How can I avoid chasing after patients to fill my practice? ( Or clients for my online offerings?)
Why do I keep getting “less than ideal” clients that drain me, and where can I find my ideal clients?
A better question to ask: How can you make it easy for your ideal clients to find YOU?
This is about more than simply establishing trust or getting clients, patients, or guests to “like” us.
Let’s talk about defining who your ideal client or patient is, building trust with them, and how to position yourself so that you get the kinds of patients and clients that energize you, and (yes) REPEL those that drain you and actually hurt your business.
Carefully considering these 3 things really helped me avoid a lot of stress in my practice.
I started doing all of this before I knew it was a “thing,” because quite frankly, I had no desire to participate in the competitive rat race or see a ton of people each week that were not a “good fit.”
I was tired of constantly hustling. only to deal with price-shoppers, cancellations and no-shows, and those who had no desire to follow my process and only wanted a cheap “quick fix.” I was also tired of feeling pressured to do what my peers were doing.
The tourism industry also has its own unique challenges, and I’ll be giving some examples in this blog. You may see some interesting parallels between the two.
Who is YOUR ideal client, patient, or guest?
This is the step that almost everyone either skips or does in a “half-assed” way. Just to clarify, we are not talking about MY ideal client, your competitors’s ideal client, and most certainly not a “universal” ideal client.
This is something that you must sit down and figure out for yourself. Who are the people that you are a good match for? The ones that you LOVE working with, and leave you feeling energized instead of drained? Who are the clients and patients that you can help most?
The truth is, it’s futile to proceed to the next steps without knowing who your service and message is FOR.
The ideal client/patient avatar will inform every single aspect of your marketing.. from your ABOUT page, to your blog, podcasts, or videos, landing pages, ads, emails.. ALL of it.
Without this info, I can’t even help my clients with their marketing or websites.
The reason? Despite what many holistic practitioners are taught, (or what they assume) building trust isn’t all about you showing how knowledgable you are or how many credentials you have.
It’s about values, messaging, what makes your avatar tick, what motivates them, what turns them off, and how to communicate that you understand EXACTLY what they are going through and how you are in a position to help them in a way that likely nobody else can.
Think about it this way: Would you put up a dating profile that says: “I’m a smart, attractive woman, I hope you pick me.”
You’ll either get ignored, or a lot of junk. What do you think the odds of finding a good match will be?
Now that we’ve established how important it is.. go ahead and dive into this exercise.
Building Trust: Marketing is REALLY just about relationships. That’s it.
By now you are probably familiar with relationship marketing and taking a potential client from a journey from prospect to buyer (client, patient, guest, etc) I may refer to them as “buyers” in this blog, because obviously, a successful business isn’t just about giving, but in making actual business transactions.
Or “energy exchange,” if you prefer.
The thing is, people don’t jump right in and buy from you, call you, or book an appointment the first time they hear about you or land on your website. The process takes time, and it’s quite normal, and even healthy.
This is even more true for businesses with longer buying cycles, products and services that are not well understood by the general public, and higher ticket items.
That pretty much describes the industries I work with!
This is actually GOOD news, in my opinion. You are not selling socks or bananas or things that you buy “when they are on sale.” You have something totally unique to sell.. and this actually makes things MUCH easier for you!
This doesn’t mean that you can just put up a website and write a few blogs every 3 months or so, when you “feel inspired” to write.
Too many blogs read more like a journal entry than a carefully researched crafted piece that will answer the questions and solve the problems of your ideal client or patient AND help search engines help them find exactly what they are looking for.
You’ll need to be mindful of the keywords and phrases they will be typing (or speaking) into a search query, and naturally weave them into your blogs. This also means that writing for “the Google engine circa 2006” isn’t going to cut it either, as far as both your ideal client or patient and Google is concerned. Even though blatant keyword stuffing isn’t so much a thing anymore, I do notice a lot of blogs that look cheesy and unnatural because the content is short, generic, and full of phrases like “At Qi Acupuncture in Springfield we’re committed to.” …
I’m looking at you, chiropractors! Google is getting smarter every day. Don’t write like a machine!
The intent of the visitor when they are doing a search is also important. If you just ramble on without answering their questions and by intentionally creating a phrase or keyword for each article that focuses on that intention. your ICA/IPA will never find you.
