4 Secrets to Becoming a Successful Naturopathic Doctor

by Dr. Mark Andal ND | Follow on Twitter

I couldn’t get patients to see me. Every time I failed, I could feel the debt over my shoulders grow heavier.

Note: Read more about #3 in “Flip the Script” – How to Get New Patients from Everyday Conversations

AS THE YEAR RESET, so did my way of thinking. I did a complete reverse of my marketing and business strategies. What I came up with are the key character traits to becoming a successful Naturopathic Doctor:

  • You must believe that you are capable of becoming successful
  • Do not wait for opportunities – create them
  • Do not strive for perfection – strive for confidence
  • Do not fear failure – overcome it

Often we don’t reaching out to potential patients or make network connections because we are afraid to fail. “But what if I can’t treat this patient?” “But what if that doctor doesn’t want to network with me?” What we’re really saying is,

“What if I’m not good enough?”

We have become vulnerable to this fear of failure, because failure does not reward us with a doctorate diploma or license to practice; it only extends our debt.

We are especially vulnerable to this fear of failure because patients often come to see us as a “last resort” for healthcare. In our minds, it is imperative that we always be right – always be successful – for the sake of our patients, our career, and our egos.

However, the secret to becoming a successful Naturopathic Doctor is an entirely different process than medical school. You WILL be met with failure. Your ego WILL be taken down. You WILL, at times feel that you are not good enough.

And here’s why:

1. Hard work is not rewarded. The hard work you put through medical school, through patient research, and through marketing, do not automatically translate into earning more patients (or money).

2. Success has nothing to do with luck. Joining up with a busy clinic or with well-known professionals does not automatically translate into becoming busy yourself.

3. Success is the result of many little things done well, over time. Be patient, persistent, and proactive.

My First 4 Months was a Disaster

I struggled to see even 1 patient a week, but that shouldn’t have been the case. I joined up with a physiotherapy clinic that had a large number of patients flowing in and out on a daily basis.

I tried the typical marketing tactics:

  • public talks
  • newspaper marketing
  • direct mailing of pamphlets and flyers
  • setting up booths at events
  • free introductory consultations
  • asking the physiotherapists for referrals

No matter how much time I committed to these marketing strategies, I couldn’t get patients to see me. Every time I failed, I could feel the debt over my shoulders grow heavier.

And then the new year rolled in. The New Year represents a reset for many people and for me, I changed my way of thinking.

So over the next few months, I did a complete revision of my marketing and business strategies, and I was surprised to see how quickly my clinical practice expanded. These are the key marketing strategies for Naturopathic Doctors:


Key Strategies to Successfully Market Your Services

I’ll go over these in more detail below:

  1. Focus on locality and availability
  2. Prioritize lead generation over awareness
  3. Prioritize others over yourself
  4. Prioritize confidence over intelligence

1) Locality & Availability

Understand that anyone you market to desires convenience and rapid response.

I have found that locality is the #1 factor that determines how long a patient will stay with me. I’ve had great clinical outcomes with patients who live miles away from my clinic, but they would never stay patients for long.

Tactics of local awareness are more effective than tactics of general awareness.

Tactics of Local Awareness

  • Open house opportunities
  • Local newspapers
  • Local flyers or pamphlets
  • Small local seminars and gatherings (dinners, parties, etc.)
  • Google Places

Tactics of General Awareness

  • Online presence (websites, SEO rank, eNewsletters, Facebook, Twitter)
  • Top newspapers
  • Large company seminars
  • Large social gatherings (expos, conventions, etc.)

External Outreach marketing refers to the tactics above, where you market to people outside of your business.

But there are people even more local to you – the people within your business. This is what I call Internal Outreach marketing. Here are some targets of internal outreach:

  • Active patients
  • Inactive patients
  • Receptionists
  • Staff
  • Coworkers

Focusing your marketing on internal outreach is more effective than focusing on nearby residents. And how do you reach out to these people?

Simple, you talk to them. Face-to-face is best or by phone for inactive patients – all you have to do is initiate communication.

In fact, the majority of my marketing nowadays is through internal outreach because it provides that greatest returns on investment of your time and resources.

