IT’S A LITTLE EMBARRASSING TO TELL YOU THAT I have made the same practice mistake five times before learning my lesson. That’s a tough pill to swallow. But this particular mistake is something NDs are notorious for. You have likely made it too and maybe more than once.
Maybe “mistake” is a harsh word, because each time I gained valuable experience, learned something new, and inched closer to my dream practice. Since graduation, I have done some serious soul-searching my business has undergone FIVE evolutions in order to really hone in on this super important lesson and be truly happy in my work.
The lesson is specialization & finding your niche, and I’m going to tell you why and how.
But first, allow me to introduce myself…
My name is Corinne Brown, and I am a Naturopathic Doctor with a somewhat unique style of practice. My business, Brownroots Wellness, is entirely online and its mission is to spread the Naturopathic Love — to teach moms about Naturopathic medicine, how to understand their bodies & how to naturally take care of themselves and therefore their families.
… Or at least that used to be my mission. Until just last month. Does that mission speak to your soul? It doesn’t really speak to mine. It’s just kinda…general.
Like, “Moms”?…what KIND of moms? New 30 year old moms? Older 60something moms? Middleaged moms? They’re all undergoing different experiences & struggles.
And “teaching them how to take care of themselves”, that’s great! But HOW? What aspect of themselves? Parenting? Diet? Stress management? Perimenopause? The list is literally endless.
Last month, I had an epiphany. If I wanted to make the impact I knew I could make, I had to narrow it down.
Specifically who. Specifically what.
For a while I thought I had a specialized practice because I treated mostly women’s health. But women’s health is still a vast topic! That includes SO much:
- prenatal and postpartum care,
- menstrual dysfunction,
- hormone balance,
- weight control,
- stress and mood concerns,
- libido issues,
- peri/menopause, and
- breast health… just to name very few.
“Women’s health” is certainly not specialized, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Even after moving Brownroots online, I realized that “moms” is still too general of a target market, and I was having trouble reaching my core peeps, my true tribe. So now…
I cater specifically to “pregnant moms who hope to experience natural childbirth”.
Now THAT is specialized.
(And to that end, I have created a super-tailored Naturopathic Labour Preparation program that I LOVE. It combines my Naturopathic background and Labour Doula training, along with my experience as a pregnant woman and mother. #mysoulfood)
But for years, I treated everyone. And their neighbour. And their dog. No matter the concern or condition, I’d invite them in for a visit. I believed that was the way to have a thriving, successful practice! And, let’s totally honest and vulnerable here, I had to make ends meet!
I know I’m not the only ND with massive loans and bills to pay… you get it. I simply could not afford to turn away any form of business. New patients were tough to come by, so I would never give one up.
But now, I have found my soul food. My dream practice. Now that I have firmly identified a specific niche and target market, I can clearly understand the importance of it. It is the way to streamline your business, and ensure you treat the types of patients and conditions you want to treat.
Here are 3 secrets on how specialization will allow your practice to grow bigger, and quicker:
1) You become an expert.
Jack of all trades, but a master of none.
Think about it. If you treat every single thing that walks into your office, you know a little about a LOT. But if you narrow your treatment scope, you see more and more of that same condition. The more reading and research you do in the area, the clearer you become on the etiology, mechanisms of pathology, the spectrum of mental/emotional/spiritual factors involved, and the treatments that work (and don’t).
Word of mouth referrals will become common in circles of people who experience that condition. You become known to the other practitioners and experts in that field. The more knowledge you compile on this specific area of health, the more well-rounded your understanding and the less research you need to do. You eventually receive requests to speak or write (blogs/articles/books) on the topic.
In other words: you become an expert!
As a newbie in clinical practice, I saw some pretty obscure stuff. Lots of times I had never seen that condition before in clinic, (and who’s to say I’d ever see it again!) so I’d frantically spend hours researching it. My precious time being burned up pouring over pathology and protocols for free! and sometimes, the patient didn’t even return.
Talk about a kick in the gut.
Spend your precious time wisely! Save your adrenals! Focus your energy! Researching things within your niche will only pay off in the long run. It all adds up and you compile a longstanding information database that will benefit your practice. You = expert.
There’s definitely something you treat most often or most enjoy. There’s one or two conditions that you’ve got down to a science or would like to. What is that for you? Who is your tribe? Ponder that, and then go after it.
If you’re wondering how, exactly, to “go after it”, I’ve included a Naturopathic Specialization Worksheet for you to work through HERE.
Know what else is cool about being an expert? You can charge what you’re worth and either make more money or work less. Or both! Win-win.
2) You save time, energy & money.
