When I ran a private naturopathic practice, my stomach churned more at the thought of promoting myself than at eating a Big Mac chased by a box of Twinkies and a 40-ounce Coke.* I dreaded networking events and public talks, terrified that I might appear pushy or salesy. The result? I was the town’s best-kept secret.
As I followed a winding career path into medical writing and content marketing, I learned what I never understood in those early years of private practice. The first step to serving the people who need you most is letting them know that you exist. There are hundreds—even thousands—of people struggling with worries, pains, and unexplained symptoms that you can help. They crave what you offer. But they don’t know who you are.
In celebration of Naturopathic Medicine Week 2018, I broadcast a Facebook Live Series on “Marketing According to Naturopathic Principles.” When you market in a way that is consistent with your core values and beliefs, the terror goes away. You feel more comfortable in your skin and connect with people as if they are friends, neighbors, or long-time favorite patients. The tips I taught during Naturopathic Medicine week apply to content marketing, so let’s be clear on the definition:1
"Content marketing: marketing that tries to attract customers by distributing informational content potentially useful to the target audience, rather than by advertising products and services in the traditional way."
During the video series, I suggested actionable ways to apply four of the principles of naturopathic medicine to content marketing strategies: vis medicatrix naturae (the healing power of nature), tolle causum (treat the cause), tolle totum (treat the whole person), and docere (doctor as teacher).2 The strategies hold true whether you are interacting at a networking event, recording a podcast, or writing a blog article. Set the foundation, be crystal clear with your message, and earn the trust of each potential patient.
The Vis of Marketing (Foundations)
When we trust in the healing power of nature (the vis) in medicine, we don’t mean that a person can lounge on the couch with a tub of ice cream and expect nature to swoop in with the cure. No. We give the body the foundational elements it needs: fresh air, pure water, clean food, movement, and rest. Only when we lay a strong foundation can the vis medicatrix naturae cure the patient.
The same is true for content marketing. Content will only grow your business if you create foundational systems. What if you were to show up on a top-rated podcast with thousands of followers but had no website for listeners to visit? What if you were to write five blog articles a week but had no box on your site for readers to subscribe for emails? What if you were to post to social media three times a day but had no business contact information on your profile? Your efforts would be in vain.
Blogs, social media, e-newsletters, webinars, and podcasts have incredible potential to spread your message to thousands of people organically. That is the vis of marketing. But, like air, water, and food for the body, content marketing requires some foundational elements. Start by getting these in place:
- A clear message of who you are and who you help
- Clean and simple website
- Sales page detailing your services or products
- Current contact information on Google My Business
- Business profiles on social media
- Concise but informative bio on social media profiles
- Email service provider
- Opt-in boxes or pages to invite new email subscribers
- Automated emails for new subscribers
These foundational elements set the stage to expand your social media following, grow your email list, and direct potential patients to the services and products you sell. Once the foundation is in place, your social posts, blogs, podcasts, and face-to-face meetings can direct people to where they can further engage and connect with your practice.
Root Cause and Whole Person (Messaging)
The principles of treating the root cause and the whole person guide naturopathic patient care, but they can also guide your messaging. By messaging, I mean the words you use any time you speak, record, or write content to represent your practice. Messaging applies to your public talks, blogs, e-newsletters, and social media posts.
To translate the principle of the root cause from medicine to marketing, there is one modification. Instead of digging deep to uncover the root cause of disease, we dig deep to discover the root cause of the desire to get better. What drives new patients to seek your help?
When you peel back the layers of the onion to reveal the root cause of why patients long for your help, you can speak to that in your messaging. In the day 2 recording from Naturopathic Medicine Week, I give an example of an ideal patient who is a young, single, professional woman with IBS. By digging deep, we realize that the root-cause reason she wants your help is that she is embarrassed by her symptoms. If you include words like “recover your confidence” in your messaging, you are speaking to her root cause desire for help.
This is an example of messaging that addresses the root cause:
"Over the years, I have helped hundreds of patients overcome symptoms of IBS. If you desperately want to put digestive problems in your past, my naturopathic team can help. Enjoy your next date or night out with friends without mapping out every restroom stop. Put IBS behind you and recover your confidence with our tried and true natural therapies."
To translate the principle of treating the whole person to marketing, I have one simple suggestion: pretend you are talking face-to-face with a patient in the chair next to you. Share a bit of your own story to show you can relate. Speak heart-to-heart. Be real, compassionate, and empathetic. Be yourself.
Doctor as Teacher (Earning the Trust)
Teaching patients how to make better lifestyle choices is foundational to naturopathic medicine. Teaching potential patients a tiny piece of that is foundational to content marketing. You saw the definition above: content marketing means giving away informational content. You give a little bit of yourself as a way to earn the trust of potential patients.
How do you decide what information to give away for free? The video from day 4 of the Naturopathic Medicine Week Series dives deep on this topic. Here is a summary of tips to follow when deciding what to teach for free and what to save for behind closed doors:
- Teach something that relates directly to the product or service you sell.
- Give away a tiny part of the whole puzzle. If a patient needs to move from A to Z to fully recover, you teach step A to B for free.
- Go for a quick win. Rather than posting a 35-page diatribe, post instructions on how to do wet-sock therapy.
- Ask potential patients to act. Don’t just give free content and walk away. Ask for an email address, a phone call, a social share, or some other action.
Promoting your naturopathic practice takes persistence and commitment, but when you market according to naturopathic principles, it can feel as natural and fun as sipping a green smoothie in the sun. As a naturopathic or integrative clinician, you know who you are, who you help, and the message you want to share better than anybody else. That is why you need to be intimately involved in the content marketing for your practice. Lay your foundations, get consistent with your content, and let the vis of marketing take it from there.
Links to all of the videos from the “Marketing According to Naturopathic Medicine” series can be found here.
*For the record, I have never eaten any of these items.