Welcome to the Evolution of Medicine podcast! In this episode, James and Uli sit down with Tara Scott, MD, a functional medicine physician from Akron, Ohio and one of the stars of the Practice Accelerator. This episode is the second in our Practice Marketing Series, which will give functional medicine practitioners a step-by-step guide to taking their practices to the next level. Highlights include:
- What niching in functional medicine means, and how to determine your niche
- How a practitioner who initially resisted niching her practice went through the process and built a remarkably resilient practice that has withstood COVID-19 and other challenges
- How Dr. Scott found the Practice Accelerator and why she recommends the program to other functional medicine colleagues
- How education-based marketing and a digital infrastructure will fortify your practice
- Why a simple email autoresponder will be a gamechanger for your practice
- And so much more!
Resources mentioned in this podcast:
James Maskell: Hello and welcome back to the Evolution of Medicine podcast. This week, we are going to be talking with Dr. Tara Scott. She is a physician in Akron, Ohio and one of the stars of our Practice Accelerator. This is a continuation of our marketing series that we’ve been doing, and particularly this episode on niching I think is one of the best episodes we’ve ever done, because it actually shows how a doctor who resisted niching and went through that process has built an unbelievably resilient practice in the time of COVID and whatever else was sent her way. I think it’s super inspiring. If you know the story, you’ll get a lot out of it. Thanks so much for being here, and enjoy. So a warm welcome to the Evolution of Medicine podcast, Dr. Tara Scott. Welcome, Doc.
Tara Scott: Hi, James. Hi, Uli.
James Maskell: Thanks so much for having us, being with us here today. I’m really excited to unpack a little bit of your practice and see what other practitioners can learn from it. But I guess before we get into any tactics, any details, I’d love for you to share the story of what’s happened for you over the last 12 to 24 months, because I think it’s a really impactful personal story, but I think it’s going to get into some of what we’ve been preaching over here at the Evolution of Medicine for the last six years.
Tara Scott: Sure. So kind of my backstory is traditionally trained doctor, and so started my practice almost seven years ago and didn’t do it as a micropractice. It was kind of like a build it and you will come, so wasted…not wasted a lot of money, but got into debt quickly and then got hooked up with your book, James. That’s when I started turning around my practice. So that was probably about two years ago, got into the Practice Accelerator, and I am a student, so I did everything to the T.
So then the student led me to Uli, who was, I think at the time, offering a free assessment of my website. I had literally just spent $10,000 to redo my website prior to that. Basically, what I got was what Uli called it, a glorified calling card. So nothing to niche down, nothing to attract patients, a lead magnet, and these are all terms that, as a doctor, we don’t know.
So went through the painful task of redoing it again with Uli, which was hugely beneficial, but it was a huge task. So followed the Practice Accelerator, all the modules, all the sprints, and learned how to host an event, learned how to set up an autoresponder, learned how to do everything, which was the painful videos, everything that I wasn’t comfortable doing at first.
So I think where it really made a huge difference to me is last July, my family was in a very serious accident, which made me have to relocate for two months. So I was out of state, couldn’t see patients, but the steps that I took prior to that really put my practice on autopilot. I mean, I had an autoresponder up and running, so people were still booking discovery calls, which I could still take. I was set up to be partly virtual. We had made a lot of changes with the practice, and I was just so thankful. It just really highlighted that whole process, although if you do the hard work at the beginning, how even though I didn’t work for two months, really, essentially, I still ended the year positive financially because of those automations.
James Maskell: I really appreciate you sharing that. Obviously, the whole country now is in this shock to the system, right? You had a shock to the system, and, because you built resilience into the practice, because the digital infrastructure of new patient acquisition, of education that would spit people out who are well-qualified into a discovery call, this is some of what we talked about last month on the podcast, about this sort of education-based marketing structure, absolutely set you up so that things continue.
What we’re seeing right now in the world and in functional medicine specifically is that not a lot of practices have any resilience to the fact that the bug comes along, and everything has to get shut down. The majority of practices are out of business, because they couldn’t survive that kind of shock. I guess what it comes to is this idea of a resilient practice, right? Do you have a resilient practice? I really appreciate you sharing that, because I would imagine you guys are dealing with COVID pretty well, too.
