that, oh, if someone has this issue, I can send it – I know which clinic to send it to for and to try and see what's the solution. Or they may even come for their own thing. But it – this is the time where – point where you want to be found. Your website should be very educational about all those procedures along with testimonials and everything, so that it is very believable.
And then you have – you want to make sure that on Google you are found when people are searching for those. And then you want to keep on educating the referral base that we are talking about that you should build off your patients – previous patients, and the healthcare provider, which you can literally – you know what kind of – so, if the orthopedics, for example, orthopedic surgeons are sending referrals to you, it's not that difficult to get all the orthopedic surgeons right in your area added in the list. Introduce yourself to them, again, by an email, and just add them into the drip campaign.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Yeah. Okay. That makes sense.
Ajay Prasad: Okay. Good.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: And then –
Ajay Prasad: Yeah. Go ahead. Go ahead. Sorry.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Okay. One more question for you.
Ajay Prasad: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: I'm pretty proud of the fact that the pretty diverse group of patients. There is not one dominant ethnic group. Not one dominant race. Then there are all those things, and we want to be and open as possible. How do I continue to cultivate that? I would like to expand that even more.
Ajay Prasad: So, if you already have diversified for you – first I think I would say keep on doing what you're doing. Right? Because you're doing something right for sure. And then the other aspect is that you know the ethnicities of the people living there. I mean, there are different groups of people as you know based on their background. They have different beliefs, especially when it comes to healthcare.
I mean, so I am originally from India. I have lived here for much longer than I have lived in India for 40 plus years. But I have absolutely no problem when someone is talking about the holistic medicine. Right? Because that's when I was growing up there that was a normal thing there in India. If someone like homeopathic, someone was allopathic, someone would do whatever. There are several things there. And no one thought other than a doctor – and I had several doctors in my family who thought people are stupid trying all the and all that. But end of the day, I know I grew up seeing that.
So, for me it's very easy to believe where it says if someone who has totally grown up in the Western medicine arena, and then they would think that the only science is what they hear from CDC. Right? So, again, my thing is that you have to look at who are the people that you are tolerating. Right? And you have to have more in I would say your website, your messaging, needs to communicate to that in that idea. And that's where it becomes very challenging to go after a very specific ethnic group because then you need to understand the behavior, the thinking process of that ethnic group in order to communicate.
But you can still do that by picking up some of the main areas of what you're offering. And now, good news is that for your services, there is a broad acceptance that's happening. Right? Like you said. You have been doing this long enough that there was a time when people did not even think that it was science.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Yeah.
Ajay Prasad: And fewer and fewer people think like that now. So, as it is easier and I want to – I think that even people when they make a big deal about, oh, we are diversified and all on their website and something, I don't think that it really helps anyone. You know, my thinking what – if you look at the people's psychology, if you tell them that, you know what? I am very honest. The first thing they're thinking is, what's wrong with this guy?
Ajay Prasad: So, that's where the few start to focus on your messaging on we are very diversified. I would in generally speaking, it doesn't help. It feels to people that you are trying to solve some problem that you have. So, I would if – you know, whatever you do, make it very subtle. You want to understand some very specific concerns. And, yes, you can address that concern without telling them, hey, there are people of the Indian community. I mean, in the city, this is what it is. I mean, you don't need to do that. Right? You can just say holistic medicine, and a lot of people from that community would understand what you mean.
Or if you – so, I don't think that you – generally speaking I am – and this is just me – it could be. Because I see all these big organizations talking so much about, oh, we have diversity, and we are putting money in diversity. It tells me that they were not before. They were not diverse. Right? So, if you're already there, I wouldn't bother about it. But having said that, keep an eye on anything specific of any specific community that you could address. That if they had con – they have concern, you can address it but without being very explicit about it. That's my thing.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: I got you. I understand.
Ajay Prasad: Okay. And again, that is just my point of view, I just want to say. This is one they – the other three things that we talked about I will totally stand by it. This is now we are – I'm talking. That's my philosophy because I don't understand when really large corporations like Goldman Sachs start to come in. And as I was talking about diversities, what's going on there? So, that could be just me. But generally speaking, I will tell you the other three, I stand by it, but I also – like I said, it may – it will probably not hurt for you to not talk so much about diversity but at the same time, be diverse –
Dr. Tom Ingegno: I got you.
Ajay Prasad: – without having to scream.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: No, I understand that. And that does make sense.
Ajay Prasad: Okay. Good. Yeah. And if you have any other questions that ever pops up, feel free to give us a call. Okay?
Dr. Tom Ingegno: Thank you so much. Cupping therapy has become a big thing. It's been around for over 4,000 years. But –
Ajay Prasad: Uh-huh.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: member is Michael Phelps, a Baltimore native showing
Ajay Prasad: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: – with the spots all over his body. I am working on a book on cupping at home, pairing –
Ajay Prasad: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: – and some cups. So, we'll be watching that probably by the Spring of this year. So, if people are –
Ajay Prasad: Okay.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: that, they should sign up for my newsletter on my website, which is charmcityintegrative, that's integrative, T-I-V-E dot com –
Ajay Prasad: Mm-hmm. Okay.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: And, uh –
Ajay Prasad: Okay.
Dr. Tom Ingegno: – follow along and see when that book launches and the other projects that come along with it.
Speaker: Thank you for listening to this episode of The Founder's Corner Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to rate and follow us on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and SoundCloud. If you are interested in being a guest, be sure to visit our main page at www.gmrwebteam.com/thefounderscorner.
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