Note from the Editor: The following article was originally posted on the Personal Trainer Development Center for professional trainers. This article has been modified for healthcare practitioners, and the word “patient” is used interchangeably with “client”.
LOTS OF PEOPLE LIKE TO TALK about marketing or making more money, and while both of these are important, they leave out one important factor:
To generate wealth, you need to learn how to keep it and grow your money in addition to making it.
Below is a quick list of unconventional ways that Naturopathic Doctors can make more money and keep it.
1. Get a good accountant / bookkeeper
OK, maybe this is a conventional tip, but I couldn’t leave it out.
Good accountants will pay for themselves multiple times over. It’s rare for a practitioner to be an employee, meaning that you work for yourself. (If you are an employee, then this section still applies to you–just a little less).
Knowing what you can claim as a business expense and keeping track of finances can save you thousands in taxes at the end of the year. It sounds nice to do your own taxes, or to use a cheap service like H&R Block, but the reality is that those methods often cost more money than it saves.
2. Save on recurring expenses
Everybody talks about making more money, but saving money is just as important. One thing you could do is a simple call once a year to all of the services that you do repeat business with and–boom–you can save a lot of money!
For example, I called my credit card company and simply told them that I didn’t want to pay my yearly fees next year because I’ve been a good customer.
They said yes.
That 10-minute phone call saved me close to $200. Some of these services may say no, and when that happens you haven’t lost anything.
Call your phone, internet, and cable TV provider. If you accept credit card payments, call your credit card processor and ask for a reduction in rates for the upcoming year. You’ll be amazed at how much you can save with a simple phone call.
3. Proactively reduce cancellations
Note: Some of the next two sections contain altered excerpts from my book, Ignite the Fire.
You don’t ever want patient to cancel. A 24-hour cancellation policy does offer you some protection for your time, but consider the bigger picture. If a patient is continually cancelling, it’s because: Something is going on in his or her life; your patient doesn’t understand how your business works; or both. That, or you haven’t done a good job at reminding your patient about their appointment.
Like so many other things with being a Naturopathic doctor, it’s important to be proactive and anticipate any problems that may arise before they do. When a client first books an appointment, explain that you do have a 24-hour cancellation policy because you only get paid if they show up. There is no salary. Educate your clients about how the business works, and they’ll respect you.
If they still cancel repeatedly, then there’s likely an underlying cause. Have a private conversation either in person or by phone. Ask if there’s a reason that she keeps missing sessions. Either your client’s life is busy, or she isn’t enjoying the appointments.
Another reason why a client cancels or doesn’t show up to sessions may be as simple as they aren’t good at keeping track of their schedule.
I worked with a trainer named Alex Nurse who got into the habit of texting every one of his clients a day before the session confirming the session the next day. He told them that if he didn’t hear back then would assume that they could not make it and would give the spot away. It sounds so simple, but this habit resulted in fantastic retention and all of his clients always showed up, barring an emergency.
4. Book in two sessions in advance of every break
Over the course of a year, your patients will have scheduled breaks in their visits.
They may take a few weeks off for Christmas, vacation, work, or major family events, like weddings.
Obviously, I’m not going to tell you to tell your clients not to take a break over the holidays, but what’s important is that they start right back up when they get back. This way, the interruption in their appointments is minimized and you don’t lose any paid visits that you should have worked.
Too often an ND will do a poor job with his or her schedule, and the first week of January is spent chasing after patients trying to get people booked back in.
Whenever your client is going to leave for a week or more, ensure that you have their first two sessions booked back in for when they return. This is especially important when a lot of your clients are away at the same time, but it applies to individual clients as well.
When your client is about to leave for a scheduled break, simply say:
“January is the busiest time of the year for me and I want to ensure that I set aside a spot for you. Can we book in your first two visits for when you get back now?”
I say two sessions because it’s common that your patient will cancel his or her first session back. After a holiday, things can get busy with work and family, and stuff always comes up. In booking in two visits, you can simply say:
“No problem, I’ll see you Thursday.”
“OK, well, uhh, umm, I can do Thursday at 2pm, Friday at 4pm, and, uhh, any other times work for you?”
This simple strategy will help you book in a few extra appointments a year by being proactive. You’ll be the one seeing patients the first week back in January when the others are struggling to get back going.
5. Master your 6-word intro
The amount of business that you’ve likely lost because you fumble when asked “what do you do?” is not acceptable. Naturopathic medicine is a relationship business. Every random conversation you have is an opportunity to make one more person know what you do.
I’m not advising you to pitch; just be succinct and strategic in answering the one question that you’re probably asked every day.
A friend of mine, Clay Hebert, developed a method called the 6-word intro. You’ll laugh at how simple it is. Here’s the basic formula:
–Hey, good to meet you. So, what do you do?
–I help “X” solve “Y”
Fill in the blanks. A few examples:
“I help new mothers feel empowered.”
“I help kids strengthen their immunity.”
“I help young athletes perform better.”
As Clay explains, a phrase like this bounces the question back to the person who asked it, piquing his or her interest, and that’s all that you’re going for.
You don’t necessarily have to use the word “help” either. You could replace it with a word like “inspire”.
Here’s what I do:
“I inspire trainers make more money, have more freedom, and increase their impact.”
And I hope that I did that with this article.