Despite the chaos, for many practitioners the past two year have been a boom. With a greater focus on health than ever before, business has been thriving. Practitioners and patients alike have grown to love the flexibility of online consultations and there’s the additional bonus of geography no-longer being a barrier to attract new clients.
According to the World Health Organisation, as of September 2022 the end of the pandemic is now “in sight” and life if mostly back to normal.
What does the new normal look like for our profession?
How does the economy impact Australian naturopaths?
Pre-pandemic there were warning signs of a recession looming. But this was held off largely due to a number of lockdown stimulus measures. The return to ‘business as usual’ has seen the end of these and coincided with cost of living and interest rate hikes. Consumer confidence, a measure economists use to predict how we spend our money, is falling.
Though we know our work is essential, naturopathy falls largely into the discretionary spending category. In the light local and global economies, this isn’t great news.
When belts tighten, consultation patterns tend to change. Clients who are feeling the squeeze might reschedule rather than cancel, pushing follow ups out further than advised. New client bookings may slow-down. Though this will largely depend on your client demographics.
But there are a significant number of practitioners, like myself, who thrive and buck this trend. I started my practice in the early 90’s recession, have weathered the GFC and other economic wobbles. There is always room for success, regardless of the economy.
If you’re in business for the long term, these financial cycles are inevitable. You just need to plan for them.
Face your FEaRs: 8 future-proofing tips for practitioners
1. Identify what makes you stand out
Did you know that the majority of practitioners focus on women in their reproductive years, who are professionally employed and well educated? Which makes this demographic a generality not a niche! If is your ‘ideal client’, you need to drill down to promote what makes you and your offering different, in order to stand out.
2. Nurture your existing clients
A satisfied client is one of your biggest promoters. Always say thank you for referrals, remember their birthday and keep them in the loop through regular newsletters.
Riding an economic downturn can be an opportunity to diversify and broaden your offerings from one-on-one consultations to exploring ‘one to many’ options. They give as an opportunity to educate those who are curious about naturopathy but mightn’t currently be ready for an individual consultation. Be sure to stay on brand and offer group group opportunities in alignment with your ideal client and professional focus.
4. Group courses
Running affordable group programs, with a focus on an issue that you’re passionate about, is a smart option. Workshops, seminars and courses potentially provide a better return on your time than traditional one-on-one consultations, are repeatable and participants may follow up with personalised sessions. While these group events can be delivered online, keep in mind that post-pandemic people are craving in-person connections. If you have a locally-based business, consider tapping into an existing networks like community centres, to get paid to run your own courses.
5. Group consultations
Group consultations are new phenomenon in naturopathy and are different to traditional group programs. They centre on working with a smaller number of people with a shared condition, to combine clinical care, education and peer support in group sessions. Additional 1:1 consultations to prescribe remedies are optional. This model is currently being researched at Southern Cross University and has received enthusiastic response from practitioners who took part in the pilot program for endometriosis.
6. Digital products
Selling e-books, online courses and workbooks can be a money spinner. Though this popular marketing technique comes with a few caveats.
Putting together digital product usually take time and skill. You may need to outsource services like graphic design and editing to create a premium product. They also require a platform to sell them on with back-end payments and a strategy to market the products.
Pro tip: Explore freelancing sites like Fiverr, for affordable design services.
There’s a significant time investment to both create and market these products. But practitioners who already have an extensive back catalogue of articles, recipes and other resources, can easily repurpose these resources for online sales. In fact, it’s crazy not to!
Pro tip: If you’re considering creating digital products, start growing your website traffic and nurturing your mailing list NOW.
7. Affiliate sales
A simpler passive income option, especially for businesses who’ve built good traffic to their sites, is affiliate marketing.
If you ever mentioned books or products you love on your website or social media, it’s worth signing up with an online retailer (e.g. Amazon or local equivalents). Each time someone clicks your unique affiliate link and makes a purchase from the third-party seller, you’re rewarded. Commission is relatively low (usually 3 – 10%) from these types of affiliates but it’s a set and forget/evergreen option.
Affiliating with digital programs and services can be more lucrative. Some niche online offerings (including a number of health and business programs) pay selected affiliates up to 50% commission. Though actively promoting these is usually required to convert the link into sales.
Keep in mind anything you promote needs to be aligned with your values and not detract from your own product/services and credibility. Be transparent about the promotion and only affiliate with businesses and products that you genuinely value.
8. Understand your outgoings
If you aren’t on top of your finances, the possibility of an economic downturn is compelling motivation to take the time to really understand where your business is making or losing money.
Stay up to date with your business and personal accounts. File your tax return if one is due.
Be curious and learn to enjoy doing your accounts! Track your finances monthly and get to know where your money is coming in and going out, and for what degree of time and effort.
- Have you signed up to any programs or services that automatically deduct money from your account each month, which you don’t use regularly?
- If you’ve paid for marketing services like SEO, track the return on investment – have clicks converted into ideal clients?
- Find your sweet spot – what you enjoy most and offers the biggest returns.
- If you have a dispensary – do a stocktake.
- Remember to claim expired remedies as stock losses at tax time.
- Check your current margins – have you kept up with wholesale price rises?
- Stop stocking what’s not selling or rarely prescribed.
- Investigate external dispensaries and compare the margins on your current sales
Riding the cycles
Remember ‘this too will pass’. It’s called a ‘cycle’ for a reason!
Knowledge is power. When we understand these cycles, we can find way to compensate for them and thrive in practice.
Are you struggling to identify your unique qualities and authentic way of practicing? This is my jam! I love helping practitioners understand their business and reclaim their passion. Book an exploratory mentoring session to get you started.
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This article is a reflection on 30+ year of successful naturopathic practice and doesn’t constitute financial advice.