Having a medical degree in conventional western medicine systems often comes automatically with credibility. A doctor is synonymous with trust, or "healer"; at least, that's the way it's been between patients and the medical system for centuries. A bond so sacred it's not meant to be broken.
Yet, the medical system today is under a lot of stress. With growing populations come heightened diseases and ailments to treat. ER rooms are often packed and wait times to see specialists are months in advance. At this time in writing, 67% or two-thirds of the Canadian population reported being prescribed pharmaceutical drugs.
Another category of medical practice is on the rise. These doctors go through roughly the same length in training and education, but they don't administer procedures like major surgeries and have limited capability to prescribe pharmaceutical drugs. Doctors that administer primary healthcare involving preventative measures fall under the umbrella term—Naturopaths.
Naturopathy began in the 19th century evolving from a combination of traditional medicine and healthcare approaches popular in Europe. Naturopaths and doctors receive similar training, but instead, naturopaths are explicitly trained to focus on the physical, environmental, mental, and emotional impediments to good health for individual patients. This practice is rising in popularity in North America because of the overall health movement — where more people are shifting towards natural and alternative healthcare. Also, naturopathy is formally regulated provincially in Canada and in certain states in America. Globally, 67% of naturopathy is practiced in North America, showing the market's grandeur.
What are Naturopaths Allowed to do?
Naturopaths are trained in various techniques, including homeopathy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, botanical medicine, physical medicine, pharmaceuticals, and minor surgery. The practice is guided by a unique set of principles around the body's innate healing capability. In BC, licensed NDs are allowed to provide primary care: health care that emphasizes disease prevention, including nutritional and lifestyle advice, natural health products and therapies, appropriate diagnostic testing, and, when necessary, implementing conventional medical care.
Conventional Medicine vs Naturopathy
In conventional medicine, the patient receives an examination from a doctor, a diagnosis, and a prescription to treat the pathology. In naturopathy, treatment time is often prolonged because the patient undergoes multiple steps before receiving a pharmaceutical prescription (if necessary). First, the naturopath might address the patient's lifestyle, including exercise and nutrition. Then, the naturopath might prescribe hydrotherapy to improve the patient's circulatory and detoxification systems. The third step might involve prescribing homeopathic remedies or botanical treatments to improve weakened or damaged body systems. This is further supported by natural dietary supplements. Finally, once the body is primed to absorb the treatment and heal on its own, pharmaceuticals are prescribed as a last resort.
Challenges within Naturopathy
Naturopaths still struggle with legitimacy. Because of statutory regulations practitioners must delineate a specific scope of practice. Naturopaths struggle to do this because they often practice within a wider scope encompassing a broad range of therapeutic techniques.
A study involving two-thirds of the Canadian ND population confirmed that over half felt that the scope of their practice was "too restricted."
Unlike doctors, naturopaths usually work at integrated health clinics (which include various services- registered massage, acupuncture, chiropractor...etc.) or within larger corporations. Often, naturopaths will open their own practices. Like a small business, naturopaths often have to do their own outreach, sales, and marketing to retain a steady flow of clients. Naturopathic medicine is only reimbursed through extended health benefits and not regular MSP in BC, which means the barrier to entry is higher for the regular patient than seeing a regular doctor.
Effective Marketing Strategies for Naturopaths
There are plenty of people looking for solutions to their ailments. As a naturopath, you want to ideally be in the front and center, especially when a person is looking for a solution to their health issues. That means appearing on Google as a search result, or you want your blog post to appear when people type in their health questions. The first step— a clean and attractive website. A website is like an introduction. Weak navigation, unprofessional graphics, and slow loading times can pose a huge red flag for people who visit your site.
Foundations of Naturopathic Marketing
As Sarah Bedell Cook, ND aptly puts in her article titled "How to Market According to Naturopathic Principles for the Natural Medicine Journal, one must look toward the foundations of content marketing before actually performing any of the content marketing.
A simple and clean website, a services page, clear positioning, social media and business pages, and an opt-in section for your email list encompasses some of those foundations.
Ensure you have all this set up before you devise a content schedule or participate in a podcast. It would help to have a home base to direct people to before you start advertising. Otherwise, you'll exist as a blip in the vast universe of natural health information.
Organic Content: Provide and Attract
The purpose of creating organic content is to provide valuable insights to guide your potential patients to you. Speak in a way that reflects your values and technique as a practitioner. Like finding a good therapist, people want to connect to their practitioners because it allows them to open up more genuinely about their problems. Remember, many ailments people are dealing with are quite sensitive, meaning it requires a degree of trust to disclose them to a stranger, even if it's a licensed practitioner. Try to embody a tone of compassion and understanding in your website or blog copy, as if you're talking to an old friend or a long-time patient.
You can write about the common problems you observe in your practice, past issues you've suffered from, and the best strategies to combat these problems. Trust signals like case studies and glowing reviews can bolster your credibility. Video content, on average, is more highly converting. You can create a video that combines what you do with case studies of previous patients (or hire actors) and showcase your clinic. Before a patient decides on a clinic, they usually consider a couple of things.
Make sure these things are evident on your Google business account. Enlist an SEO specialist to ensure your practice is optimized for local SEO. This makes it easy for people in your area to find your practice online.
Your future patients might encounter you from different places. It could be a referral from one of your previous patients, a trade show, a podcast, or one of your blog posts. Although that first point of contact is essential, what's even more important is following up and nurturing that lead. It may be challenging to remember everyone coming your way and to follow up with them regularly through email or text. Which is why forming an e-mail newsletter is critical. This newsletter can contain general information about your practice, monthly promotions, or weekly blog posts featuring topics your patients are likely to care about. This way, people are constantly aware that your practice and expertise are open to them.
Naturopaths may find value in contributing to popular naturopathic or natural health publications. This will give you access to a broader audience already interested in this field. Thought leadership is a great, organic way to advertise yourself without feeling too 'salesy'.
Webinars, Events, and Networking Conferences
The best way to advertise yourself sometimes is to put yourself directly in front of your ideal audience. People that sign up for webinars on naturopathy-related topics are most likely looking for answers.
Through live events or webinars, your audience will better know who you are as a practitioner and develop trust in you. You can incentivize people to participate through gated/ valuable information or physical prize incentives like a discount on a particular product or supplement. Team up with nutritional clinics, supplement companies, or distributors like Ecotrend to pull off a spectacular event. Often these sources already have a team that can support you in your marketing efforts. For example, Ecotrend hosts quarterly webinars with homeopathic company PEKANA and practitioner seminars with companies like Enzymedica, Natren, and Enzyme Science during trade show periods.
Look at your marketing efforts as holistically as you perceive your health practice. Approach the problem from multiple angles and form touchpoints or 'steps' for people to learn about your existence—to truly know your strengths as a practitioner. Relationship nurturing is part of marketing, which should be apparent in any content you put out. As marketing can quickly feel overwhelming, don't be afraid to invest in talent, in the beginning to help build a professional website, help with SEO, or newsletter building. This will ensure you have your full energy to focus on bringing the best care to your patients.
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