WHAT IS A FULL PRACTICE ANYWAYS?
For me I defined it as 5-6 patients per day, 3 days per week. I opened my practice in June 2012, working only 1 day per week for a year, and not growing very quickly. In May 2013, I hired a marketing coach (Jennifer Trask) and I hit this target in about 15 months from starting our work together.
As a preface to this article, a bit of bittersweet news: Be prepared to work, to stretch yourself, and to learn. A lot.
Long hours, attitude shifts, and a journey that never ends. If 4 years of CCNM was round 1, think of growing your business/practice as round 2. And yes, it will take you 4 years before you get to make a call on whether you are successful and sustainable business. First year targets are just that, there will always be more to come.
1. Get Help With The Learning Curve.
Hire a coach, enroll in a course, find a mentor, whatever fits. Look, if you’re reading this, I know you are a great doctor. Becoming one took time, work, and many teachers. Your “degree in Entrepreneurship” will be much the same. Get connected with someone who can help instruct you through the business growth process with both direction and confidence.
This means a whole team of people:
- an accountant and a lawyer for sure, but also…
- business mentors/coaches, and…
- marketing professionals as needed
Spending the money now will save you money in the long-run by helping you avoid wasting money. Particularly in on “marketing duds” that get you no traction.
2. Start with designing a freakin’ fastastic patient experience.
Jennifer called this step “Visioning”. From front to back, have you thought through every possible aspect of your patient’s experience of working with you and your business? You have to carefully design and contrive the whole thing as best you can, which is about more than medical advice.
All the way from the initial “Naturopathic doctor” Google search to when they are an established patient (and ideally a raving fan) for years. If you could craft a seamless experience, what would that look like? Why is that most important?
Look, when marketing is done right, it can work really fast. As the adage goes: “Good marketing only makes a bad service/product fail faster.” You want to be ready to embrace every single one of those people and deliver the WOW experience they are looking for. Even if you don’t end up taking them on as a patient, their experience will matter to the word on the street. In marketing, word of mouth is king. Make sure they only have good things to say.
3. Define your ideal clients/niche/target market.
I know, I know… you want to help everybody and use your medical training to it’s fullest. So did I, but reality check: it’s just not going to build you a sustainable practice or lifestyle.
Being “all over the map” is overwhelming, wears you out, and your patient care suffers. It also waters down your branding/marketing. By dividing and conquering, it makes more effective patient research and care, allows you to work with mostly your favorite type of clients. If you are worried about pigeon-holing yourself, realize that when you’ve got the first niche mastered, you can easily add another.
This single move will focus every other marketing effort that comes your way for consideration. When tradeshows or ad space comes up, your first question becomes “Who is your audience” rather than “How much?” When you are writing content/copy for brochures etc. it is so much easier to sound professional and human when you are writing to an ideal person. (Click here to read more about building your niche)
When people ask what you do, you can tell them in a way that helps them understand easily and quickly who you can help and how. If you are looking for a short-cut to practice success and happiness – I’m happy to say this IS one! Take it. Especially while you’re learning the ropes of running-a-business.
4. Network your butt off! (I prefer to call it “making friends”).
Networking scares people, but it’s not that bad. You’re just meeting and greeting other professionals. Getting involved with community groups and other business owners regardless of their industry can make a huge difference to:
- your mindset when you are struggling
- your reach with specific marketing initiatives
- connect you with valuable resources for referrals into your practice and out to others
I’m a referral junkie — I’ve been known to pass along cards of personal chefs, accountants, even facialist to my patients when it’s appropriate. Learning to connect people only breeds good karma, for everyone.
5. Gets some guerrilla marketing tactics to get the ball rolling.
This is where the fun really starts. Guerrilla marketing is all about really memorable and shareable experiences that don’t cost much. It’s about making people smile first, and getting your name out there second (tweetable).
It gives you a chance to stretch your creative legs while at the same time genuinely helping people. You can Google ideas for tactics to help you get your juices flowing.
— The Food Handout
For example, one of my early tactics was to create a flyer that local physiotherapists could hand out to the clients with a short list of “research-backed foods” that helped to reduce inflammation and speed healing time. I asked them to keep it in their waiting rooms.
It turns out they were using it as a learning tool for their patients around diet. Every time they gave the handout, my business and contact info was shared in the context of a valuable and trustworthy resource. It really kick-started patient traffic for my practice. In addition, I was able to get connected with other business owners in my local area and have developed a great referral relationship with them over time.
— The Holiday Cards
My second tactic that worked well, was to send out hand-written Christmas cards to every one of my patients, thanking them for their business with wishes for a healthy New Year. The cards were just a 100 pack of holiday cards, nothing branded, except my business card tucked inside. In the New Year, when health was on everyone’s mind, they booked in to get back on track. It worked like a charm.
6. Check your relationship with money and your worth.
By the time you get to this point, (if you’ve followed my advice in step 1) you’ll have hired a marketing coach and should be well on your way toward a thoughtful strategy for your practice’s ongoing branding and marketing. If you are still not seeing progress in terms of bookings and new patients, it may be time to consider some deeper work around your relationship with money.
Lack of confidence and self-worth can hold us back from actually doing the work and the things that amount to growth. You know when you feel yourself holding back, procrastinating, self-sabotaging, being “too busy” or whatever. A experimental mindset and commitment to figuring out what works is your greatest asset. You cannot leverage it if you are holding yourself back. Fix this. And quickly. Or go get a job somewhere else.
You gotta be clear on what you need to charge to make your practice work, and when and where to spend it strategically. As an ND, you are highly trained and so the price you charge for your services must subsidize that as well as your business growth. Jennifer gave me a copy of the book, “The Soul of Money” by Lynne Twist when I was having trouble feeling I could charge more than the local industry standard for my service, it shifted my thinking around money in so many ways, I highly recommend it.
Tweet this –> Lack of confidence and self-worth can hold us back from actually doing the work and the things that amount to growth.
Watch my interview with my business coach, Jennifer Trask: