How a Nutritionist Uses Programs to Increase Client Engagement & Retention

January 17, 2024

Client engagement and retention are key components to your success as a nutrition business owner. Disengagement is frustrating and negatively impacts you, your clients, and your business. 

If you’ve been struggling with ways to boost interaction or have been experiencing more turnover than you’d like, programs can be transformative. Leverage programs to create meaningful, client-centric experiences, ultimately boosting engagement, fostering long-term client relationships, and promoting the likelihood of success. 

To better understand the importance of client engagement and retention and how to use tools like Practice Better to your advantage when implementing nutrition programs, we spoke with Liz Abel of Clinician’s Incubator. Liz is an expert in utilizing programs that serve nutrition business owners and their clients, strengthening your relationships and supporting longevity. 

Woman working on a laptop enjoying Practice management software features

Signs of high engagement and retention

Liz says, “If [clients] are engaged, you’re going to retain them.” That sounds simple enough, but how do you know if there’s high engagement? Here are some signs that your clients are invested:

  • Active participation in personalized programs, where clients consistently adhere to recommendations and find value in them.
  • Regular and proactive communication, both initiated by you and reciprocated by your clients, signifies a strong connection and a higher likelihood of longevity. 
  • Positive feedback expressed through testimonials, enthusiastic messages, and questions showcase the impact of you and your program on the overall satisfaction and well-being of the clients you help. 
  • Consistent attendance and a high level of preparation for one-on-one or group sessions.
  • Successful goal attainment and your client’s commitment to long-term health maintenance. 

Liz encourages using Practice Better to make program analysis and reporting seamless, providing the data you need to evaluate and make adjustments. By doing so, “You’ve got [access to] the more quantitative side of things where you can see people clicking through modules and how many times they post in the group chat.” 

This data, combined with the qualitative aspects, like the types of questions clients ask you, can tell you a lot about their progress and commitment to the program.

Signs of low engagement and retention 

Equally important for the success of your nutrition program is being able to recognize signs of low client engagement and retention. While this can feel discouraging, having a pulse on your client’s interest and participation is critical. Identifying dips and downtrends provides opportunities to address challenges and enhance the effectiveness of your services. 

Liz notes that some of the biggest red flags include: 

  • Sporadic or minimal client interaction, like infrequent communication, often suggests a lack of ongoing commitment. 
  • Missed or less frequent appointments, cancellations, uncompleted tasks, or a failure to adhere to dietary plans may signal disengagement. She says frequent interactions are ideal in the beginning as you’re getting to know each other, “but when they’re thinking about already trying to create space and length in between your live sessions, to me, that’s a signal that they’re not engaged.”
  • Persistent challenges in achieving mutually agreed-upon goals.
  • A lack of enthusiasm or feedback from clients. 

Monitoring these signs enables you to proactively intervene when needed. If you don’t have a good picture of where your clients are in their interest and commitment, consider assessing their interaction and rates of follow-through on assigned tasks. This can help identify areas for intervention, such as implementing new programs. Practice Better offers the ability to run no-show and cancellation reports.

Woman wearing headphones hosting a video Telehealth call on her laptop while taking notes

How to use programs to increase engagement and retention

Nutrition programs can increase engagement and client retention. According to Liz, “We want to build programming that makes [clients] feel special and unique and not just like they’re on the manufacturing line… that they’re a hamster on the wheel.” Your programs should really speak to your audience and make them want to refer all of their friends to what you’re offering. 

After all, Liz notes, “the best clients come from referrals.” She continues, “It brings them joy to share about their success and the wins that they’ve had and they’re happy to share the name of your company or you as a clinician.”

Depending on your business model, programs can be used in both group and one-on-one settings. They might be offered in-person or virtually and include visuals, tutorials, and other forms of engaging content your clients care about. 

For instance, Liz suggests using infographics or 1-2 minute videos that you can either make or source from YouTube that can support the content of your program. Bring humor and creativity, she says, and if that’s not your strong suit, find a partner who can contribute in this way to enhance the relatability of your program. 

Additionally, programs can be incorporated into individual client packages for automatic enrollment or into programs when packages of sessions are purchased. Consider new ways you can add content to your program modules.

