Adapting in These Times: Growing Your Practice During COVID
The current COVID situation has led to many naturopathic practices experiencing hardships, with some practitioners even choosing to close their practice. The good news is that even in times like these, practices can still grow. What’s important is to strategically plan and stay ahead of the curve.
Based on my experience of working with naturopathic physicians day in and day out (from new grads to naturopathic doctors in leadership, such as the recent past-president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians) and foreseeing trends based on the economy, here are my predictions about what naturopathic practices will experience in the near future and post-COVID…
Prediction #1: Online reach will change
As more and more people embrace working from home and are more often online, more businesses are investing in online advertising to get in front of their audience. This includes large businesses with deep pockets. Especially because Google and Facebook ads use algorithms that are bidding and competition based, online ad costs will be driven up.
In addition, with more businesses trying to get the attention of people online, this additional online noise will make it harder to get people’s attention and interest, even through organic social media posts.
What you can do about it: A practical solution is to have other means of marketing that don’t involve spending money advertising online or posting on social media.
One effective way to consistently market your practice is to educate people by speaking. This can generate a consistent flow of patients and help you attract patients for both in-person visits and telehealth.
Remember, speaking opportunities aren’t going away because of the lockdown. Speaking opportunities are easily accessible today from the comfort of your own home through webinars, podcasts, or interviews. There are even organizations that host paid speaking opportunities.
Prediction #2: People will be tighter with money
COVID-19 has made people more cautious when it comes to spending money.
However, only a few months ago, Bloomberg Morgan Stanley Research reported a quarterly record high of 44.9% for personal disposable income growth in the United States.1 It has never been higher in a quarter when GDP growth has been more negative. A likely contributing factor to this is the government intervention and stimulus programs.
Traditionally, during recessions there are still people who have money to spend. This has been true of all kinds of recessions. In fact, there are people who have made the most amount of money during recession times.
What this means for you: When someone says they can’t afford your care, this is sometimes truly the case; however, many times it’s because they don’t recognize the value.
It is up to you to educate people on the value of their health, especially during this pandemic.
During times like these, it becomes even more important to set yourself apart and communicate how crucial it is to pay attention to one’s health. Differentiating yourself means being clear with your mission, your brand value, and what your practice stands for. Consistently educating patients effectively is key. The education process starts even before the first visit.
Prediction #3: Demand for house-calls will increase
Because of health concerns from COVID and safety concerns from potential social unrest, people will appreciate having the option to receive care without having to leave their home. House-call services will become more in demand and thus meet a growing need.
This represents a big opportunity for naturopathic doctors who have an interest in helping patients in this way. This can also be beneficial for an ND who doesn’t want the burden of overhead and uncertainty around COVID that can accompany a physical location practice.
Prediction #4: People will be more open to telehealth
Oftentimes, we assume our greatest value to a patient is in the care we provide physically. Although this is somewhat true, there is also value in our expertise and the knowledge we can share to educate people. These are the kinds of services that can be provided in a telehealth session. Even if patients are unable to see you in person, they can still benefit from your knowledge and education. Some will even find it more convenient.
What this means for you: Setting yourself up to deliver some services via telehealth enables you to keep providing value regardless of what happens with COVID.
The success of a telehealth practice will depend on your ability to clearly communicate the benefit of it. Just because you offer telehealth does not mean that people will automatically recognize the value of receiving telehealth services from a naturopathic physician.
When limited by an inability to do face-to-face marketing, a great way to educate people about telehealth is through webinars, interviews, podcasts, writing in publications or blog articles, and email or hard-mail newsletters.
MDs as a Referral Source
Keep in mind that MDs are still a good source of referrals to you. This is one overlooked way you can grow your practice during this climate.
Patients referred by MDs are more likely to listen to their doctor and actually come in to see you. Many MDs are willing to refer, as long as they know about you and believe in what you do.
However, many naturopathic doctors don’t quite know how to approach them. Common concerns are that “They’re too busy”; “It can feel nerve-wracking to approach them”; and “Why would they want to refer? Don’t they think they can solve it, themselves?”
How to reach MDs when they’re busy: One way to effectively collaborate with MDs is to establish relationships with clinics you may refer to for COVID testing. Another way to reach them is by making a short 2-4-minute video about how you can help their patients and sending it to them. Some of my clients are reaching MDs via LinkedIn for that initial connection; this also gets around gatekeepers.
Other Streams of Income
Aside from receiving direct care from you, what else do you believe will help your patients? For example, are there products or supplements you believe are beneficial and that can also be a source of passive income?
In addition, think about the kinds of things you say over and over again to patients. Have you ever thought of putting all that knowledge into an automated online course? And what about helpful clinical knowledge that you can teach to other practitioners? Or a smooth intake process when you are working with patients virtually? These are things that can be taught in an automated or group fashion to help other practitioners and bring in another stream of income.
Why you should consider it: Keep in mind that you only have to create an online course once; after that, people can learn and benefit from it over and over again. For example, a client of mine, for whom I helped create an automated course, contacted me at the start of the pandemic to share her gratitude that she was now able to educate people online even if she couldn’t do so in person. The best part about creating something leveraged like that is that you can reach people beyond your immediate area and help many people across the country and even beyond.
Growing your own practice in times like these will depend on your creative solutions to problems in the practice. You have the power to adapt to the changing times and grow a thriving practice that helps many people who need your help right now.
- Finanz.DK. Why Morgan Stanley Expects 10Y Yields To Be “Much Higher” Over The Next 3-6 Months. August 11, 2020. Available at: https://finanz.dk/why-morgan-stanley-expects-10y-yields-to-be-much-higher-over-the-next-3-6-months/. Accessed August 25, 2020.
Chen Yen is a national speaker and founder of Fill My Holistic Practice, providing introverted visionary naturopathic doctors with a step-by-step process and guidance on how to build a 6 or 7-figure practice that runs without them. Clients include a recent president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), former member of the AANP Board of Directors, past-presidents of state naturopathic associations, board member of the American Society of Acupuncturists, former board member of the American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and past-president of the American Chiropractic Association Sports Council. Chen can be reached at https://introvertedvisionary.com.