I want to emphasize how much less effective general awareness is compared to local awareness. Here are some of my statistics:

Email Marketing Statistics:

  • 1351 deliveries – to all active and inactive patients of Physiobliss
  • 277 opened – that is 20.5% of all deliveries

In-Clinic Awareness Survey Statistics:

Patients were asked, “Have you heard about our Naturopathic services? And if yes, how did you become aware?”

  • 50% from word-of-mouth
  • 30% from local newspapers
  • 12% from clinic posters
  • 8% from local flyers
  • 0% from eNewsletters

As you can see, the general awareness tactics did not bring in any new patients. Patients had solely heard of my services from local awareness tactics.

However, general awareness tactics are still a necessary component of your marketing strategies. They allow you to spread your existence to a broader base of people more rapidly than local awareness, despite a less successful conversion rate.

Even if you were to have great locality & availability, however, it will not be enough to generate successful marketing, which brings us to our next point.

2) Lead Generation vs. Awareness


The problem with external (local, general) and internal outreach awareness, is that they merely establish awareness. Awareness will not automatically drive patients to your clinic unless there is a need or desire to see you specifically; lead generation does this.

      Lead Generation

Leads are potential patients or network partners that want to see you specifically. To generate leads, you must generate needs. “Why should I come to see you?”. “What benefits can I gain from your services?”.

Tweet this –> To generate leads, you must generate needs

You can’t generate leads if people don’t know you exist. But you can’t generate business if people don’t desire your services. You will need to find the balance between Awareness and Lead Generation tactics.

Chances are, however, that you’ve spent the majority of your marketing using the Awareness tactic. If this applies to you, it’s time to switch over.

Let’s move on to successfully generating needs.

3) Them vs. You

Note: read the entire article “Flip the Script” by Dr. Mark Andal ND.

To identify a need, you need to ask the right questions the right way <– Tweet this.

One major issue that often arises when ND’s speak to potential patients is that they focus too much on themselves. Here’s a common error that’s made right at the beginning of a conversation:

“My name is Dr. Mark Andal, and I am a Clinical Director and Naturopathic Doctor at Physiobliss and Body Bliss clinics. I have a special interest in weight management, chronic pain, (etc.). I work with patients to determine and treat the root cause of their health concerns, using dietary counseling, herbal etc., etc., etc…”

Did you tune out?

People don’t care about the information. People only need to hear one thing from you:

“I can help.”

That’s it. This simple change can be enough to generate a lead.

How can you make the conversation about them? I’ll share some examples from personal experience.

      Focus on the potential patient not yourself

Nowadays, when someone asks me what I do for a living, the only thing I say is,

I treat health concerns.”

Of course, that person is going to ask me, “What kind of health concerns?” This is when I make the person the topic of conversation.

“Well, let’s take you for example,” I reply. “What kind of health concerns do you have?”

Notice that I did not ask, “Do you have any health concerns?” With the former question, I make the person create, vocalize, and confirm a desired need to be addressed.

Everyone has health concerns. Everyone would like to improve upon themselves. But not everyone is willing to announce their health concerns. You must draw those concerns out of them.

Sometimes people tell me, “I don’t have health concerns.” So I rephrase the question,

“Oh that’s great to hear! What are your health goals?”

Health goals are less intimidating than health concerns – with this question, people are more likely to open up.

After the potential patient describes and hears his/her own needs, if I were to say,

“I can help”, I will have created a lead.

I may throw in some facts about anatomy or physiology related to the person’s health concern beforehand, just to show some credibility, but nothing long-winded, and especially not diagnostic. Don’t give away the diagnosis. Not only are we not allowed to give free diagnoses as dictated under our Professional Conduct, it is in your best interest not to.

If you tell the person that he/she has Adrenal Fatigue or Leaky Gut Syndrome, they will not become your patient. Instead, they will visit Dr. Google. They will try to treat themselves now that they know what they’re supposed to treat.

I digress, when I say, “I can help” of course, I am going to be asked “How?”.

This is where you seal the deal.

I like to use something short, but not with false promises. Something along the lines of, “Come see me, and you’ll understand”. Don’t talk too much about the process – about your therapies or diagnostic tests. A simple timeline of events will do.