For example, if someone is doing research to find an alternative treatment for headaches, focus on answering this question. It’s good to also have blogs for people who are looking for other solutions, or may be ready to buy and are looking at comparisons (Q&A), pricing, or how to get to your clinic.
Have something available to research at EVERY stage of the buying cycle.. from introducing them to “your world” to giving them the info they need to take the next steps, to booking appointments and buying from you!
Awareness and Providing Useful Info
You can’t build the trust of those who don’t even know you exist!
First remember that the very people that are a perfect match for your business have to even know that you exist. This doesn’t happen by magic, but is an intentional process.
People need to be educated (and WANT to know about) about the SPECIFICS of what you do and who you are before they decide to move on to the next step and buy something from you. They may read a blog, listen to a podcast, or see an ad.
The goal in the beginning stages of this journey come naturally to a lot of holistic practitioners. It’s all about giving and providing value.
This is an important step for “de-commodifying” your services or products.
Let’s take something that seems like a commodity, like lavender essential oil.
A few years ago, I had no idea about what makes a high-quality oil vs a low-quality oil. Now I’m thinking also of olive oil and wine.. my knowledge of these things has been taken to a whole new level from spending time in Dalmatia. I don’t buy whatever cheap crap I find in the drugstore anymore, because I don’t see the value in it.
Marketing online is important because not everyone will have a chance to experience a brick and mortar store, sample a product on the spot, or travel to a tourist destination. One can also discover these things via a Google search or on social media.
You can show people about how the lavender or olives or grapes were harvested and how the end product was produced, and why it’s so special.. online.
Now let’s think about YOUR industry, and specifically how you can provide value, useful information, entertainment, or inspiration.
Most people have no clue about:
• What functional medicine is. (My favorite example: Why most self-dignoses of carpal tunnel are usually NOT carpal tunnel, and why surgery is seldom required) You could write articles about:
1. Misconceptions about carpal tunnel syndrome and why trigger points in the forearm are often the cause of pain, and/or:
2. An article that helps your ICA/IPA solve a very specific problem. I did this for one of my avatars.. who is a performance-driven metal drummer who likes to “geek out” on how he sets up his kit, experiments with grip, and even biomechanics.
• Why your ICA/IPA’s muscle imbalances, (tight hamstrings, left piriformis, right QL) and bike setup are contributing to back pain and lack of pedal stroke power, and how correcting these imbalances can ease their pain AND their pedal stroke power, which may help them enjoy riding or get on the podium for the upcoming race in Crested Butte this summer.
Again.. see how SPECIFIC this is? You may have been told that people aren’t interested in the specifics of what you do.. they just want their problem solved. I’m living proof that you should listen to your best clients or patients and what THEY want.. not what some teacher or guru thinks they want. I attracted nerds who wanted to learn as much as they could and how to be proactive so that they could do the things they love.
Other ways to get SUPER specific and “drill down” that niche:
• Why your ICA needs help with navigating through midlife or their money mindset, and why reading a pile of self-help books may not actually be of much help. I’m sure you can get even more specific with this.. it’s still too vague!
• Where the heck Croatia is (next to Italy? Mediterranean climate on the Adriatic coast?) Nope. Many still think “Somewhere in Eastern Europe in a place where there is conflict” We could tweak this to appeal to an avatar in NL, who is into culture, cooking, and healthy living, for example, and another who is hardcore into sailing.
People seek out experts to help them solve problems and make decisions every day. They also buy stuff every day.
With each of these examples, you can educate and inform people about ideas, places, and solutions they may not have thought about before.
You can also inspire people with great stories or pictures, or entertain. Think about what keeps you engaged with a video, blog, podcast, article, etc.. and what keeps you scrolling.
But that’s not the whole story. It’s not just about “getting people to “get” your product or service.”
It’s about understanding THEM first. Give people what they want, even when they aren’t sure what they NEED yet, whether it’s SEO training for someone who has very little time, how to play 3 sets as a drummer in a metal band pain free, or a tourist destination that is the perfect “undiscovered” place that is both affordable and has the exact kind of mountain biking that an ideal guest is looking for.
Don’t be afraid to write something that speaks to THEM to the point that they feel like it’s “spooky” that you understand them so well. Get into THEIR story.
Can you see now why most acupuncture and chiropractic websites are snoozers?
Can you see why the first question from a new caller will probably be “How much does it cost to fix my back?”