Tara Scott: The same thing. Even though we’re considered essential business, I mean, to really minimize the risk of my staff, we did completely switch to virtual, but it was seamless. I mean, we had already made those automations, and getting into the habit of putting stuff, content on Facebook and making videos, I could do that from anywhere. So the habits that I created through the Practice Accelerator have kept everything going. I’m surprised we’re still getting discovery calls. We’re still booking new patients. There’s not really been much of a slowdown at all. I mean, there’s a little bit, in the sense that people don’t want to go out and get labs drawn, but we can drop-ship test kits, and so we’ve got a little bump in general, but I think it’s not going to be a big deal for us.
James Maskell: Absolutely. Well, look, I really appreciate you sharing that. Now, the topic of this podcast that I want to drill down into is the concept of niching, because one of the things that functional medicine practitioners say to me a lot is, “Look, I just built this skill set where I can help anyone with a whole range of these chronic diseases,” and you’re no different than that. I’m sure that you’ve treated a lot of patients with all kinds of issues and helped them. What’s also true is that, yes, you can build a successful practice as a functional medicine generalist. People have done it.
But a lot of people who come to us, they haven’t been able to do that, because it’s not easy to market yourself as a super generalist. If you get amazing results and you can stick to it and have time or if you find some way of getting an incredible number of referrals, then you could definitely do it. But what we’ve seen is that if we want to guarantee practitioner success, right, guarantee that those first 100, 500, 1,000 patients come through the door, it’s powerful to be able to communicate with one specific group in your community and to be able to solve, definitely solve a problem for that group that have had a problem that has not been solved.
James Maskell: So I’d love for you to just talk into that as a clinician, because I’m sure you probably had some of those same feelings about not wanting to devalue all the other things you could have. But what was it that helped you realize that this was a good strategy, and what has niching meant for you? What niche did you choose, and what did it mean for you?
Tara Scott: So, I do think that even though I kind of resisted, kicking and screaming, but Uli was…I don’t know. Uli, what’d you say, you want to be the expert of nothing or you want to be the expert of something? I don’t know what your saying was, your German saying. What was it?
Uli Iserloh: I think it was something…do you want to be a Jack of all trades, or you want to be a master of one? So the idea of, yes, he can help everyone, and I think niching in general is about, clinically, you do what you’ve got to do. If somebody needs to have their gut health addressed, you start there. But from a marketing perspective, as you said, you need to be perceived as an expert, because that’s what the consumer is looking for.
Tara Scott: Yeah. So, basically, I gravitated to a specialty anyway. My background’s OB GYN, and I have been doing bioidentical hormone therapy for 15 years. So I was already known in my area. But geographically where you are matters. So, for example, Dr. Lara Salyer, she’s in a rural town, so she may not need to niche down, because she doesn’t have the functional medicine. But I’m 40 minutes south of Cleveland Clinic, so I have to do something to make myself stand out.
So niching as a hormone specialist, I resisted a little bit, because there’s a whole ‘nother path of people who are doing hormones who aren’t really doing functional medicine. They’re just prescribing hormones. They’re not looking holistically at people. So that was kind of my negative connotation that made me have pause. But for sure what Uli said did come true. I mean, by marketing and being the expert and the go-to person, and that’s kind of what I’ve established in my town, even Cleveland Clinic sends me patients, because they don’t have a patient person doing hormone therapy in a functional medicine approach or holistic approach.
So picking a niche allows, like Uli says, that marketing funnel and education piece, and then if I’m trying to talk about mold or Lyme, which I don’t, but if I did, I think people would keep swiping, right? But if I’m talking to my niche, I mean, then women are going to understand, “What is she saying about our hormones? What’s she saying about weight?” and it does lead to that. Now, do people come in and have food allergies? Yes, and gut issues, yes. But then they are coming to me for one thing. So even though I resisted it, it does work.
James Maskell: I love what you said there, because I think a lot of practitioners feel like, “Oh, they’re not going to be able to talk about all the things that they know.” But you could talk about food allergies, and you could talk about these other things in the context of the niche. By the way, thank you for saying niche and not niche, because it makes me feel really at home. I’ve struggled to be in a business where I have to talk about that, where I have to use the American pronunciation to get my message across. So even in Akron, Ohio, they’re doing the English presentation now. So thank you.
