If you’ve had the opportunity to spend any money on advertising, then you probably already know that the very best way to build your practice is to give your patients an opportunity to meet you, face to face. Once they can put a smile to the name, listen to what you value, and get a feel for your approach and their comfort level with you, they are more than half way to deciding to come see you. What makes up the other half of their decision?
Unfortunately, credibility means different things to different people, and you can’t exactly tailor your marketing to individual expectations, can you?
Actually, you can. And it just happens to be the best way of doing it. The more often you show up, in-person, just being yourself, the more the “best fit” patients will be able to find you, vet you, visit you and refer you. With that in mind, teaching community classes is one of the best investments of time and money that you can make in your community and your own long term success. You will be there, in person, to educate on your medical philosophy, answer questions about how you would handle things, and create the opportunity to be your community’s local “expert” on naturopathic medicine, just by giving a little of yourself upfront.
Location, Location, Location
Your potential clients will prefer to seek care in their own community, provided they know where you are. There is probably no better way to begin building your community network than by conducting your community health education classes within a five mile radius of your practice.
Finding a Venue: Start Small
If you’ve never offered community education before, start with a smaller venue. That way, the first few handfuls of people who come won’t feel isolated in a large space. Choose a space where it’s not likely you’ll be constantly interrupted or have a lot of background noise. Conference rooms in libraries or community centers, for examples, are better than a talk at a local café – unless the café has a back room.
Topics: Start with the Basics
Whatever your specialty might be, here are key characteristics for a good workshop topic:
- Simple — low barriers to initial understanding in a 3-5 point presentation
- Practical — something the audience can put into practice to help change their health and vitality
- Compelling — benefits of the practice, consequences of not doing so. Emphasis on the benefits
Props: What tools will you need to make a good presentation?
- Sign-in sheet — have one at the front door, ask for name, email address for future health newsletters.
- Low Tech — as fun and impressive as a PowerPoint presentation might be, it doesn’t tend to engage people emotionally, which is what triggers memory of you and your topic
- A White Board — even if you can’t draw well, draw a little – or get a volunteer from the audience to do it. The more senses you engage, the more people will remember.
- Notes on the Topic — including your contact information and location of your practice.
- Introduction — tell them in brief why you are there, why you care about them and your topic, and what you hope to impart.
- Question and Answer — as much as possible, the entire presentation will work best as a series of questions to engage the listeners. For example, if you are talking about nutrition, you might start by asking the listeners to give you examples of food charts they’ve seen, rather than simply showing an old fashioned food pyramid and telling them why it’s no longer useful. This method also helps you gage what your listeners’ knowledge base is.
- Summary — ask the listeners what 3-5 points they learned in an open Q & A. Then repeat the basic message of the introduction
- Evaluation — make a request for an evaluation of the class. Have a paper or card with questions and answers on a 1-5 scale for ease of answering, and also space for original information. It’s also important to have a section with a check box for them to request a contact from you with a clearly marked space for contact method and contact info. Make sure to have them pass in their evaluations.
Advertising the Class: Always Start with Who You Know
- Friends and family first — practice on them and get the bugs worked out of your public presentation.
- Email list and patients — encourage them to bring family and friends to finally learn what you are all about. Use Facebook contacts, local Linked-In contacts as well.
- Flyers — distributed in local supplement stores, health food stores, cooperatives and community centers.
- Community Calendars for Neighborhood Papers — offer to write an accompanying article for that same small paper. Keep it short, but give real value, and mention the class in the bio at the end, with a reference to a calendar of your appearances on your website or Facebook page.
Final Thoughts: Build Your Audience by Building Trust
Keep it simple. Keep them coming. Keep it Cheap.
It’s a good idea not to charge a fee at first or not to charge much for the classes. Wait until you’re packing in so many people you have to rent space. Community centers and libraries will often give space for free if you are offering a community service. And the service will profit you far more in the value of your reputation and word of mouth advertising than you will ever make on a class.
Keep them wanting more.
Draw from a smaller radius, and move the class around. Don’t give a class the same place more than once a month, unless you’re teaching a series. It will do you the most good and create the most value for the community and you if you spread the wealth of your knowledge around.
In the end, you are not only promoting good health, but are also an ambassador for naturopathic medicine. The more you share your smiling, well informed self, the more comfortable your community will be in seeking you out during time of need.