Tip: Don’t worry about achieving ALL of this in ONE blog. Often it’s the collection of blogs that can win over that ideal client or patient.. this was definitely the case for me. People DO do their research!
KLT: Know, Like, and Trust
People also want and need to “know, like, and trust” you when they buy. They want to know that you are using the highest quality lavender or grapes, and use the best techniques to create the end product, or that you are absolutely the best choice for a problem they need to solve.
KLT in the tourism industry
People are likely to purchase airline tickets at a discount, and with minimal research.
When it comes to the destination, people want to know you first, actually like you, and trust you before they buy.
If you make it easy for potential guests to find you by providing that “know, like, and trust” factor, you will attract those willing to pay full price for a positive, unique experience.
Even those who are not wealthy but who place a HIGH value on travel may choose to stay in budget hotels/hostels, take the bus, or even live on beer and crackers just so they can save their cash for the great experience only you can offer. They will see the VALUE in what you have to offer and gladly pay for it, instead of feeling cheated.
They will keep coming back, give great reviews, and recommend you to their friends and on social media, and you won’t have to offer deep discounts or cut corners on your awesome food or hospitality.
Positioning in the tourism industry
People planning a trip also want to have a great EXPERIENCE, and this is where positioning comes in.
Let’s say you are renting cabins in Alaska. Are you selling adventure? How would you set up your entire business, from the way you furnish and decorate, to your website, the tours you offer, to the language that you speak to attract customers?
What if you wanted to appeal to those looking for more of a luxury experience?
What’s in it for YOU?
I have a few friends in the tourism industry, and in some areas, it can be frustrating. Positioning a business the same as everyone else does.. let’s say a rental near a beach during peak season, isn’t a great idea. It only tends to attract price shoppers and tourists who don’t really care about the place you call home and are proud of.
In the long run, you will be helping your business and the tourism industry in your area by attracting ideal guests and tourists and yes, REPELLING less than ideal tourists who diminish the quality of your destination (and your home!) by partying, littering, being disrespectful, or taking up space without contributing much to the local economy.
The best way to attract and gain the loyalty of your ideal guests is via a well-thought out marketing funnel, instead of just relying on random reviews and tourism trends, which is super stressful. (Reviews and trends are only PART of an effective overall strategy!)
Everyone wins when your business is NOT a commodity!
KLT in the Holistic Healing and Health Industry
If you are in the alternative healing or coaching profession, this is even more critical.
People in general are becoming more educated about health, chronic conditions, as well as “alternative” healing methods like acupuncture and chiropractic. This trend, combined with some alarming statistics and facts about the declining quality and increasing prices of standard health care, means that they are going to be ACTIVELY LOOKING for solutions online.
Not just for research, but for actual delivery of services, thanks to the COVID-19 crisis.
People that do their research are no longer just price shopping or looking for the lowest insurance premiums or co-payments.
They want value in a market that is becoming less and less concerned about the quality of a human life (or human life in general.) Keep in mind, I’m not knocking doctors at ALL.. but the current system, which is not just screwing over patients, but healthcare providers as well. We are in this together!
I would also say that if you are a healer or coach, you probably don’t want to work with those who regard your services as a commodity and base their decisions ONLY on price. This is a recipe for a situation in which NOBODY wins.
It’s OK to refer them to someone else. It can feel weird the first time you do this. For me, practicing it till it both became second nature.. and till I no longer attracted the wrong people, was one of the best things I ever did for my practice.
Positioning in the health and wellness industry
Is EVERYONE going to know, like, and trust you? I hope not!
Wait.. wtf does that mean?
Take the statement above, and the use of the term wtf. I know my ideal client, and what my position is. Therefore, I use swear words from time to time. Combined with “knowing my shit,” those who I want to attract will actually trust me MORE, because I’ve taken time to communicate to a very specific person.
I’m not trying to attract a 74 year old man who doesn’t like dogs, never exercises outdoors, smokes, hates swearing, goes to church, votes for Trump, and already made up his mind that alternative medicine and the “internet” are no good. I’m not saying he’s a bad guy, and he’s probably the perfect fit for someone else.
Let’s call him Frank. He’s not my ideal client or patient, he’s probably not going to trust me, and that’s ok.
If I tried to appease him, one of my ideal clients (Donna) would resonate less with me and my message. Even if I know my stuff, she’s probably going to find someone else who also knows her stuff, but also “gets” her, especially in a competitive market. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are going out of your way to “piss people off” or start discussing politics, but who you are and your message will come through, even in subtle ways, when you start to get more precise about who you are and who your ideal client or patient is.