Tara Scott: Yeah, I think that what Uli says makes sense, is that you want to build this kind of know, like, and trust you. So now, when people call, they’re like, “Oh, I’ve heard she’s the person to go to for hormones.” Then they tell their friends about it, and it makes perfect sense. So if you’re somebody who doesn’t … To me, it was very easy to niche down. So, for some people, it might not be. So establishing one early on I think is very helpful.
James Maskell: Beautiful. Well, look, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of what you did, because I think there’s a lot of practitioners out there that kind of want to see, what is your technology stack? What does it look like? What did you learn that maybe other practitioners have been resistant to? I guess one of the things that I’ve been saying for a while is that when you give doctors the power to leverage this kind of technology, they don’t have to be reliant on the system to work stuff out for them, because they’ve built the system that they own, right? They’re not outsourcing to a hospital system to send them patients and send them ten cents on the dollar in reimbursement.
If you could take care of your own new patient acquisition, your ability to keep the money that you generate goes up significantly. That, I think, is going to be a theme in this next era of care, as doctors realize from this COVID thing is that that system that we’re working under sucks. It’s just been exposed as the giant fraud than it is. So what’s the new plan? Ultimately, I see you as such a leader, because I know that you’re not hyper-tech-savvy, and this wasn’t something that was just easy, came easy to you because you have a background in technology, but you overcame those barriers. So talk us through the tech stack that you have, and how do these mystery new patient appointments just spit out from nowhere?
Tara Scott: So I was already super comfortable speaking, because I do have a teaching background, but I was not at all comfortable on camera or recording videos. I still don’t really love it. But I’ve gotten at peace with it. So the first thing that I had to do was build a website. So I didn’t understand how important that was. The website is…especially now with people at home, Googling, and not wanting to go anywhere, that’s going to be paramount to have a proper website. So I didn’t understand what a lead magnet was. I didn’t understand what an autoresponder was. So working with the Practice Accelerator, it kind of spells that all out for you.
So that was the first thing I did, is redid the website with the lead magnets on there, which kind of, essentially, got my specialty there, and wrote an autoresponder, which is where someone’s going to the website, you capture the email, and then already you have their email, and they’ve got a ten-day whatever you want, however many days you want, they’re getting these emails.
So I can keep track of who’s opening the emails, and I think maybe email might be an older way to do things, but it still works. So I had to have that all set up before I did my first big event, which was a movie night. So your book…it was either in your book or the course talked about a movie night.
James Maskell: Yeah, both. We had seen, actually, Dr. Gladd do the movie night back in 2012. That was when I was first lecturing at Heal Thy Practice, and I heard how he had got 66 new patients by putting on one event of “Escape Fire.” I was like, “Hang on a minute. This isn’t that hard. Let’s get people doing it.” So I put it in the book, and it’s also in the Practice Accelerator, kind of the execution plan for doing it. So tell us what happened.
Tara Scott: Yeah, the plans are all laid out in the Practice Accelerator, and I can’t remember how many movie nights. We may have done four or five, up until this point now. But the first one we did was “Escape Fire,” and we had…I don’t remember how many people we had. We had probably somewhere between 100 and 150, and my autoresponder was already to go. They signed up on Eventbrite. I had to get an Eventbrite account and get everything all laid out. Like you said, I’m not going to tell you my age, but, because of my age, I’m not that techie. Okay? So I had to learn the whole Eventbrite thing and all that, but it’s super easy. I’m a good student, so I could do everything that the sprints in the Practice Accelerator said.
Once I had that boom, I’ve got this network of feeding into the autoresponder, which is the emails, which feeds you into a discovery call, and it’s all set up for you. So we’ve tweaked out a couple times since I set it up to have more of an intake form. Initially, it was just sign up, and it was like, “Here’s a video. Learn more about our practice.” So you’re pre-educating your person to tell them what our practice is, that I’m not going to do a Pap smear. I’m going to do functional medicine.
The next step to refine that is we had to pre-educate them about the cost, about insurance, because that’s the ending point for a lot of people, too, is “How much is the cost? What’s it going to be?” So we’ve tweaked those intake questions on our acuity form, which is what we set up for our call.