      Potential Network Partner vs. Myself

I used to have difficulty acquiring network partners. I still do, but it has been getting easier over time. The problem is that healthcare practitioners – whether MDs, chiropractors, physiotherapists, acupuncturists, etc. – see each other as competition. I’ve learned over time to turn your competition into teammates by making yourself a part of their process.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • When you work with your patients, how often do you send them back to their other healthcare practitioner(s)?
  • How often do you fax progress reports to those other healthcare practitioner(s)?
  • How often do you get other people involved?

Remember, success is the result of many little things done well – over time <– Tweet this.

Establishing network partners, especially with MDs (in my experience), begins with you doing favours for them. And it is through repetition that they begin to return those favours.

Example 1. I established a network connection with a family physician & surgeon by sending his patients back to him for follow-ups, whether it be requests for lab-work, medication dosage adjustments, or as a check-up. Eventually he contacted me out of curiosity, and we set up a meeting to discuss a process of patient care and patient flow.

Example 2. The 2 places I work at are both multidisciplinary clinics, with physiotherapists, registered massage therapists, acupuncturists, and orthopedists. I became clinical director by creating a process in which patients would see all of us. I then trained the staff and receptionists on how to structure and communicate the process with the patients and with each other. The training was long and frustrating, but in the end, we were able to increase the efficiency of the clinic’s patient flow and retention and we learned many things about each other’s professions.

If you don’t have ideas on how to become a part of other practitioners’ processes, just ask them. “How can I be a part of your process?”

So far, I have you focusing on locality and availability, internal outreach marketing, and on them, rather than on yourself. You should be on your way to successful marketing and business, right? Not quite yet. There is one factor that can make or break your ability to acquire a patient or network partner.

4) Confidence vs. Intelligence

In terms of successful marketing, an emphasis on confidence always beats an emphasis on intelligence. You need to be confident in yourself, in your profession and the ability to help. There’s no reason not to be confident! Even the most basic of our modalities, WILL make an impact on people’s health.

Now here’s the unfortunate situation: Being knowledgeable, without being confident, makes you look unknowledgeable <– Tweet this.

You can be very knowledgeable about a particular effective treatment, but if you can’t convey this, no one is going to believe you.

This is why saying “I can help” is more effective than going into a long-winded, ill-prepared speech. Throwing around fancy medical jargon or displaying intellectual prowess might be impressive, but it’s not what will win them over.

If confidence is your weakness, you need to prioritize on strengthening this immediately. Forget about what eNewsletters to write, or public seminars to discuss, or conventions you should attend. If you don’t address your confidence now, your marketing power will fall short.

      Why do People Lack Confidence?

  • A lack of confidence stems from the fear of failure
  • The fear of failure stems from the desire to be perfect
  • But in reality, no one is perfect
  • You do not have to be perfect to be successful
  • And most importantly, you do not have to be successful to be confident

Remember, our profession is a medical “practice“. You are going to make mistakes. You are going to have patients where treatment progress is slow. And if that happens, acknowledge it.

Acknowledge it as part of your “practice” – that you still have many things to learn about. But don’t blame it on a lack of intelligence. Knowledge is forever evolving – you CANNOT know everything. And therefore, you WILL run into failure every now and then. When you run into failure, don’t give up – overcome it. However, if you feel that things are truly beyond your capabilities, that’s why we have the referral system.

Remember –

  • You graduated from medical school.
  • You passed your license exams.
  • You endured and survived curriculums and evaluations that would destroy the weak at heart, and the weak in mind.
  • You are therefore capable.
  • And that gives you every right to be confident, because you need to be confident – if you want to be successful.

The most important thing is that success begins with yourself. If you are not confident, become confident. Then you can focus on others. Draw needs out of people so that you can help them. Start with people in closest proximity, and then broaden your way to the greater community.

I wish you the best of success.



About the Author
Dr. Mark Andal ND

Dr. Mark Andal is a Naturopathic doctor by day, and a 100-meter sprinter by night. He has a strong interest in pain recovery due to his lifestyle, and due to the primary type of patients he worked with at his previous physiotherapy clinics. His past work there allowed him to refine his knowledge in tissue repair and rehabilitation. Mark now works in Oakville at the Bronte Natural Health Clinic, utilizing his insights within a team of Naturopathic doctors. "Develop yourself and be the greatest you can be."