I can’t stress this enough.
The saying is true: When you try to make everyone happy, nobody is going to be happy.
Tip: You can have more than one! I had another, Don, who is very active and loves to learn more about how he can keep climbing or skiing.
Remember, this isn’t just about repelling your “anti ideal” client or patient.
Being to vague about your audience will also lead to less-than-ideal results. For example, marketing to a general demographic, such as “women over 50 who like Oprah” is still waaay to broad. I’m a woman over 50 who sometimes follows Oprah.. but most of the marketing geared towards women my age (who probably also like Oprah) make me want to gag.
For example, if your ideal client is a GenXer who is a nerdy INTJ/INTP type, she’s going to be turned off by Boomer and Silent generation terms, cheesy pictures, and generic titles. If you use a touch of humor and irony and real, raw photos and acknowledge that she feels as if it was just yesterday that she was blasting Nirvana, you are more likely to capture the attention of some of your audience who happens to be around 50.
She will NOT want to be lumped into the same category as her mother or 90 year old aunt.
This sounds really weird to some.. but it makes a HUGE difference, especially when you start getting into paid ads. One image or word, along with careful targeting, can make a big difference in the success of a campaign. This is why testing is so important.
And even though I may sound like a broken Nirvana record, you are NOT trying to appeal to everyone, so don’t ask everyone’s opinion about an image or title or whatever. As YOUR “Donna” or “Don!”
To use myself as an example, it took my a while to find the photo above, of the mountain biker. When I see most stock photos of people riding bikes, they look so fake and cheesy I’m immediately turned off, and so is Don and Donna.
Yet I still see site after site of generic stock photos.
Want a real-life example?
Let’s say you practice acupuncture in a city which is already saturated with practitioners. I believe there is room for everyone, because of positioning.
I can position myself as a bit of a biomechanics nerd or as someone who is really into helping women enter and go through menopause in a way that isn’t really addressed well by most practitioners in my area.`
Here’s an example of how I was positioning myself about 8 years ago:
The goal: A VIP experience with lots of individualized treatments, coaching, education, and more. I go deep. Today I would probably choose a different image and test a few different headlines, but it’s normal to adjust and tweak and do that avatar exercise every year!
Others position their practices as healing sanctuaries for those who are stressed and burnt out. There isn’t as much verbal interaction but LOTS of time to just relax with the needle treatment.
Others are fantastic at family medicine or autoimmune conditions. They may be laid back, approachable, ultra-professional, compassionate, nerdy like me, or a combination of these.
Again, positioning is presented in how you set up and decorate your clinic, deliver your services, how you communicate, your website, the whole enchilada.
Every detail is considered and researched, for a reason. Unless you are a classic price shopper, there’s probably a reason you chose the last book you read, coach you hired, vacation rental you stayed at, or online course you signed up for. Things that you may have subconsciously attributed to “vibe,” but are created with intention.
This idea is similar to carving out a niche for your practice, which to many can feel scary.. as if they are excluding people that they could help.
In fact, the opposite is true. People need, and are happy to know that there are experts that can help them solve their SPECIFIC problems.
Note: When you write ANY kind of content, whether it’s your ABOUT page, a blog, landing page, etc.. be sure to make it about THEM and not YOU. Don’t go on about your credentials or “the medicine.”
When people are looking for (Googling) solutions online, they aren’t typing in “the highest qualified-on- paper chiropractor or acupuncturist near me with the most credentials who studied in China.” My ideal patients didn’t care about those things.
They likely are also not even looking for the first person they find that can help them with their back pain, deal with fatigue, or manage their thyroid condition. Unless you are the only game in town or don’t have a lot of competition, they are looking for THE person that can help them.
They will be searching for the one that totally understands them and the challenges they face, and delivers a solution in a way that nobody else could, even if they had 7 credentials after their name.
Focus on this, and THEIR story, using THEIR language.
So what does all this have to do with funnels? Everything!
That’s what I’ll be talking about in the next blog!
I hope this blog will inspire you to start (or refine) your specific message and positioning so that the RIGHT people will begin to know, like, and trust you.
It can be tricky, and sometimes it helps to get an outside perspective to help develop this messaging, and how it fits into the overall strategy and technical bits.