To encourage engagement and retention, Liz says programs should: 

  • Infuse personality, humor, and creativity 
  • Cater to different learning styles and format your information in various ways
  • Encourage involvement and input
  • Seek client commitment
  • Be readable with bulleted, bite-sized, clear, and actionable takeaways
  • Incorporate follow-ups that ask questions like “How did this go for you?” and “What did you learn?”
  • Incorporate check-ins for clients who may be showing signs of disengagement, asking questions like “I noticed you’ve been less active lately; how can I help you get back on track?”

The Practice Better Client Portal offers a place for clients to find protocols and resources, encourages Liz. It’s an ideal place to house things like welcome videos that can orient clients to the lay of the land and what to expect with working with you or engaging in your programs.

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Elements of engaging programs 

Programs should be well-rounded and provide various resources, touchpoints, and inclusions that ensure the client is set up for long-term success. Creating opportunities to boost their engagement through programs creates deeper partner-client relationships and encourages retention.

When your clients are introduced to programs intentionally designed for their engagement, be sure to provide an overview of available tools and resources. This helps paint a picture of what they can expect by working with you both immediately and in the long run. 

Create an inviting environment specifically tailored to this audience. A non-judgmental and inclusive space will make clients feel welcome and accepted.

Examples of different program elements to support client engagement programs include: 

  • Onboarding Instruction: Include a program as part of your client onboarding to assist in providing clients with the information they need to be successful while working with you. 
  • Initial assessment: This includes health history, dietary habits, lifestyle factors, and goals. Utilize questionnaires, interviews, or online forms to gather this information. 
  • Live sessions: Host live sessions to educate program participants and provide your expertise. This is a great opportunity to answer questions and provide answers. This is also where you can relay information about the fundamentals of your program, the structure, and the importance of active involvement. This enhances their understanding and sets realistic expectations, fostering a sense of empowerment and commitment from the start.
  • Integrate nutrition plans: These can provide personalized recipes, grocery lists, and plans based on personal preferences. This hands-on approach encourages engagement and reinforces the client’s role in their health journey.
  • Regular progress tracking: Ongoing communication helps you monitor progress, address concerns, and celebrate achievements. Integrate progress-tracking tools or journals to empower clients to document their experiences, fostering a sense of accountability and motivation.
  • Community support: Establish a supportive forum where clients can connect, share experiences, and seek advice. This can reduce feelings of isolation and enhance motivation. You can actively participate, offering additional guidance and reinforcing the collaborative nature of your program.
woman using Practice Management software on laptop while lounging on couch

How to overcome low engagement in programs 

Low engagement in programs can happen to any of us (and it does!). It’s easy to get discouraged, but client disengagement doesn’t always reflect the quality of your program. In some cases, you may need a complete overhaul, but more often, you may just need to make a minor adjustment in how you’re engaging with your audience.

Liz says when you’re experiencing low engagement, it’s easy to fall into a mindset of, “I can’t help people; something must be wrong with me.” Burnout is a real thing. She notes, “That’s a big part of why [Practice Better] exists… to support practitioners from feeling that way.” Using Practice Better features at your disposal are designed to help. 

One thing you can do to help overcome low engagement in programs is to implement live monitoring check-ins for your participants. This provides a real human-to-human interaction that may be all some clients need to reinvigorate their interest and participation.

For lower-cost programs, it may make more sense to utilize message broadcasts and lead on automated communication. This helps reduce the amount of direct work you have to do while still engaging your clients and supporting them. For higher-priced programs, it’s important to tailor high-touch responses that make your clients feel seen, heard, valued, and supported. 

Putting your clients first with programs

Implementing nutrition programs is a great way to support the longevity of your business and put your clients first. Put intentionality behind onboarding programs that welcome your clients and set them up for success. 

Utilize relatability, personality, and creativity along with interactive tools and resources. Foster personal relationships by providing regular check-ins while collecting data on engagement. The culmination of these parts helps lead to long-term client retention and success for both of you.

Ready to get started? Try a 14-day free trial with Practice Better to create your own programs to support client engagement.

About Clinician’s Incubator

When Clinician’s Incubator founders Liz Abel, Meg Bowman, and Alyson Roux graduated from their nutrition programs, they faced a challenge. They knew they wanted to launch private nutrition practices, but there were very few resources to support them.

Clinician’s Incubator was launched in 2018, with a singular goal in mind: Support providers in finding their own path, so that they can impact positive change for thousands of their own clients. Learn more about Clinicians Incubator here

Practice Better is the complete practice management platform for nutritionists, dietitians, and wellness professionals. Streamline your practice and begin your 14-day free trial today.

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