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Start Your Business Success Stories

Kitchen Clinic: MDs Use Monthly Dinners to Educate Patients


While the rest of the world is engaging customers with social media, two Montana doctors who specialize in naturopathic medicine are doing it the old- fashioned way, face to face. Through monthly dinner parties designed to teach their patients how to each cook healthfully and source food locally, the doctors, Tanda Cook and Sarah Marshall, are building relationships with their patients — across the dinner table.

Cook told BusinessNewsDaily how creating these monthly dinners has allowed the doctors to turn their knowledge into a “product” that customers can feel good about and how they have managed to differentiate their business from its competitors.

BusinessNewsDaily: When did you start doing this?

Tanda Cook: We started in October 2010. We had a booth at the local farmers market this summer where we did cooking demos and gave out free samples with recipe cards. As the weeks drew to an end, people were asking when the cooking classes would start, when would they get to learn how to do this? So we created the dinner of the month.

We host them once a month, but we also open it up to private parties. We've had people with birthdays or special events request a day where they invite a crowd. We can also do tailored menus.

BND: How many people usually come?

T.C.: [Between] 12 and 20 people. We also did a discounted version of our dinner for the local college crowd.

BND: What kinds of food do you cook?

T.C.: Fresh, local and in season. We have enrolled the local farmers to donate food to us. So it’s supporting the local, slow food movement and allows us to be able to shake the hand of our farmers, which is a huge thing that Sarah and I believe in and are supportive of.

BND: How do the dinners help your patients learn about living healthy?

T.C.: We educate about food, nutrition and the love of cooking. Sarah and I looked at having it at a commercial kitchen...but the point of all of this is to have people experience my kitchen, ask questions, open my fridge, look in my pantry, and see how I do it. There are herbs on the counter, peppers hanging from the ceiling, onions on the counter and garlic drying on the table. We want it to be visceral, to be memorable.

BND: Do people bring food?

T.C.: No, they watch, eat and ask a lot of questions.

BND: Why did you decide to get into this business?

T.C.: We decided to go into naturopathic medicine because of our deep belief in natural medicine and the ability to transform lives through health and education.

BND: What's the biggest business mistake you've made?

T.C.: Not having clarity of our unique market position from the get-go. We now have declared ourselves to be experts in food and nutrition, which has helped us stand out in the community and has resulted in an increase in business.

BND: How do you find your customers? Do you use social media?

T.C.: We find our customers by direct social one-on-one marketing. We are very involved in the community; we had a booth at the Farmers Market this summer and did cooking demos and educated people about eating locally as well as naturopathic medicine. Currently, we do not use social media , but our marketing plan for 2011 is to expand to this venue of marketing.

BND: Who or what is your biggest competitor?

T.C.: In some sense, our competitors are other naturopaths; however, because of our unique branding of being experts in food and nutrition we have created a market in which we have little to no competition.

BND: If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?

T.C.: We would have a clear, marketable product, which in the world of health is tricky to create because health itself isn’t a product. So by creating the dinners/cooking classes we have a tangible, marketable product that people can purchase, attend, and walk away with an experience and an idea of how to add health to their life via food.