So that whole process from event, email and Eventbrite, an autoresponder discovery call is all set up. The link’s set up. So anytime I’m doing something on Facebook and then posting it on Facebook and connecting it there, so then after every presentation now, I put my Facebook links on my Instagram so patients can follow me there if they don’t want to sign up for discovery calls, and then they have to kind of, like Uli says, date me for a little bit to see, like, “Oh, let’s see what this girl’s about and what she has to say.” They’ll follow the videos for a while.
So it’s kind of like a couple things to build. So through the tips in the Practice Accelerator, Jen, Uli’s wife, had great video tips that were really helpful as to what to do for that. So all those things kind of started chipping away to have everything set up so that, in my absence, that process was still going. I always travel with my tripod and my mics now. So, believe it or not, when I was out of state for two months, I had that with me. So I could still do videos, and I was still posting them on Facebook and everything. I could still do all that while I was not working to generate content.
James Maskell: Thank you so much for sharing that and also just for doing it, because, ultimately, we’ve been talking about this for a long time. Uli was the first employee that we brought in at the Evolution of Medicine, because we realized, one, we needed this for our business, and then it became clear very quickly that most other practitioners needed it for their business. That’s kind of what led to us delivering this. But, ultimately, for our plan to be successful, to build these independent micro-practices, we need people to follow the instructions or read the manual. So, Uli, what was it like, being on the other end of this? Because I know like you know you’ve done this with a lot of practitioners and maybe it hasn’t always been this successful, what was the difference maker here?
Uli Iserloh: Yeah, I think one of the things that Tara hasn’t mentioned that she also added into her education process is that she also created a prerecorded webinar, which was 40 minutes long. It’s a narrated PowerPoint, and she went through her story, how she got into functional medicine, and specifically how she became the hormone expert. So she talked about her struggles in med school related to hormones, all the things that she had to go through, and so patients and prospects could really appreciate, “Wow, Tara is just like me. She’s not just like the god in the white lab coat, but she has gone through everything. She understands me.”
Going back to niching, people like to do business that are like them, and so people could recognize that Tara, as a woman, is going through the same things that they are going through and that she is not only the expert from a credentials perspective, but also that she had seen these problems. So there was this likability factor that came through it, and through that story, that made the registrations into the discovery calls even more powerful, because they could see, “Wow, this doctor really knows what she’s talking about. This is really relevant to my case, and I do want to work with Tara and her team.”
So this made this whole journey from the website into the lead magnets and the email sequence into the webinar even more powerful, because now Tara and her team did not have to be on these discovery calls and start from scratch, repeating themselves over and over again, why they’re the expert, what they’re treating in their clinic, what results are typical. So, again, all of this was taken care of through automation so that these discovery calls can truly remain as something that, well, you just talk about the logistics and whether this is the right fit for them, allowing you to be more specific there.
Then the other thing I want to mention is that, obviously, Tara is really prolific with video content out on social media. I’m going to talk in the upcoming episode about the importance of this, but people, again, need to see your face and your expertise repeated over and over again. What we said on the previous podcast episode, it was all about enough repetition, enough consistency for getting your message out there, and people need to hear your message over and over again. So that’s all of the things that Tara did extremely well, and it goes to show you that that’s what a successful practice needs to do.
Tara Scott: You can teach an old dog new tricks.
James Maskell: Yeah, absolutely. Well, look, I think that’s a great point, Uli, and what I hear there is that every person that comes into that discovery call maybe has two hours of direct exposure to Dr. Scott, all automated, before they ever connect with her. So they kind of know her, and I just look back at the way, pre-Internet, what had to happen for that kind of feeling to happen, right? You had to do all these events in the community and get people to show up and hear you speak.
Even something like making that webinar, just think how easy that is for people today compared to even a year ago, because everyone’s using Zoom, right? Everyone knows how to use these tools. We’ve all been forced into it. So you could just press record. You can share your screen. You could do a PowerPoint and speak, speak from the heart, because here’s the thing, is you get an opportunity. With this automation, you get the opportunity to put your best foot forward every time, right? “This is who I am. This is my story. This is why I’m different. These are the kinds of people that I have to help.”
