pieRecently, the naturopaths in Collingwood and surrounding area got together to discuss some joint marketing for Naturopathic Medicine Week. There are more practitioners here than ever (and many more coming soon), and this is something we’ve been wanting to do for years – to collect all our “competition” in one spot and chat.

Why, you ask? Because for us, competition really is good for business and patients. Here’s why turning your competitors into collaborators benefits everyone.

1. Collaboration Creates a Bigger Pie

My guess is that about 5% of the people in our area are users of our particular brand of health care. So of the many thousands or so folks that could potentially use naturopathy, only a fraction of them actually are (and that 5% is being generous, I think). That leaves a really big pile of potential patients. Really, really big. And our area is small – the same idea applies just about anywhere.

The real opportunity, then, is not to fight over the same slice of pie (the 5%), but to expand the size of the slice – to tap into more of the 95% who aren’t users of our profession. There’s a whole world of pie out there – why fight over the same old slice of apple?

The challenge of course, is reaching and engaging that other 95%. That’s where competition helps. The more people who say, “I see a homeopath,” or, “I use a chiropractor,” for example, the better off the whole profession is. Competition raises awareness, which creates acceptance and momentum, and expands the market for your services.

  • What to do: Reach out.  Pick up the phone or email a practitioner in your field. You’ll be surprised at how many of your competitors really do want to talk with you. They’re just too scared to take the first step. Open a dialogue with a practitioner in your area. Be generous. Share your vision. My guess is that you’ll all sleep better at night, and discover something marvelous along the way.

2. You Can Flex More Muscle

Of that huge untapped expanse of pie, a huge percentage of them use conventional medical care, so the problem isn’t health care need, it’s health care awareness. You need to reach those folks who don’t use your stuff.  Tapping into that group, though, can be an expensive and time-consuming prospect – it’s hard to make enough noise to get the attention you need.

The good news is that there’s strength in numbers. By combining forces, you can create a larger presence and do some marketing that gets attention. In our case,we’ll essentially becoming our own lobby group, promoting the benefits of naturopathic care in order to reach more people than we ever could alone.

  • What to do: Pool your resources to create joint marketing efforts. For example, you can take a full page ad out in the local paper for a fraction of the cost of doing it alone, and make some noise. You can have a large booth at a trade show that really attracts attention, or run some amazing clinics, info sessions or classes that offer some real value. Get five practitioners together and you can do five times as much without spending any more time or money than you would alone.

3. Collaboration Generate More Referrals

You and your “competition” might all be massage therapists, or chiropractors, or acupuncturists, or nutritonists, or herbalists or homeopaths, but you’re all unique, too. It’s the ways in which you’re different from each other that offer the greatest opportunity. What do you each love? What do you hate? What are you best at? What does one offer that the other can’t/won’t/doesn’t?

In our group, for example, there’s an ND who’s a doula, and an ND who specializes in cosmetic / spa applications of naturopathic medicine. They’re both great services that we don’t offer, but that many of our clients would love. We’re happy to refer to them for those things. And in return, we can offer things like IV therapy and colon hydrotherapy to their clients. Patients gets better care, practitioners get more business. It’s great for everyone.

The trick is, of course, you need to connect with these folks to truly understand their specialties and explain yours. You can’t do it by reading each other’s websites on the sly or peeking in their windows after hours. You need to reach out.

  • What to do: First, connect. Do a lunch or breakfast offsite, as opposed to in someone’s practice space. Get to know what each of you love and do best. Next – and this is the most important part – refer. Send a client to your competition as soon as the opportunity arises. It’s a smart, patient-focused act of goodwill that will benefit everyone, including you.

Start Now

This is a sum of the parts thing. You and two or three other practitioner can generate more total business cooperating than the three (or 6 or 15) or you can working separately. Don’t be shy. You’ll find most practitioners pleasantly relieved to have open dialogue with you.

Focus on your differences, your passions, and the strengths of your professions as opposed to your practices, and you’ll find more patients, more fun, and more pie than you ever would have alone.

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5 Responses to “A Bigger Pie: How Getting Friendly With Your "Competition" Can Help Your Practice”

  1. Eileen R says:

    Yes, yes, yes and yes. And maybe another yes. I’ve lost track.

    When people of similar professions come together you get wonderful community groups like farmers’ markets and festivals. Why shouldn’t bodyworkers have a similar thing?

    Also, bodyworkers speaking for each other makes one heck of an impression on your clients. When you and your marketing partners (the ones you trust to do good work) introduce each other to your clients, you are giving each other your stamp of approval, an implicit sign of trust in each other. Your clients will know they have a back up. They won’t feel like they are hazarding their time, money and health on an unknown therapist if you are ill, on vacation or if your next booking is too far out for them. Joining forces with another bodyworker takes confidence and trust, but it is a strong way to show your clients that your main concern is their health and comfort.

    For joint venture ideas check out: http://www.naturaltouchmarketing.com/blog/marketing-matters/2008/06/create-healing-arts-tourist/

    Way to be progressive Dan and Tara!

  2. Thanks for this post– I’ve been sharing it with everyone I know! It is very timely for me, arriving in my inbox just as I start a collaboration with two other community acupuncturists in Central Massachusetts.

    Another benefit to working together: many holistic health practitioners are sole proprietors, which can be very isolating. Collaboration results in community building and helps everyone feel more connected.

  3. Hi Dan,

    You are so right about the advantages of collaborating with our ‘competitors’! The truth is, when we join forces, the pie just keeps getting bigger and there is MORE for everyone, not less.

    One of the challenges I have found with getting together with other professionals in my community is simply finding TIME.

    I highly recommend exploring a handy alternative to meeting in person and that is “meeting” online and / or by phone, using simple (and often free) screen-sharing software and conference lines. The advantage to this is you eliminate travel time and can participate from your home, car, office, etc., plus you don’t need a baby sitter or have to leave your family. This also expands your ‘territory’ so that practitioners in isolated towns can join in.

    As a connected group of practitioners, you have the ability to offer the public free informational Teleconferences (or Webinars, which is my favorite!) where all the practitioners have a few minutes to present information about a specific topic (e.g. “Natural Treatments for Arthritis Pain”, or “10 Natural Ways to Eliminate Insomnia”, etc). Or you can create a “series” where each practitioner has their topic on a separate date.

    People on the call often “self-select” the practitioner they want to follow up with, so it is a great way to educate the public and attract new patients, who really want to see YOU. And once again, teleconferences / web meetings leverage everyone’s time.

    It’s a fantastic win-win! Practitioners get new patients without “selling” and the public gets valuable information. This is called Educational Marketing or Attraction Marketing and it’s a natural fit for holistic health care practitioners who are turned off by slick advertising. And did I mention… It’s all FREE!

    Once again, thanks, Dan, for sharing this important concept. Everyone wins when we join forces as collaborators instead of competitors.


    Lisa Hanfileti, LAc

  4. […] the last post on collaborating with your colleagues to help your practice, I thought I’d share the ad we put together. This is a full page newspaper ad that we were […]

  5. […] This year, we had a local personal trainer and raw food expert spend the evening with us. She blended up some amazing organic green smoothies, and actually turned out to be the biggest hit of the evening. She was a hugely successful addition for us, and was able to promote her own services at the same time. A great collaboration. […]

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