Take Down Your List

Meghan Walker, ND

I love to eat out. Toronto is a multi-cultural hotspot, and, as a result, we have an abundance of dining options; authentic Thai, incredible sushi, and a variety of other culinary masterpieces litter our urban landscape. Despite the chefs’ likely talent for cooking more than what is available on their menus, restaurants tend to market themselves in 1 of 2 ways: they either choose a niche-type of food such as pizza, or a targeted experience such as raw or tapas. Despite a chef’s adaptable ability to conjure mouth-watering pizzas or delicious Thai, no-one wants to go to a restaurant that purports to focus on both. Consumers, even hungry ones, don’t want to purchase from a chef who lists everything they could possible cook. No-one can relate to such a list. Instead, consumers want to eat from a chef who has mastered a particular genre. Why should your practice be any different?

The Problem with “The List”

As practitioners, we have a hard time viewing the world through the lens of a consumer. With eclectic backgrounds and a desire to reach as many people as possible, we are scared of omitting any possible condition from our marketing material, for fear that we might exclude a potential patient from our list. We act as if the breadth of our list is the best differentiator of our business, and we are assuming that “the list” is, in fact, an effective draw for consumers. Spoiler alert: The list is not only ineffective at drawing people to your practice; in reality, it is likely driving them away.

Consumers don’t relate to lists; they relate to how the condition on the list makes them feel. Consumers don’t want you to treat their kids’ asthma; they want you to help them play a full game of soccer. They aren’t interested in whether you can treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); they just want to get through a work day without being embarrassed about running to the washroom. Stop marketing through a list of conditions, and start marketing to what the list is preventing people from doing.

Niche practices can get away with naming conditions; general practices cannot. People don’t understand how you can be an expert at treating IBS and acne at the same time. As a fellow naturopathic doctor, I understand how you can treat both, but your audience doesn’t. To them, the expert in acne and IBS is like the Mexican restaurant that serves French onion soup – no one understands how you could possibly be good at both.

A More Effective Approach

Naturopathic medicine is a powerful system of medicine that gets people well. We run into stumbling blocks when we try to tell people what it is. Your marketing message needs to touch on the “pain points” of your ideal client and propose a methodology that could help them feel better. Try creating copy (wording on your site) that addresses the big picture of your approach.

  • How you help people: You remove the obstacles that inhibit people from living their best possible lives
  • How you do it: You achieve this with a number of modalities, such as clinical nutrition, acupuncture, etc…
  • What can you treat?: You are distinguished by your philosophical approach, which enables you to address a large spectrum of conditions such as [name a maximum of 3 categories of conditions]

If you want to begin to attract specific patient groups, such as those with autoimmune conditions, create distinct marketing campaigns and/or programs that will speak directly to that type of patient.

Removing the list from your website is scary, but it’s the right thing to do. You have the skills and expertise to treat a huge spectrum of clients. Meeting the needs of everyone through a 1-stop list of conditions is providing a disservice to your capacity to impact many.

  1. What was the last service (phone company, dentist, etc…) you purchased? Ask yourself why you selected that individual or company.
  2. Ask friends and family to critique the “copy” on your site. If they didn’t love you, would they book with you? (Moms are particularly awful at this exercise; find someone who will give you an honest opinion.)
  3. Start a file where you save the Facebook or website marketing that you, yourself, have found intriguing. Repurpose their formula for your own business.

When you spend time understanding whom you are specifically trying to attract, your website or marketing copy will fall into place. You don’t need to limit the types of conditions you treat, just the language and mechanisms you use to communicate your breadth of expertise.

Meghan Walker, ND, is a naturopathic doctor, as well as the CEO of Bright Almond. She a passionate promoter of the profession and its capacity to transform people’s lives.

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