In order to sell people stuff, like I’ve said, in the future, especially now, post-COVID, right, in a world where the economy has gone down and whatever, you have to be good, right? If you’re going to want to get money from people, you’re going to have to be really solving problems for them. I have no doubt that this is going to continue in this direction for you in whatever. You have a resilient practice because, ultimately, everyone in Akron, Ohio knows in that area that you are the person to go to if you have hard-to-treat hormonal issues that have struggled with other doctors. That is the same, and that digital infrastructure is going to survive whatever. So I really appreciate you taking the time to do it and to follow through, because, ultimately, that’s what we need in order to help doctors build these independent practices.
Tara Scott: I mean, you’re making a good point, too, is because, as doctors, first of all, we’re never taught anything about business, number one, even if you have a practice. Number two, we’re not talking anything about marketing or in this digital era, and so one of the other things that was really helpful is when people who are working are looking for something, they’re going to call and leave a message after hours. That’s the time you can watch to see, when are people looking at your videos, and when are people doing this?
So I’m a small practice. I’ve got one or two people answering the phone, so we can’t answer every single phone call. So this lets people set a time for the discovery call or, like you said, watch the webinar behind the scenes. “Well, let me get some more answers to my question prior to making that decision.” So by keeping it a micro-practice, you’re going to need more of these things up and running. Even though it is hard work and it’s a lot of frontloading, like I said, for me, it was life-changing to have that all set and done, because you don’t know what’s going to happen, whether it’s COVID or whether it’s an accident, or what’s going to happen.
James Maskell: Absolutely. Uli, I’d love to just…obviously, you’ve helped a lot of different people niche into all different types of niches in different cities all across the country. I know that you don’t have to be as prolific as making new content as Tara, if you’re able to put the same message in front of a lot of people using paid traffic. I’d just love you to chat a little bit about that, because I’m sure there are people that are listening who are like, “There’s no way that I can do a video every week or otherwise.” But I know some of your other customers do far fewer pieces of content. They still link it up in the same way, right? We’re still talking about the same thing, exposure coming into a funnel that leads to people getting to know, like, and trust you that then leads to the discovery call, but without making new content the whole time because they’ve really got good at the advertising game. Tell us a little bit about what some of the best practices are there.
Uli Iserloh: Yep. So the realities are really that you don’t have to be on the content creation hamster wheel, and for reason number one, people have short attention spans. So, ultimately, if you have a bank of, let’s say, 15, 20, 30 pieces of content, your practice could rotate one piece of content a day through this and, after 30 days, come back to day one. People wouldn’t even know that you’re doing this. So, again, because people only consuming maybe one-tenth of the content that’s out on the Internet, that’s number one that you can take away from that.
The other thing that, really, practitioners have to appreciate is that the organic reach of content is very limited. It can be anywhere from 0.4% to maybe 2%, so for every thousand people that are following your business page, there’s only 0.4% of the people that actually randomly sees the content that you post. So the organic social media posting, it’s important to look the part, just like Tara said. You have to have a website. People will evaluate you based on that. But the power move is really to create maybe video content that has maybe a prominent title baked into the video file, and then just promote those videos with Facebook ads.
Facebook has a very unique advertising objective, so you’re only paying for those people that watch more than 15 seconds of your video. So, yes, there’s a number of people that will watch 15 seconds, and most of them typically watch all the way through to the end. So that’s good. You’re paying for this. But there’s an ancillary benefit that there is thousands of people that get exposed to your videos. Your video shows up in the newsfeed every day in there. Just happen to scroll by or see maybe five, ten seconds, but you still get the effect of that constant exposure. People see your face over and over again, and, yet, you’re not paying for that exposure. When you do the math, it comes out to maybe 1.5 cents per exposure.
So if you’re spending $10 a week, that is like 700 exposures, where people in your community see your face 700 times in that week, and you can just use Facebook ads for maybe $10 a day to create more exposure. That gets you, really, over the hump that you become the KLT, the know, like, trust factor, that there’s enough repetition without actually having to constantly create new content. You could just create maybe ten videos, and that’s what gets promoted in your Facebook feed.