Hindsight is 20/20
It makes me want to vomit to think about the thousands of dollars I have wasted on marketing myself the wrong way, to the wrong people, and to WAY too many people. Just completely grasping at straws. Trying anything and everything to gain traction and make a name for myself. But I was going about it the complete wrong way, and I wasted tons of time, energy & money.
So much so that I drove my health into the ground. Completely depleted. Nothing left to give.
We are all familiar with the gut-brain connection, and (in hindsight, I see) I was so unhappy and stressed out about my clinical practice that I induced a massive Crohn’s flareup that forced me to make tough decisions. Keep going down this miserable path, or make a drastic work-life change. Streamlining and specializing has given me tons of flexibility to be myself, manage my time, be with my family, and create the impact I want to create in the world.
- Specializing saves you time because of the condensed research time (as discussed above) and more efficient in office visits. The time-saving increases over time, which allows you to fit more patients into your day, or work shorter days! Win-win.
- Specializing saves you energy and emotional bandwidth because you’re not sitting through 15 soul-sucking visits everyday discussing conditions you aren’t fully in love with. (You must enjoy your specialization that’s one of the criteria!) When you practice within your niche, your brain stays on track, each visit builds on the next, and you’re constantly learning, learning, learning. Your practice is a source of joy and it’s a pleasure to see your patients! Win-win.
- Specializing saves you money because you can market yourself more directly. No more wasting money on expensive marketing fails. Mail-outs and newspaper ads that are randomly fired out to the ENTIRE population are archaic and ineffective. Now that I know I want to treat pregnant women, I can effectively market myself through targeted social media, at midwifery clinics and prenatal yoga studios. Way more targeted and cost effective. Win-win.
If I can save you some time, energy & money here today, all my wasted resources will not have been in vain!
Check out the Naturopathic Specialization Worksheet and see where you can streamline your practice to make it work for you instead of you working for it!
3) You speak directly to your dream patients.
If you’re speaking to everyone, you’re speaking to no one.
When you’re in practice wearing tons of different hats (clinic owner, manager, receptionist, email responder, researcher, marketer, clinician, etc) like I was it is so difficult to get clear. It’s nearly impossible to make a plan or a vision for your future practice and life because you’re too busy keeping your head above water!
It’s easy to feel pulled in a zillion different directions as an ND/business owner, and that feeling is only compounded by having no cohesion in your practice. If you “niche up” your practice, you can speak directly to your target patients the people you want to be treating and severely cut down on the confusion.
So… how do you speak directly to your ideal patient?
First, you need to know exactly who they are.
As a newbie, it seemed smartest to say “I treat anything!” I have actually said those words to prospective patients before, which now blows my mind. We have all heard of FOMO: Fear of Missing Out? Well, I would call that FOLPO: Fear of Leaving Patients Out.
You don’t want to exclude anyone because you’re trying to build a practice! And help this person! And everyone! And save the world!
You can save the world a lot more effectively if you do one thing extremely well than if you do everything just kinda okay-ish.
Imagine the difference if I had said to those people: I support pregnant women with Naturopathic tools to prepare their bodies, minds, and support partners in order to achieve a magical, natural birth experience with my 4week program. BAM!
Think about it: when you or a family member have a health concern, do you want to see an ND who treats everything under the sun, or someone who knows.their.shiz. in THAT specific area. Amiright? You don’t want to mess around, you want an effective, targeted solution from an experienced, confident ND.
So what is your niche going to be? Specifically.
For example, you want to specialize in weight loss. You want to specify between a woman who:
- has trouble losing extra baby weight, versus
- has an emotional eating, food addiction, self sabotage type picture
You want to specialize in stress management. You want to specify between a:
- new mom, versus
- high profile CEO
Specifically who. Specifically what.
And once you’ve got that nailed down, you can determine exactly how to word your marketing material to appeal to that specific dream patients.
Practice specialization is not something we are necessarily taught in school, but it is something we should learn and sooner rather than later. Establishing a target market is, in my opinion, the most effective way to carve out a niche for your practice and make a name for yourself on a larger scale <– Tweet this
Because really, at the end of the day, it all boils down to this little nugget:
This is your life.
Take control. Create it. Take a stand. Identify what you want. Live up to your potential. Stand apart. Niche up. Love your job!
Don’t have FOLPO! Choose your ideal patient. In a dream world, who would you treat everyday in clinic? What would you be known for in the community? Who would you help in a big way? What condition would you conquer and master? What would be your expertise?
Put it out into the universe, and then go out and find those specific patients that you will love to work with (<– tweetable). It is a more streamlined, strategic, and soulful way to run a Naturopathic medical practice. If you’re happy, your ideal patient is happy.