James Maskell: Absolutely love that. So look, throughout this series, over the year, we are going to essentially give you this step-by-step guide to doing this for yourself. I mean, ultimately, our vision of the Evolution of Medicine is having a whole network of successful, independent, physician-owned practices where you can thrive and reverse people’s chronic disease, right, who have those issues. I mean, that’s the mission, all the way along.
So we started last month with the whole thesis on education-based marketing. This month, I hope that you’ve really got it clear that, ultimately, if you really want to guarantee your success, you need to be able to tell a very specific group of people in a very specific geography and to educate them as to why working with you is important. Ultimately, Tara, you’ve done an incredible job of doing that, and so much leadership.
In the months to come, we’re going to drill into some of these other pieces. You’ve heard the word autoresponder. We’re going to drill into that. We’re going to drill into these webinars. We’re going to drill into all this structure, because, ultimately, my hope for everyone listening here, if you’re an independent provider, if you work inside a system and you dream of being independent, is that you can use the power of the Internet to gain your autonomy, right, to not have to have your career be built on the whims of the hospital system you work for or the insurance company that you work for, because that infrastructure is going to crash and burn at some point. So being able to be ahead of this, like Tara, to have real resilience in your medical practice is what it’s all about. Tara, any parting words?
Tara Scott: The only other thing that came to mind is just all the things that I’ve learned through the Practice Accelerator has helped during this downtime and pivoting, because I had three different speaking engagements that were set up that were live speaking engagements that were going to be canceled, and that’s the biggest way for me to get patients. So I said, “Hey, I know how to do this webinar. We can do it digital. I can still give my talk. I’m totally set up.”
One of the groups I’m talking to is actually a prostate support group, and they didn’t know how to do it technologically. They thought they had to film it and then put it on. I’m like, “No, no, no, no. I’m going to be at home. You’re going to be at home. We’re going to do this on Zoom. It’s super easy.” They were all kind of flustered, these guys, and like, “How did you learn how to do all this?” But that’s definitely what I learned in the Practice Accelerator, is how to do that. So now all these speaking events, I’m still going to have. So these were things that were planned months ago, before COVID, and because of the technological things I’ve learned through this course, I can still have those events. So that’s the other positive thing about this.
James Maskell: I really appreciate you sharing that. If you go to the pivot guide that we made, goevomed.com/pivot, in that, it teaches you how to do a virtual town hall. Just to listen to what Tara just said, right, there is a prostate support group that needed content, where she was going to be the content and wasn’t able to do it because it wasn’t set up, but, ultimately, she had all the infrastructure she needed to be able to do that.
Now, think, right, and Tara, this is even a question for you, or not a question for you, but a challenge to you, think of all the other businesses in your community that are furloughed, that have an audience, that want to deliver value to their audience while they’re furloughed, yoga studios, PT places, all of these places that have been out of business. They want to try and create ongoing community and add value. Think about how valuable your message is at this time, how you can create resilience in the time of COVID, how you can create real immune resilience. Whatever topic your niche is, there’s way more people to do these digital things for today than there were before, because no one knows how to do this, but you do, and we do.
So just being a little bit tech-savvy at this moment could be a transformation of your business to really become the leader locally, and not just relying on a billboard to do it, because people aren’t driving around, but using the tools that we’ve been talking about. So this could be the moment for functional medicine to really make an impact to way more people. We’ve just got to find ways to do it. What you have done by understanding these technology tools is give yourself the ability to do that platform.
So check out, goevomed.com/pivot. Our sponsors, the Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center, created so many resources for you, a whole autoresponder of 16 emails, 10 social media posts, a whole virtual town hall structure for you to use. I can’t make it any easier. You’ve got to read the manual. You’ve got to do the work. There’s no other option here, and so I guess I just want to say thank you for doing it. Uli, thank you for being my partner here for six years and literally giving practitioners the step-by-step guide and, in some cases, executing it for them.
As I said, in this next era, being able to maintain your independence and being able to build a business independent of the insurance system, independent of the hospital system, direct care, disintermediation is the future, and Tara Scott has disintermediated her access to people that need her in her community. It’s been a great podcast. I think it’s been a great episode. Thank you so much for listening. This has been the Evolution of Medicine podcast. This is the marketing series. We’re going to do it once a month for the rest of the year. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you next time.
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